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Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, was born in AD570, the posthumous son of a Hashemite from Mecca (Makkah). His mother died when he was about six and he was brought up by his grandfather, who had him set up as a merchant by the time he was 25. His teachings began around 612, but despite gaining some followers he was rejected by the townsmen and was forced to leave for Medina (Madinah) in 622. For the next decade he organised the Islamic Community, creating a community based on the will of God. His activities led to the persecution of the early Muslims, followed by years of conflict, mainly with the Meccans, as the number of Muslims increased. By his death in 632, many Arabian tribes had either joined or been subdued by the Muslims. Within a year of the Prophet's death, the Muslims had advanced into Iraq, and by the early years of the following century had reached the River Indus and the Pyrenees. In the context of this remarkable expansion, the victory of Charles Martel at Tours (732) must rank as one of the most decisive in history. Most of the countries which were conquered during this period still remain Islamic or else have large Muslim populations. The history of Islam and its influence on Christian Europe, with which it coexisted uneasily for centuries, repays careful study. Certain European countries, notably Spain, Portugal and Sicily, have fascinating reminders of both cultures; it is also worth remembering that during the Middle Ages the Islamic world was far advanced compared with those of the West in the fields of philosophy, medicine, science, geography, poetry and music. Many classical works only survived because they were translated into Arabic during the so-called 'Dark Ages' before being brought to Western Europe in the 12th century; the rediscovery of the works of Aristotle in this way was of fundamental importance to the development of Western philosophy. During the Crusades (1100-1290), armies of Christian Europe and Islam came into violent conflict, and there is little doubt that it was the Muslims who in general displayed greater tolerance and humanity. In recent years an understanding of Islam has often been obscured by political complexities, and the following section is an attempt to explain some of the important tenets of the faith. Anyone planning to visit a Muslim country should familiarise themselves with at least a little of the history, culture and beliefs of this increasingly influential religion. The Islamic religion is based on the 'submission to the will of God (Allah)'. Islam has teachings for the mind, body and spirit; also laws on education, economy, politics, science, crimes and punishment, human behaviour and all aspects of morality in daily life for individuals (men and women of any race), families, governments and whole societies anywhere in the world. The Quran/Koran and Sunnah are the two basic sources of Islamic teachings, law and order. The Quran is the main religious book for Muslims; it is the spoken word of Allah(God) and is subdivided into 30 equal parts containing 114 chapters (or Sura) in Arabic. The Sunnah is complementary to the Quran and contains the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and his way of life. The Prophet received the spoken word of Allah containing the foundation of the faith (the Quran/Koran) while in Mecca in the 7th century AD. The city is now Islam's principal holy city. Medina, also in Saudi Arabia, a little over 300km (200 miles) due north of Mecca, is second only to Mecca in importance. It was to Medina that Muhammad and his followers moved after his monotheistic beliefs were given a hostile reception by some Meccans. The journey from Mecca to Medina (Hijra) is celebrated each year, the event being taken as the starting point of the Islamic calendar (Ah 1). Prior to their return to Mecca the Prophet and his followers made a pilgrimage (Hajj) to the Holy City during the month of Ramadan. After Muhammad's death in AD632 temporal authority was assumed by a series of Khalifahs, with various sects developing. Today the strongest sects within Islam (that is those with the most followers) are the Sunni (in Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, parts of Lebanon, Egypt, north Africa, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and large parts of Turkey) and the Shia (in Iran, southern Lebanon, parts of India, Afghanistan and Pakistan and the greater part of Iraq).
