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Christendom vs. Islam: Interaction and Co-existence
R.M. Savory


The existence of Islam has always made the West profoundly uneasy. Islam was the only major world religion to be revealed after the rise of Christianity, and consequently it was, from the moment of the revelation of Islam in the seventh century AD, viewed by Christendom as a direct threat and challenge to itself. The threat of Islam to Christianity was increased by the fact that Muslims regarded Islam as having superseded Christianity. In Muslim eyes, Christianity was an earlier, and imperfect, form of Islam. Muhammad was the last, the ‘Seal’ of the Prophets. Consequently, the problem of how to deal with Islam was perhaps the most important problem facing medieval Christendom.

The problem posed itself on two levels: the political and military, and the theological. On the political and military level, Christendom had two possible responses open to it: military counter-action (crusades). On the theological level, Islam could be regarded as a Christian heresy, as a schism within the ranks of Christians, or as a new religion.

By the end of the seventh century AD, the Mediterranean had become a Muslim lake, with Muslims controlling the whole southern shore of the Mediterranean from Anatolia to the Straits of Gibraltar. In 711, the Arabs seized Gibraltar and, within the next few years, overran the Iberian peninsula and crossed the Pyrenees. The defeat of the Arabs by Charles Martel at the battle of Poitiers in 732, though only a minor reverse for the Arabs, in fact marked the extreme limit of Muslim penetration into Europe for some six centuries. Despite the impressive Muslim conquests, however, the West saw Muslims as only one of a large number of enemies (Norsemen, Slavs, Magyars) threatening it at that time. Initially, therefore, the political and military reaction of the West was limited and ad hoc.

On the theological and religious level, the reaction of the West was strong, sustained and, almost without exception, hostile. Hostility was based on fear, and fear had its roots in ignorance. Christendom feared Islam, and therefore misrepresented it. Christians were ignorant of Islam, at least in part, because Christendom, prompted by odium theologicum, had no desire to understand or tolerate Islam. During the nearly five centuries between revelation of Islam and the launching of the First Crusade, most Christians took an apocalyptic view of Islam. They were content to represent Islam as a religion of violence, as a form of idolatry, as a religion which pandered to man’s sexual appetites in this world and the next. They remained almost totally ignorant of Islam’s real beliefs and doctrines.

For its part, Islamdom – to use a convenient term coined by G.M. Wickens – was equally ignorant of the Western world, but for quite different reasons. Christianity was forced to be aware of Islam, if only because Islam claimed to have superseded it, but although aware of it, it did not try to understand it, because Islam was something to be suppressed and, if possible, destroyed. Islam, on the other hand, was ignorant of the West because it was indifferent to it. In the Muslim view, since the revelation of God to His Prophet, Muhammad (sws), supplemented and made perfect all previous revelations, it followed that Islamic civilization was superior to Christian civilization. The Islamic world, stretching from Spain across North Africa to the Middle East, was the centre of the civilized world. Since the West was stagnating during the Dark Ages, while Islam was at its peak, Muslims saw no reason to modify this view. I risk labouring this point because it is one which is very difficult for us, reared on school textbooks which see world history almost exclusively in terms of European history, to grasp. Yet Muslim historians and geographers rarely bothered to distinguish between different countries or races in Europe, but lumped all Europeans together under one blanket term, ‘Franks’ – otherwise characterized as ‘the northern barbarians’. The latter term was used by a Muslim Qādī in Toledo, writing in 1068. Using a concern for science as a criterion for assessing the degree of civilization attained by the nations of the world, he arrived at the following classification: the civilized nations were the Indians, Persians, Chaldees, Greeks, Romans (including the Byzantinians), Egyptians, Arabs and Jews. The Chinese and the Turks got honourable mention as ‘the noblest of the unlearned nations’. Everybody else was classified as either ‘northern barbarians’ (the Franks), or ‘southern barbarians’ (Negroes). This cultural arrogance, though justified to a degree in the eleventh century, was to have disastrous results for Islam when maintained after the Renaissance.

