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Christians And Muslims In The Middle Ages

2174 words - 9 pages

Part A
1) In several ways, Christians and Muslims in the Middle Ages shared in their approach to dealing with the infidels living in their lands, particularly in their proclamation of legal edicts defining the level of toleration and the protection offered those nonbelievers. Yet, however similar the two society's legislative relations were in managing minority faiths, there still existed minor fundamental differences stemming from disparities in their societal structure.
A study of the legal decrees of either society reveals they both desired to maintain hegemony and obtain respect (manifestly and psychologically) for their faith. They also both capitalized on the ability of infidels to perform tasks considered necessary yet sacrilegious, or that they were more suited to because of their involvement in trade. Conversion of the unbelievers to Christianity or Islam was also a primary goal. To accomplish all of these, Christians and Muslims instituted laws delineating the level of toleration and subjugation of minority faiths.
In medieval Christian society, one example of legislation outlining these goals can be found in the Codex Justinianus, or Justinian’s Code. In "Title Nine: Concerning Jews and the worshippers of the heavens," legislation prohibits Jews from attacking or insulting converts from Judaism to Christianity, marrying Christians, blaspheming or insulting Christianity, engaging in defamatory acts such as the burning of crucifixes, circumcising Christians, proselytizing, holding public office, or building new synagogues (although they were permitted to repair existing ones). Many of the same laws applied to Muslims. At the same time, the Codex guaranteed certain rights and protections to Jews. Jews were not to be summoned to court on the Sabbath, and they were protected from bodily harm. In addition, in order to avoid the heretical act of money lending (usury), Christians left such employment to the Jews. As Augustine had intimated previously, Jews were to be tolerated, both for the sake of preserving Hebrew Scriptures, and because the Bible foretells of their eventual conversion at the end of days. This didn't stop Christians from attempting to convert them in their day (sometimes more forcibly than others). However, Augustine also maintained that the Jews must show their humility and subjugate themselves to Christians. A strong example of this subjugation, is the canon law of Lateran church council of 1215, when it was decided that Jews be set apart by their clothing. However, in Medieval Christendom, even this restricted level of toleration was also not always guaranteed, as is evidenced by the Crusades, and more instances than it is reasonable to mention, when forcible conversions, murders, or the denial of religious customs were the norm instead.
In medieval Islam, similar attitudes were taken toward infidels, namely Jews and Christians or “people of the book.” In the Qur’ān, there are several verses dealing with the...

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