   The Five Pillars of Islam
There are five basic religious tenets, generally called the Five Pillars of Islam: Shahadah- The profession of faith: 'I testify there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.' Salah- The faithful must turn towards Mecca and recite a prescribed prayer five times daily at dawn, just after midday, asr (mid afternoon), just after sunset and before midnight. In some Muslim countries the activities of the day stop at the time of prayer. The muezzin calls to prayer, chanting from the minaret of each mosque. For obvious practical reasons, not all Muslims go to a mosque for prayer. Shopkeepers and businessmen will offer prayers on their premises, usually on a mat set to one side. Non-Muslims should not be embarrassed if they happen to witness this. The most important prayer is the Friday prayer, delivered from a pulpit of the mosque by a prayer leader. In many Muslim countries, Friday is a holiday, with banks and shops closed all day. Zakah- A compulsory payment from a Muslim's annual savings. It literally means 'purification', and is an annual payment of 2.5% of the value of cash, jewellery and precious metals above a specified minimum amount (a separate rate applies to animals, crops and minerals). Zakah can only be used for helping the poor and needy, the disabled, the oppressed, debtors and other welfare purposes defined in the Qur'an and Sunnah. Ramadan- All Muslims are required to fast during the Holy Month of Ramadan (a lunar month of 29 or 30 days, which falls 11 days earlier each year, depending on sightings of the moon). All Muslims abstain totally from food, drink, sex and tobacco from dawn to sunset. Non-Muslims should respect this practice and wherever possible avoid infringing these laws in front of Muslims, since this would be considered an insult. Practically speaking, when Ramadan falls during the summer months, the abstentions become a test of endurance. Often shops and restaurants will open much earlier and close during the afternoons and in smaller towns some will close altogether, but some businesses do open at night. Straight after sunset most, if not all, Muslims will break their fast, and little business or travel will be practical for the visitor at this time. Originally the festival celebrated the month during which the Quran was first revealed and later when Muhammad's followers won a great victory over opponents to his faith in Mecca. Eid al-Fitr, an official holiday in some Muslim countries of three or more days, takes place after the end of Ramadan. It is a celebratory feast when those luxuries which have been denied are enjoyed with relish. The Hajj- The pilgrimage to Mecca. Every Muslim who can afford it and is fit enough must make the journey. Some Muslims, especially those in Saudi Arabia, make the pilgrimage more than once. At the time of the pilgrimage, the pilgrim (Hajji/Hajja) enters the holy precincts of Mecca wearing a white, seamless garment (ihram) and performs the sevenfold circumambulation of the Kaabah (the black stone housed in the centre of the Holy Mosque) and the sevenfold course between the little hills of Safa and Marwah near Mecca. Muslims perform this in memory of Haggar who is mentioned in the Old Testament, who ran seven times between Safa and Marwah seeking a spring for her thirsty son. The Hajj lasts from the seventh to the eighth day of Dhu-al-Hijja. On the ninth day pilgrims stand praying on the mountain Arafat - an essential part of the ritual of the Hajj. The pilgrimage formally ends with Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), which is an official holiday of four or more days, in which a camel, sheep or horned domestic animal is sacrificed on the tenth day of Dhu-al-Hijja. After shaving the head (which is performed only by men), the ihram is discarded and normal dress (ihlal) resumed. As long as the hajji/hajja is in a muhrim (sanctified place) he/she must refrain from sexual intercourse, the shedding of blood, hunting and the uprooting of plants. All of the different activities of the Hajj are symbolic and have stories associated with them.
   Social Customs
Muslims regard Islam as an integral part of daily life, resulting in an ordered society in which a person's social, spiritual and economic status is clearly defined. This way of life is for the most part drawn from the Quran. Greetings and replies in particular are formal and stylised. Manners and courtesy reflect a deeply-held convention of hospitality and mutual respect. It is customary for Muslim households to extend hospitality to people whom Western society would disregard socially. For instance, tradition dictates that anyone who appears at meal times must be invited to share the meal, and this would apply as much to strangers or tradesmen, whatever the reason for their call, as it would to friends or relatives. Hospitality was a part of Arab culture before Islam and the laws and teaching of Islam reinforced it. Subjects such as illness or death are not surrounded by taboo as they are in many Western societies, and are discussed with frankness by all. Muslims are encouraged to have close relationships and keep an open heart, an understanding of others and to try and help with their problems. The label of a family can cover any number of individuals rather than just those related by blood ties. Arab families are close-knit, and the importance of family unity cannot be stressed too strongly. Inter-family disputes are a cause for public shame and require immediate attention.