After the battle of Poitiers, Islamdom and Christendom settled down to three and a half centuries of co-existence; at best, this co-existence was on a cold-war basis and, from time to time, hostilities were renewed. During the ninth century, the Arabs gradually conquered Sicily, and brought the islands of Corsica and Sardinia under Muslim rule. The region in which there was the greatest degree of contact and interaction between the two civilizations was Spain. There, a rich and flourishing culture developed – in many ways a unique culture, to which Arabs and Berbers, Christians and Jews each made their distinctive contributions. The fusion of Arab and Byzantine architectural styles produced such original masterpieces as the Great Mosque at Cordoba, the Alcazar at Seville, and the Alhambra at Granada. A prosperous trade grew up between Spain and North Africa, Constantinople and the eastern Mediterranean.

This fascinating experiment in co-existence was not permitted to endure. Christendom had not reconciled itself to a permanent Muslim presence in Europe, especially as this presence could not be ignored, for Islam, far from withering away, had produced great philosophers and scientists. In particular, the Muslim presence could not be ignored on the level of religion. Not only had Muslims resisted conversion to Christianity, but many Christians and Jews had become converts to Islam, and had learnt Arabic. The Archbishop of Seville was forced to have the Bible translated into Arabic – not for missionary purposes, but for use in his own community. A contemporary Christian writer expressed his disgust at the situation in the following terms: ‘Where is the layman who now reads the Latin commentaries on the Holy Scriptures, or who studies the Gospels, prophets or apostles? Alas! All talented young Christians read and study with enthusiasm the Arab books; they gather immense libraries at great expenses; they despise the Christian literature as unworthy of attention. They have forgotten their language. For every one who can write a letter in Latin to a friend, there are a thousand who can express themselves in Arabic with elegance.’

In the eyes of the Christian church, such a situation could clearly not be allowed to continue, and, soon after AD 1000, Christendom abandoned the idea of co-existence with Islam and resorted to military counter-action. The ‘Reconquista’, or re-conquest by the Christians of Muslim Spain, took nearly four centuries. In 1492, the combined forces of Castile and Aragon stormed the last Muslim stronghold, Granada. All non-Catholics were eventually expelled from Spain, and the nearly seven and a half centuries of Muslim presence there were thus terminated. In 1061, Christian arms won Sicily from the Arabs; some of the latter fled to North Africa, but those who remained attempted to civilise their rude Norman masters. One of these, Roger II (reigned 1130-54), employed Arab architects and geographers, and was the patron of Arab poets. The Normans minted coins which bore inscriptions in Arabic, and used the Muslim calendar. In fact, Roger II adapted himself so well to Muslim culture that he was dubbed ‘the Pagan’ by his fellow-Christians. Two facts in particular had helped Western Christendom to go over to the offensive against Islam at this time: the first was the adoption of Christianity about AD 1000 by the Vikings and the Magyars, an event which freed Christendom from the constant pressure of these barbarians; the second was the collapse of the Umayyad caliphate in Spain in 1031 and the resulting half-century of anarchy in Muslim Spain.

The ‘Reconquista’ thus brought to an end the first phase of Christian-Muslim interaction, the roughly three centuries of uneasy co-existence in western Europe. Within a few years, Christendom carried its counter-attack into the heartlands of Islam in the Middle East, when Pope Urban II declared a holy war against Islam, and the First Crusade was launched in 1095. Most people, if asked to define the period of the crusades, would probably designate the two centuries between the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099, and the final expulsion of the Crusaders from the Holy Land in 1291. These two centuries, however, cover only the period of the eight major Crusades. The crusading spirit was far from dead, and in 1396, 100,000 men, the largest Christian army to take the field against the ‘infidels’ since the First Crusade, marched down the Danube to be defeated by the Ottoman Turks at the battle of Nicopolis. Not until 1453, when the Turks entered Constantinople, did the crusading zeal of the West begin to flag, and Christian hopes of recovering the Holy Land begin to fade. The balance of power in the continuing struggle between Islamdom and Christendom had shifted once again and, as the disciplined armies of the Ottoman Turks, the most formidable Muslim fighting-machine in history, pushed further and further west to the gates of Vienna, Western Christendom was forced once more on the defensive.

Most people, if asked why the First Crusade was launched in 1095, would reply, ‘Because Jerusalem was captured by the Muslims in 1070, and it was necessary to restore the Holy Land to Christian hands’, or something to the effect. The inference is that, prior to 1070, Jerusalem and the Holy Land were in Christian hands, and that the First Crusade was therefore a logical reaction to the capture of Jerusalem by the Seljuk Turks in 1070. Nothing could be further from the truth. When the Crusaders invaded Palestine, they were invading territory which had been an integral part of the Islamic World for 450 years. All that happened, when the Seljuk Turks captured Jerusalem in 1070, was the power was transferred from one Muslim dynasty to another, but this statement is an over-simplification.

