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2015 | 64 | 529-567

Article title

Elity chrześcijańskie wobec islamu (VII-X wiek)


Title variants

Christian elites and Islam (VII-X century)

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It is difficult to find equally important event in history as the birth of Islam and Arab expansion, although their importance was not appreciated at first. Its appear­ance was a breakthrough in several dimensions: religious, political, economic, cultural and lingual. The article attempts to discuss the reaction of Christian elites to the new monotheist religion. Initially, Islam was not identified as a new, separate religion. It was believed that the invaders would be chased away soon. The invasion was perceived in the biblical context, as a punishment for sins and as a work of the devil. So thought Sophronios, Theodor, John of Nikiu. Other writers pointed out Jews and heretics as the cause of God’s anger (Maximus the Confessor), but also emperor Constans (Anastasius the Synaite, Sebeos, some anonymous authors). A debate between Christians and Muslims commenced when Muhammad was still alive and both parties knew virtually nothing of each other. With time, the knowledge about Islam increased, although it still depended on education, social status, place of residence and knowledge of Arabic. In the 8th century it became obvious that Muslim rule would continue which can be observed in the opinion expressed by such writers as Sebeos, Anastasios, Denys of Tell Mahré or Ghewond. The task of Christian elites then, was to survive in an alien, not in­ frequently hostile environment and to preserve Christian faith. It was even more important when, particularly under the Umayyad rule, the religious policy be­came worse for Christians, which resulted in numerous conversions to Islam. The church must have felt threatened, consequently new arguments in the disputes with Muslims were needed. A form of a dialogue or polemics between two ad­versaries appeared. This can be seen in the texts of Theodor Abu Qurra, John on Damascus, in the polemics between patriarch Timothy with caliph Mahdi (781), homilies of a Syriac bishop from Iraq Mar Aba II (641-751), a discourse between monk Bert Hale and a wealthy Muslim or the answer of emperor Leo III to caliph Umar II (719), to mention just a few. The Christians attacked primarily Muhammad himself. He was accused of being a heretic or fake prophet. His knowledge would come either from Jews or heretic Christians. His adversaries pointed out that he had not done miracles as Christ had. It was also said that his revelation had been nothing but his dream or a result of his illness (epilepsy), or even that he had been possessed by daemons. Another target of attacks was the Quran, which was presented as a falsified Scripture. According to Niketas, it was not created by God, but by a daemon, as a compilation of many, often contradicting texts. It was also criticized as being non-original. Islam, was also be spread with the sword rather than with the word.







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