   Women and Islam
Probably the aspect of Islam which non-Muslims find most difficult to accept is the treatment of women, and it is the aspect most deeply criticised. The demand that men and women should dress and behave modestly is seen by Muslims as symbolic of the importance and value placed on women as mothers and guardians of the family. The Prophet encouraged monogamy although polygamy was allowed, provided that the husband was in a position to provide for all wives (a maximum of four is allowed) and treated them equally. Polygamy may also occur in special circumstances, such as when the number of women in society is larger than the number of men, or when the wife is chronically ill or sterile. Today monogamy is more common, polygamy being allowed but not encouraged. Many, but not all, royal families have employed polygamy to ensure succession, and for practical reasons such as providing ministers and administrators, but otherwise it is not the norm. The theory behind modest dress and veil for women is to preserve respect, dignity and virginity and safeguard them from interference or abuse by men, although for some time this tradition has been slowly relaxed in many countries through contact with non-Islamic cultures. Other traditions, however, such as arranged marriages or the seating of females upstairs or at a separate table in a restaurant, are still rigidly observed. Many of the public traditions serve to distinguish male dominance in society. Women are allowed to work in some cases, especially when the need arises, but the Islamic code of dress and modesty must always be observed. In some jobs it is obligatory to have female teachers or doctors, for example when dealing with Muslim girls or women. Today in the Arab and Muslim world, many Muslim women are working because of financial need and because of the liberalising of religious practice or observance. Women invariably rule the household and the family. Given the importance of the family, this affords the older women considerable influence. Younger women, however, hold no such position and although many Islamic countries have relaxed restrictions and women have begun to play an active part in many spheres of activity (particularly in medicine, education, public services and the media), a number of countries still follow traditional practices. The difference between the measure of adherence to Quranic practices of one country and another is most easily judged by the degree of freedom afforded to women. Fundamentalism, enjoying a resurgence in many Islamic countries, is as much as anything else an articulation of the resentment felt at the interference of stronger foreign economies in their internal affairs. However, this can often manifest itself in a retreat back to almost medieval traditions as a positive form of disapproval of the decadence of the West. Thus, in many countries the position of women can be protected and their role in society appreciated, whilst at the same time their ability to control their own lives is largely denied.
  • Note:The above account of women and Islam, which describes widely held beliefs and customs, should not be taken as authoritative. Women in Islam, published by the Islamic Foundation, gives an account of one of the sessions of the International Islamic Conference held in London in 1976. The session was addressed by two Islamic women with a Western background and followed by a discussion. Women in Islam looks at issues more deeply and is a useful starting point for those who wish to learn about issues alive in Islam today.

  •    Social Conventions
    Forms of address:
    The Arabic equivalent of 'Mr' is Sayyid(for Muslims) and Khawaja (for Christians), while married women should be addressed as Sayyida or Sitt, and girls as Anissa. In Islam it is also encouraged to call a Muslim man 'my brother' and a Muslim woman 'my sister'. Islam regards men as equal, but social conventions, hospitality and politeness of Islamic societies prevent overfamiliarity.
    There follows a short list of Arabic greetings and phrases. The transliterations are phonetic and intended to assist pronunciation.
    Marharba - Hello;
    Markhabtain - Hello (reply);
    Ma'a Salama - Goodbye;
    Ahlan wa sahlan - Welcome;
    Ahlan feekum - Welcome (reply);
    Sabah al-khir - Good morning;
    Sabah innoor - Good morning (reply).
    These were all originally purely Arabic greetings. In Islam the common greeting still widely used is Assalmu Alaykum ('Peace be with you').
  • Note: Throughout the Arab world English is widely spoken in business, and it is not essential for English-speakers to learn Arabic. However, attempts to say even a few words and phrases in Arabic are generally very much appreciated.

    The Bible consists of the Old Testament inherited from Judaism and the New Testament which tells the story of Jesus and his apostles, and also contains letters written to Christian communities, especially those by St Paul. Discussion of the Old Testament and St Paul's letters is omitted in the following for reasons of space.
