were great times and there were the bad ones. Tolerance, respect and cooperation
on one side. Murder, intolerance and hostility on the other. These have
been some of the defining features of Muslim-Christian relations throughout
history. Here are three examples of the good and the bad.
and the Negus
It was a Christian
king in a predominantly Christian land who gave the small, persecuted community
of early Muslims in the beginning of the Prophet Muhammad's mission. May
Allah's peace and blessings be upon the Prophet.
sought refuge in Habasha, modern day Ethiopia, after suffering starvation
and torture at the hands of the polytheistic Makkans. The Prophet Muhammad
said about the Negus and Habasha: "a king rules without injustice, a land
welcomed, were protected and lived in peace with the Christians of Habasha.
But this did not sit well with the Makkans, who did not want to see them
leave Makkah or want the message of Islam to flourish in peace.
special envoys with gifts and lies about the Muslims to convince the Negus
to send the Muslims back to Makkah.
They told the
Negus that this "new" faith took pride in insulting not just ancestral
Makkan beliefs, but the beliefs of Christians as well.
may have simply taken their word and automatically kicked the Muslims out.
The Negus did not. He ordered that the leader of the Muslim community come
to his court and explain Islam’s position.
ibn Abu Talib, early Muslim refugee to Habasha, and cousin of the Prophet.
Not only did
he eloquently explain the message of Islam and the persecution of those
who accepted this truthful message, he also recited the opening verses
of Surah 19 of the Quran, Surah Maryam or Mary, after the Negus asked him
to recite part of Quran.
listened to the recitation of the Quran in focused attention. He cried
as he listened, so much so that his beard got wet. When Jafar completed
the recitation, Negus said, ‘Surely this Revelation and the Revelation
of Jesus were from the same Source.’ Then to the two Makkan ambassadors,
he said, ‘By God, I will not hand over these persons to you."
But the story
does not end here. The Makkans would not give up so easily. They asked
the king to find out what the Muslims’ view of Jesus and his Divinity were,
knowing of course, the difference in Christian and Muslim position regarding
responded, with no compromise of principles, just the simple, clear Truth:
is God’s servant and Messenger; a spirit and a word from God that He bestowed
on the Virgin Mary.'
this, Negus picked up a straw from the ground and said:
‘By God, Jesus
was not even as much as one straw more than what you have said about him.’
the gifts of the Quraysh and told them he was not used to taking bribes
and the Muslims would remain under his protection.
This was an
early victory for positive Muslim-Christian relations.
ibn al-Khattab and Jerusalem
its surrounding territory were and remain holy to Muslims, Christians and
Jews. It was during the Caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab (634-635) that
Muslims first gained leadership of this territory. May Allah be pleased
reaction to this victory is something to remember.
Jerusalem in humility. He walked in with not he, the Caliph, but his servant
comfortably riding on a camel. They had been taking turns walking and riding.
At one point
in Jerusalem, the Christians asked him to pray in their church but he declined.
He refused saying that he is afraid that in the future Muslims could use
it as an excuse to take over the Church for building a Masjid.
gave the key of the Church of Resurrection to Muslims to be responsible
for its safety. This key is still with the Muslims today as a sign and
symbol of the mutual trust.
el Deen Ayyubi and the Crusades
It was in response
to the horrific oppression in Jerusalem at the hands of the Crusaders in
the 11th century and the need to free the area of their control that Sultan
Salah el Deen Ayyubi (Saladin) liberated Jerusalem from them in 1187.
brought relief for the local Christian population, who helped him, after
the oppression they suffered at the hands of their co-religionists, the
Not only did
Saladin treat the Crusaders with kindness, he ensured that Muslim and non-Muslims
live in peace and harmony with each other.
story about him recounts that some Muslim soldiers were besieging a Christian
fortress. Many Christians were seeking shelter inside, including a young
couple who was planning to get married, but whose plans had been stopped
by the fighting. They decided to get married anyway, even though they were
trapped inside the castle.
in charge of the Muslim troops at this time. When he heard about the wedding,
he ordered his soldiers not to attack the castle where the couple was staying,
so that they could enjoy peace and quiet. In return for this respect, the
bride’s mother sent out trays of food, so Saladin and the Muslim army could
share in the wedding celebrations.
longest period of peace and justice for all in Jerusalem has been the period
when Muslim were in control.
