Which Abrahamic religion is the most violent

The concept of 'religio naturalis' in the Enlightenment. Lessing as a defender of Islam as a natural religion?

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2. The rise of Islam

3. Islam as religio naturalis?
a. The natural religion - a religion of reason
b. Viewpoints on Islam in the 18th Century
c. Lessing and Islam

4. Conclusion

1 Introduction

If you talk about Islam today, it is usually in a negative sense. Since September 11, 2001, the world has been looking at this very young religion with fear and hatred. The events of the past few years have led a large number of people to view Islam as the most violent and dangerous of the world religions. This is mainly due to terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Al-Qaida and the Islamic State (IS). These groups operate under the guise of religion and terrorize people through arbitrary attacks on civilians and members of the government. One hears again and again in the news of such acts of terrorism and the so-called confession videos, in which religion is always mentioned as a motive. Since he does not seem surprising that when students create a mind map on the subject of Islam, the first thing they do is write “terrorism” on the board.[1]

At no time in history has Islam had a good position in Western European society. Judaism and Christianity were the central religions in European society, which is why people were suspicious of the religion from the Orient. Although all three prove to be Abrahamic religions[2] understand and thus have a common historical basis, Islam has always been sidelined.

With the Enlightenment in the 18th century, however, it was possible to gain a different perspective on this foreign and young religion. This was due, among others, to Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (* 1729 / f 1781), who with his dramatic poem Nathan the Wise put the three world religions directly against or with one another. This raises the question of Lessing's motivation. One possibility could have been to strive to break down prejudices in order to have a sensible, critical examination of Islam as a religion and culture in the sense of the

To be able to guarantee clarification.[3] At the center of Lessing's criticism is the general competition between religions for what is good. Lessing, above all, imputed goodness to Christians not to do good for their own sake, but to find redemption in the hereafter. However, this would not be sufficient motivation for good action in the enlightenment sense.[4]

The present advanced seminar paper deals with the different viewpoints on Islam during the Enlightenment. Because of the choice of course, the main focus is on Gotthold E. Lessing. His dramatic poem Nathan the Wise, which is still famous today, and other writings from his time are used as sources for exploring his attitude towards the Muslim religion.

A short outline of the emergence of the Muslim faith, in which the role of the prophet Mohammed, his life and work, is highlighted, serves as a historical embedding. This section only deals roughly with the emergence and spread of Islam and cannot provide a detailed insight into the religion, its customs and manners, as this is not the focus of the seminar paper.

The main part clarifies the term religio naturalis. The author concentrates on the development of deism in England, as Edward Herbert von Cherbury and his five truths laid the foundation for this movement. Developments in other countries such as France or Germany are not considered, since this chapter is only about clarifying the core of this "natural religion".

This is followed by the presentation of the different views of Islam as a religion of equal value alongside Judaism and Christianity. Because the main focus of the work is on Lessing's engagement with Islam and the aim is to investigate whether or why Lessing regards Islam as a natural religion, the author restricts herself to Lessing's comrades-in-arms from the Enlightenment and only goes into connection with Lessing's motivation engage in current discussions on dealing with Islam.

The conclusion serves to summarize the results and offers the author of the term paper the space to present his own view of Lessing's motivation for dealing with Islam

2. The rise of Islam

As in any religion, it is not possible to give an exact date on which Islam was created. It was a process that - and here too, parallels to other religions can be seen - developed further in the course of many, sometimes bloody, disputes.

As in Christianity, in Islam, too, a historical person is at the center of the faith. If the first mentioned is Jesus Christ - the Redeemer and Son of God, in Islam it is Mohammed - the prophet.

Before Mohammed laid the foundation stone of the Muslim faith, polytheism and paganism ruled the Arab world. The place Mecca and the Ka'ba were already of great importance for the twelve Arab tribes and the destination of their pilgrimages, until Mohammed finally moved them to the center of Islam.[5]

Mohammed himself was born in Mecca in 570 AD. He was the son of an elegant but poor family. His father died before he was born and at the age of six he lost his mother, which is why he was raised by his uncle Abü-Jäblib. He worked as a caravan driver, which at the time was evidence of trustworthiness and reliability. Due to his marriage to a wealthy but much older merchant widow, he became a wealthy merchant himself at the age of twenty-four.[6] During the time they spent together, they experienced severe strokes of fate in their own families and saw how the poor people around them were treated. Mohammed often withdrew into the desert in order to reflect alone and to reflect on the life and will of God. In such a situation, legend has it, the Archangel Gabriel should give him[7] have appeared. He recited from a scroll, "[...] Read, it is your master who chose you. [, ..] "[8]what made Muhammad a prophet of God.[9]

