How Islam Taught Medieval Christian Europe Religious and Political Tolerance


Allah forbids you not, respecting those who have not fought against you on account of your religion, and who have not driven you forth from your homes, that you be kind to them and act equitably towards them; surely Allah loves those who are equitable. (Al Quran 60:9)

coexist II

‘Let the Muslim be my Master in Outward Things.’ References to Islam in the Promotion of Religious Tolerance in Christian Europe

Source: Alislam-eGazette

By Abdul Haq Compier

Religious tolerance may seem very self-evident to the modern reader, who is educated to believe that tolerance is one of the fundamental values upon which Europe was built. However, up until the 16th century, religious tolerance was not seen anywhere in Europe. Ever since the Roman Empire, Christian rulers governed by the phrase ‘One Empire, One Law, One Faith.’ Christian theology regarded Christ as the only way to salvation, and the Church as the only way to Christ. Disbelievers were regarded to be exempted from salvation, and hence criminals, ‘children of Satan.’ The Church argued that it was the responsibility of the ruler to cleanse the community of corruption, or he would be held responsible. When persecutions became unbearable, Christians looked to Islam for help.

This article is one of our best contributions to academics and interfaith tolerance in our global village.

Read the full text of the file in PDF file: Islam in Christian tolerance

Additional Reading

Europe and America’s Journey from Religious Bigotry to Pluralism, A Book Review

41 replies

  1. It may be that Allah will bring about love between you and those of them with whom you are now at enmity; and Allah is All-Powerful; and Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.

    Allah forbids you not, respecting those who have not fought against you on account of your religion, and who have not driven you forth from your homes, that you be kind to them and act equitably towards them; surely Allah loves those who are equitable.

    Allah only forbids you, respecting those who have fought against you on account of your religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and have helped others in driving you out, that you make friends of them, and whosoever makes friends of them — it is these that are the transgressors.

    (Al Quran 60:8-10)

  2. T A Q W A!
    Assalaamu ‘Alaykum

    Regrettably, the present day Muslim World is dwelling too much in the shadow of the Muslims’ Golden Era. Simply, TAQWA has lost its dynamism, its raison d’être. Albeit, The Glorious Qur’an explicitly calls for ” O ye who believe! Fulfill all obligations” Al-Maida:1, because ” The remembrance of ALLAH is the greatest merit without doubt” Al-Ankabut:45

    The Muslim World has to go back to The Glorious Qur’an this century, because The Giver of Intellect, The Perfect One, The One and Only Possessor of Foreknowledge, The Lover of Beauty “has sent HIS Servant The Book, and hath allowed therein no crookedness” Al-Kahf:1

    Umar Solim – England

  3. Brother Umar Solim’s comment that modern Islam is “dwelling too much in the shadow of the Muslims’ Golden Era” is all too true. The irony is that many Muslims experience greater political and religious freedom in the USA than they do in their original homelands. On my street (In a US city) there are 2 mosques (apparently, the members of the first mosque don’t like the members of the other mosque),two synagogues (Jews and Moslems have some of the same social issues with their co-religionists apparently), a Pentacostal church, a Spanish speaking 7th Day adventist church, some non-denominational Church, and around the corner is an orthodox synagogue and some more churches. Despite having all those difference Mosques, Synagogues, and Churches in my town, there has never been one protest or any violence. Do you want to know why? Because they all, we all, have more rights in the USA than anywhere else, and because the Moslems, Jews, and Christians in my city are more concerned with our/their middle class lives and making sure our children are well fed and properly educated than arguing and fighting. Yes, sure, the USA has done some bad things in other parts of the world, but it seems that at least in my city in the USA, there is co-existence because we have free speech, a decent enough economy and a better government than in most other places. God doesn’t like war and fighting, only angry men (of all religions) in their late adolescence and early to mid 20’s seem to like fighting.

  4. The article is some hopeless nonsense. When the muhammadans did not know or exhibit tolerance, how could they have been tolerant?
    The writer takes his diatribe up to the 16th century but muhammadan intolerance has been there from the 7th century and still continues. One needs not go further than Turkey to see this. Even refugees fleeing adversities in their home countries take intolerance with them to Europe.

