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Who were the Christian kings who fought Muslims, then became friends of Islam?

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The period following the emergence of Islam in the seventh century witnessed intense struggle and competition between Arabs and non-Arabs. Events display the tendency of non-Arab kings to be influenced by Arab and Islamic culture.

Armah

Armah was the king mentioned by the prophet in his speech.

He was known as the king of Abyssinia and Axum, he was a Christian, and when Muslims came he greeted them well in his country where they enjoyed a prosperous time.

Some sources have exaggerated the generosity of the king of Abyssinia, where it was assumed that Armah converted to Islam after a discussion he had with Jaafar ibn Abi Talib, and that he hid his conversion to Islam from his people, fearing that they would not obey him anymore.

Leo III the Isaurian

Byzantine Emperor Leo III of Assyria, who ruled during the period of 717-741 AD.

Leo III defended his capital against the repeated invasion attempts by the Umayyad army led by Muslima bin Abdul Malik bin Marwan, and was greatly influenced by Arab culture and customs.

His contemporaries dubbed him “Leo with the Islamic mindset” according to Dr. Mohamed Morsi al-Sheikh in his book “The History of the Byzantine Empire”.

Roger II of Sicily

During the twelfth century AD in Sicily, the largest Mediterranean islands emerged a unique experiment to emphasize the diversity of religion and culture during the reign of Norman King Roger II.

In that period, Roger II managed to follow the efforts of his father, Roger I, to defeat the Arabs and impose his control over all of Sicily, but he kept all the aspects of the Islamic civilization, and did not distort it or tarnish it as did his predecessors before, instead he had followed the ethics and Arab attributes in his royal court.

Cefalu's Cathedral, one of the most interesting buildings in Sicily, originated by the Norman King Roger II, consecrated in 1267. Reflects Norman, Latin, Greek, and Arab architectural influences. (Vladimir Korostyshevskiy/Shutterstock)
Cefalu's Cathedral, one of the most interesting buildings in Sicily, originated by the Norman King Roger II, consecrated in 1267. Reflects Norman, Latin, Greek, and Arab architectural influences. (Vladimir Korostyshevskiy/Shutterstock)

He was dubbed the "Mu'taz Balallah", his name was present on Arabic and Latin coins. He also made the kings of Europe call him "the Baptist Sultan" similar to the name taken by rulers of the Muslims, as mentioned by Jonathan Lions in his book "House of Wisdom".

Tolerance with the Arabs came to a peak when the Sicilian king invited the Arab Muslim geographer Abu Abdullah al-Idrisi to his court, where he produced one of the most important scientific achievements of that era, the map of the world.

Frederick II

If Roger II of Sicily was an example of justice with his Arab subjects, his grandson Frederick II was known for his strong ties with Islamic culture and his many friendships with Arab kings in his time.

Frederick II was the king of Sicily and ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, which led to a violent clash with the papacy, because of the desire of both parties to tighten control over Italy.

Frederick was known for his admiration for Arab culture, and his keenness to quote from it. He had a lot of help from Muslims regarding the dress code what to drink and eat. He was also very close to Arabs and encouraged his people to translate Arabic books, and he himself read and translated some of them, since he spoke the language.

Frederick who was very tolerant with Islam and had a close friendship with the Sultan Al-Kamil Ayyubid ruler of Egypt.

Frederick agreed to help his Ayyubid friend against his enemies of the Ayyubid princes of the Levant on the other hand and the Khwarazmian dynasty on the other hand.

Frederick came with a small force from his horsemen to the Orient, later known as the "Sixth Crusade", in which Al-Kamil agreed to hand over Jerusalem to the non-Arab emperor, supporting him in his war against the papacy and consolidating his position in the Christian world. Europe was looking at him with aversion and hatred, for his close ties and admiration to the Arab culture.

Alfonso X of Castile

In 1252, Castilian prince Alfonso X was crowned king of Castile, nicknamed "Al Hakim". He was known for his passion for science, literature and knowledge, and his close ties with the Arab-Islamic culture, as many scholars called him the first Arab Spanish.

He fought fierce wars against the Muslims, and recovered from their grip the cities of Cádiz and Cartagena.

Alfonso X at the National Library, Spain. ( Merce Divad/Wikimedia Commons)
Alfonso X at the National Library, Spain. ( Merce Divad/Wikimedia Commons)

But he quickly brought in Muslim scholars from all over Andalusia, gave them money and pledged to care for them and employed them in the translation school he established in Toledo.

The king also used the Arab scholars to teach in the universities of Spain, which became one of the most important universities in Europe, all the students of science came to it from all sides to study and learn.