Thursday, 21 February 2013

King John's Plan to Convert England to Islam

By 1213 King John of England had alienated practically everybody it was possible for a medieval English king to alienate: His barons, the guilds, the knights, the peasantry, the Church, the Emperor, the King of France. 
Desperate to hold on to his position and confound his numerous enemies, John decided on a dramatic course of action: He would embrace Islam and turn England into a Moslem country! He thereupon dispatched a delegation to the most powerful Moslem ruler he knew of. This happened to be the Emir of Morocco, who rejoiced in the name Abu Abdullah Mohammed al-Nasir and was the fourth ruler of the fanatically Shi'ite Muwahid dynasty.

Mohammed was not in the best frame of mind to receive John's ambassadors. As well as his dominions in North Africa, he held a swathe of land in southern Spain. However, the Christian Spanish had inflicted a crushing defeat on him the previous year at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, and he was plotting his counterattack. At this difficult point in his fortunes, three Englishmen showed up at his court: the knights Tho monk in a habit, padding into the presemas Hardington and Ralph FitzNicholas, and Master Robert, a London cleric.  The envoys told Mohammed that John "would voluntarily give up to him himself and his kingdom, and if he pleased would hold it as tributary from him; and that he would also abandon the Christian faith, which he considered false, and would faithfully adhere to the law of the prophet Mohammed." Hardington also gave a glowing account of England, of the richness of its soil and the skill and industry of its people.

 After hearing John's petition, he thought briefly on it. Then he delivered his judgment.

Said Mohammed: "I never read or heard that any king possessing such a prosperous kingdom subject and obedient to him, would voluntarily ... make tributary a country that is free, by giving to a stranger that which is his own ... conquered, as it were, without a wound. I have rather read and heard from many that they would procure liberty for themselves at the expense of streams of blood, which is a praiseworthy action; but now I hear that your wretched lord, a sloth and a coward, who is even worse than nothing, wishes from a free man to become a slave, who is the most miserable of all huma beings." Mohammed concluded by wondering aloud why the English allowed such a man to lord over them — they must, he said, be very servile and soft — and by declaring that John was unworthy of any alliance with a Moslem ruler such as himself. He thereupon dismissed the envoys, warning them never to let him set eyes on them again: "For the infamy of that foolish apostate, your master, breathes forth a most foul stench to my nostrils."

Thus the plan was never put in place.

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