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date: 26 March 2017

Martin Luther, Islam, and the Turks

Summary and Keywords

The geographical extension of Islam into Christian lands generated a wide variety of responses and a tremendous amount of consternation amidst its subject and neighboring populations. This was the case in the early centuries of Islam as well as the age of Ottoman expansion into Europe at the time of the Protestant reformation. Just as the conflict between Martin Luther and the papacy was beginning, the issue of how Europe should respond to the military campaigns of the Turks in Hungary became increasingly paramount. Luther was initially aloof to the matter. But the farther the Turks moved up the Danube River basin toward Vienna, and the more he heard about the pope clamoring for a crusade and German preachers expressing ambivalence toward and sometimes preference for the Turk, the more he was pressed to address the issue of war with the Ottomans. Unsurprisingly, given his view of the secular realm, he came out strongly in favor of war, for in his mind it was just. He continued to support every preparation for it so long as it was not construed as a crusade. He also believed that physical warfare was not enough. It had to be accompanied by the spiritual disciplines of prayer and repentance. About the time of the siege of Vienna, Luther also began to view the Turkish threat as an apocalyptic threat. He was convinced that the rise of the Turks was foretold in the eschatological prophecies in scripture, especially Daniel 7. He also believed that, while the Turks would be successful for a time, their days were numbered as the last days were soon approaching. Until then, Christians needed to be warned about the dangers of Islam. He had heard and read that many Christians who ended up in the Ottoman Empire eventually became Muslims. So he spent most of his energy in writing about and inquiring into the theology and culture of the Turks for the purpose of encouraging and equipping Christians to resist it. Some of his work was practical and pastoral. His later work was polemical and apologetical. Throughout it all, he remained committed to making as much information on Islam available as possible. This culminated in his involvement in the publication of a Latin translation of the Qur’ān in 1543, a work that was included in the first collection of texts relating to Islam to ever be printed.

Keywords: Martin Luther, Islam, Turks, Ottomans, Qur’ān, just war, apocalypticism, eschatology, polemics, apologetics

Christianity and the Challenge of Islam

The Arab conquests forever transformed the religion and geopolitics of the Mediterranean. What was once predominately Christian gradually became Muslim as Byzantium and Visigoth Spain were brought into the abode of Islam (dār al-Islām). Europe, north of the Pyrenees, and the northern shores of the Mediterranean were subsequently put on notice. Not only did a vast and powerful empire share borders with Christendom; it routinely threatened those borders.

It is for this reason that Richard Southern described the sheer “existence of Islam” as “the most far-reaching problem of medieval Christendom.”1 This assertion has not gone unchallenged, for the Reconquista of Spain and crusades in the Levant and Egypt were not the only context from which Europeans developed their opinions on Muslims (often referred to as Saracens) and Islam.2 A survey of literature from the 8th to the 15th century that addresses the subject, however, displays, with few exceptions, a tremendous amount of antipathy toward Islam.3

This does not mean medieval Christian thinkers failed to address Islam in a scholarly way—quite the opposite. From John of Damascus (c. 676‒749) to Nicholas of Cusa (1401‒1464), many medieval theologians devoted a significant amount of their attention to the study of Islam. Eastern Christians like the Arabic-speaking Bishop of Haran, Theodore abū Qurrah (c. 750‒823), did not have much of a choice as they were surrounded by it.4 For Christians in the West, circumstances were, of course, different, but it did not keep them from trying to come to terms with it.

In general, early medieval literature treated Islam briefly and sometimes fancifully as the famous Song of Roland does in describing Muslims as worshipping Muhammad, Apollo, and Termagant. Matters changed quite drastically as western Christians came into close contact with Muslims during the crusades in the Levant. Knowledge of Islam increased tremendously, especially as a Latin translation of the Qur’ān and other Islamic literature was produced under the patronage of Peter of Cluny (1092‒1156).5 But even for Peter—in many ways the organizer of Islamic studies in Northern Europe—Islam was still a distant problem. Christians like him were from “the far parts of the West” writing about “men who inhabit the lands of the East and South.”6

This all changed after Constantinople fell in 1453 and the Ottomans began to extend their empire westward. In the 1520s, Sultan Süleyman (1520‒1566) led them into central Europe. By the end of the decade, they were at the gates of Vienna. It is at this point that Germans began to pay close attention, for as Luther warned his readers, “we now have the Turk and his religion in our vicinity.”7

