Insights: The Newsletter of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship


D. Morgan Davis


scriptures, Bible, New Testament, Muslims, history


One of the great lessons to be drawn from the Islamic world of the Middle Ages is that in order for people of varying faiths and persuasions to coexist peacefully, it is not necessary that significant differences between them be settled or even downplayed. Islamic society was vibrant with debate and ideological rivalry. But there was a framework of tolerance that allowed for these differences while preserving basic modes for coexistence. For example, the Islamic caliphates (beginning in the seventh century and continuing into the early modern period) treated the Jews and Christians living within their domains as ahl al-kitab (“People of the Book”), a Qur’anic designation that recognized that these communities, too, worshipped the God of Abraham and had at least part of his truth revealed to them and recorded in their scriptures—the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, respectively. Therefore, these non-Muslims, though not accorded the same legal or social status as Muslims, were nevertheless allowed to practice their religions freely and openly and to participate in the pursuit of knowledge.