Christianity and Islam: Tensions Since Medieval Times - Essay Sample

Published: 2023-09-15
Christianity and Islam: Tensions Since Medieval Times - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  History Islam Christianity
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 913 words
8 min read


The relationship between Christianity and Islam has been a strained kind of relationship since time immemorial. The two main religious groups have always had conflicts relating to various issues on several occasions. While the relations between Christianity and Islam were already strained before the Middle age, the middle age period significantly worsened the relationship between the two camps.

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Beginning of the Medieval Period

At the beginning of the medieval period, the Islam teachings by Prophet Mohammed had gained a lot of popularity, with Berbers, Egyptians, Kurds, Persians, and Syrians all joining the Islamic religion. With the rising popularity, the Islam religion was viewed as a continuity of the traditions and customs of Christianity and Judaism. Thus, it was expected that Christians would wholeheartedly accept the Islam religion as the primary religion. However, a section of Christianity, more so the Christian writers vehemently disagreed with that suggestion. In the Muslim conquered territories, the Christians were allowed to practice their religion privately and govern their community through their 'dhimmi' status. In return, the Christians were expected to pay the poll tax. The pagans were, however, expected to convert to Islam (Backman, 294).

Middle Ages

The Christian and Islam relationship during the middle age was further strained by the series of numerous crusades that were initiated for both religion, territorial and economic motives. During the first campaign, for instance, the Christian soldiers captured four states and declared them Christian states, even though most of the residents were Muslims and Jews. Although the soldiers were able to capture four states during the first crusade, the campaign's main goal was not achieved. Primarily, the crusade aimed to fulfill the Pope urban's desire to strengthen the power and increase the scope of political, economic, and military control. Shortly after the soldiers had taken over the four states, internal policies that were highly autonomous to the native groups were established. The independent nature of the policies made thousands of Muslims and Jews from the non-christian states migrate into the crusader's states, which were more lenient than the Turkish and Arab governed states (Backman, 337).

Throughout the crusade and across the Mediterranean cities, the trade between Christians and Muslims was thriving ((Backman, 341). While the Muslims accorded the Christians the 'dhimmi' status that allowed them to worship and have control of their community, the Christians did not make such exceptions during the crusade attack in Jerusalem, and only a handful of Muslims was spared in Jerusalem. At the time, the crusaders were made to believe that the killing of non-Christians was justified and could not be judged or counted as a homicide. As such, the soldiers killed the Muslims in Jerusalem un-discriminatory, whether young or old.

On the contrary first two Christian crusades which harassed and killed the Muslims and, in general, non-Christians, the third crusade by Muslims led by Salah al-Din to recapture Jerusalem spared the Christians, their churches and other places of worship. Through a treaty by Salah and Richard the Lionheart, the King of England, Jerusalem was placed under the leadership of Muslims, but the Christians were to be allowed access to the city (Backman, 341).

The constant attacks on the Islamic world by the crusaders significantly changed Muslims' attitudes towards Christians and the 'dhimmi' status. In Islamic states where the Turkic people had the military and governmental powers, the Jihad spirit was on the rise, with the Turkic’s claiming that they were defending their Islam religion and their land against invaders such as the Christians. Initially, the attitude of Muslims towards Christians and Jews was that of tolerance and appreciation, but soon after, the attitude drastically changed. There emerged different interpretations of the Quran and Islamic laws, especially on matters relating to Jihad and the holy war, which significantly increased intolerance towards Christians.

The Turkic’s also reviewed the terms of the ‘dhimmi’ status and required the ‘dhimmis’ to wear badges and clothe distinctively from the rest of the people as a way to indicate their ranks in the society. The highest and prestigious ranks relating to leaders and leadership were meant for the Muslims, while the low occupations were meant for Christians and the Jews. Additionally, as a way to retaliate against the harsh treatment from the crusaders, Christians were treated as inferiors and were only allowed to live in various regions in the cities and were not allowed to ride horses or hold religious meetings in public but were however allowed to live autonomously (Backman, 341).


Despite the numerous conflicts between Islam and Christians during the medieval period, there were periods in which the two religious groups interacted harmoniously. During medieval Andalusia, Muslims, Jews, Christians lived harmoniously with each other and had mutual respect regardless of their religious beliefs. The medieval Andalusia period was characterized by great achievements, abundance, and smooth social interactions at the highest levels of society. Additionally, medieval Andalusia was marked with a massive conversion of Christians into Islam. However, with the growing population of Muslims, the number of Christians was rapidly decreasing, making the Christians the minority. With time, even though the Muslims were practicing tolerance initially, the tolerance and patience with the minority Christians eventually declined, and the Muslims started to persecute the Christians openly. With the Christians' increasing persecutions, the northern territories, which were primarily under the watch of the Christians, began making attempts to regain their control. By the end of the medieval period, the northern territories had regained control of the peninsula (Backman, 342).

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