Luther was keenly aware of the threat the Ottomans posed to Germany. Even so, from an early stage, his assessment and position on how to address it was peculiar and seemingly aloof. For example, in 1518 just as he was entering the public limelight, he received a letter sent on behalf of Elector Frederick the Wise concerning Pope Leo X’s plans to raise an army of crusaders against the Turks.8 He responded by decrying war conceived as a holy war and added that “if we must have any Turkish war, we ought to begin with ourselves. In vain we wage carnal wars without, while at home we are conquered by spiritual battles.” The Turks, he continued, were less tyrannical than the Roman curia, whose clergy were “sunk in the depths of avarice, ambition, and luxury.” If this condition continued to prevail, any and all attempts to stave off the Turks would be futile. Christians needed to first repent and mollify God with “tears, pure prayers, holy life and pure faith.”9

Luther was convinced God was using the Turks to discipline an arrogant, unrepentant Christendom that had lost its way. In Resolutiones disputationum de indulgentiarum virtute, he asserted: “Many … dream of nothing else than war against the Turk. They want to fight, not against iniquities, but against the lash of iniquity and thus they would oppose God who says that through that lash he himself punishes us for our iniquities because we do not punish ourselves for them.”10 For Luther, Europe’s enemy was internal. “Christendom is being destroyed not by the Turks,” he wrote, “but by those who are supposed to defend it.”11

Luther on Crusade and War with the Turks

Luther’s rhetoric was, of course, condemned by the papacy. The bull threatening him with excommunication, Exsurge Domine, listed among the forty-one heretical and scandalous teachings of the Wittenberg professor the following: “To fight against the Turks is to fight against God’s visitation upon our iniquities.” Luther quickly clarified his position, writing:

This article does not mean that we are not to fight against the Turk, as that holy manufacturer of heresies, the pope, charges. It means, rather that we should first mend our ways and cause God to be gracious to us … God does not demand crusades, indulgences, and wars. He wants us to live good lives. But the pope and his followers run from goodness faster than from anything else, yet he wants to devour the Turks.12

Luther was no pacifist, but he did protest theologically and strategically ill-conceived military ventures. Up until early 1521, the Turks were a distant threat and posed no real challenge to the security of the empire. A military response was not required. Circumstances changed, however, in 1521 when the Ottomans took Belgrade. This effectively opened up the plains of Hungary to the Turks. And in just a few years, they began their campaigns up the Danube River basin. By 1526, they were in Buda and Pest within a few days of defeating (and killing) King Louis II at the battle of Mohács.

This forced Luther to reconsider his former aloofness concerning the Turks. He suggested as much at the end of Ob Kriegsleute auch ynn seligem stande (1526), where he noted how, while he had yet to address war with the Turks even though “it has come so close to us,”13 anyone could have figured out where he stood if they read his Von welltlicher Uberkeyt (1523). The latter made clear that he believed wars that were just—that were defensive in nature—must be fought for the sake of preserving and restoring justice and peace. “In a war of this sort it is both Christian and act of love to kill the enemy without hesitation to plunder and burn and injure him by every method of warfare until he is conquered.”14

Even so, Luther grew increasingly aware of enemies misrepresenting and allies misunderstanding his position on war with the Turks. So in 1528, working with his colleague Philip Melanchthon, he came out strongly in favor of war against the Ottomans in the Unterricht der Visitatorn. First, he condemned pastors who were teaching that Christians were prohibited from taking up arms against the Turks. Then he instructed,

Since the authorities are to honor good and punish evil works according to Rom. 13[:4] and 1 Pet. 2[:14], it is their duty to make defense against those who would destroy the worship of God, the peaceful order of the country, law, and justice. On this account we are to defend ourselves against the Turks, who not only seek to destroy countries, violate and murder women and children, but also to obliterate justice and divine worship and all forms of good order, so that the survivors afterward may have no security, and the children may not be brought up in discipline and virtue.

Pastors should therefore “explain to [the laity] what a rightful service it is before God to fight against the Turks when the authorities so command.”15

A year later Luther finally finished—after being asked for five years to do so—the first of his books specifically addressing the threat of the Turks—Vom kriege widder die Türcken (1529). Since there are “stupid preachers among us,” he wrote, “who are making the people believe that we ought not and must not fight … that it is not proper for Christians to bear the temporal sword or to be rulers” and “some actually want the Turk to come and rule,” it was time to “write about these things … so that innocent consciences may no longer be deceived … into believing that [they] must not fight against the Turk.”16 The result was a thoroughgoing prescription for war against the Turk advanced in light of his doctrine of the two kingdoms.

