Why did Christianity spread in Europe?


As salaam alaykum wa barakahtahu,

I’ve been reading a lot of Dark Ages history & the reason I don’t understand why Christianity displaced paganism is that its practice, as it was and still is, seems simply another version of pagan human sacrifice rituals & stories, such as the cults of Mithras and Isis/Horus. In its true form, that brought by Hazrat Isa, alayhi salaam, the truth must’ve been clear. But what the Europeans got was paganism rehashed. So what incentive did they have to convert?

Jazak Allah Khair.


Wa `alaykum as-Salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

Your inquiry concerns the destiny of Rome in the West. The conversion of Roman lands to Christianity is not an historical accident, but according to the Divine plan. No doubt the true reasons for it – reasons still unfolding – are ignored in any cynical search for “incentives.” “By this, conquer!” was the meaning of the words in the heavenly vision of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, with “this” signifying the name of Christ, and not the crucifix. In the Holy Qur’an, the victory of Christian Rome is characterized as reason for believers to rejoice (Surat ar-Rum, 30:4).

Leaving aside the dubious practices and doctrines of Pauline Christianity that depart from the example of Jesus himself, peace be upon him, there remains in Roman Christendom stories and symbols that relate not to practice but rather to truth. For example, the visitation of the three wise “kings” refers, as Shaykh `Abdul Wahid Yahya has explained, to the recognition of the role of Jesus by representatives of the spiritual hierarchy. With this ever-living hierarchy in mind, do not overlook more ancient formulations of truth, and the possible compatibility of Christianity with them, in your rush to find “paganism rehashed.” When the perfection of the Parthenon in Athens – itself a “pagan” formulation of truth, at least in its proportions – came to be employed as a church (and, for that matter, still later as a mosque), are we to identify this as “paganism rehashed?” A similar question could be posed concerning the very holy Umayyad Mosque in Damascus; even though this location is outside of Europe, it is especially relevant to the truth of Jesus.

I am surprised by your mentioning of “Isis/Horus;” presumably you are referring to a specific iconography of mother and child. If so, let there be no doubt concerning its value in the present context. The veracity of this Christian iconography may very well have been defended by the Holy Prophet himself, peace and blessings be upon him, during the cleansing of the Holy Ka`ba, according to Ibn Ishaq and Abu Bakr Siraj Ad-din’s respected biography. There is also the remarkable legend concerning the conversion of Chartres, in which this same iconography signaled the truth of Christianity for the Druids.

Sacrifice has obviously always belonged to the path of the soul, regardless of time or place. Concerning Mithraism in particular, a subtler understanding is helpful, relating to the distinction between what have been called the “greater” and “lesser mysteries.” Mithraic initiation was typical of the pre-Christian Roman military in particular, and with its astrological symbolism relates to the “lesser mysteries” that are concerned with cosmological processes. Now, the historical example of Jesus pertains solely to the “greater mysteries” of spirituality, and so knowledges relating to cosmology – including military sciences – were adopted by necessity from “outside” Christianity. Until the rise of Islam, then, with its traditional initiations in both domains, the survival of Mithraic elements should not be so surprising. The medieval formation of knightly orders in Roman Christendom in imitation of Islamic chivalry is another subject. It is also worth noting that the Bible itself contains cosmological teachings of Pythagorean origin, as John Michell has demonstrated with his study of the “catch of 153 fish” from the Gospel of John.

No doubt the truth was clear with the historical Jesus, peace be upon him, because of his sanctity; however, the circumstances of the crucifixion were by no means clear, and the confusion resulting from these circumstances is referred to in the Holy Qur’an (Surat an-Nisa, 4:157). Still, the light of sanctity would have been preserved by the real inheritors of Jesus, so there is no reason not to attribute the spread of Christianity in Europe to this light, especially since it commenced well before the revelation of Islam. Religion is never spread by the sword, even when the religious person is girded with a sword as well as faith. The best reason to convert has always been to better imitate a living model of sanctity.

In the context of a Christian spiritual transmission, it may be observed that in Bosnia, the Sufi inheritors of the Seal of Prophets – peace and blessings be upon him – are recognized as having received also the spirituality of its Christian patriarchs. Likewise worth considering is the example of the patron saint of Switzerland, the 15th century Saint Nicholas, who is saintly enough in his Christian tomb to always ask Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani – may Allah sanctify his secret – to stop in his travels to visit him, as the Sultan ul-awliya has informed us.

Sincere religion does not come to eradicate all vestiges of the past, but rather to defend the truth for all time.

Mahmoud Shelton

About Ustadh Mahmoud Shelton

Mahmoud Shelton studied at the University of Edinburgh before taking a degree in Medieval Studies at Stanford University. Shelton is the author of Alchemy in Middle Earth: The Significance of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, The Balance of George Lucas' Star Wars, and numerous articles. He is also a contributor to The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry and The Sufi Science of Self-Realization. Contributions by Mahmoud Shelton * Chivalry of the Night and Day * Alchemy in Middle Earth * contributor, The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry
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