1. The Crusades
Crusades (1095 until 1291) European Christians attacked and occupied this
holy land. They oppressed the Muslims, the local Christians and the Jews.
These Crusaders killed over 200,000 innocent civilians.
The aim: to
wrest control of Jerusalem from the Muslims. This was not only a period
of bloodshed, hostility and violence. It was also the beginning of collective
stereotypes, according to some scholars, about Islam and Muslims.
ended centuries ago. But today, the remnants of those stereotypes have
taken on new meaning. Muslims are still bloodthirsty, violent savages by
most of the mainstream media’s standard. The propagation of these views
on the collective level through the media has affected Muslims globally
America, while living peacefully with Christians and other religious groups,
are still subject to discrimination in at varying degrees, and physical
violence and harassment in the worst cases (remember the aftermath of the
1995 Oklahoma City bombing?).
While the Crusades
were bad news for Muslims and even local Christians living alongside them,
one significant outcome of this contact between Muslims and Western Christians
was the passage of knowledge from one to the other.
through the Muslims, were able to access texts like those of Aristotle,
for instance. The Muslims clearly passed on an intellectual heritage, which
a number of scholars say laid the foundations for the modern Christian
West. For more discussion of this, please see the book " Islam and the
Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane.
Spain versus Christian Spain
look back at Muslim Spain with pride. But Jews also call it their "golden
part of the Islamic world at the beginning of the eighth century. Under
Muslims Spain became the center of civilization. Although many local Spaniards
embraced Islam, Christians and Jews were free in all aspects of their lives.
The Muslims respected their religion and institutions. The result was the
birth of the first true cosmopolitan culture in the West.
studied alongside Muslim scholars to such a degree that in 854, a Christian
named Alvaro of Cordoba complained that these students were forgetting
their own religion and culture.
Christians of Spain did not live in their ghettos, isolated and not cooperating
in various aspects of daily life together.
It was in Spain
that Aristotle’s works on physics and natural history were translated into
Arabic from Greek in Muslim Spain. Historians generally acknowledge that
the Muslim world proved to be a major conduit of ancient scholarship into
the West, especially through Muslim Spain.
It wasn’t just
Muslims and Christians who thrived in Spain, though. Jews, who were reviled
and hated elsewhere, were not only living safely and peacefully alongside
non-Jews in Muslim Spain, they were learning and contributing to its culture
and knowledge which Muslim scholars had established.
But this success
in wealth, knowledge and co-existence came to end in a violent and very
Crusaders of Spain expelled Muslims, civilization that took centuries to
build was destroyed. Muslims and Jews were either expelled or forced to
convert to Christianity. Millions died as tolerance was replaced by the
Spanish Inquisition. A suspected Muslim was to be killed for the smallest
act resembling Islamic tradition - such as taking a bath on Friday.
colonialism (1500s to the early 20th century)
was such a powerful force that by 1900 90.4 percent of Africa was under
European or American colonial control. This was a political and economic
phenomenon that began in the 1500s. Various European nations "discovered",
conquered, and exploited large areas of the world.
In a quest
for silk, spices and world domination, European explorers, like Christopher
Columbus, for instance, set out to sea. He ended up in North America. The
result: the slaughter and destruction of millions of Natives and the usurpation
of their land by Europeans.
In Muslim lands,
colonialists wreaked havoc, supplanting Islamic educational systems with
secular or Christianity-focused ones, and murdering and/or enslaving the
natives of the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, for example.
They also acculturated
the "savage" natives to the "refined" customs of Europe. In the Indian
subcontinent today, the term "Brown Sahib" is used to refer to a native
who is mentally colonized by the West. There are similar stock characters
in other Muslim cultures.
at the hands of Muslims, early 20th century
Christian Armenians consider the greatest disaster in their history to
be their murder and deportation from Turkey during World War I.