Accordingly, he argued that it was the emperor’s obligation to lead the fight. Luther conceived of the war as a secular one. Charles V was “not the head of Christendom or defender of the faith” and that the Turks were non-Christians played no role in his decision to call for war.17 The war should in no way be conceived of as a holy war. He even added that if he were “a soldier and saw a priest’s banner in the field, or a banner of the cross, even though it was a crucifix, [he would] run as though the Devil w[as] chasing [him].”18 So he encouraged everyone obliged by their vocation to make the necessary preparations, taking care not to underestimate the strength of their enemies, and to rally behind the emperor and Europe’s princes to fight the Turks.

Less than a year later—after the siege of Vienna in the autumn of 1529—Luther drafted another work addressing the war entitled Eine Heerpredigt widder den Türcken. He repeated the call to make war against the Turks. At this point, however, he added that everyone was obliged to participate and resist the Turks at all cost. “I wish,” he wrote, “that all Germans were of such a mind that they would allow no small town or village to be plundered or led away [into captivity] by the Turks, but when it comes time to struggle and fight, that those who would defend themselves would do so, young and old, men and women, man-servant and maidservant, until they are killed, burning their own house and home and destroying everything.”19 Moreover, since the Turks began the war and were employing such deplorable tactics as rape, murder of children, enslavement, and so on. Christians should kill them with a clean conscience. This was no ordinary human enemy. They were “the enemy of God … indeed, the Devil himself.”20

Luther remained committed to a defensive war against the Turks until his death. He was even willing to “struggle even unto the death against the Turks” himself.21 But he believed all would be for naught if military conflict was not accompanied by so-called spiritual warfare. So throughout this and other works he appealed to Christians to pray without ceasing for victory against the Turk.22

As it turned out, the war did not end in victory or in defeat. It came to a temporary halt in the mid-1540s when the Habsburgs and Ottomans agreed to a temporary peace, which led to a permanent one lasting, at least just east of Germany, for more than a decade. Luther heard about these negotiations, as well as the alliance the French had entered into with the Ottomans in 1543, and expressed absolute dismay. To his friend Nicholas von Amsdorf he wrote,

The Pope, the Emperor, the Frenchman, and Ferdinand have dispatched a very splendid legation, loaded down with precious gifts, to the Turks for the purpose of establishing peace … These are the people who until now have decried the Turk as the enemy of the Christian name, and using this pretext have wrung money from the people and agitated the inhabitants of their territories against the Turks … What Christians, or rather hellish idols of the Devil! I hope these are very cheerful signs of the nearness of the end of all things. Therefore, while they worship the Turk, let us shout to the true God who will listen to us, and who through the splendor of his future arrival will humiliate even the Turk, along with them.23

Prayer was needed against the Turks, but not just against the Turk. It was needed against all those he considered enemies of the gospel. Not only did they pose a physical threat to true Christians in Germany and elsewhere. They were an apocalyptic and eschatological one as well.

It was between the writing of Vom Kriege and Eine Heerpredigt—one before and the other after the siege of Vienna—that Luther began to see the Turks and their expansion into central Europe as a fulfillment of eschatological prophesy. And he did so with confidence as he began to interpret the rise and extension of Ottoman borders in light of Daniel 7. The Turks were the little horn that uprooted three of the ten horns protruding from the fourth beast’s head.24 Though terrifying, Luther believed this offered reason for eschatological optimism. As he put it in his forward to the book of Daniel, “certainly we have nothing to wait for now except the Last Day, for the Turk will not knock off more than these three horns.”25 He was so convinced of this that he added:

The world is running faster and faster, hastening towards its end, so that I often have the strong impression that the Last Days may break before we have turned the holy Scriptures into German. For this is sure: there are no more temporal events to wait for according to the Scriptures. It has all happened, all has been fulfilled—the Roman Empire is finished, the Turk has come to the peak of his power, the power of the Popes is about to crash—and the world is cracking into pieces as though it would tumble down … for if the world were to linger on, as it has been, then surely all the world would go Muhammadan or Epicurean, and there would be no more Christians left.26

What that meant for the meantime was that Christians needed to hang tight and resist any temptations to sin that the Turks might provoke.

