In Mysteries of the Middle Ages, Thomas Cahill talks about St. Francis, who, during the Fifth Crusade, visited the sultan, al-Malik al-Kamil, with whom the crusaders were currently at war. “Francis was admitted to the august presence of the sultan himself and spoke to him of Christ, who was after all Francis’s only subject. The attempt to proselytize a Muslim would have been cause for on-the-spot decapitation, but Kamil was a wise and moderate man who was deeply impressed by Francis’s courage and sincerity and invited him to stay for a week of serious conversation. Francis, in his turn, was deeply impressed by the religious devotion of the Muslims, especially by their fivefold daily call to prayer–and it is quite possible that the thrice-daily recitation of the Angelus [a prayer recited in monasteries]… was precipitated by the impression made on Francis by the repeated call of the muezzin.” Francis returned to his camp, and told the Vatican that the sultan would agree to peace, if the Vatican was equally willing. The Vatican was not.

(Originally posted March 1, 2013)

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