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The Black Death: How Different Were the Christian and Muslim Responses?

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This paper discusses the responses of the Christians and Muslims during the Black Death. According to research Muslims tended to stay more calm and relaxed. While Christians started getting upset, this led to pointing fingers. In particular, this paper states exactly how the Muslims reacted versus the way the Christians reacted towards the cruel Black Death.

The Black Death: How Different Were the Christian and Muslim Responses?
In 1346 European traders began to hear reports about earthquakes, floods, locusts, famine, and plague in faraway China. They knew very little then that the plague they were hearing about would follow the same trade routes to the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe that they themselves used. In five short years, the plague killed between 25 and 45% of the populations it encountered. So how different were the Christian and Muslim responses? In 1348 Christianity and Islam came face to face with the Black Death. In truth, Muslims and Christians responded in many different ways. Their ideas for what caused the Black Death were somewhat different from each other also. Even the way they thought they could cure the disease was almost entirely different. With evidence and accounts of people that exist from the Bubonic Plague, one may come to a conclusion that Christians were actually much more out of control than Muslims were during this time of need.

Responses that Christians made were much different from Muslims during the Bubonic Plague. William Dene described Christians as being in such chaos that “The laborers and skilled workmen were imbued with such a spirit of rebellion that neither king, law nor justice would curb them.” What Dene is basically describing is that because of the Black Death Christians were in such moral disarray that they were starting to become completely out of control. Dene also stated in is writing that “The people for the greater part ever became more depraved, more prone to every vice and more inclined than before to evil and wickedness, not thinking of death nor of the past plague nor of their own salvation.” Christians were throwing away their religion and were slipping into a life of wickedness and evil.

According to the charts, the death rates of the plague in the Europe as a whole was 31%, in England it was 33%, in Egypt it was 25 to 33%, and in Syria it was 33%. Also, the death rate of parish priest was 45%, people think the death rate was so high because priest came into contact with more people which made them more prone to receiving the plague. The priest might have also been older which could have also meant that they had a weaker immune system which would make them an easy target to sickness.

When the cities of Siena, Italy and Damascus, Syria were struck by the fierce hit of The Black Death their reactions were very different. In Damascus the people really didn’t have much time to react because within fifty hours of seeing a tumor that appear from the plague and after coughing up blood they died. But however, the people of Siena thought that it was all over now. The Italians thought I was going to be the end of the world.

According to both de Mussi and al-Manbiji God was delivering the plague to the people. According to de Mussi he thought the plague was being delivered because it was a punishment for the people’s sins. On the other hand, al-Manbiji thought the plague was a blessing from God and that He was getting rid of all the bad and unworthy people. As you can see al-Manbiji looked at things with a brighter perspective.

Even though the Christians and Muslims reacted to the plague differently they also had some similarities. They both believed that miasma, which is polluted unhealthy air, was carried by warm southern winds and was caused by the stench of the Mongol bodies from Crimea. They also believed that if you would build fires that it would fumigate the area and get rid of the miasma.

William Dene believed that the English people behaved differently during the plague. He believed that they became more depraved and began to pick up bad habits, which made them prone to evil and wickedness. The priest even began to behave differently, they began to leave their own churches and to “chase the money”, and they would go to different churches to get larger stipends than in their own benefices.

While the Muslims cried and prayed together, the Christians were out pointing fingers, they began to blame or accuse the Jews. In the town of Strasbourg Christians kidnapped and burned the innocent Jews in a lieu. The city of Strasbourg wasn’t the only city destroyed they also destroyed 60 major and 150 smaller Jewish communities. They also participated and/or hose to destroy over 350 separate massacres.

The Pope even thought it wasn’t the Jews fault. He believes that everybody is dying, including Jews, so why would begin to kill their own people so brutally. So that’s him the Pope doesn’t think that the Jews committed such a mean and cruel crime.

In the end, there tends to be no tension between the Muslims, Christians, and Jews they all came together to pray to God and ask of him a favor to stop the plague and to sop killing all of these innocent, God-fearing, and God-loving creatures.


Michael Dols, The Black Death in the Middle East, Princeton University Press, 1997.
Robert S. Gottfried, The Black Death, New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1983.
Phillip Ziegler, The Black Death, London: Collins Press, 1969.
Michael Dols, The Black Death in the Middle East, Princeton Press, 1977.
Chronicler Agriolo di Tura (The Fat), Cronaca senese, Italy, 1348. In Robert Gottfried, The Black Death, New York: The Free Press, 1983
al-Maqrizi, circa 1400 in Michael Dols, The Black Death in the Middle East, Princeton University Press, 1997.
Pope Clement VI, July 5, 1348
Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354.
William Dene, chronicler in Rochester, England, circa 1350, In Sir Arthur
Bryant, The Age of Chivalry: the Atlantic Saga, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963
Michael Kleinlawl, as reported in the Strasbourg Chronicle (Alsace), 1348, in Johannes Nohl, The Black Death: A Chronicle of the Plague, New York: Harper and Row, 1969.

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