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Transcript
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Map 4.2: Islam’s spread to 750
in common with its two predecessors: 2) prayer, to be done five times in the course of the
day, facing Mecca, Islam’s holiest site; 3) charity to the unfortunate; 4) fasting during the
holy month of Ramadan; and 5) pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one’s lifetime. The
first pillar, however, suggests a baseline of doctrine, of belief: “There is no god but God
[Arabic: “Allah”14]. Mohammed is the prophet of God.”
Taken together, the five pillars do not seem to mark a religion wholly irreconcilable
with the Christianity of the West. Christians believe, pray, and engage in charity. There
were other points in common. Allah promised the just eternal life in paradise, as did the
Christians’ god. There was punishment too, sometimes fitted to the sin, an idea also to be
found in Christian lore. One Muslim tradition depicts a man who failed to perform charity
about to be eaten by a snake that, winding itself around his neck, informs him “I am your
wealth, your treasure.”15 And both religions regard the Old and New Testament as sacred.
But each religion had elements inassimilable by the other. The principal one of these
concerned the status of Jesus and Mohammed. Orthodox Christianity holds that Jesus is
divine; however, Muslims regard this view as contradicting the monotheistic assertion
14 “Allah” is not the name of the Muslims’ god; it is simply the Arabic for “god.”
15 Quoted in David Waines, An Introduction to Islam (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 90.
162
UTP ShapingWestCiv-02.indd 162
4 ROME’S FALL? LATE ANTIQUITY AND THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES
2013-07-22 4:51 PM