Luther’s Evaluation and Critique of Islam

In Luther’s mind, one of the biggest temptations was to give in to the Turks or, under the dominion of the Turks, to embrace Islam. He had heard reports that some Christians desired “the coming of the Turk and his government because they would rather be under him than under the emperor.”27 He also learned that “Christians who are captured or otherwise enter into Turkey fall away and become altogether Turkish, for one very seldom remains [a Christian]” there.28

To address this, he decided to learn and explain to his readers as much as he was able about the religion of the Turks. His sources consisted almost entirely of medieval literature on Islam. Initially, he only had access to two polemical works—a redaction of Riccoldo da Monte di Croce’s Contra legem sarracenorum29 and Nicholas of Cusa’s Cribratio Alcorani30—as well as an escaped captive of the Turks account of Ottoman culture—George of Hungary’s Tractatus de Moribus, Condictionibus et Nequicia Turcorum.31 Eventually he obtained a Latin translation of the Qur’ān (the one Peter of Cluny had translated in the 12th century). To be sure he had access and consulted other sources, but his understanding of Islam was shaped primarily from these.

His earliest assessment of Islam is located in Vom Kriege. Admitting he only had access to parts of the Qur’ān quoted in his polemical sources, he kept his comments to a brief summary. In his view, the religion of Islam circumvented the whole Christian religion. It replaced the Bible with the Qur’ān, Christ with Muhammad, and grace and faith with works. Not only did Islam abolish the Christian faith. It also destabilized civil society and perverted the nature of government through its imperialism. While expansion by force was not peculiar to Islam, expansion and all the murder and stealing of property involved in it was in that the Turks viewed it as ordained by God. Finally, just as civil society was undermined by the expansionistic designs of Islam so too was the domestic institution of marriage. The Qur’ān permitted the taking of several wives as well as divorce according to the whims of men. All of this, he wrote, took “out of the world veram religionem, veram politiam, veram oeconomiam, that is true spiritual life, true temporal government, and true home life.”32 These three estates were basic to the order of creation. By destroying them, it was clear to Luther that Islam was fundamentally opposed to their creator.

Despite this assessment, it is interesting that Luther repeatedly expressed a desire to learn more about Islam, and to do so in as objective of a manner as possible. He based his critique only on passages of the Qur’ān and initially refused to add anything from non-Islamic sources. He was convinced that polemical material selected only “the most shameful and absurd passages [from the Qur’ān] … which provoke hostility and are able to move the multitude to hatred” all the while passing over the “good passages that are in it.”33

Luther’s study of Islam, though piecemeal and fueled by emotion, was quite extensive. On the whole, and considering the context, the knowledge he acquired was good. He knew the basic contours of Islamic history, particularly under the Ottomans. Not only did he study the work of George of Hungary. He also had at his disposal a Latin and German translation of Paolo Giovio’s Commentario delle cose de’ Turchi.34 He seems to have even been familiar with a few Islamic philosophers, as he once referred to Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā) and others as if he had read them.35

He was especially familiar with the theology of Islam, particularly as it conflicted with the doctrines of Christianity. His ongoing study of it led him to conclude in his preface to the Qur’ān (1543) that Islam was nothing but a theological innovation—the “invention of Mohammed” (figmentum Mahometi).36 While it claimed to be the religion of the prophets, it rejected their most basic message. From the very beginning, he wrote, the prophets taught and God’s people—the perpetual church (perpetua ecclesia)—believed that all of humankind was fallen and stood condemned before God’s law. They also proclaimed from the beginning the “gospel … that the eternal Father wanted the Son of God to be made a sacrifice for sins.”37 The Qur’ān rejected both. This coupled with its rejection of the trinity and deity of Jesus led to Luther’s final conclusion about Muslims and Islam:

They refuse to listen to His Word concerning Himself, which He has revealed from the beginning of the world onward through the holy patriarchs and the prophets and finally through Christ Himself and His apostle. Neither do they acknowledge Him on these terms, but they blaspheme and rage against it. They imagine that He is a God who has neither a Son nor a Holy Spirit in His Godhead, and thus what they esteem and worship as God is nothing but an empty dream. Indeed, they extol lies and blasphemies as the knowledge of God because they presume, without divine revelation (that is, without the Holy Spirit), to know God and to come to him without a mediator (which must be God’s only Son). And thus, at bottom, they are without God. For, in truth, there is no other God than the one who is Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.38

