Using the Documents, compare and contrast the differences of Christian and Islamic attitudes towards merchants until about 1500. From a review of the 7 documents presented, it is clear that Christianity and Islam condemned inequitable trade, which led to many Christians and Muslims to look down upon merchants; however, honest business, especially as a merchant, is honored highly. In fact, the Qur’an compares fair merchants to martyrs which were some of the holiest people of all [D2]. However, many Christian and Muslim believers found most merchants to be dishonest and greedy.
A Christian scholar describes a merchant’s job and then concludes that when a person sells something for more than it is worth, it is “unjust and unlawful” [D4]. An influential Muslim scholar ventured to say that “flattery, and evasiveness, litigation and disputation” were all characteristic of a merchant’s profession [D5]. Even common people, like a Christian mother scolds her own son, a merchant, for being greedy [D6]. Muslim law, as time went one, continued to allowed merchants to trade, but some instances of trade were rebuked by whole towns [D7].
Many encouraged generosity and viewed a merchant turning from his profession as a good thing as seen in Godric’s life, who was a merchant and then devoted his life to charity and solitude [D3]. Furthermore, the Bible warns all that it is extremely hard for “a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” [D1]. Also, to fully understand how Christianity and Islam viewed merchants. From Christians viewed merchants as often easily corrupted by riches, whereas Islam encouraged fair trade; however by 1500, Christians and Muslims both viewed merchants as immoral, unjust people.
The Bible never specifically addressed merchants, whereas the Qu’ran did. The holy book of the Muslims specifically named merchants as good people, but only if they were honest. Unequal transactions, however, were condemned by both Islam and Christianity. Both faiths glorified fair dealings between people, though. Thomas Aquinas clearly states “to sell a thing for more than its worth, or to buy it for less than its worth, is unjust. ” [D4] This clearly shows why Christianity is opposed to merchants business in 1273. Ibn Khaldun, in the 14th century, also explains why he and other Muslims view erchants are not worthy of respect. Aquinas and Khaldun clarify why their faiths look down upon merchants. Also, a merchant’s mother gave the perspective of a common Christian’s view of merchants. Her obvious chastisement and command to “crave not for all; you already have enough to suffice you! ” [D6]. Common people also thought merchants craved for money, as seen in this mother’s letter. Islam and Christianity always to commended honest business and condemned greedy, inequitable trade; however, Islam did have a high opinion of merchants but came to agree with Christians that merchants were not respectable.
Between 70 CE and 1500 CE, Christians and Muslims changed in their opinion of merchants, but stayed the same in their view of equitable transactions between people. Matthew, in the New Testament, records Jesus commenting on how hard it is for rich people to have their hearts in the right place, but he doesn’t condemn the people for having money [D1]. Christians didn’t specifically revile merchants specifically at this point in 70 CE. The “honest, truthful Muslim merchant” was praised for his reputable work, even being compared to martyrs in the Qur’an [D2].
As time went on, educated Christian and Muslim scholars began to voice why they both believed merchants to be immoral people [D4 and D5]. Merchant’s jobs were described as needing “flattery, and evasiveness, litigation and disputation”, and in the eyes of Muslims, this was sinful and disgraceful [D5]. In Christianity and Islam, in later years both hold merchants in low regard, but earlier on had varying opinions of money and merchants. The attitudes towards merchants varied between different sources; the holy books had a different written record of its outlook on merchants than other people recorded.
The Bible warns people of the dangers of riches because Jesus claimed that it would be “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man” to enter heaven [D1]. This Holy Scripture is considered to be absolute truth to Christians, so this influenced the Christian mentality toward wealthy people. On the other hand, the Qur’an gives a “blessing” to a “truthful Muslim merchant” [D2]. However, religious scholars judged merchants more harshly. A Muslim scholar scolded merchants because their trade “inevitably affect[ed] [their] soul” [D5]. Aquinas’ viewed trade as “unjust and unlawful. Commoners such as a merchants mother scolded her son because he was greedy although he had “aqquir[ed] great riches in this world” [D6]. The Holy Scriptures didn’t condemn merchants directly, whereas the writings of other people of faith did. While Reginald’s personal account of his friend’s life is helpful in understanding a Chrisitian’s view on the life of a merchant, it is, however, bias because Reginald was a monk, and monks were raised with a very dismal view of anything that didn’t pertain to God [D3]. In the 2nd Century, monks were distinguished Christians who devoted their entire life to their faith.
They were a part of asceticism, which was a mentality that the world was completely evil and material objects were only a hindrance to their faith. Ascetics denied themselves of almost every pleasure that wasn’t from the worship or will of God. Since monks were raised with the sole mindset that money and worldly goals and aspirations were evil, it makes sense that Reginald would consider a merchant’s life full of “great labors” and only bearing of worthless “worldly gain” [D3]. He stated that Godric was “yearning with his whole heart” for greed and money, and not for God.
However, as soon as Godric gave up his profession for a life similar to a monk’s, Reginald characterized Godric’s life as devoted to “God’s honor and service” [D3]. Naturally, Reginald’s account of St. Godric would be bias because of his strict, ascetic mindset towards money and worldly possessions. Although a personal letter correspondence between a merchant provides insight to the personal lives of merchants, it is bias because the merchant doesn’t want to spend much money on religious paintings, but his mother wants him to be a religious man [D6].
The Italian merchant is objective about the cost and appearance of the paintings he will buy because he doesn’t want to waste his hard earned money. Naturally, this is a motive for him besides his dedication to his faith. His mother on the other hand wants him to buy something beautiful in the name of the Lord and chastises him for “toil[ing]” so much “only or the good of strangers” [D6]. She wants him to buy the paintings so that she feels he is devoted to the God she believes will judge him one day. She is frustrated and demands he “crave not for all” because he “already [has] enough to suffice him! [D6]. This letter is bias because the merchant doesn’t wish to waste money and the mother wants him to buy religious paintings. While the given documents are sufficient, 2 more additional documents can help us further our understanding of Islam’s and Christianity’s attitudes towards merchants. In the New Testament, 1 Timothy chapter 6, it says that “the love of money is the root of all evil. ” This further explains that the Bible doesn’t condemn merchants, but the unhealthy obsession of money which many merchants possess.
This passage heavily affected people’s opinion of merchants because a merchant spend nearly all of his time buying and selling goods for the sole purpose of acquiring wealth. Also, to understand another culture’s perspective on merchants, a Confucian writing from the Ming Dynasty would be helpful. This document describes the social hierarchy at the time. In the 14th century, merchants were considered beneath many social classes. The society also looked down upon merchants, even though the Chinese were mostly Confucian and didn’t believe in a deity.
This widespread mentality towards merchants could also affected Christians and Muslims’ opinions on the profession. The excerpt from the New Testament and the Confucian document furthermore support that many cultures looked down upon merchants. From a review of all the documents, it is clear from religious texts and written accounts of believer’s opinions on merchants that Muslims and Christians praised fair trade, but condemned most merchants because many merchants were not honest.