Islam and Christianity

In the late antique period of the church, Justinian (482-565 c.e.) ruled the Byzantine or eastern Roman Empire, reasserting an imperial dominion that rivaled the ancient world. He subdued Germanic tribes in the west, especially in North Africa and Italy, and in the east was able to conclude a long-lasting peace with the Persians. His famous Latin compilation of all Roman law, called the Corpus iuris civilis, "Corpus of Civil Law," contained statutes requiring universal orthodox Christian worship and the suppression of all religious rituals associated with paganism. Judaism was also suppressed. Jews were forbidden to use Hebrew in the synagogues and those who did not comply were forced to convert. His insistence upon orthodoxy led to attacks against heretics and extended privileges for the clergy and monastic communities. Justinian was despotic in his attempts to ensure harmony between the eastern and western bishops, but in the end the fractious Christian sects were more concerned with the growing strength of Islam as the Muslims conquered more and more territory.

Islam (from the Arabic word for "surrender") is the monotheistic Abra-hamic religion that developed in the seventh century, based on the teaching of Muhammad (570-632 c.e.), whom the Muslims claim is the final prophet (after Abraham, Moses, Jesus) of God, and the one to whom he revealed his teachings in the Islamic holy book called the Qu'ran. As God's prophet, Muhammad united several tribes under Islamic law, and by the time of his death Islam had spread over the entire Arabian Peninsula, the area that comprises the modern Arab Gulf States. Islam continued to spread, both by violence and by peaceful proselytizing, but when the Muslims gained the territory of the Holy Land and had spread deep into Christian Europe, Pope Urban II (1088-1099 c.e.) convened the Council of Clermont (1095 c.e.) to respond to this territorial aggression. At that council he called for all the "knights of Christendom" to defend the Holy Land and stop the "pagans" and "infidels" who had attacked their fellow Christians, the Greeks. The pope called this march a pilgrimage and promised that whoever made a vow to God and wore a sign of the cross on his forehead or breast and took up this cause would have his sins forgiven and would enjoy eternal life with God. These military crusades were carried on between 1095 and 1291 c.e., but they were not restricted to aggressions against Muslims. En route to the Holy Land, the crusaders also killed Jews and eastern Christians whom they considered schismatic. In 1202 c.e., Innocent III launched the Fourth Crusade. The crusaders never reached the Holy Land but instead sacked Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, and established the Latin empire of Constantinople. This violent offensive left a legacy of distrust and contempt for the western church throughout the entire eastern empire.

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