Luther’s Counsel for Christians under Islam

Luther’s study of Islam had mostly practical, pastoral ends. After the siege of Vienna, he was convinced that an increasing number of Christians would find themselves living under Islam in the Ottoman Empire. “The danger is that many of our people … will become Turks,” he wrote. So “to forestall the stumbling block of Muhammadanism … our people must be warned, lest, moved by the outward appearance of their religion and the façade of their behavior, or taking offense at the lowliness of our faith or the deformity of our behavior, they deny their Christ and follow after Muhammad.”39 To that end, Luther’s Heerpredigt was written for “Germans already captive in Turkey or who might still become captive.”40 In it he described Turkish religious culture, explaining how its piety, orderliness, and austerity might be attractive for the Christian, particularly one moved to external religious trappings. “Several Christians have fallen away and willingly and freely accept the Turk’s or Muhammad’s faith because of the great appearances that they have in their faith,” he asserted.41 But do not be led astray and “learn the creed now, while you still have room and place, the Ten Commandments, your Our Father and learn them well.”42

The remainder of the Heerpredigt is filled with practical and theological advise for Christians so they might “remain firmly in their faith against every scandal and anfechtungen” they may experience in a Muslim context. It also contained a strong exhortation for Christians finding themselves as captive or even slaves of the Turks to “patiently and willingly accept such misery and service.”43 Luther believed that such crosses were ordained for Christians by God as part of the fallen order of creation. After all, he added, Jacob was forced to work for Laban, Joseph for Pharaoh. Israel was forced into captivity in Egypt, and then again under the Babylonians. And Christ, the apostles and martyrs were subjects of the Jews and pagan Romans. “Why would you have it better than your Lord Christ himself with all his saints in the Old and New Testament?” It might also be, he added, that God meant to present Christians living in subjugation under Islam with opportunities to “make the faith of the Turks a disgrace and perhaps convert any when they see that the Christians greatly surpass the Turks in humility, patience, industry, fidelity, and similar virtues.”44

To further aid Christians in understanding what life would be like under the Turks and how to think about and respond to Islam, Luther published a few other works. In 1530 he had George of Hungary’s account of his experience in the Ottoman Empire printed under the title Libellus de ritu et moribus Turcorum. His short preface to it made clear he was publishing it with the hope of forestalling “the stumbling block of Muhammadanism … If we do not learn this, the danger is that many of our people … will become Turks.”45 In 1542, as the Turks were reasserting their dominance in Hungary, he published his most extensive polemic against Islam—the Verlegung des Alcoran.46

The Verlegung was a translation of one of the most comprehensive and influential medieval polemics against the Qur’ān—the Dominican missionary Riccoldo da Monte di Croce’s Contra legem sarracenorum.47 But Luther made it his own by removing and paraphrasing parts and adding his own material throughout. Its purpose was expressly apologetic: “I have written here what I have so that if this booklet should, whether by the press or through the preachers, come before those who are struggling against the Turks or who are already subject to the Turks or who must become their subjects hereafter, they will be able to defend themselves against the faith of Muhammad, even if they were unable to defend themselves against his sword.”48

The work begins by attempting to demonstrate that the Qur’ān could not be the word of God for the following reasons:

Neither the Old or New Testament bear witness to it, it does not [agree] in speech or doctrine with any other [authority], it contradicts itself, it is not confirmed by miraculous signs, it is contrary to reason, there are manifest lies within it, it promotes murder, it is disorderly, it is shameful, [and] it is untrustworthy.49

Over the course of ten chapters, each of these allegations is supported by constant reference to the Qur’ān and other Islamic sources. Where the arguments become really interesting is at the end when it transitions from polemics to apologetics where Luther (following Riccoldo) used passages with what he assumed was quasi-Christian content to show that Muhammad unwittingly acknowledged the triune nature of God and the deity of Christ. In the end, Luther believed these passages might even be used by Christians to engage Muslims in theological discourse with the possibility that their being “led astray by this law [the Qur’ān] might return back to God.”50

