Prompt: Using the documents, compare and contrast the attitudes of Christianity and Islam toward merchants and trade from the religions origins’ origins until about 1500. Are there indications of change over time in either case, or both? What kinds of additional documents would you need to assess the consequences of these attitudes on merchant activities? During the Post-Classical Era merchants played an incredible role in shaping the course of different societies. Christianity in its origins had a negative view of merchants while Islam was more positive as seen in their religious documents; however by 1500 the two religions had switched their views, Christianity more positive and Islam negative as displayed in the opinions of authorities and the action of merchants.
Views on wealth can be seen in the religious documents of each religion. Christianity had its genesis in the first century C.E. and had a negative view of merchants and wealth as stated by Jesus (doc 1) However, this source is just one statement from the Christian scriptures and additional religious documents would be necessary to make a complete thorough argument on Christianity’s views on wealth and merchants. On the other hand Islam which was born in the 7th century C.E. and was more positive in its treatment of wealth if the merchant was honorable (doc 2). As in the case of Christianity it would be necessary to have further passages from the Koran on the issue of wealth and merchants to give a complete picture of Islam’s origins view.
However with the sources provided it is clear that Christianity has a more negative view on wealth than Islam at their origins. As time progressed in the Post-Classical Era there were major changes in Islam and Christianity as seen in the discussions of Authorities. Islam had expanded across Afro-Asia and had become very wealthy because of trade in Dhar Al-Islam. On the other hand Christian Europe had entered a Dark-Ages of little trade with the fall of the Roman Empire in the West. However, by 1200 C.E. Europe had come out of the Dark-Ages on its way to the Renaissance. Europe was very interested in wealth and trade. An additional source of trade maps displaying trade wealth in 800 C.E. and 1500 C.E. of Islam and Christianity would help to explain why the views of the religions were changing.
This change can be seen in Reginald’s writing about St. Godric in the 12th century C.E. Godric is a saint recognized by the church because he helped with his wealth acquired by being a merchant. Godric used his wealth for good as a result one could argue that wealth acquired is not evil as long as it used well. It is important to note that Reginald is a colleague of St. Godric and he could be biased causing Godric to look better than he really was. This could change the use of this document because the information may not be completely valid (doc 3).
Showing the change in Christianity is Aquinas’ argument in the 13th century C.E. He argues against being dishonest in trade and wealth. He does not condemn wealth and trade just negative ways to conduct trade (doc 4). This brings Christianity very close to Muhammad’s statements in the Koran. Islam on the hand was more negative in its view of merchants. Ibn Khaldun argues that no merchant can be a true honest man. Yet he still has to concede that trade is necessary (doc 5).
This source could be biased because it occurred after the fall of the Abassid Empire and the problems with wealth and opulence that had plagued the Islamic world; moreover he could be an Ulama and had a strict view of Islam. As a result it could not portray what other scholars believed a t the time. This negative Islamic view can also be seen in the court decision of the 17th century C.E. in the verdict is against a merchant (doc 7). It is clear that Islam is closer to Christianities original views on Merchants and Christianity is becoming more positive.
The views of Merchants provides a clear change. In the 13th century C.E. Christian merchants are engaged in using religious terms promoting trade. Even a mother of a rich merchant advises him to be thankful but not too greedy. Again this is very close to Islam’s original position on the issue. This document could be biased because it is merchants writing and the words of a mother.
Neither of these people would be negative on themselves or loved ones. As a result this could exaggerate the practice of Christian in merchants and trade (doc 6). An additional source of different merchants writings would be good to see if all merchants used Christianity to sanction their actions. Moreover it would be good to have other Islamic merchants in writings than just document 7. This would give a better view of Islamic merchant actions around 1500 C.E.
By 1500 C.E. it is clear that Christianity had become more in-line to Islam’s original views on merchants and Islam was more in-line to Christianity’s origins.
Courtney from Study Moose