Why Thomas Aquinas Distrusted Islam

by Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D. 27 Dec 2015 Breitbart

The 13th-century scholar Thomas Aquinas, regarded as one of the most eminent medieval philosophers and theologians, offered a biting critique of Islam based in large part on the questionable character and methods of its founder, Mohammed.

According to Aquinas, Islam appealed to ignorant, brutish, carnal men and spread not by the power of its arguments or divine grace but by the power of the sword.

Aquinas, a keen observer of the human condition, was familiar with the chief works of the Muslim philosophers of his day–including Avicenna, Algazel, and Averroes–and engaged them in his writings.

Since Islam was founded and spread in the seventh century, Aquinas—considered by Catholics as a saint and doctor of the Church—lived in a period closer to that of Mohammed than to our own day.

In one of his most significant works, the voluminous Summa contra gentiles, which Aquinas wrote between 1258 and 1264 AD, the scholar argued for the truth of Christianity against other belief systems, including Islam.

Aquinas contrasts the spread of Christianity with that of Islam, arguing that much of Christianity’s early success stemmed from widespread belief in the miracles of Jesus, whereas the spread of Islam was worked through the promise of sensual pleasures and the violence of the sword.

Mohammad, Aquinas wrote, “seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure.”

Such an offer, Aquinas contended, appealed to a certain type of person of limited virtue and wisdom.

“In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men,” he wrote. “As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity.”

Because of the weakness of Islam’s contentions, Aquinas argued, “no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning.” Instead, those who believed in him “were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms.”

Islam’s violent methods of propagation were especially unconvincing to Aquinas, since he found that the use of such force does not prove the truth of one’s claims, and are the means typically used by evil men.

“Mohammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms,” Aquinas wrote, “which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants.”…


No PC here from the Angelic Doctor.

This was back in a time when truth was a primary motivator, not feelings.

Thomas Aquinas, scholar extraordinaire, needs to be taught more today.

Our Seraphic Father St. Francis had other ideas. He actually went out and met with Muslims on their home base to meet with the Sultan. What he found was a man that loved God and they shared a mutual respect for each other (Muslims have a tradition of revering Christian monks). When he returned from Egypt, one of his rejected rules asked the Friars in Muslim lands to be subject to the Muslims. He also called for something similar to the Muslim call to prayer as he was impressed with the way the soldiers would stop what they were doing to pray several times a day.

I think Aquinas was more comfortable when dealing with abstractions. When it comes to applied morality and particular situations I disagree with a lot of his ideas.

What is your source for claiming the account of St. Francis? I have NO knowledge of this.

The Saint and the Sultan by Paul Moses.

ETA: The event is recorded in the Little Flowers of St. Francis, St. Bonaventure’s major life(haven’t read the minor life yet), and I believe it’s mentioned in Celano’s life as well. There are contemporary accounts of the meeting from Christian sources. I’m almost certainly missing some sources as I have only just begun to dig through it all.

I went to your source. Not convincing at all. “a little know encounter” and a “fanciful” tale.

The event itself or Paul Moses interpretation of it?

The event did happen, we have a lot of historical proof that it did. Somewhere (I forget where) there is something commemorating the meeting between Sultan Al-Kamil and a western holy man. The ivory horn that the Sultan gave to Francis is in the Basilica of St. Francis. Like I said in my edit above, there are contemporary accounts of the meeting.


No doubt St. Francis would meet with anyone and be peaceful but I don’t buy this story. It could happen that he met with a Sultan that gave him an ivory horn that is in the Basilica, but the rest in conjecture - not even legend - because the foundation of Christianity does not include Islam. Islam was not in existence at the time of our Lord.

There were and are many Moslems with lots of natural goodness, and we should recall also that there has been a major split in Islam since the death of Mohammed. St Thomas can be correct in his understanding of the theological aspect of the religion and St Francis correct in his evaluation of a person or persons he met who were Moslem.

IOW, they were talking about different things altogether.

I am glad St. Thomas Aquinas spoke up and I wish more leaders would too. May we all be one in Jesus Christ one day soon.

Aquinas and all other Christians would admit that we are all naturally good, but with fallen natures, confirmed in Genesis. One of the biggest problems with Islam is that they reject the notion that we are all created in God’s image and therefore have equal human dignity. In many Islamic countries you could be killed, legally or illegally, for blasphemy for proclaiming Genesis 1:27, "God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them."

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