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


In the late 7th and 8th centuries, Muslims encountered Levantine Christians. The cognate Syriac word sahedo may have influenced the Arabic shahid (martyr-witness).[2] 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.


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.[3] Madrasa-Mausoleum of Sultan Al Nasir Muhammad in Cairo has a Gothic doorway from Acre, reused as a trophy.[4] The former Christian cathedral Madrasat al-Halawiyya in Aleppo, probably taken by Nur ad-Din Zangi, featured an altar.[4] The Aqsa Mosque has a sculpted ornament, taken from Crusader structures of the 12th century, in the arches of the facade.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10]


  1. ^ a b Michael Nazir-Ali. Islam, a Christian perspective, Westminster John Knox Press, 1983, p. 66
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ Islamic art and architecture
  4. ^ a b Carole Hillenbrand. The Crusades: Islamic perspectives, Routledge, 2000, p. 386
  5. ^ Hillenbrand, p. 382
  6. ^ Islamic architectural history
  7. ^ Thomas W. Arnold. Painting in Islam: a study of the place of pictorial art in Muslim culture, Gorgias Press LLC, 2004, p. 58
  8. ^ Hillenbrand, p. 388
  9. ^ Arnold, p. 100
  10. ^ Arnold, p. 99

Further reading[edit]

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