Luther’s greatest contribution to raising awareness of Islam for Christians was his involvement in the 1543 controversy over the publication of the Qur’ān. Ever since he first began writing on the Turks in 1529, he expressed his desire to obtain a complete version of the text. It took over a decade, but he finally obtained a manuscript version in 1542. Shortly afterwards he heard that Johannes Oporinus, a publisher in Basel, who had received the manuscript from Theodor Bibliander, had been thrown in jail for attempting to publish such a heretical book.51 This prompted a flood of letters from various scholars, none of which seemed to move the city officials. But then Luther sent his endorsement. Oporinus was subsequently released from custody, and the Qur’ān and a host of other literature on Islam was published in what one scholar has called the first encyclopedia of Islam.52 Luther wrote a preface for it where he encouraged his readers and especially teachers to persist in studying it. He was convinced, as he told the city officials at Basel, that its publication and dissemination would help against “the apostles of the Devil and teachings of the shameful Muhammad … that the blasphemous seduction might arm and protect the least of us against such poisonous teaching and not only us Christians but also that some Turks might themselves be converted.”53 Christians needed to study “the writings of their enemies—so that they may more accurately refute, strike, and overturn those writings, so that they may be able to correct some of them, or at least to fortify our own people with stronger arguments.”54

This comprises the various dimensions of Luther’s view of and interaction with Islam. From war against the Turk to the apocalyptic role they played in the End times to studying and possibly engaging with Muslims in Ottoman territory, Islam loomed large in Luther’s mind. This all makes sense as the rise and expansion of the Ottoman Empire played a major role in shaping the events of the 1520s‒1540s.55 His views on Islam, then, must be understood in light of the realities and emotions of his age. Whatever can be said about his approach, one thing that is clear is that it was anything but simple. This is all the more remarkable given how thin he was spread over the last two decades of his life.

Review of the Literature

As with most things concerning Luther, the literature on his view of the Turks and Islam is extensive. By far the most comprehensive study is Johannes Ehmann’s Luther, Türken und Islam (2008). It covers every aspect of Luther’s views on the Turks from his earliest passing comments to his later theological interpretations of Islam. My Martin Luther and Islam (2007) serves to illuminate the polemical and apologetical content of Luther’s writings, for so many earlier studies focused almost exclusively on his position on war with the Turks and his interpretation of Islam as an apocalyptic threat. Moreover, in line with the series in which it was published—Brill’s History of Christian‒Muslim Relations—it also places Luther firmly in the long and tortuous history of Christian research into, writing on, and thinking about Islam. Hartmut Bobzin has also done this, especially in Der Koran im Zeitalter der Reformation, where he analyzes the transmission of verses of the Qur’ān in Luther’s various writings.

In terms of the primary texts, in past years only Vom Kriege was available in English translation. Very recently, in the continuation series of Luther’s Works, more of his other work has been published. Volume 59 contains his preface to George of Hungary’s Tractatus. Volume 60 includes his prefaces to the Qur’ān and both the preface and afterword to his Verlegung. (A clumsy albeit literal translation of the complete work is available under the title Islam in the Crucible by Thomas Pfotenhauer.) And Eine Heerpredigt is due to be published very soon. Summaries and extensive bibliographies for each work are available in volume 7 of Christian‒Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History.

Much that remains to be investigated is historical and especially concerns just how close in proximity the world of Luther was to the world of the Turks. For example, at least one Ottoman source suggests Sultan Süleyman was keen to stay abreast of matters concerning Luther and the Protestant Reformation.56 Luther himself mentioned that the Sultan reached out to him through diplomatic channels.57 These and other loose historical ends concerning just how close and ominous the Turkish threat was will have to be drawn primarily from Turkish and eastern European sources. And they will go a long way in filling in the rest of the details of our knowledge of Luther and his understanding and assessment of the Turks and Islam.

Further Reading

Baldwin, John. “Luther’s Eschatological Appraisal of the Turkish Threat in Eine Heerpredigt wider den Türken.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 33 (1995): 185–202.Find this resource:

Bobzin, Hartmut. “‘Aber itzt … hab ich den Alcoran gesehen Latinisch …’ Gedanken Martin Luthers zum Islam.” In Luther Zwischen den Kulturen. Edited by Hans Medick and Peer Schmidt, 260–276. Göttingen, Germany: Vandernhoeck and Ruprecht, 2004.Find this resource:

Bobzin, Hartmut. Der Koran im Zeitalter der Reformation: Studien zur Fruhgeschichte derArabistik und Islamkunde in Europa. Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag, 1995.Find this resource:

Bobzin, Hartmut. “Martin Luthers Beitrag zur Kenntnis und Kritik des Islam.” Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie 27 (1985): 262–289.Find this resource:

Brecht, Martin. “Luther und die Türken.” In Europa und die Türken in der Renaissance. Edited by Bodo Guthmüller and Wilhelm Kühlman, 9–27. Tübingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 2000.Find this resource:

Clark, Harry. “The Publication of the Koran in Latin: A Reformation Dilemma.” Sixteenth Century Journal 15 (1984): 3–12.Find this resource:

