Christian influences in Islam

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For comparative studies, see Christianity and Islam.

Christian influences in Islam could be traced back to the Eastern Christianity, which surrounded the origins of Islam.[1] Christians also introduced the Muslims to Greek learning.[1] Eastern Christians (particularly Nestorian Christians) contributed to the Arab Islamic Civilization during the Ummayad and the Abbasid periods by translating works of Greek philosophers to Syriac and afterwards to Arabic.[2][3][4] They also excelled in philosophy, science, theology and medicine.[5][6]

The majority of Muslim countries also use a Gregorian calendar and some countries observes Sunday as a non-working day.

Language[edit]

In the late 7th and 8th centuries, Muslims encountered Levantine Christians. The cognate Syriac word sahedo may have influenced the Arabic shahid (martyr-witness).[7] During the Abbasid dynasty, translations of the gospels from Syriac into Arabic were made, particularly by historian Bar-Hebraeus, at the request of the Arab governor.

Art[edit]

Hagia Sophia, an Eastern Orthodox church converted into a mosque after the Fall of Constantinople; in 1935 it was converted into a museum, following a decision by Kemal Attaturk.

Roman and Byzantine styles were particularly prevalent in early Islamic architecture. One of the examples is the Dome of the Rock (late 7th century) in Jerusalem. Its design is derived from Roman architecture.[8] Madrasa-Mausoleum of Sultan Al Nasir Muhammad in Cairo has a Gothic doorway from Acre, reused as a trophy.[9] The former Christian cathedral Madrasat al-Halawiyya in Aleppo, probably taken by Nur ad-Din Zangi, featured an altar.[9] The Aqsa Mosque has a sculpted ornament, taken from Crusader structures of the 12th century, in the arches of the facade.[10] The upper double capital of the mosque on twisted columns expresses the unity of nature in a characteristic Romanesque style.

After the fall of Constantinople, the Ottomans converted a major basilica, Hagia Sophia, to a mosque and incorporated Byzantine architectural elements into their own work, such as domes. This was a part of the conversion of non-Muslim places of worship into mosques. The Hagia Sophia also served as model for many Ottoman mosques, such as the Shehzadeh Mosque, the Suleiman Mosque and the Rüstem Pasha Mosque.[11]

Christological motifs could be found in the works of Nizami, Rumi and others. Islamic artists applied Christian patterns for iconography. The picture of the birth of Muhammad in Rashid ad-Din's Jami at-Tarawikh is reminiscent of the birth of Jesus.[12] The angels, hovering over the mother, correspond to a Christian type, while the three women, who came to visit the mother, conform to the three Biblical Magi. Some surviving Ayyubid inlaid brasses feature Gospel scenes and images of Madonna with infant Jesus.[13] References to the Annunciation and the baptism of Jesus are manifest in al-Athar al-Baqiyah, where the Virgin is depicted in accordance with her representation in Byzantine art.[14]

The frescoes of Samarra, painted between 836 and 883, also suggest the Christian craft because of the Christian priests who are the subjects and the signatures of the artist.[15]

Cultural influence[edit]

luminure from the Hunayn ibn-Ishaq al-'Ibadi manuscript of the Isagoge. Hunayn ibn-Ishaq a famous and influential scholar, physician, and scientist of Assyrian Christian descent.

Christians (particularly Nestorian Christians) contributed to the Arab Islamic Civilization during the Ummayad and the Abbasid periods by translating works of Greek philosophers to Syriac and afterwards to Arabic.[16][17][18] During the 4th through the 7th centuries, scholarly work in the Syriac and Greek languages was either newly initiated, or carried on from the Hellenistic period. Centers of learning and of transmission of classical wisdom included colleges such as the School of Nisibis, and later the School of Edessa, and the renowned hospital and medical academy of Jundishapur; libraries included the Library of Alexandria and the Imperial Library of Constantinople; other centers of translation and learning functioned at Merv, Salonika, Nishapur and Ctesiphon, situated just south of what later became Baghdad.[19][20] The House of Wisdom was a library, translation institute, and academy established in Abbasid-era Baghdad, Iraq.[21][22] Nestorians played a prominent role in the formation of Arab culture,[23] with the Jundishapur school being prominent in the late Sassanid, Umayyad and early Abbasid periods.[24] Notably, eight generations of the Nestorian Bukhtishu family served as private doctors to caliphs and sultans between the 8th and 11th centuries.[25][26]

Role of Christian in science in the medieval Islamic world[edit]

Christians especially Nestorian contributed to the Arab Islamic Civilization during the Ummayads and the Abbasids by translating works of Greek philosophers to Syriac and afterwards to Arabic.[27] They also excelled in philosophy, science (such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq, Qusta ibn Luqa, Masawaiyh, Patriarch Eutychius, Jabril ibn Bukhtishu etc) and theology (such as Tatian, Bar Daisan, Babai the Great, Nestorius, Toma bar Yacoub etc.) and the personal physicians of the Abbasid Caliphs were often Assyrian Christians such as the long serving Bukhtishu dynasty.[28][29]

Role of Christian in medicine in the medieval Islamic world[edit]

Ibn Bakhtishu's Manafi' al-Hayawan (منافع الحيوان ), dated 12th century. Captions appear in Persian language.

