Read CHAPTER XII. of Christianity and Islam in Spain (756-1031), free online book, by Charles Reginald Haines, on ReadCentral.com.

INFLUENCE OF ISLAM ON CHRISTIANITY.

We have so far investigated the influence of Christianity on the social and intellectual character of Mohammedanism; let us now turn to the analogous influence of Mohammedanism on Christianity under the same aspects. This, as was to be expected, is by no means so marked as in the reverse case. One striking instance, however, there is, in which such an influence was shewn, and where we should least have thought to find it. We have indisputable evidence that many Christians submitted to be circumcised. Whether this was for the sake of passing themselves off on occasion as Mussulmans, or for some other reason, we cannot be certain: but the fact remains. “Have we not,” says Alvar, “the mark of the beast, when setting at nought the customs of the fathers, we follow the pestilent ways of the Gentiles; when, neglecting the circumcision of the heart, which is chiefly commanded us, we submit to the corporeal rite, which ought to be avoided for its ignominy, and which can only be complied with at the cost of no small pain to ourselves.”

Even bishops did not shrink from conforming to this Semitic rite, whether voluntarily, or under compulsion, we cannot say; but we know that the Mohammedan king, under whom this occurred, had at one time the intention of forcing all his Christian subjects to be circumcised.

Another sign of an approximation made by Christians to the outward observances of Moslems, was that some among them thought it necessary to abstain from certain meats, those, namely, forbidden by the Mohammedan law.

A bishop, being taxed with compliance of this kind, gave as his excuse that otherwise the Christians could not live with the Saracens. This was, naturally, not considered a good reason by the stricter or more bigoted party, who regarded with alarm and suspicion any tendency towards amalgamation with Mohammedans. If we can credit certain chroniclers, a council was even held some years before this time by Basilius, Bishop of Cordova, for considering the best method of preventing the contamination of the purity of the Christian faith by its contact with Mohammedanism.

Sometimes, however, the contact with Islam acted by way of contraries, and Christian bigots, such as the monks often were, would cling to some habit or rite of their own from a mere spirit of opposition to a reverse custom among Moslems. Thus we know that the monks in the East became the more passionately devoted to their image-worship, because Iconoclasm savoured so much of Mohammedanism. In the same way, but with far more objectionable results, the clergy in Spain did their best to impress the people with the idea that cleanliness of apparel and person, far from being next to godliness, was incompatible with it, and that baths were the direct invention of the devil. Later on we know that Philip II., the husband of our Queen Mary, had all public baths in his Spanish dominions destroyed, on the ground that they were relics of infidelity.

Celibacy of the clergy, again, was strongly advocated as a contrast to the polygamy of Mohammedans; and an abbot, Saulus, is mentioned with horror as having a wife and children, one of whom afterwards succeeded him, and also married.

One of the last acts of a Gothic king had been to enforce the marriage of the clergy, and though this act was repealed by Fruela I. (757-768) in the North, yet concubinage became very common among the clergy; and it was perhaps to remedy a similar state of things that Witiza wished to compel the clergy to have lawful wives.

We have left to the last the great and interesting question of the origin of chivalry. Though forming no part of the doctrines of Christianity or Islam, chivalry and its influences could not with justice be wholly overlooked in a discussion like the present. The institution known by that name arose in the age of Charles the Great (768-814), and was therefore nearly synchronous with the invasion of Europe by the Arabs. Its origin has been, indeed, referred to the military service of fiefs, but all its characteristics, which were personal and individual, such as loyalty, courtesy, munificence, point to a racial rather than a political source, and these characteristics are found in an eminent degree among the Arabs. “The solitary and independent spirit of chivalry,” says Hallam, “dwelling as it were upon a rock, and disdaining injustice or falsehood from a consciousness of internal dignity, without any calculation of the consequences, is not unlike what we sometimes read of Arabian chiefs or American Indians.”

Whatever the precise origin of chivalry may have been, there can be no doubt that its development was largely influenced by the relative positions of Arabs and Christians in Spain, and the perpetual war which went on between them in that country.

Though not a religious institution at the outset, except perhaps among our Saxon forefathers, chivalry soon became religious in character, and its golden age of splendour was during the crusades against the Moslems of Spain and Palestine. Spain itself may almost be called the cradle of chivalry; and it must be allowed that even in the first flush of conquest the Arabs shewed themselves to be truly chivalrous enemies, and clearly had nothing to learn from Christians in that respect. The very earliest days of Moslem triumph, saw the same chivalrous spirit displayed at the capture of Jerusalem, forming a strange and melancholy contrast to the scene at its recapture subsequently by the Crusaders under the heroic Godfrey de Bouillon.

