Islam in the Byzantine Perception in the Eighth Century A.D.: John of Damascus as a Paradigm
This paper deals with a very important historical period in the history of Arab-Byzantine relations both at the cultural and intellectual levels. It reflects the beginning of the precursors of the Byzantine theological perceptions of Islam as a religion that frames the way of life of the Muslim Arabs in the eighth century AD. John of Damascus is considered a pivotal figure in the history of cultural interaction at a theological level between the Byzantine Orthodox thought and Islam. John lived under the umbrella of the Umayyad Caliphate and attained a high social status there. Also, a number of his works dealt with Islam as a religious entity that established its presence in the areas of the Umayyad Caliphate in his time. These works contribute greatly to the study of the image of the "Other", especially as they reflect an image formed and crystallized by someone who lived in the womb of the Caliphate itself and came into contact with the Islamic faith surrounding him. Accordingly, this research aims to identify points of difference and points of attraction between the Byzantines and the Muslim Arabs in the light of the religious beliefs of both groups. This paper also seeks to shed light on the Islamic philosophical currents that appeared in the Umayyad Caliphate until the era of John of Damascus and left clear echoes in the folds of his theological works. Finally, the importance of this study lies on the fact that it is the first one in the Arabic bibliography to provide an honest translation of the attached Byzantine text as written by John of Damascus based on the last verified edition and its philological commentaries that help in understanding and deconstructing the text. That will help the researchers to explore the theological problems that John considered the basis of the polemic conflict between Orthodoxy and Islam in his time. These are the “same problematic issues” that were transmitted after him by all the Christian writers in the East and the West, who touched on Islam and wrote about it.