A hospital and medical training center existed at Gundeshapur. The city of Gundeshapur was founded in 271 by the Sassanid king Shapur I. It was one of the major cities in Khuzestan province of the Persian empire in what is today Iran. A large percentage of the population were Syriacs, most of whom were Christians. Under the rule of Khosrau I, refuge was granted to Greek Nestorian Christian philosophers including the scholars of the Persian School of Edessa (Urfa)(also called the Academy of Athens), a Christian theological and medical university. These scholars made their way to Gundeshapur in 529 following the closing of the academy by Emperor Justinian. They were engaged in medical sciences and initiated the first translation projects of medical texts.[30] The arrival of these medical practitioners from Edessa marks the beginning of the hospital and medical center at Gundeshapur.[31] It included a medical school and hospital (bimaristan), a pharmacology laboratory, a translation house, a library and an observatory.[32] Indian doctors also contributed to the school at Gundeshapur, most notably the medical researcher Mankah. Later after Islamic invasion, the writings of Mankah and of the Indian doctor Sustura were translated into Arabic at Baghdad.[33] Daud al-Antaki was one of the last generation of influential Arab Christian writers.

The Christian merchants and the trade of silk[edit]

The Vank Cathedral. The Armenians moved into the Jolfa district of Isfahan and were free to build their prayer houses, eventually becoming an integral part of the society.

The one valuable item, sought for in Europe, which Iran possessed and which could bring in silver in sufficient quantities was silk, which was produced in the northern provinces, along the Caspian coastline. The trade of this product was done by Turks and Persians to begin with, but during the 17th century the Christian Armenians became increasingly vital in the trade of this merchandise, as middlemen.[34]

Whereas domestic trade was largely in the hands of Persian and Jewish merchants, by the late 17th century, almost all foreign trade was controlled by the Armenians.[35] They were even hired by wealthy Persian merchants to travel to Europe when they wanted to create commercial bases there, and the Armenians eventually established themselves in cities like Bursa, Aleppo, Venice, Livorno, Marseilles and Amsterdam.[34] Realizing this, Shah Abbas resettled large numbers of Armenians from the Caucasus to his capital city and provided them with loans.[34] And as the shah realized the importance of doing trade with the Europeans, he assured that the Safavid society was one with religious tolerance. The Christian Armenians thus became a commercial elite in the Safavid society and managed to survive in the tough atmosphere of business being fought over by the British, Dutch, French, Indians and Persians, by always having large capital readily available and by managing to strike harder bargains ensuring cheaper prices than what, for instance, their British rivals ever were able to.[36]

Ottoman Empire[edit]

Immediately after the Conquest of Constantinople, Mehmet II deported all the Christian population of the City, leaving only the Jewish inhabitants of Balat.[37] Afterward, he repopulated the city bringing inhabitants - both Christian and Muslim - from the whole empire and from the newly conquered territories.[37] Phanar was then repopulated with Greeks deported from Mouchlion in the Peloponnese and, after 1461, with citizens of Trebizond.[38]

The roots of Greek ascendancy can be traced to the need of the Ottomans for skilled and educated negotiators as the power of their empire declined and they were compelled to rely on treaties more than the force of arms. From the 17th century onwards the Ottomans began facing problems in the conduct of their foreign relations, and were having difficulties in dictating terms to their neighbours; the Porte was faced for the first time with the need of participating in diplomatic negotiations.

Given the Ottoman tradition of generally ignoring Western European languages and cultures, officials found themselves unable to handle such affairs. The Porte subsequently assigned those tasks to the Greeks who had a long mercantile and educational tradition and could provide the necessary skills. As a result, the so−called Phanariotes, Greek and Hellenized families mostly native to Constantinople, came to occupy high posts of secretaries and interpreters to Ottoman officials and officers.

