After navigating the theological arguments on the subject of coexistence and religious freedom it was time to launch that foundation into praxis. The research was now situated to address the condition of coexistence in Islamic empires from the East to the West set against the backdrop of the Umayyad dynasty and its extension into Andalusia, the Abbasid dynasty, the Crusader period, and some references to the more recent Ottoman Empire. The image the extremist worldview holds of the so-called Islamic Golden Age under the Prophet Muhammad and to a lesser degree, the Rightly Guided Caliphs sharply contrasts the Abbasid period, which many historians and scholars identify as the Islamic Golden Age. This research does not advance either period as being superior to another, because the way the Golden Age is operationalized is certainly colored by the concerns and interests of the actors assigning that praise. It is also the case that neither period was without its moral successes and depravities, cultural, social, and political contributions.

This research is most concerned with providing a transparent and even at times concessionary description of the condition of the Islamic world that ISIL claims to inherit. Transparency was an immense priority not only because readers can access a myriad of other sources that will reveal the truth even if this paper conceals it, but also because maintaining the integrity of the past is a more important lesson to the present than deceptively branding something a Golden Age. Furthermore, without transparency the research could not offer a more nuanced understanding of whether or not and in what ways ISIL presented a departure from the orientation of self-proclaimed Islamic regimes of the past on the subject of coexistence and religious freedom.

This research decided to incorporate depictions of Islamic empires cohabitating Christian minorities in the Levant and majorities in Andalusia to implicitly address considerations that might arise on the subject of power dynamics among religious communities. The condition of coexistence in Islamic empires in the East and the West is as diverse as the diversity it contained. Not only did Islamic empires exercise coexistence differently but the circumstances of different regions within the same empire were characterized by varying demographics, styles of conquests, and symbolic importance. Nonetheless, the paper tried its best to present themes that contextualize the utopian and dystopian aspects of an Islamic past and demonstrate in what ways ISIL inherited certain aspects of, or presented a departure from the past.        

After contextualizing the condition of coexistence, the research had a new picture to paint: the present. The persecution and scope of ISIL’s destruction against Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Sufi, and sectarian co-religionists were discussed qualitatively with some nods to quantitative estimations. From here the research hopes to discuss the homegrown and international efforts that have responded to this destruction and distinguish the nature of their project, their motives, and the stakes of what they hope to accomplish as it relates to reviving the multi-religious landscape of the Levant.

Author: Mona Elsaai