Mohammed initially only taught his newly acquired faith in the Day of Judgment to close relatives and only later made it public. His number of followers grew rapidly, which in the eyes of the high in Mecca represented a threat to their power, which is why there were assaults on him and his followers. In 622 he therefore left Mecca with them and, upon invitation, returned to Yathrib, today's Medina (city of the prophet). Until the arrival of Muhammad and his followers, chaos and violence reigned in the city. Thanks to his negotiating skills, he succeeded in bringing the various religious groups into peace by means of a community contract. In the course of this, the Muslim religious community (umma) with its fixed daily routines and regulations also developed. In the years to come, the heads of Mecca tried again and again to take Medina and eliminate Mohammed. Together with his followers of faith, Mohammed fought many battles that did not always end victorious for them. Medina remained in her hand, however. However, they were not allowed to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, their already holy place at that time. Only when Mohammed signed a treaty with the Meccans, which included a ten-year armistice, could the first pilgrimage take place in 629. However, the ceasefire did not last long, which is why Mohammed moved 630 against Mecca. The residents surrendered and a large part of the population embraced Islam, and beyond the city limits, Arab tribes converted to Islam. Mohammed always set a good example in terms of the "good life". In 632 he began the pilgrimage to Mecca and laid down the rites for the Muslim community. In the same year Mohammed died in Mecca.[10]

After his death, the succession of Muhammad was unclear. What was certain was that no one could "take up" his office as a prophet. So became Kaflifes[11] Heads of the faith community. The disagreement over the rightful successor led to internal unrest in the religious community and ultimately to division. In a series of campaigns of conquest, the caliphs subjugated numerous areas and the Muslim faith also expanded in Europe.[12] However, religion and its power only became “known” with the Crusades. The successes of the Arabs brought fear and horror in the European population. The “new” religion was viewed with great skepticism, which was also reflected in some literary works and the initial translations of the Koran.[13] Only with the beginning of the Enlightenment was this counteracted more strongly.

3. Islam as religio naturalis

3.a. The natural religion - a religion of reason

With the beginning of the Enlightenment and the associated changes in society and science, the relationship between people and religion has also changed.


[1] Seen in this way in the LER lessons of an eighth grade at the grammar school.

[2] Judaism, Christianity and Islam go back to the ancestor Abraham. Abraham's descendants are the founders of the respective faith community, which is why they are referred to as Abrahamic religions.

[3] Horsch, Silvia: “Tolerance - a useful term in interreligious dialogue?”, Lecture at the study day at the Evangelical Academy Arnoldshain on September 28, 2004 [http://www.al-sakina.de/inhalt/artikel/lessing:islam /lessing:islam.html, accessed: 02.09.2015, 10:24 am],

[4] See: Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim: Die Erzieh des Menschengeschlechts, Berlin 1780 [http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/die-erbildung-des-menschengeschlechts-1175/1 (accessed: 29.09.2015, 23:36 )].

[5] Schaefer, Udo: World of Faith Islam. An Introduction (Religious Studies Texts and Studies Volume 7), Hildesheim / Zurich / New York2002, p. 11.

[6] Schaefer: Glaubenswelt Islam 2002, p. 13f.

[7] This phenomenon is also shown in numerous pictures and serves as a symbolization of the emergence of Islam.

[8] Koran 96: 3, quoted from: Schaefer: Glaubenswelt Islam. 2002, p. 14.

[9] If you look up the sura in other translations of the Koran, you will not find this saying. Here it says, for example, in the translation of Abu-r-Rida'Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Rassoul “Read, for your Lord is all-good”. (Read Foundation (ed.): The approximate translation of the AI ​​Qur'an AI KarTm in German. Cologne 201522, 96: 3.) This shows the ambiguity of the Quran translations and thus leaves room for speculation about the actual course of this "appointment" to Prophets. Schaefer uses the translation by Friedrich Rückerts which was created in the 1820s.

[10] Schaefer: Glaubenswelt Islam 2002, p. 15ff.

[11] Caliph = deputy. They lead the community of faith in the place of Mohammed on the right path of faith.

[12] Schimmel, Annemarie: The religion of Islam. Stuttgart 201011, p. 22ff.

[13] Muslim, Zahim Mohammed: Lessing and Islam. A study on Lessing's confrontation with Islam, unv. Diss., Humblot-Universität zu Berlin 2010, p. 12f.

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