The Attitudes of Christianity and Islam Towards Trade Essay

Throughout history Christians and Muslims have interacted through trade and commerce. Both religions have unique attitudes towards trade and merchants based on their founders, peoples, and principles. Christianity started with a negative view towards merchants and trade but over time became more tolerant and even encouraging of it. Contrarily, Islam originally encouraged honest trade but later saw that corruption of merchants was ultimately inevitable and discouraged its practice.

Early in time both Christianity and Islam had opinions towards trade based directly from their founders.

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In Document 1, the Bible says that Jesus, the founder of Christianity, said that a rich man (a merchant) would have a very difficult time getting into heaven. This discouraged Christians from trade. Document 2, The Quran shows that the Muslims encouraged honest trade. This makes sense because the founder of Islam, Muhammad, was a merchant himself. Over time both religions’ opinions changed.

Christianity became more accepting and encouraging of trade as time progressed. Document 3, The Life of St.

Godric written around 1170, states that St. Godric achieved spiritual greatness and closeness to G-d through trade. This shows that Christianity was progressing to being more tolerant of merchants. Summa Theologica written by Thomas Aquinas in 1273 (Document 4) further shows the progression of tolerance by stating that trade is acceptable as long as merchants are honest. Lastly, Document 6, letter to and from Italian merchants, show that in the fourteenth-century Christians fully embraced trade and wealth and even traced back their good fortune to G-d.

In contrast to Christianity, Islam became more opposed to trade with time. Document 5, Universal History by Ibn Khaldun, shows that in the fourteenth-century Muslims were becoming wary of merchant because they would lie and use flattery to trick customers. They acknowledged that trade was necessary for some to make a livelihood but it was highly discouraged. Then in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries trade was really looked down on because merchants behaved corruptly, as seen in Document 7, an Islamic court decision. One document that would have been helpful would be one showing the interactions between the Muslim and Christian merchants that may have caused the changes in attitudes.

Originally, Christians discouraged trade and even believed wealthy merchants would have difficulty entering heaven. As time progressed Christians slowly embraced trade and ultimately believed all wealth and success came from G-d. Oppositely, Islam started off by encouraging honest trade and commerce but as time went on saw that trade without corruption was impossible and found trade deplorable.

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