Some of the most influential Arab nationalists were Arab Christians, like George Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Syrian intellectual Constantin Zureiq. Many Palestinian Christians were also active in the formation and governing of the Palestinian National Authority since 1992. The suicide bomber Jules Jammal, a Syrian military officer who blew himself up while ramming a French ship, was also an Arab Christian.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Michael Nazir-Ali. Islam, a Christian perspective, Westminster John Knox Press, 1983, p. 66
  2. ^ Hill, Donald. Islamic Science and Engineering. 1993. Edinburgh Univ. Press. ISBN 0-7486-0455-3, p.4
  3. ^ Brague, Rémi (2009-04-15). The Legend of the Middle Ages. p. 164. ISBN 9780226070803. Retrieved 11 Feb 2014. 
  4. ^ Ferguson, Kitty Pythagoras: His Lives and the Legacy of a Rational Universe Walker Publishing Company, New York, 2008, (page number not available – occurs toward end of Chapter 13, "The Wrap-up of Antiquity"). "It was in the Near and Middle East and North Africa that the old traditions of teaching and learning continued, and where Christian scholars were carefully preserving ancient texts and knowledge of the ancient Greek language."
  5. ^ Rémi Brague, Assyrians contributions to the Islamic civilization
  6. ^ Britannica, Nestorian
  7. ^ Brian Wicker, Council on Christian Approaches to Defence and Disarmament. Witnesses to faith?: martyrdom in Christianity and Islam, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006, pp. 25-26
  8. ^ Islamic art and architecture History.com
  9. ^ a b Carole Hillenbrand. The Crusades: Islamic perspectives, Routledge, 2000, p. 386
  10. ^ Hillenbrand, p. 382
  11. ^ Islamic architectural history Islamic-architecture.info
  12. ^ Thomas W. Arnold. Painting in Islam: a study of the place of pictorial art in Muslim culture, Gorgias Press LLC, 2004, p. 58
  13. ^ Hillenbrand, p. 388
  14. ^ Arnold, p. 100
  15. ^ Arnold, p. 99
  16. ^ Hill, Donald. Islamic Science and Engineering. 1993. Edinburgh Univ. Press. ISBN 0-7486-0455-3, p.4
  17. ^ Brague, Rémi (2009-04-15). The Legend of the Middle Ages. p. 164. ISBN 9780226070803. Retrieved 11 Feb 2014. 
  18. ^ Ferguson, Kitty Pythagoras: His Lives and the Legacy of a Rational Universe Walker Publishing Company, New York, 2008, (page number not available – occurs toward end of Chapter 13, "The Wrap-up of Antiquity"). "It was in the Near and Middle East and North Africa that the old traditions of teaching and learning continued, and where Christian scholars were carefully preserving ancient texts and knowledge of the ancient Greek language."
  19. ^ Kaser, Karl The Balkans and the Near East: Introduction to a Shared History p. 135.
  20. ^ Yazberdiyev, Dr. Almaz Libraries of Ancient Merv Dr. Yazberdiyev is Director of the Library of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat.
  21. ^ Hyman and Walsh Philosophy in the Middle Ages Indianapolis, 3rd edition, p. 216
  22. ^ Meri, Josef W. and Jere L. Bacharach, Editors, Medieval Islamic Civilization Vol.1, A - K, Index, 2006, p. 451
  23. ^ Britannica, Nestorian
  24. ^ The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 22:2 Mehmet Mahfuz Söylemez, The Jundishapur School: Its History, Structure, and Functions, p.3.
  25. ^ Bonner, Bonner; Ener, Mine; Singer, Amy (2003). Poverty and charity in Middle Eastern contexts. SUNY Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-7914-5737-5. 
  26. ^ Ruano, Eloy Benito; Burgos, Manuel Espadas (1992). 17e Congrès international des sciences historiques: Madrid, du 26 août au 2 septembre 1990. Comité international des sciences historiques. p. 527. ISBN 978-84-600-8154-8. 
  27. ^ Hill, Donald. Islamic Science and Engineering. 1993. Edinburgh Univ. Press. ISBN 0-7486-0455-3, p.4
  28. ^ Rémi Brague, Assyrians contributions to the Islamic civilization
  29. ^ Britannica, Nestorian
  30. ^ The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 22:2 Mehmet Mahfuz Söylemez, The Jundishapur School: Its History, Structure, and Functions, p.3.
  31. ^ Gail Marlow Taylor, The Physicians of Gundeshapur, (University of California, Irvine), p.7.
  32. ^ Cyril Elgood, A Medical History of Persia and the Eastern Caliphate, (Cambridge University Press, 1951), p.7.
  33. ^ Cyril Elgood, A Medical History of Persia and the Eastern Caliphate, (Cambridge University Press, 1951), p.3.
  34. ^ a b c Blow; p. 213.
  35. ^ Savory; p. 195-8
  36. ^ Savory; p. 202.
  37. ^ a b Mamboury (1953), p. 98
  38. ^ Mamboury (1953), p. 99

Further reading[edit]

  • Eva Baer. Ayyubid metalwork with Christian images. BRILL, 1989