       The New Testament Story
    The Christian belief is based on the life and teachings of Jesus who, as recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, travelled through Palestine for three years declaring his message and performing miracles until he was arrested, accused of being a rebel against the occupying Roman authorities and crucified. The Jewish authorities were particularly upset by his claim to be the son of God, and therefore the long-awaited Messiah. According to believers, three days after his crucifixion Jesus rose from the dead and for the next few weeks appeared several times to his followers. He then 'ascended' to heaven. Subsequent to his death, resurrection and Ascension his apostles (see below) and other disciples travelled through the Roman Empire preaching and gaining converts. Of these converts St Paul, who was in the first place fanatically anti-Christian, is perhaps the most important; many Christian doctrines are based on his letters to the various Christian communities.
       The Miracles
    In the gospels, Jesus is often portrayed as reluctant to perform miracles, performing them only out of compassion, with a reminder that people should not believe in him for his miracles. The miracles most often mentioned involve making the lame walk and the blind see, from others he 'casts out devils' (a phrase now given a psychological slant by many). A few seem to have a mystical or symbolic significance: turning the water to wine at the wedding in Cana, the feeding of the five thousand (with two loaves and three fishes) and calming the storm on Lake Galilee seem to fall into this category.
       The Parables
    The miracles are often a prelude to a discussion in which a parable, or maybe several, are told. Jesus is not primarily someone who lays down moral laws; it is the attitude and approach to life of his listeners that he targets. Taken collectively the parables form a set of yardsticks against which the Christian can measure himself. As they are stories, rather than codes of behaviour, their origin many years ago in a largely pastoral and Roman-occupied Middle East does not confine and date them. Phrases from the parables occur naturally in conversations of those who live in societies moulded by Christianity (no matter how secular they have become). A 'Good Samaritan' is a person who helps a stranger in need; a 'Prodigal Son' is one who is wayward; 'to sort out the sheep from the goats' is to separate the good from the bad; 'to turn the other cheek' is to withhold retaliation. There are many other examples. The parables emphasise ethical precepts central to Christianity: returning good for evil, forgiveness, welcoming the sinner and valuing a person forwhathe is, not forwhohe is. The most direct statements of Christian ethics in the Bible are perhaps to be found in the Beatitudes, the most famous being 'Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the Earth'.
       The Apostles
    The 12 apostles were disciples who were particularly close to Jesus; several were fishermen. Notable among the apostles was Peter (meaning 'stone'), who through force of character, or perhaps conviction, was able to overcome his weaknesses. Another apostle, Matthew, symbolises the universal nature of the Christian appeal; he had been a tax-collector (a universally corrupt and despised profession in the Roman Empire). Most notorious was Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus to the authorities; down the centuries his actions, and those of the priests he assisted, have been used as a justification for persecution of the Jewish people throughout the centuries.
       The Gospels & Apostles
    John's Gospel is accepted as being the closest eye-witness account. The visionary nature of his work, however, inclines many interpreters against being over-literal. The other Gospels are called collectively the 'synoptic' Gospels; though there are differences between them, they draw on the same source material. Mark's, the earliest, is a bald 'no frills' narrative; the aim is clearly to bring the material together and put it in writing. Matthew's is written from a Jewish perspective and has a clear emphasis on putting the story into the context of Jewish tradition. Luke, on the other hand, as a gentile convert, emphasises the universal elements of the story. From Luke also comes the Acts of the Apostles, an account of the early days of Christianity, which significantly gives us a picture of the second major progenitor of Christianity: St Paul.
    Whilst Christian denominations vary radically in their practices, virtually all perform the Act of Holy Communion (see below) and hold services on Sunday (the day of the Resurrection, traditionally the Christian day of rest), though such activities are not necessarily confined to Sunday. A prayer ('grace') is often said at table before meals, especially the evening meal. It may be read or memorised and may also give mention to preoccupations or current events. It is customary for persons in attendance to lower their eyes, bow their head and clasp their hands in front of them or hold the hand of the persons sitting next to them. The prayer always finishes with the word 'Amen' (meaning 'So be it'), at which time those attending can resume their normal posture and begin their meal. It is a breach of manners to begin eating before the prayer is completed. In general, practising Christians are definably members of a community centred on their church; originally the act of baptism symbolised the acceptance of a Christian as a full member, but it is now performed at so young an age (in most denominations) that there is usually some other recognised form of acceptance, which occurs when a person is old enough to take responsibility for his actions. The nature of this form of acceptance varies greatly, but what is centrally important, and sets Christianity apart, is that individuals are offered the choice of whether or not to accept it.