The Fatimid Caliphs, who surrendered the territory to the Seljuks, were Shi’ites of the Isma’ili, or ‘Sevenor’ persuasion. The Fatimids, after initially disputing with the Byzantines control of Syria, had enjoyed generally peaceful relations with their powerful Christian neighbours. The advent from Central Asia of the Seljuk Turks, who, as Lane-Poole put it, had ‘embraced Islam with all the fervour of their uncouth souls’, heralded a return to Islamic orthodoxy in Syria and Palestine, and ultimately in Egypt itself. The religious fervour of these new converts to Islam meant that a harder line was taken in regard to the Christian minorities under Seljuk rule and, in particular, meant that difficulties were placed in the way of Christian pilgrims wishing to visit the Holy Land. Although the pilgrimage of Christians to the Holy Land had been resumed in A.D. 670, only thirty years after the capture of Jerusalem by the Muslims, it was not until the ninth century, when Charlemagne established his protectorate over the Christian East, that the flow of pilgrims assumed significant proportions. During the tenth century, the pilgrimage to the Holy Land became fashionable, and was undertaken by many nobles and high dignitaries of the church. The normal pilgrimage route, by sea from Italy, was supplemented, after the conversion of King Stephen of Hungary to Christianity about the year 1000, by an overland route via Constantinople. In the eleventh century, the pilgrimage became even more popular, especially in Normandy, France and Germany. In 1064, for instance, only a few years before the capture of Jerusalem by the Seljuks, some 7000 pilgrims from Germany visited the Holy Land. After 1070, such pilgrims were liable to be molested, and were subjected to harassment of various kinds, and needed an armed guard in order to be able to travel in safety.

The capture of Jerusalem from the Fatimids by the Seljuk Turks in 1070 was an event which had far-reaching repercussions in the Christian world – especially the eastern Christian world. The second Seljuk achievement was of even greater consequence to the Christian world. This was the Seljuk defeat of the Byzantine army at the battle of Manzikert in 1071. This battle, one of the decisive battles of world history, struck a fatal blow at Christian imperial power in Anatolia. The Seljuk victory shattered the Byzantine line of fortifications, a thing which the Arabs had never been able to achieve, and thus opened the way for the Turkicization of the whole of Asia Minor. Ultimately, it made possible the establishment of the Ottoman Empire, which for more than six centuries maintained its imperial power in the Middle East and eastern Europe, and it was thus indirectly responsible for the creation of modern Turkey.

These, then, were immediate causes of the launching of the First Crusade. The call for help uttered by the Byzantine Emperior, Alexius I, was a double one; ‘help me recapture Jerusalem, so that pilgrims may once more proceed without interference; and help me throw back the tide of Turkish invasion in Asia Minor’. The response from the rulers of Europe was a poor one. In fact, not a single crowned head accompanied the crusading host, variously estimated at between 100,000 and 600,000 men, which assembled at Constantinople in 1096-7. For this reason the First Crusade is sometimes termed the ‘Barons’ Crusade’. Several of the crowned heads were, so to speak, hors de combat by virtue of being under sentence of excommunication at that time; these were Philip I of France, William Rufus of England, and the Holy Roman Emperor himself, Henry IV. Spain was fully absorbed with the ‘Reconquista’, and the majority of the troops for the First Crusade were French, or Normans from southern Italy.

There was a variety of reasons for the eagerness of the Crusaders to go to the Holy Land – most of them economic. By the eleventh century, the population of France had increased beyond the capacity of its natural resources. Palestine was represented as a land flowing with milk and honey, and, after the establishment of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099, settlers flocked to ‘Outremer’, as the fabulous land beyond the sea was called. The Latin Kingdom too, offered an outlet for the younger sons of the nobility, who, under the feudal system then in force in Europe, had little opportunity for advancement. In other words, it acted as a colony which temporarily alleviated certain serious economic and social problems associated with feudalism.