Edwards, Mark U. Luther’s Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531–1546. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983.Find this resource:

Ehmann, Johannes, Luther, Türken und Islam: Eine Untersuchung zum Türken- und Islambild Martin Luthers (1515–1546). Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2008.Find this resource:

Francisco, Adam. Martin Luther and Islam: A Study in Sixteenth-Century Polemics and Apologetics. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007.Find this resource:

Francisco, Adam. “Martin Luther.” In Christian‒Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History. Edited by David Thomas and John Chesworth, 225–234. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2015.Find this resource:

Hagemann, Ludwig. Martin Luther und der Islam. 2d ed. Altenberge: Christliche Islamisches Schrifttum, 1998.Find this resource:

Hagenbach, Karl. “Luther und der Koran vor dem Rathe zu Basel.” Beitrage zur Vaterländischen Geschichte 9 (1870): 291–326.Find this resource:

Henrich, Sarah, and James L. Boyce. “Martin Luther—Translations of Two Prefaces on Islam: Preface to the Libellus de ritu et moribus Turcorum (1530), and Preface to Bibliander’s Edition of the Qur’ān (1543).” Word and World 16 (1996): 250–266.Find this resource:

Miller, Gregory. “Fighting Like a Christian: The Ottoman Advance and the Development of Luther’s Doctrine of Just War.” In Caritas et Reformatio: Essays on Church and Society in Honor of Carter Lindberg. Edited by David Whitford, 41–57. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2002.Find this resource:

Miller, Gregory. “Luther on the Turks and Islam.” Lutheran Quarterly 14 (2000): 79–97.Find this resource:


(1.) Richard Southern, Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962), 105–106.

(2.) See the introduction to Michael Frassetto and David R. Blanks, eds., Western Views of Islam in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), 1–10.

(3.) See John V. Tolan, Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002); Norman Daniel, Islam and the West: The Making of an Image (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1960).

(4.) See John C. Lamoreaux, Theodore Abū Qurrah (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 2005).

(5.) See James Kritzeck, Peter the Venerable and Islam (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964).

(6.) Kritzeck, Peter the Venerable, 161.

(7.) Preface to [George of Hungary’s] Book on the Ceremonies and Customs of the Turks (1530), in Luther’s Works, vol. 59 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2012), 261 (D. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, vol. 30/2 [Weimar: H. Böhlau, 1883–], 207.). The amount of literature this generated was enormous. See Carl Göllner, Turcica: Die Europaischen Turkendrucke des XVI. Jahrhunderts, vol. 1 (Bucharest: Editura Academiei, 1961).

(8.) See Kenneth Setton, “Pope Leo X and the Turkish Peril,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 113 (1969): 367–424.

(9.) “Luther an Spalatin” (December 21, 1518), WABr 1:282.

(10.) Explanations of the Ninety-Five Theses, LW 31:92 (WA 1:535).

(11.) Treatise on Good Works (1520), LW 44:70 (WA 6:242).

(12.) Defense and Explanation of All the Articles (1521), LW 32:89–91 (WA 7:443).

(13.) Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved (1526), LW 46:136–137 (WA 19:662).

(14.) Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed (1523), LW 45:124–125 (WA 11:277).

(15.) Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors in Electoral Saxony (1528), LW 40:305–306 (WA 26:228–229).

(16.) On War against the Turk (1529), LW 46:161–162 (WA 30/2: 107–108).

(17.) On War, LW 46:169 (WA 30/2:115).

(18.) On War, LW 46:185–186 (WA 30/2:130).

(19.) Eine Heerpredigt widder den Türcken (1529), WA 30/2:183.

(20.) Eine Heerpredigt, WA 30/2:173.

(21.) “Luther an Nikolaus von Amsdorf in Magdeburg” (October 27, 1529), WABr 5:167.

(22.) See, e.g., Appeal for Prayer against the Turks (1541), LW 43:213–241 (WA 51:585–625).

(23.) “To Nicholas von Amsdorf” (July 17, 1545), LW 50:272 (WABr 11:143).

(24.) There is a long history of interpreting the rise and growth of Islam along these lines beginning in the 7th century with the Islamic conquest of Syria, Palestine, and North Africa. See, e.g., Walter Kaegi, “Initial Byzantine Reactions to the Arab Conquest,” Church History 38 (1969): 141.

(25.) Preface to the Prophet Daniel (1530), LW 35:300 (WA DB 11/2:12).

