Francis and the Sultan - 5th Crusade

One of the earliest instances of CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM dialogue was between Francis and the Egyptian Sultan during the 5th crusade.
Francis sailed to Egypt in 1219 with the Christian armies in order to persuade the crusader army to refrain from the bloody besieging of Damietta. The men mocked his preaching. Then Francis crossed the enemy lines, into the camp of the Muslims, and asked for an audience with the Sultan Malik al-Kamil. He stayed 3 days in dialogue in the tent of the Sultan, explaining his vision of the reconciliation and brotherhood of all people. This story was first told by a Dutch Fransiscan, Jan Hoeberichts . It was also told by an American Writer Paul Moses . There even a film of the story by a Fransiscan sister. The famous meeting also figures in art: Right is the traditional view, here by Fra Angelico, with Francis surviving a fire- proof ordered by the Sultan. The idea survivingf a proof by fire is Quranic, there it is Ibrahim who God allows to be saved from fire. The left image is a recent version by Franciscan Robert Lenz. It is not a literal or realistic image but metaphorical. Both characters have halo's, the Christian sign of Sainthood, (deriving from the Classic Sun God Apollo.) They are both encompassed by one Islamic halo, (deriving from the fire experienced in Iran from oil sources)... What did they talk about, the Sultan and Francis? No-one knows. My guess it was about Jezus, in the Quran called 'Isa. in both books the man sent by God to call for peace and reconciliation. Perhaps they spoke about Mary, an important figure they shared. Or did they discuss the Quranic King Solomon, who understood the language of animals as Francis was reputed to. Indeed Bible and Quran have so much in common, in terms of stories, values and 'names' of God. The time would be too short to discuss all similarities. The dialogue would not start from scratch. The Sultan was well acquainted with Christianity, via the Egyptian Coptic Church which did not submit to the Pope, who had ordered and sanctified the Crusades. As a Muslim scholar the Sultan was aware that the stories of the prophets, from Adam to Jesus ran paralell to the Bible tales. Both wise men must have felt they, and indeed their religions had much in common.
This paper on Francis and the Sultan is from an Australian Friar, Bart Seaton. Read more