It also solved a social and military problem which had become increasingly acute in the eleventh century, namely: How to absorb or divert the bellicose passions of the barons? The Popes had tried desperately to harness their warlike energies to the concept of ‘just’ and ‘holy’ warfare, by such devices as consecrating the arms of the knight to the defence of justice and protection against oppression. Consequently, the call for assistance from the Byzantine Emperor was heaven-sent, as far as the Pope was concerned. At the Council of Clermont, in 1095, Pope Urban II, with great political skill, succeeded in diverting the barons from their fratricidal quarrels, and uniting them in a common struggle against the infidels, a struggle which he endowed with the sanctity of a Holy War.

The great Italian commercial cities were eager to support the Crusades because of the prospects of unlimited profit and commercial expansion. Venice, Genoa and Pisa established on the Syrian coast great emporia from which they supplied the Latin Kingdom with food and munitions. The spiritual impulse was thus supplemented by the profit motive.

Thus the motives for the First Crusade were, to say the least, mixed. Through an irony of history, before the Crusaders reached Jerusalem, the Seljuks, whose capture of the city and restriction of the pilgrim traffic had been the principal reason for the Crusaders going to the Holy Land, had surrendered the city to an army sent from Egypt, and Jerusalem was restored to Fatimid control. Since Fatimid control of the Holy Places had apparently been satisfactory to Western Christendom before, logically no reason now remained for assaulting Jerusalem. The crusading barons may have been unaware of the changed situation; or it may have been too subtle a point for them to grasp. Whatever the reason, they proceeded to lay siege to Jerusalem and to carry the city by storm in July 1099. The butchery of the civilian population which followed cast an early stain on Christian arms.

The conquest of Jerusalem led to the establishment of the Latin Kingdom, a strip of territory about 500 miles long and at places less than 50 miles wide. Its chief cities, apart from Jerusalem, were Antioch, Edessa and Tripoli. The great Muslim cities of the hinterland, such as Damascus and Aleppo, were never captured by the Crusaders. For fifty years the Franks were in the ascendancy, and the Latin Kingdom was strengthened by the creation of some of the most famous of the medieval orders of chivalry: the Knights Templar; the Knights Hospitaller (or Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem), and the Teutonic Order.

In October 1187, the great Muslim leader, Saladin, reoccupied Jerusalem and recaptured many of the Crusader strongholds on the coast. Tyre, Tripoli and Antioch held out, and enabled the Franks to retain their foothold in the Holy Land for another century. Acre was recaptured by Richard the Lionheart on the third Crusade, and this was followed by a treaty with Saladin which allowed Christian pilgrims safe-conduct to visit Jerusalem.

During the thirteenth century, there was a degeneration of the crusading ideal. Crusades were now launched against schismatics, heretics, and, in general, against any elements which had antagonized the Pope. For example, the Fourth Crusade was directed against fellow-Christians at Constantinople, and fatally weakened the divided Eastern Christendom. Even those Crusades which were directed against the Muslim enemy no longer necessarily had the Holy Land as their goal. The Fifth and Seventh Crusades were directed against Egypt, and the Eighth against Tunis, where Louis IX of France met his death. The Sixth Crusade, which was more in the nature of a diplomatic mission than a military expedition, was led by Frederick II. The Muslims so admired Frederick’s knowledge of Arabic and Islamic culture that in 1229 they voluntarily handed back to the Crusaders the city of Jerusalem, together with Bethlehem, Nazareth and the other Holy Places – surely one of the most extraordinary incidents in the long history of the relations between Christendom and Islam! Frederick entered Jerusalem and placed the crown on his head  with his own hands (he had been excommunicated, and so no one could do it for him); then he rushed back to defend his kingdom against a Papal army. Fifteen years later the Muslims recovered Jerusalem and, in 1291, the Mamluk rulers of Egypt and Syria stormed Acre and put an end to the Latin Kingdom.

In terms of cultural interaction, the results of the Crusades are meagre. During the forty years or so between the death of Baldwin II in 1131, and the death of Amalric in 1174, a period during which the Crusader and Muslim forces were roughly in equilibrium, the Crusaders learned to live on friendly terms with the local Muslim population, but they learned little from them, and developed little of their own which could influence the West. No new poetry or art arose in the Holy Land. The great romances about the wars between Christendom and Islam, which were sung by the minstrels of the period – the chansons de geste, the Song of Roland, and the legend of the Cid – were composed by the minstrels of the West. Many words of Arabic or Persian origin entered Western languages, but it is extremely difficult to be sure whether the borrowing occurred in Palestine, or in one of the other two principal points of contact between the two civilizations – Spain and Sicily. Even borrowings in the military sphere in military architecture, tactics and the like have been disputed. For instance, some assert that the Crusaders brought back to Europe the notion of the concentric castle with the central keep. Others maintain that it was developed in the West by the Normans and taken to Palestine. Similarly, it is hard to know whether siege-weapons and tactics developed during the predominately sieged warfare in Palestine were of Arab or Greek provenance. As far as the Muslims in Palestine were concerned, they showed no inclination to interest themselves in the affairs of the crusading nations, even to the point of trying to distinguish between the different national contingents. All Europeans living north of Spain and Italy, from the Pyrenees to the lands of the Slavs, were still called by the same blanket term – Franks.