    At the Last Supper, when Jesus celebrated the Jewish Passover immediately before being taken prisoner and crucified, he broke bread and drank wine with his apostles, saying: "Do this in remembrance of me". This has become the Christian sacrament of Communion when by re-enacting this event Christians renew their ties with God. There is no particular time or place for this sacrament, though over the centuries many rites and practices have grown around it, mostly perhaps in the Roman Catholic Mass.
       The Christian Calendar
    The most important event in the Christian calendar is Easter, which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus: Good Friday, the day when hope was lost; Easter Sunday, the day it was restored. Very much second in importance is Christmas, which celebrates the Birth of Jesus. The Christmas tradition of exchanging gifts and family celebration is very much a secular affair and not rooted in any Christian doctrine. The older European tradition is to celebrate on St Nicholas' Day (December 6) whilst other churches prefer to commemorate the arrival of the Magi with their gifts. Many other events in the life of Jesus are celebrated in the Christian calendar. The most important dates are as follows:
    (generally: December 25; Orthodox: variable)-Celebrates the Birth of Jesus. See above.
    Epiphany(January 6, 12 days after Christmas)- The coming of the wise men with their gifts.
    Ash Wednesday (46 days before Easter)-Commencement of Lent, traditionally a period of fasting and self-denial leading up to Easter.
    Palm Sunday (a week before Easter)- Celebrates the arrival into Jerusalem of Jesus riding on a mule.
    Good Friday (two days before Easter)- Traditionally referred to as three days before Easter Sunday, this commemorates the crucifixion.
    EasterSunday(*)- The day of the Resurrection. See above.
  • Note: This is a moveable Feast which usually occurs in March or April. Western and Orthodox churches determine its date according to different calendars.
  • Ascension Day (39 days after Easter)- The day Jesus ascended to heaven on a cloud following his resurrection and last appearances on Earth.
    Whit Sunday (seven weeks after Easter)-Marking the day the Holy Spirit entered the disciples left behind and the beginning of their ministry.
    The above dates are marked by virtually all Christian churches; Orthodox and Catholic churches, in particular, mark other occasions such as Noah's Flood (Orthodox) and the Immaculate Conception (Roman Catholic).
    Only the foolhardy could set out a list of Christian doctrines; the following beliefs are held, with differing degrees of literalness, by most Christians:
    (1) There is only one God.
    (2) Jesus is his son.
    (3) He was born of the Virgin Mary.
    (4) He lived, was crucified, resurrected from the dead and ascended to heaven (the meaning of this is explained separately, see below).
    (5) Through the working of the Holy Spirit his apostles were moved to preach in the name of Jesus, and establish the church as we know it.
    (6) God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not three entities but one and the same (the complex doctrine of the Trinity).
    (7) The Bible, including the Jewish Old Testament seen in the light of the New Testament, represents the word of God to his people.
    (8) God remains today in commune with his church and its members.
    There is a broad range of attitudes to these beliefs, from the Roman Catholics' insistence on orthodoxy to the Quakers' belief in the 'still, small voice'.
       The Significance of the Resurrection
    To Christians, the significance of the Resurrection is essentially about personal and collective redemption through the self sacrifice of one man. According to the New Testament, the story of Jesus is the story of a man who preached an emphasis on the importance of spiritual guiding values as opposed to the primacy of tradition or law defined by man. According to the Gospels he was angered by hypocrisy, relished debate, spoke of forgiveness and returning love for hate and, having spoken of these things, was betrayed and abandoned by those closest to him. In the Resurrection Jesus joins humanity again, but this time with his divinity in the ascendant. For a Christian, the belief in the resurrection of Christ is the belief in the potential redemption of both the individual and the redemption of mankind as a whole.
    The following is a list of some of the main Christian denominations worldwide, together with a brief description of their particular customs.
