Arab Christians and the Impact of the Islamic Conquest
Muhammed Dayfallah El-batâyine
Keywords: Arab, Christian, Islam, Byzantium, Persians, Muslim, Conquest
The diffusion of Christianity among the Arabs in the Arabian peninsula, Iraq and Syria assumed not only a distinct form but, at the same time, took place under very complex political and economic conditions. In the pre-Islamic period, this diffusion tended to occur not on a communal basis, but rather it exhibited a pattern marked by the conversion of isolated individuals. During the spread of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula, the native Christians in the different regions here displayed no noteworthy reaction in response to this new political formation. For instance, the Nadjran Christians of Yemen either entered into agreement with the Muslims and assumed dhimmi status or they converted to Islam and recognized the political and religious authority of the Islamic state. The military campaigns conducted by the Muslims in Iraq and Syria, however, occasioned important battles, like those at Mu'ta, Yarmuk, Fihl, Kinnasrin, 'Ayn al-Tamr and Takrit. In this series of engagements in these two countries, the presence of Christians of Arab descent in the ranks of the Byzantines and Sassanians represented a species of attitude and behavior better explained by social psychology than religious faith. Both as groups and individuals, such actions first emerged as an expression of hostile opposition to the Islamic conquest movement, but, in the end, they joined and united with it. In the wake of the great military victories by the Muslims in Iraq and Syria, the change in circumstances led to a gradual reversal on the part of the Christians, who now began to enter the Islamic armies. The policy implemented in regard to the Taghlib Christians, who adopted a different stance vis-a-vis the Muslims, attained resolution within the framework of certain Islamic principles and Arab tribal customs and traditions.