(26.) Widmungsbrief zu seiner Danielübersetzung (1542), WA DB 11/2:381.

(27.) On War against the Turk, LW 46:193 (WA 30/2:137).

(28.) On War, LW 46:175 (WA 30/2: 121).

(29.) See Jean-Marie Mérigoux, ed., “L’Ouvrage d’un frère prêcheur florentin en Orient à la fin du XIIIe siècle: Le Contra legem Sarracenorum de Riccoldo da Monte di Croce,” Memorie Domenicane 15 (1986): 1–144.

(30.) See Jasper Hopkins, trans. and ed., Nicholas of Cusa’s De Pace Fidei and Cribratio Alkorani, 2d ed. (Minneapolis: Arthur J. Banning Press, 1994).

(31.) See Georgius de Hungaria, Tractatus de Moribus, Condictionibus et Nequicia Turcorum-Traktat über die Sitten, die Lebensverhältnisse und die Arglist der Türken (1481), ed. and trans. Reinhard Klockow (Köln: Böhlau, 1993).

(32.) On War against the Turk, LW 46:182 (WA 30/2:127–128).

(33.) Preface to [George of Hungary’s] Book on the Ceremonies and Customs of the Turks (1530), LW 59:258 (WA 30/2:205).

(34.) See V. J. Parry, “Renaissance Historical Literature in Relation to the Near and Middle East (with Special Reference to Paolo Giovio),” in Historians of the Middle East, ed. Bernard Lewis and P. M. Holt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962), 277–289.

(35.) Afterword to Brother Richard, O.P. [Riccoldo da Monte di Croce], Refutation of the Koran (1542), LW 60:258 (WA 53:389).

(36.) Preface to Theodor Bibliander’s Edition of the Koran (1543), LW 60:292 (WA 53:571).

(37.) Preface, LW 60:293 (WA 53:572).

(38.) [Sermon on] the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Matthew 8[:23–27] (1546), LW 58:414 (WA 51:151).

(39.) Preface to [George of Hungary’s] Book on the Ceremonies and Customs of the Turks, LW 59:261 (WA 30/2:206–207).

(40.) Eine Heerpredigt widder den Türcken, WA 30/2:185.

(41.) Eine Heerpredigt, WA 30/2:185.

(42.) Eine Heerpredigt, WA 30/2:186.

(43.) Eine Heerpredigt, WA 30/2:192.

(44.) Eine Heerpredigt, WA 30/2:194–195.

(45.) Preface to [George of Hungary’s] Book on the Ceremonies and Customs of the Turks, LW 59:261 (WA 30/2:207).

(46.) Johannes Ehmann, ed., Ricoldus de Montecrucis, Confutatio Alcorani (1300); Martin Luther Verlgung des Alcoran (1542) (Altenberge: Oros Verlag, 1999).

(47.) See Rita George-Tvrtkovic, A Christian Pilgrim in Medieval Iraq: Riccoldo da Montecroces’s Encounter with Islam (Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2012).

(48.) Afterword to Brother Richard, O.P. [Riccoldo da Monte di Croce], Refutation of the Koran, LW 60:261–262 (WA 53:392).

(49.) Verlegung des Alcoran Bruder Richardi (1542), WA 53:378.

(50.) Verlegung, WA 53:378.

(51.) See Harry Clark, “The Publication of the Koran in Latin: A Reformation Dilemma,” Sixteenth Century Journal 15 (1984): 3–12. For the literature from the affair, see Karl Hagenbach, “Luther und der Koran vor dem Rathe zu Basel,” Beitrage zur Vaterländischen Geschichte 9 (1870): 291–326.

(52.) Pierre Manuel, “Une Encylopédie de l’Islam: Le Recueil de Bibliander 1543 et 1550,” En Terre de l’Islam 21 (1946): 31–37.

(53.) “Luther an den Rat zu Basel” (October 27, 1542), WABr 10:162.

(54.) Preface to Theodor Bibliander’s Edition of the Koran, LW 60:294 (WA 53:572).

(55.) Bernard Lohse, Martin Luther: An Introduction to His Life and His Work, trans. Robert Schulz (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1987), 4.

(56.) Christine İsom-Verhaaren, “An Ottoman Report about Martin Luther and the Emperor: New Evidence of the Ottoman Interest in the Protestant Challenge to the Power of Charles V,” Turcica 28 (1996): 299–317.

(57.) WA TR 1:449; WA TR 2:508.