Was Islam Spread by Sword? A Case Study of Prophet Muhammad’s صلى الله عليه وسلم Battles
|Author||Dr. Shah Ebadur Rahman Neshat|
|Publisher||Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi Study Circle, New Delhi|
“Muhammad took Makkah without shedding a
drop of blood….. None of the Quraysh was
forced to become Muslims….. Single-handedly,
Muhammad had brought peace to war-torn
(Karen Armstrong, Islam: A Short History, p. 20)
Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم (got twenty-three years in all after he was declared a Messenger of God by a divine decree. He spent thirteen years out of it in Makkah where he faced stringent opposition to his message from his mighty
opponents, the Quraysh. Thus the only time he got for inviting people to his religion was the last ten years of his stay at
Madinah, where he had migrated in face of stern opposition in Makkah. He was not at rest in Madinah in those ten years either, as the Quraysh kept on invading him and exercised severe pressure on him, in which they had full support of the Jews, the Hypocrites of Madinah (the Munafiqin) and their confederate tribes. But in spite of such opposition, his
message spread all over the Arabian Peninsula merely in ten years, and in less than a century after his death, an Islamic Empire came into existence covering three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe. In length and breadth this Islamic Empire 2 was larger than the Roman Empire or the Persian Empire that they ever were, and in its glory it was unprecedented in history.
This swift and surprising spread of Islam far and wide was owing to the intrinsic appeal of the message of Islam, but the
opponents of Islam connected it to the sword, ignoring the avowed principle of Islam clearly enunciated in the Qur`an and Hadith that Islam opposed once for all conversion by force: “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (Qur`an 2: 256)
If Islam was spread by force, why is it that Muslims are in majority in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia where no
Muslim army ever landed? And why are Muslims in minority in Spain and India where they ruled for centuries? What forced the Mongols, the descendants of Genghis Khan, to convert to Islam en masse when virtually they had snatched the sword from the hands of the Muslim emperors of Baghdad and trampled them down their feet? And why is Islam the fastest growing religion in America and Europe today when forcing somebody there to convert to Islam is out of question?
The charge of the use of force in spreading Islam does not stand to the test of objectivity. Nevertheless, we will look into the allegation and employ historical data to check whether it was the sword, or Islam’s inner strength and appeal that made the difference for the converts.