Evolving Perspectives on Merchants

8 August 2016

The attitudes toward merchants from Islam and Christianity differed; some viewed merchants in a positive light but others thought of them in a negative way. Between 70 CE and 1500 BCE the attitudes changed over time. Islam first viewed merchants with a positive attitude and over time, their perspective evolved into a negative view of merchants, as for Christianity they first viewed merchants negatively and then over time their view evolved into looking at merchants positively, rather.

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First, Muslims looked at merchants positively as long as they abided by the guidelines put into the Qur’an; in Christianity merchants were perceived negatively because of how strictly the bible was interpreted. Muslim perceptions of merchants became negative around 1170 BCE, around that same time Christian attitudes changed as well and leaned more toward positive. Documents 1 and 2 go from 620 CE to around 70 CE, the perception on Document 1, merchants from a Christian standpoint was very negative, while Document 2, Islam was very positive. Document 1, from the Christian Bible is quoting something that Jesus says.

He states, “It is easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. ” Merchants sold things to make a profit, and most of them became wealthy doing so; in that time period, wealthy people were considered greedy and greed is a sin in the Christian Bible. Sinner’s do not go to heaven and do not belong in God’s kingdom. But from a different point of view, the Muslim Qur’an, is expressing a much more positive attitude toward merchants in that time period. Document 2 is giving a set of guidelines to follow while trading.

If the rules are abided by the document states, “On the day of judgment, the honest, truthful Muslim merchant will take rank with the martyrs of the faith. ” In contrast with Christianity the Muslim merchant will go to their “kingdom” if they are honest and truthful. Although, a merchant writes document 2, so the point of view could have something to do with the positive connotation toward merchants because the writer is one himself. The missing document for these documents would be one that compares how they trade with their religions perspective on trading.

As time goes on and you head to the time periods 1170-1400 things evolve in Christianity and Islam. In Christianity, things go from being very negative toward merchants to being very positive towards them. Document 3 is a book, “The Life of St. Godric”. The short excerpt is talking about Godric a man who spent 16 years of his life being a merchant acquiring valuable things and becoming wealthy. He then began to think of giving it all to charity, to God’s honor and service, the goods, which he had so laboriously acquired.

Although, what you don’t know is that Godric is either terminally ill or is dying of old age and that the only reason he is donating to charity is because he no longer has a need for the items. Godric and other Christians now believe that giving away everything you own before you die will be your pass into heaven. In contrast to not being greedy your whole life like in the time period before. In document 4, another Christian based document it also sheds a positive light on merchants. Document 4 is a book called “Summa Theologica” this book is shedding light on the fact of being fair when selling things.

He believes that being a merchant is okay as long as you sell things for what they are worth in contrast to what makes you a profit and that is how you are being a good Christian merchant. Now in Muslim culture things have evolved additionally from a positive view to a negative one. In document 5 a book written by Ibn Khaldun, it talks a lot about how merchants are deceiving spiteful people like in this line, “This necessitates flattery, and evasiveness, litigation and disputation, all of which are characteristic of this profession.

And these qualities lead to a decrease and weakening in virtue and manliness. For these acts inevitably affect the soul. ” This is talking about merchants are all of these horrible things because they cheat and lie and anyone who is a merchant will have a terrible soul. Whereas in Christianity it is saying it is okay to be a merchant as long as you follow these rules and give back to the poor, if you do those things you’ll be fine and go to heaven. Going through time you notice everything is changing, the perspective views, the time period, what the merchants are selling, how they are selling the goods.

Out of all these things changing some things are staying the same: the fact that they even have merchants, and religions. These two things are your continuity, the things that stay the constant throughout the time period. Merchants stayed constant because to have a good standing economic structure, you need producers and consumers. Someone needs to sell goods, in order for people to receive them, whatever the name, throughout life there is always going to be a merchant. As for the religion, when someone sticks to something and has grown up believing it you aren’t just going to change your view on life in a blink of an eye.

These religions have many followers and the views may change but the name of what the religion is will most likely always be the same. As I wrote before, attitudes toward merchants from Islam and Christianity were very different; some viewed merchants in a positive light but others thought of them in a negative way. Between time periods the attitudes changed, Islam first viewed merchants with a positive attitude, and over time their perspective evolved into a negative view of merchants, as for Christianity they first viewed merchants negatively and then over time their view evolved into looking at merchants positively, rather.

First, Muslims looked at merchants positively as long as they abided by the guidelines put into the Qur’an; in Christianity merchants were perceived negatively because of how strictly the bible was interpreted. Muslim perceptions of merchants became negative around 1170 BCE, around that same time Christian attitudes changed as well and leaned more toward positive.

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