Similarly the last triumph of the Moors in Spain, at the end of the tenth century, furnished an instance of generosity rarely paralleled. The Almohade king, Yakub Almansur, after the great victory of Alarcos (1193), released 20,000 Christian prisoners. It cannot, however, be denied that the action displeased many of the king’s followers, who complained of it “as one of the extravagancies proper to monarchs," and Yakub himself repented of it on his deathbed.

In many passages of the Arabian writers we find those qualities enumerated which ought to distinguish the Moorish knight-such as piety, courtesy, prowess in war, the gift of eloquence, the art of poetry, skill on horseback, and dexterity with sword, lance, and bow. Chivalry soon became a recognised art, and we hear of a certain Yusuf ben Harun, or Abu Amar, addressing an elegant poem to Hakem II. (961-976) on its duties and obligations; nor was it long before the Moorish kings learnt to confer knighthood on their vassals after the Christian fashion, and we have an instance of this in a knighthood conferred by the king of Seville in 1068.

As the ideal knight of Spanish romance was Ruy Diaz de Bivar, or the Cid, so we may perhaps regard the historic Almanzor as the Moorish knight sans peur et sans reproche; and though, if judged by our standards, he was by no means sans reproche, yet many are the stories told of his magnanimity and justice. On one occasion after a battle against the Christians, the Count of Garcia being mortally wounded, his faithful Castilians refused to leave him, and were hemmed in by Almanzor’s men. When the latter was urged to give the word, and have the knot of Christians put to the sword, he said: “Is it not written? ’He who slayeth one man, not having met with violence, will be punished like the murderer of all mankind, and he who saveth the life of one man, shall be rewarded like the rescuer of all.’ Make room, sons of Ishmael, make way; let the Christians live and bless the name of the clement and merciful God.”

On another occasion Almanzor is asked by the Count of Lara for wedding gifts for an enemy of the Arabs, another Christian count, and he magnanimously sends the gifts; or we see him releasing the father of the Infantes of Lara, on hearing of the dreadful death of his seven sons.

It must be admitted that these instances savour too much of the romantic ballad style, but anecdotes of generosity do not gather round any but persons who are noted for that virtue, and though the instances should be false in letter, yet in spirit they may be eminently true. However this may be as respects Almanzor’s generosity, of his justice we have unimpeachable evidence. The monk who wrote the “Chronicle of Silo,” says that the success of his raids on the Christian territories was due to the large pay he offered his soldiers, and also to his extreme justice, “which virtue,” says the chronicler, “as I learned from my father’s lips, Almanzor held dearer, if I may so say, than any Christian."

In connection with chivalry there is one institution which the Christian Spaniards seem to have borrowed from the Moors-those military orders, namely, which were so numerous in Spain. “The Rabitos, or Moslemah knights,” says Conde, “in charge of the frontier, professed extraordinary austerity of life, and devoted themselves voluntarily to the continual exercise of arms. They were all men of high distinction; and bound themselves by a vow to defend the frontier. They were forbidden by their rules to fly from the enemy, it being their duty to fight and die on the spot they held.”

In any case, whether the Christian military orders were derived from the Moorish, or the reverse, one thing is certain, that it was the Moors who inoculated the Christians with a belief in Holy Wars, as an essential part of their religion. In this respect Christianity became Mohammedanized first in Spain. Chivalry became identified with war against the infidel, and found its apotheosis in St. James of Compostella, who-a poor fisherman of Galilee-was supposed to have fought in person against the Moors at Clavijo. In the ballad we hear of Christian knights coming to engage in fight from exactly that same belief in the efficacy and divine institution of holy wars, as animated the Arab champions. The clergy, and even the bishops, took up arms and fought against the enemies of their faith. Two bishops, those of Leon and Astorga, were taken prisoners at the battle of Val de Junqueras (921). Sisenandus of Compostella was killed in battle against the Northmen (979); and the “Chronicle of the Cid” makes repeated mention of a right valiant prelate named Hieronymus.

Yet, in spite of all this, in spite of the fanaticism which engendered and accompanied it, chivalry proved to be the only common ground on which Christian and Moslem, Arab and European, could meet. It was in fact a sort of compromise between two incompatible religions mutually accepted by two different races. Though perhaps not a spiritual religion, it was a social one, and served in some measure to mitigate the horrors of a war of races and creeds. Chivalry culminated in the Crusades, and Richard I. of England and Saladin were the Achilles and the Hector of a new Iliad.

With this short discussion of the origin and value of chivalry as a compromise between Christianity and Mohammedanism, we will now conclude. In discussing the relations between Christianity and Mohammedanism, we have been naturally led to compare not only the religions but their adherents, for it is difficult to distinguish between those who profess a creed, and the creed which they profess; but at least we may have thus been enabled to avoid missing any point essential to the proper elucidation of the mutual relations which existed between the two greatest religions of the world, and the influence they had upon each other.