In 1915 as
Turkish Armenians aligned with the pro-Christian Tsarist Russian enemy,
Turkish army reacted strongly against this betrayal. Although, according
to Encyclopedia Britannica, statistics are disputed regarding the Armenian
population in Ottoman Anatolia at the outbreak of World War I and the number
of Armenians killed during this deportation, a large number of Armenians
died during this civil war.
Armenians who survived migrated to places predominantly Muslim Lebanon
and Syria, as well as Russia, France, and the United States.
relations between the Muslims and Christians
Today 70% of
all refugees in the world are Muslims. In Muslim mind many of this refugees
and other conflicts are a result of their powerlessness.
culturally enslaved, in many ways to the predominantly Christian West.
The United States, with the new geopolitical reality of uni-polar world,
continues to dictate policies to smaller nations of the world.
This new form
of colonialism is done with the help of local lackeys in Muslim countries
who take their orders about how their countries should be run from Washington,
D.C. as opposed to locally.
On a larger
level, British, French, American and Russian colonial powers (all Western,
and all predominantly Christian) also control Muslim and other Third World
countries through international institutions like the World Bank, the International
Monetary Fund (IMF), and the United Nations. These three organizations
have an extraordinary influence on world affairs.
power over the lives of millions is perceived by a number of Muslims as
the continuing perpetuation of the colonial era. For most Muslims, colonialism
is not about the spread of "refined European civilization". It is about
massacre, slavery, and weakness. It is nothing to proudly look back upon.
of modern American colonialism can be found with the fight against tobacco
in the United States.
In the last
eight years, the tobacco industry in the USA has lost business because
of public health awareness campaigns against smoking. But in the same period
the industry has achieved the record profits. How?
They now have
an open market to sell their deadly products to Third World consumers,
thanks to the help of the American government. So cancer is bad for Americans,
but it’s okay for others. Where is the justice?
and dictators: not in my backyard, but fine for yours
A second example
of Western neo-colonialism is found in these countries’ support for corrupt
dictators, totalitarian despots and anti-democratic forces in the Muslim
world. Muslims question how sincere the Western belief in justice and democracy
really is when this happens.
the government of France supported the Algerian army when it canceled elections
following the victory at the ballot of the Islamic Salvation Front party
in 1992. France is the country famed for "liberty, equality and fraternity".
It seems this is not what they had in mind for the Muslims in their former
colonial baby, Algeria.
States, which touts "freedom and democracy" has similarly supported undemocratic
regimes in Muslim and other countries. Justice, it seems, is not for all,
especially not Muslims.
obsession with Islamic "Fundamentalism" provides a third example of the
tense current Muslim-Christian relationship can be.
form of Muslim worship, but especially the daily prayer, one of the five
pillars of Islam, is shown on TV while talking about fundamentalism and
fanaticism. A purely Christian term from America is being applied in any
Muslim, organization, or country which opposes America.
See an interesting
book about the Muslim perceptions of the West: "Western Fundamentalism
in Action..New World Order " by Dr. S.M. Koreshi".
Examples of Cooperation:
But amid these
examples of New World Order colonialism and tense Muslim-Christian relations,
there are some bright spots.
the war in Afghanistan during the 1980s following the occupation of the
country by the communist ex-Soviet Union was a common rallying point for
the East and the West. The United States supported the Mujahideen at that
In the 1990s,
the West did eventually come to the aid of Muslims following massacres,
rapes and the oppression of Muslims in Bosnia and Kosova.
On the level
of faith, the 1994 United Nations Conference on Population in Cairo, Egypt,
became a platform for Muslim and Catholic cooperation against forces of
secularization and birth control in the guise of "family planning".
is somewhat ironic that while Muslims resent the Western support for dictatorships
in their countries, they turn to the West when seeking to escape the oppression
in their countries. Anti-Shah revolutionaries were essentially based in
It is not uncommon
to find Muslim refugees escaping to Germany, France, Britain, America and
Canada. While many of them are economic migrants, seeking a better life
for themselves and their families on a financial level, there are also
those escaping political turmoil and corruption in their home countries.