The results of the Crusades are to be seen rather in the stimulation of the trade and commerce between Europe and the Middle East, and in the impetus given to various social and political changes in Europe. The city states of Venice, Genoa and Pisa achieved unparalleled prosperity through their trade with the Middle East – trade which was by no means confined to the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. Popes thundered against trade with the ‘infidels’ and issued threats of excommunication, but without effect. On the other side, the Muslim leader, Saladin, justified his trade with the ‘infidels’ by explaining to the caliph that the Italians brought to Egypt arms and war material. ‘This’, he said, ‘constitutes an advantage for Islam, and an injury for Christianity’.

A by-product of this greatly increased trade between East and West was the development of banking and credit, to serve the needs of pilgrims and knights travelling to the Middle East. Once again, the Italians were in the lead in the establishment of banking firms, but an interesting feature is that some of the medieval orders of chivalry were deeply involved in the banking business. As the military religious orders became secularized, various mendicant orders of friars were founded to counteract this tendency – for instance, the Franciscans and Dominicans.

The Crusades also gave impetus to social and political change in Europe. For example, they affected the Papacy. Despite the prominent part played by lay princes in most of the Crusades, the Crusades were essentially preached, organized and directed by the Popes. Although initially the Popes gained great prestige from this, the use of crusading zeal against Christian heretics in Western Europe, or against the personal enemies of the Pope, tended to discredit the Papacy. In addition, the creation of the military religious orders tended to blur the distinction between lay and clerical, between temporal and spiritual, and thus to undermine the authority of the clergy. Secondly, participation in the Crusades meant the impoverishment of many feudal lords, and the consequent increase in the power of the king. In the economic field, the most obvious outcome of the Crusades was the introduction in the West of a system of tax on personal property and income. Hitherto taxation on land had been the norm, and so one may say that a modern taxation system in the West dates from the time of the Crusades.

An ironical but undeniable result of the Crusades was the deterioration of the position of the Christian minorities in the Holy Land. Formerly these minorities had been accorded rights and privileges under Muslim rule, but, after the establishment of the Latin Kingdom, they found themselves treated as ‘loathsome schismatics’. In an effort to obtain relief from persecution by their fellow-Christians, many abandoned their Nestorian or Monophysite beliefs, and adopted either Roman Catholicism, or – the supreme irony – Islam.

To sum up, the Crusades were a total failure as a military counter-attack against Islam. As Sir Steven Runciman has succinctly put it: ‘The Crusades were launched to save Eastern Christendom from the Moslems. When they ended the whole of Eastern Christendom was under Moslem rule’.

The fifteenth century ushered in the third phase in the long history of interaction between Christendom and Islamdom, a phase which may be characterized as the ‘exotic’ period. The end of the religious wars in Europe had meant a slight decline in odium theologicum. Already in the fourteenth century Wycliffe had declared that even Muslims might obtain salvation (hitherto thought to be the exclusive privilege of Christians), and had asserted that both Christians and Muslims were prone to the same vices. In the fifteenth century, Thomas Gascoigne put forward the novel idea that Muslims did not want to be converted to Christianity since they found the disputes between the Christian sects abhorrent, and were not impressed by the ethical or moral standards of the Christians with whom they had come into contact (principally Venetians and Genoese). In the same century, the Qur’ān was for the first time subjected to serious exegesis. With the advent of the Reformation, the Pope for many Protestants took the place of Muhammad as the Anti-Christ, and much of the polemic formerly directed at the Prophet of Islam was now aimed at the Vicar of Christ.