       Roman Catholic (Worldwide, especially in Latin countries & Europe):
    Roman Catholics believe that the Pope inherits supreme authority within the church directly from St Peter. Elaborate rituals are performed and the role of the priest is central; it is his responsibility to listen toConfession,assign penances and give absolution (forgiveness). Many saints are venerated and countries with the Roman Catholic denomination are often noted for their fiestas on Saints' Days; spectacular carnivals before or after Easter also occur. Modesty in dress when visiting churches is required (eg covering the head for women).
       Orthodox (Russia, Middle East & Central Europe):
    Orthodox churches are similar to Catholic ones in the elaborate style of their liturgies and rituals (called 'Greek Rite'). Services are long with the congregation standing throughout; stress is laid on the importance of the Ascension and saints are highly regarded. In some places, icons (usually miniature religious paintings on small pieces of wood) are used as an aid to contemplation. Eachprovincehas its own Patriarch and, whilst there is no overriding central control, the Patriarch of Istanbul is recognised as the most senior. Modesty in dress when visiting churches is required (eg covering the head for women).
       Anglican & Episcopalian (English-speaking countries):
    The Church of England parted from the Roman Catholic church in the 16th century. Many of its rites are similar to those of the Catholic church, although over the centuries the influences of Puritanism and non-conformity have, for the most part, tended to concentrate worship on the main doctrines and away from the veneration of saints etc. The priest is also less of an intermediary between his congregation and God. Anglican and Episcopalian churches throughout the world have forms of service derived from that of the Church of England. The church is broad and 'high' churches tend to be similar in character to Roman Catholicism, whilst 'low' churches look more to non-conformist influences. Requirements on dress are not as strict as those of Catholic and Orthodox churches, but respect is always appreciated.
       Methodist, Presbyterian & Congregationalist (English-speaking countries & the Pacific):
    Industriousness, temperance (meaning more than just sobriety), straightforwardness and honesty are the values of these churches; qualities which the New Testament sums up in the concept of 'stewardship'. In form of service, some are similar to the 'low' church of the Church of England whilst others are more austere and Calvinistic (putting emphasis on the relationship man-God, strongly opposing the role of priest as mediator).
       Baptist (CIS, Europe, USA & parts of the East Asia):
    Most churches practise baptism within a few weeks of birth. For Baptists the consent of the baptised is essential if the rite is to be significant and adult, or 'believer's baptism', is practised. Congregations are autonomous and independent of each other though each belongs to a national union. Other beliefs are similar to those described above underMethodist etc.
       Pentecostal (Caribbean & USA):
    These are the most exuberant churches of all, with much community singing and uninhibited celebration; 'speaking in tongues' and dancing often enter into church services. Beliefs are usually Fundamentalist.
       Seventh Day Adventist (USA & the Pacific):
    This Fundamentalist church celebrates the Sabbath on Saturday (the 'seventh day'). Church members look forward to the 'Second Coming' when Jesus will return to Earth and there is a heavy emphasis on the Old Testament.
    Many churches have evangelical congregations and this is an area in which the Pentecostal church has been influential. The importance of proclaiming God's word is emphasised.
       The Growth of Christianity
    The history of Christianity is central to the history of the modern world and pervades every aspect of philosophy, politics and culture, certainly in Europe. Space here does not permit more than a brief survey and it should be remembered that although originally a Middle Eastern religion, it was in Europe that Christianity most firmly took root and survived. The following survey has been written largely from a Western European viewpoint; this is not to belittle the achievements of the many founding fathers of the Church, many of whom lived in Syria and north Africa.
