In the beginning of Christianity, trade was considered sinful, while the Muslims thought trade was a lesson of appreciation and hard work. Christians had a strongly negative attitude towards the interaction between trade and merchants. Islamic people, however, had various different opinions on trade in comparison to the Christian religion. However, over time, the thoughts on trade and merchants shifted to a more negative point of view from both religions. The opinions from these religions were opposite at the beginning of time, but they eventually fused into one overall thought and opinion by the 16th century.
From the beginning of time of the early development of each religion, there were various differences between the Christian and Islamic point of view towards trade and merchants, which can be displayed in documents 1 and 2. Document 1 had an in-depth focus on the negative point of view that Christianity obtained towards trade. It focused on the idea that becoming a merchant was sinful and a merchant himself was unable to enter into heaven, which agreed accordingly to the Christian opinion on producing money in their society. Furthermore, document 1 served as a direct statement of how Christians felt towards the subject of building an economy in the religion and in the community; the bible was provided as a direct objection against trade and merchants, mostly focusing on statements that displayed the rich as being corrupted and vain. This statement ultimately proved how negative the opinion of the Christian society was on merchants between 70-80 CE. Overall, document 1 states that wealthy merchants were frowned upon and prevented from entering heaven in the community, which supported the negative bias that Christians held. Jesus, the holy leader of the Christian community, was poor, thus his negative views against wealthy merchants could correlate with his inability to receive wealth.
On the other hand, in document 2, the views of the Muslim society were presented in a positive manner. Document 2 was a statement from the Qur’an, the holy book of the Islamic community, which believes that a merchant who was honest with their manner of trade and performed trade in a faithful manner would be blessed. If the trade that took place was full of honesty and no greed or lies, then the Muslim merchant would take a higher rank in the community with the “martyrs of faith.” (2) Merchants in the Islamic community were perceived as
a positive kind of wealth and would take high rank in the religious world. Trade and merchants for the Muslims was represented as a form of honesty and truth. Furthermore, document 2 mentions how God himself has a positive outlook on an honest and faithful use of trade. In this community, merchants have a high rank and are above regular citizens because of this blessing from God. However, the Qur’an could be biased because the writer of the Qur’an had the objective to strengthen the Islamic capital to make the empire richer.
If the religious point of view consisted of a charitable outlook on trade and merchants was adopted, then the merchants would be directed to the strengthening of the empire through trade. Even though both documents 1 and 2 provide a distinct opinion and point of view on trade and merchants in their societies, additional documents would be needed to strengthen their opinionated statements. A merchant who has no direct correlation to these religions, or who is a part of another religion, could provide an important insight through documents such as entries in a journal on what merchants actually receive when trading. These types of documents would support evidence in relation to how important religion was in the situations merchants were in, how wealthy merchants actually were, and their faithfulness and honesty. In the earlier time periods. Christian opinions on merchants and trade were perceived as negative, while Muslims views were positive. They had opposite point of views and opposite opinions on how important trade actually was.
In documents 3, 4, and 5, the opinions on trade and merchants in the Christian and Islamic societies changed in a number of ways over time in the middle time period of the rise of both religions. Document 3 was recorded much later in 1170 and discussed statements made from Godric, a merchant who had a biography written about himself by his colleague. The document discusses the importance of honesty in merchants, especially Godric himself. It also discusses how becoming a merchant focuses on hard work and labor, which allows them to develop an appreciation for the objects they interact with in trade. In comparison with the earlier time period, document 3 also portrays a negative point of view on trade in the Christian community. Godric, the Christian merchant, was so ashamed of his wealth and everything he owned that he gave them to the poor even though he worked for them so determinedly. Because of his negative views that he developed concerning the wealth he obtained, he gave his possessions to the poor in order to compensate for his sins. He still held the fear of not being accepted into heaven because of his wealth and because of his actions towards trade.
