POLICY OF MUSLIM STATES IN SPAIN TOWARD CHRISTIANS
Warren H. Carroll, Ph.D.
Question: What was the standard policy of Muslim states in Spain toward Christians?
From the time of Muhammad until the beginning of the twentieth century, the standard policy of Muslim states in regions which they conquered and ruled was as follows:
Christians and Jews, whom the Muslims called "People of the Book," were permitted to retain their already existing churches and synagogues and to worship freely inside them. However, no public manifestations of Christian faith were permitted outside of churches, under any circumstances (even the ringing of church bells was strictly forbidden); it was very difficult to obtain permission to build any new church; a special tax was levied on all non-Muslims; and non-Muslims were excluded from most positions of political, military, or social authority. A series of edicts issued by the Muslim government of Egypt from 686 to 689 A.D. ordered every publicly visible cross in the country destroyed, and every Christian church had to place on its door the inscription: "Muhammad is the great apostle of God, and Jesus also is the apostle of God. But truly God is not begotten and does not beget." (L.W. Barnard, The Graeco-Roman and Oriental Background of the Iconoclastic Controversy [London, 1974], p. 18)
Above all, from the time of Muhammad to the early twentieth century, the conversion of any person from Islam to Christianity was absolutely forbidden and punished by death. (In many recorded instances this punishment was relentlessly carried out.) Every Muslim and all his descendants were regarded as legally bound forever to Islam.
Other sources for the above information: John Bagot Glubb, The Life and Times of Muhammad (New York, 1970), pp. 207-208, 293-296, 338-339, 385-388; Philip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, 5th ed. (New York, 1951), pp. 128-129; Andreas N. Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century (Amsterdam, 1968-80), II, 84.
Dr. Warren H. Carroll
History Department Chairman
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