    The early church, initially small groups converted by the remaining apostles and St Paul, grew rapidly in the Roman Empire but suffered considerable persecution and also many heresies and schisms. The remarkable spread of the religion culminated in the reign of the Emperor Constantine (306-337), who became a Christian himself and summoned the first Ecumenical council of the Church (325) in an attempt to settle the matter of the Arian heresy, the first sign of a split between the eastern and western churches which was never subsequently healed. The church was at this time organised under the leadership of several patriachs (at Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Constantinople and Rome), with the latter accorded a somewhat vague primacy. Christianity spread rapidly throughout Europe during the so-called Dark Ages (although parts of Eastern and northeastern Europe were not converted until the 11th/12th centuries), a growth mirroring the breakdown of secular power. The propensity of Christianity to produce schismatic groups in no way abated during this period and led to the establishment of many diverse Christian groups, such as the Coptics and Maronites, which still survive to this day. The rapid and dramatic spread of Islam in the 7th century resulted in many Christian lands (such as Spain and almost all of the Middle East) being over-run; the conquest of Jerusalem was particularly keenly felt, the city being revered by Christians, as well as by Muslims and Jews. The career of Charlemagne (771-814) produced a revival both of Christianity and of secular power, and his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor in Rome on Christmas Day 800 - thus recreating the Roman Empire in the West and formalising the concept of Christendom - was an event of enormous significance, not least because it brought into sharp focus the conflicting aspirations of Church and State. It was widely believed that Constantine had granted the Church ultimate supremacy in earthly affairs (the so-called 'Donation of Constantine', later proved to be a forgery), and this dispute rumbled on throughout the Middle Ages, often flaring into armed conflict. The launching of the Crusades in 1096 was motivated not only by a desire to reinforce ecclesiastical supremacy in the West, but also to come to the aid of the Byzantine Empire which had come consistently under attack. There existed also the fainter hope of producing a reconciliation between Rome and Constantinople. The astounding success of the First Crusade, which led to the establishment of Christian states in the Middle East for almost 200 years, brought Christianity, Judaism and Islam into sharp and violent conflict. The triumph of Islam in the East was assured after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453; the Eastern (Orthodox) church retained its hold in Greece and Russia, and also in many isolated (and often heretical) communities in the Middle East. Shortly afterwards the 'seamless robe of Christ' was split still further by the Reformation and the teachings of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. By the end of the 16th century, despite the work of the Counter-Reformation and the Council of Trent, much of northern Europe had turned to Protestantism. Increasingly, the religious split in Europe manifested itself in many of the wars of the period - the French Wars of Religion, the Dutch War of Independence and the English Civil War and Revolution, for instance - culminating in the gruesome politico-religious violence of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). By this time most of the major European powers had started to establish overseas empires, exporting religion at the same time, and by the 18th century Christianity had established itself as the most widely spread faith in the world. Methodism was the last of the major Christian denominations to take root, and by that time most of the established churches in Europe had achieved a more tranquilmodus vivendiwith their secular counterparts by the rationalism of the Enlightenment. From this time on the most zealous Christians, from the Jesuits to Evangelicals, were finding that the most fertile ground for their teaching lay in the colonies: during the 19th century the work of conversion in all parts of the world proceeded apace. The 20th century has seen the Christian Church in Europe holding an increasingly small constituency and relying more on moral and ethical, rather than theological, influence on the life of its adherents. Certainly the increasing power and sophistication of the state has, in our century, resolved the ancient Church and State dispute very firmly in favour of the secular arm. The foundation of the ecumenical World Council of Churches in 1948 can be seen partly as an attempt to bury old differences between the denominations. Despite the increasing drift away from religion in the West, revivals, often of a dramatic nature, have taken place throughout the century, and one should in particular cite the recent rise of fundamentalist preachers in the USA. Two other events are worthy of particular mention. Firstly, the work of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, an attempt to bring the Catholic Church in line with the needs of the modern world: it has been said that, convened 500 years earlier, it would certainly have prevented the Reformation. Secondly, the spread of the so-called 'Liberation theology' in the Third World and Eastern Europe, born of an attempt to use the moral authority and teachings of the Church to aid the struggle against political and social oppression. Although in many ways a return to the fundamental teaching of Christ, the development is viewed with alarm by the Vatican and, to a lesser extent, by other Church leaders. The legacy of Christianity to the world is incalculable: almost every work of literature, art and music before about 1600 - and many after this date - were inspired by the faith, while the soaring cathedrals of both Western and Eastern Europe rank among the greatest achievements of mankind. Certainly the religion will continue to guide, comfort and inspire countless millions across the globe, although it seems unlikely to spawnany further major global changes.
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