  5. Zia,
    I had earlier commented on this article and it got ‘moderated’. The history of muhammadanism has been one of intolerance right from its inception. I will highlight just a few instances from within.
    Muhammad was so intolerant of dissent that he ordered the destruction of the mosque and incineration of the worshippers at Dhu Awan because they were “unjust people”. The ‘divine revelation’ came after the fact as sura 9:107 to justify it:”AND THOSE WHO HAVE TAKEN A MOSQUE IN OPPOSITION AND UNBELIEVE, AND TO DIVIDE THE BELIEVERS AND AS A PLACE OF AMBUSH FOR THOSE WHO FOUGHT GOD AND HIS MESSENGER AFORETIME-THEY WILL SWEAR ‘WE DESIRED NOTHING BUT GOOD’: AND GOD TESTIFIES THEY ARE LIARS. STAND THERE NEVER–“.
    Then came the order in his last testament to rid the Arabian Peninsula of Jews and Christians. It was carried out almost to the letter because nothing was to challenge the supremacy of Muhammad’s vision.
    There was no tolerance between Fatima, Muhammad’s favourite daughter and Aisha, her father’ favourite wife. This was to Muhammad’s knowledge and he did little to nothing to bring about any reconciliation. If a man cannot keep peace in his family, how can he maintain peace outside?
    Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr showed no tolerance when he killed his ‘uncle’, Uthman, the third caliph for ‘corrupting the message(words) of allah’.
    The animosity between Ali and Fatima, on the one hand, and Abu Bakr led to Ali not informing the caliph of his wife’s death until after her burial.
    What sort of tolerance led to the internecine war between the supporters of Ali and those of Aisha, known as ‘the war of the camels’, when 5,000 people were slaughtered in one day? Among those killed in the various battles which raged were the best quranic reciters. That created the problem of acceptance of Yazid’s quran and it had to be imposed by force.
    Muhammad’s bloodline lost to that of Abu Sufyan when Hassan capitulated and accepted a huge compensation while Hussein, his family and entire household were eliminated on their way to Kabala, setting in motion the sunni/shia schism with its deadly consequences.
    The intolerance that took place within the movement was nothing compared to what was visited upon the unfortunate souls whose territories came under the muhammadan killing machine.
    History does not bear witness to your assertion. Those who showed no tolerance to themselves could not and did not exhibit that to their enemies.

  6. India was a Hindu majority country, a thousand years after Muslim rule, which cannot be said about Americas and Australia, where your co-coreligionists went.

    Your squint does not allow you to get a fair and balanced view of history. In Islamic history you do not allow yourself to see anything positive.

    Some suggested reading for those who are open minded

    Caliph Umar Farooq versus Emperor Heraclius: Who gave us our Religious Freedoms?

  7. Zia
    My ‘squint’ allows me to recall that India extended to Pakistan and Bangladesh. Afghanistan was Hindu. That is why there is a range called the Hindu Kush over there. Today, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have been purged of their Hindu origin. It is a capital offence to be Hindu in those countries.
    Umar Farooqwas not even a benevolent tyrant. That is why he was nicknamed ‘UMAR THE UNJUST’.

  8. Umar was not named unjust. He was called “Umar Aadil”, which means “Umar, the Just”.
    The greatest proof of his justice was he gave everything to the people of Jerusalem that they wanted. He could have taken the city with battle easily. But When Church leaders said they would hand over the city of Jerusalem, only to the Khalifah Umar, Umar forbade his army to move forward. Umar travelled on camel to make a treaty of peace according to the wishes of the Christians. He avoided war in a sacred city.
    A writing to that effect must be available in one of the Museums even today. The senior most Church leaders trusted Umar. Why namelee does not know that?
    I can quote few things; The Church leaders wanted that:
    1. the Church property should be protected and remain safe with them. Umar granted that.
    2. That their respect will be honored and never trampled. Umar granted that.
    3. that their lands will not be taken away. Umar granted that.
    4. That the church will be free to conduct its services as usual. Umar granted that.
    5. that their Crosses will not be damaged. Umar said “write it down”.
    6. They wanted that all their land should be protected and not taken away by any one. Umar agreed to that also.
    Everything was being written down and agreed. Not a single demand was rejected.
    When Umar signed the document, The Church leaders could not believe it. they had doubt and they said, “What will happen when Umar will die. We need signatures of six companions of the prophet Muhammad on this document.” They demanded that.
    Umar said, he himself had signed and granted but he could nnot ask any one else to sign it. Every one is free to do it. Immediately six senior Muslim leaders put their signatures.
    That is how Umar is known as “Umar the Just”.
    After that Church leaders took Umar on a tour of their grand Cathedral. All these are facts of well known history.