Document 3 was useful in representing how far merchants will go to make up for their shameful past in hopes of savoring their religion. Because of the actions Godric displayed, the opinion of a negative point of view towards trade and merchants stays the same during this time period in Christianity. The colleague of Godric who was the author of this document could’ve had a biased point of view, however, because of his relationship to Godric as a friend and colleague. The statements referenced about the life of Godric could have been exaggerated because of his colleague’s opinions and views on Godric’s life. In document 4, which was a document focusing on Christianity about 100 years after document 3 was written and took place in 1273, the view on trade shifted to statements concerning how trading was unlawful and unjust if it’s not fair on both sides. It’s important to realize that the document isn’t written from a holy leader or for a holy leader, but from a theologian. He makes various statements concerning the ethics of man and how a man “should not sell what is not his.” (4)
This doesn’t provide much evidence about the religious views Christians had concerning merchants during this time period. The only religious statement in document 4 discusses the morality of man, which is neither positive nor negative in relation to trade and merchants in the Christian community. Ultimately, this document can not be considered biased because Thomas Aquinas has no blatant religious opinion in the document. His opinion was neutral and doesn’t support or present an evidence for the Christian society. Document 5, a document concerning an Islamic court decision, depicts trade and merchants in a negative light, which contrasts with the positive Islamic point of view on economic interaction in document 2. As time progressed, the Islamic opinions on trade seemed to shift drastically on a completely opposite viewpoint. This document was recorded in the 14th century and focused mostly on the negative aspects of tradesmen in the Muslim society. Tradesmen were described as being stripped from manliness and having a weak virtue.
The document describes a strongly negative point of view on the position of trade and merchants in the Muslim community through these various insults and statements. They were described as dishonest people who focused only on receiving a profit and gaining wealth. Furthermore, document 5 provides negative viewpoints on the tradesmen because of their goal to search for profit. Another document that would be required to strengthen the evidence needed to support the Islamic viewpoints and display their opinion would be the journal of an Islamic merchant. Through these journal entries, a personal inquiry on how the merchants viewed the religious community would be attained. Overall, documents 3 and 4 both have similar negative viewpoints on trade and merchant activity. The Christian viewpoint remained unchanged, however, the Muslim viewpoint changed entirely. Document 5 focused on the negative opinions that Muslim scholars have on merchants and tradesmen, which contrast entirely to their earlier opinions. Documents 3 and 4 are also negative, but remain unchanged in the Christian society, whereas the Muslim viewpoint changed over time.
Documents 6 and 7 both acknowledge a positive shift of opinion on the attitudes towards trade and merchants in the Christian and Islamic societies at the end of the rise of the religion’s time period. Document 6 mostly focuses on strengthening the religious capital to serve the holy residents of the community. It discusses that wealth is distributed by God and should be treated as a blessing and honored. These letters to and from Italian merchants contrasts other documents with a positive outlook on merchants instead of a negative outlook. The point of view in document 6 is very evidential and supportive because the letters are from the merchants themselves. The letters also share the same belief that charitable wealth should be distribute among the society through various ways, such as religious paintings or murals to help strengthen the society as a whole.
Document 7 was an Islamic court decision made in the 17th century against a Muslim merchant. It displays the attitudes of Islamic people to redistribute wealthy attributes amongst themselves. Furthermore, in document 7, a merchant was mentioned named Sakaoglu Nasuh who took profit for personal gain that he obtained from cotton. This shows how the Islamic citizens would take another man’s possessions, but redistribute it to help strengthen the entire community. Both document 6 and document 7, representing both religions, display a shift in the point of view of both religions in a positive aspect relating to merchants and trade, as long as the merchants were fair and shared their profits among the community. Another document needed that would benefit the evidence needed to strengthen the opinions of both religions would be a court decision made by the Christian community as well, relating to the practice of a Christian merchant in order to compare or contrast the similarities or differences. This would allow two similar court decisions to be able to be compared to in order to decipher a valid opinion, which could be possible in a political way.
Overall, all of the documents displayed the differences of the point of views between Christianity and Islam. Document 1 introduced Christianity as having a negative view on merchants, where document 2 compared the Christian opinion to the positive opinion that Muslims had on trade as long as it was honest and fair. Furthermore, documents 3 and 4 both represented the negative opinions that Christianity still held on tradesmen as time went by. In document 5, the negative aspects of tradesmen were shown, but the positive manner they experienced in earlier time periods in Islamic history displays the change of opinion the Muslim community had over time on trade and merchants.
Lastly, document 6 displayed the change in the Christian community’s opinions towards economic interaction by having a positive outlook on merchants giving back to the society as a whole in forms of various objects, such as paintings. This document relates to document 7, which was a decision made by the Islamic court, which described the guiltiness of a Muslim merchant because he didn’t distribute his profit to the community, but kept it for himself. Both documents show the shift in point of view over time in a positive way. The documents represent the negative outlook on trade over time, while the Islamic community had views that shifted over time. Muslim views began positively and ended negatively, but finished with a positive outlook. However, both the Christian and Islamic religion shared their shift in attitudes and opinions over time from the beginning of the religions to the 16th century.