The military strength of the Ottoman Empire obliged the West to resign itself to another period of co-existence with the Islam world. The three great Islamic empires of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Ottoman, the Safavid and the Mughal, were treated as part of the known world, and diplomatic relations between these empires and European princes were conducted on the basis of equality.

The West, ceasing for the movement to see the Islamic world as the abode of unimaginable evils and vices, put in its place the concept of the ‘Exotic East’, the home of the rare and the bizarre, of fabulous riches and voluptuous delights. In 1704, there appeared Galland’s translation of the Arabian Nights, and more and more Islamic literature in translation became available in Europe. There was increased study of the Arabic language. Chairs of Arabic were established at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. More people, especially merchants, travelled to the Middle East, but their accounts of life there were not always reliable, and many merely fed the needs of a public avid for exotica.

This improvement in the relations between Christendom and Islamdom was not to last. The advent of the nineteenth century marked the rise of imperialism in the West. As the West lost its fear of the Ottoman Empire, now in decline, it also lost much of its temporary respect for Muslims and for Islamic civilization. The Western imperialist powers attempted to conceal their economic and political objectives under a veneer of altruism. As they saw it, there were people in Asia in need of good government and, in the West, there were people who not only knew how to govern but were eager to confer the benefits of good government on others. England therefore shouldered ‘the white man’s burden’, and France devoted itself to its ‘mission civilisatrice’. The technological superiority of the West over the East which was the product of the Industrial Revolution brought with it an unshakable belief in the superiority of Western Civilization over the Islamic civilization. If the West was going to confer on the East some of the benefits of this superior civilization, such as good government, it was logical that it should demonstrate to the Muslims the superiority of another aspect of the Western civilization, the Christian religion. So with the government officials went the missionaries, and the nineteenth century saw a fusing of the colonialist/imperialist attitude toward Muslim countries with the Christian attitude toward the Islamic faith. The two levels of possible reaction by the West to the problem of Islam, the political-military and the religious, were thus once more united, and united as they had not been since medieval times.

It is not surprising therefore to find a great similarity between the medieval view that it was safe to speak ill of Muhammad because his malignity exceeded whatever ill could be spoken of him, and the tone of nineteenth-century missionary tracts which exhorted the Muslims of India to abandon the false religion which they had been taught. There were even echoes of the old crusading spirit. When the French occupied Algeria in 1830, they declared that they had in mind ‘the greatest benefit to Christendom’. Similarly, Canning’s solution to the ‘problem’ of the Ottoman empire was to bring it into modern Europe under Christian tutelage. When the French invaded Tunis in 1881, they considered their action a sacred duty ‘which a superior civilization owes to populations which are less advanced’.

The Islamic reaction to this double onslaught by the armies and administrators of Western powers and by Christian missionaries was both religious and nationalist. Colonial peoples did not accept the West’s belief in its superior moral cultural or its superior religion, but believed rather that the West owed its dominance to the accident of prior industrialization. It is possible to argue, of course, that the Industrial Revolution was the product, at least in part, of those dynamic tensions which existed in Christendom (not the least of them being the creative tension between ‘church’ and ‘state’), but were lacking in Islam. At all events rising nationalism in the Islamic world meant that by the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, the imperial powers were faced with the simple alternative of relinquishing their colonies or holding on to them by force.

For fourteen centuries, Christendom and Islamdom have confronted each other as ‘two incompatible and largely hostile systems of thought, morals and beliefs’. Since the Second World War, the balance of power between these two systems has shifted once again. The loss of nerve on the part of Western civilization, the questioning of its very moral foundations, the movement away from Christianity both by those who blame it for the West’s cult of materialism, and by those who have lost all religious faith, have meant that we have entered what W.M. Watt has called the period of ‘inter-religion’, ‘in which adherents of the various great religions are mingling with one another on an unprecedented scale.’ On their side, Muslims, who only a generation ago were avidly grasping whatever aspect of Western technology they could, in the belief that therein lay the secret of Western dominance over them, share the disillusionment of many in the West with the results of technology, and are seeking other, possible Islamic, solutions. The period of the ‘one world’ has brought the major religions into contact with one another as never before, but, by the same token, it has brought them once more into rivalry. Each of these two great civilizations, Christendom and Islam, has always been convinced of its own superiority and self-sufficiency, and the fact that at the moment neither side holds the advantage may mean nothing more than that each sees itself threatened by a universal relapse into godlessness and barbarism.


Courtesy: Introduction to Islamic Civilization


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