  9. We must not forget the bloody Mary, Queen of Scotts, and French revolution. The American war of Independence was also a political necessity. Then American civil war. Why was that necessary? It was politics. The European Christian powers captured nearly half of the world… ???? and ruled over them against their wishes for more than 200 years.
    Christian war monger crusaders who went to liberate Jerusalem, killed many Muslims. They also killed many Christians in Jerusalem. That was their ignorance, and political activity.
    It is all politics. I believe TMT is not for politics and point scoring. Let us all come to the spiritual side in our discussions and limit our discussion to spiritual matters. Let us present, all of us, the good side of our spiritual teachings. We, Ahmadis believe that in religion, there is no politics, or there is least politics.
    Take the case of all Jews (Children of Israel) trapped in Egypt and subjugated to intense slavery …
    There was a struggle under the command of Moses a.s. It is all described in the Bible and Quran. That activity by Moses a.s. was for peace and justice. Pharaoh accused Moses of playing politics. But It was not for politics. Moses did not want to be the king or big man in public. He WAS justly requesting Pharaoh:
    1. To let the Jews live in Egypt respectably as they were born citizens of the state OR
    2. Let them leave the country peacefully.
    i.e. if Pharaoh believed Egypt belonged to him, he could keep it for himself. But there was no other way, no other sensible third option for Pharaoh.
    Prophets, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (all in peace) have no political mission. Let us also keep ourselves away from political games of the past. Can we do that please!

  10. Ghulam Sarwar,
    Is that a fact? Can you tell who was the head of government in Medina and later Mecca when Muhammad was alive? Can you also tell who was the chief imam of those towns and such other places that came under the control of Muhammad?
    As far as history goes, Muhammad said that muhammadanism is both government and religion. What is government, if not politics?
    Muhammad was the head of state. He received foreign dignitaries to the exclusion of all others. He was the only one allegiance was paid to. Those are political activities which are performed by the political head.
    … Islam … is all politics without any atom of spiritual content.
    The European powers ruled the world for 200 years, as you say. But the …Muslims… were in Spain for about 800 years, four times that of the European occupation. If 200 years were unbearable, how receptive were the subjugated people to 800 years of inhuman treatment?
    The period lasted much more than that in the case of the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. I once met a Lebanese who told me that he is Phoenician. Why, I asked? “BECAUSE WE ARE NOT ARABS”, came the answer.
    Where …Muslims … conquered, it trampled on and defiled the culture and identity of the indigenous people.
    I am an African. The apartheid system in South Africa has ended. The one in North Africa shows no end.

    • Yes, I ‘corrected’ the words ‘mohammedan’ … Readers: should I leave this comment full of bias? (Regarding the fact that Mohammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) was also a Political Leader I actually agree.

  11. Is it bias to use the word and its derivatives that Muhammad and even TMT have used?
    After agreeing that Muhammad was a politician, what then is bias?
    You are just finding excuses to go into the gaging or ‘switch them off’ mode, which will not be surprising in the least.
    When you take a position, be ready to for what comes.

  12. namelee you are arguing for nothing. Muhammad s.a.w.s. was a leader, a spiritual leader. Start off with Mecca in year in 610 A.D. THERE WAS NO POLITICS. He was preaching a peaceful faith. He suffered for 13 years in Makkah (Mecca) and his followers were persecuted mercilessly for 13 years. There was no politics. It was a preaching for a right faith, nothing else.
    When Muhammad s.a.w.s, the man of God migrated to Madinah, that was because the enemies were going to kill him in the dark of the night, he left his house and travelled hundreds of miles to Madinah. There was no politics. It was only to save himself.
    The enemies did not let him rest in Madinah. They attacked that city many times to uproot the new faith that is ISLAM. The enemies were defeated every time,,, it is all part of well known history. There was no politics.
    Muhammad s.a.w.s. was the Imam, i.e. the leader. He was originally the spiritual leader and remained so till end of his life. But he had to tend to his flock, and you call it politics! Be reasonable. What was Jesus a.s. doing? Was it politics? Was the mission of Moses a.s. political?? I have shown you every example but you seem not to understand!

  13. Ghulam Sarwar,
    Your theory is interesting.
    Muhammad preached in Mecca for 13 years and only had 150 followers. He moved to Medina where he became a political and ‘military’ leader. In a matter of just a few years after, he could muster as many as 10,000 soldiers. Was that as a result of his evangelism?
    He said that he had been made successful through terror. How is that associated with preaching?
    Again, your brother Rafiq disagrees with you. He said Muhammad was the political leader. That made him a politician. He eliminated all his rivals to gain supremacy. That is what politicians do.

  14. namelee, Politicians are not persecuted. They mostly persecute others, like the king of Babylon who persecuted Abraham a.s and like the king Pharaoh of Egypt who persecuted the Jews in Egypt,,,, and Like Hitler who did the same.
    Hitler did not have any program for humanity, any spiritual program. He had a program of his own and nothing from God.
    Similarly, the opponents of Jesus a.s. and opponents of Muhammad s.a.w.s. were politically motivated. You cannot blame that on Jesus a.s. and Muhammad s.a.w.s. Let us also leave politics out of TMT.

  15. Muhammad was politically motivated. That was why he said that muhammadanism is both government and religion. You cannot deny it.
    TMT is embroiled in politics. Go through the articles posted and the comments which follow.

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