It is a common misconception with some non-Muslims that Islam would
not have millions of adherents all over the world, if it had not been spread by
the use of force.
The following points will make it clear, that far from
being spread by the sword, it was the inherent force of truth, reason and logic
that was responsible for the rapid spread of Islam.
Islam has always given respect and freedom of religion
to all faiths. Freedom of religion is ordained in the Quran itself:
“There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.
The right course has become clear from the wrong.” (Quran 2:256)
The noted historian De Lacy O’Leary wrote:
“History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims
sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon
conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians
have ever repeated.”
The famous historian, Thomas Carlyle, in his book Heroes
and Hero worship, refers to this misconception about the spread of Islam: “The
sword indeed, but where will you get your sword? Every new opinion, at its
starting is precisely in a minority of one; in one man’s head alone. There it
dwells as yet. One man alone of the whole world believes it, there is one man
against all men. That he takes a sword and tries to propagate with that will
do little for him. You must get your sword! On the whole, a thing will
propagate itself as it can.”
If Islam was spread by the sword, it was the sword of
intellect and convincing arguments. It is this sword that conquers the hearts
and minds of people. The Quran says in this connection:
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good
instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best.” (Quran 16:125)
The facts speak for themselves
Indonesia is the country that has the largest
number of Muslims in the world, and the majority of people in Malaysia are Muslims. But, no Muslim army ever went to Indonesia or Malaysia. It is an established
historical fact that Indonesia entered Islam not due to war, but because of its
moral message. Despite the disappearance of Islamic government from many
regions once ruled by it, their original inhabitants have remained Muslims. Moreover,
they carried the message of truth, inviting others to it as well, and in so doing
endured harm, affliction and oppression. The same can be said for those in the
regions of Syria and Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, North Africa, Asia, the Balkans and
in Spain. This shows that the effect of Islam on the population was one of
moral conviction, in contrast to occupation by western colonialists, finally compelled
to leave lands whose peoples held only memories of affliction, sorrow,
subjugation and oppression.
Muslims ruled Spain (Andalusia) for about 800 years.
During this period the Christians and Jews enjoyed freedom to practice their
respective religions, and this is a documented historical fact.
Christian and Jewish minorities have survived in
the Muslim lands of the Middle East for centuries. Countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan all have significant Christian and Jewish
Muslims ruled India for about a thousand years, and
therefore had the power to force each and every non-Muslim of India to convert to Islam, but they did not, and thus more than 80% of the Indian
population remains non-Muslim.
Similarly, Islam spread rapidly on the East Coast
of Africa. And likewise no Muslim army was ever dispatched to the East Coast
An article in Reader’s Digest ‘Almanac’,
yearbook 1986, gives the statistics of the increase of the percentage of the
major religions of the world in half a century from 1934 to 1984. This article
also appeared in The Plain Truth magazine. At the top was Islam, which
increased by 235%, while Christianity had increased by 47%. During this
fifty-year period, there was no “Islamic conquest” yet Islam spread at an
Today the fastest growing religion in America and Europe is Islam. The Muslims in these lands are a minority. The only sword they have
in their possession is the sword of truth. It is this sword that is converting
thousands to Islam.
Islamic law protects the privileged status of
minorities, and that is why non-Muslim places of worship have flourished all
over the Islamic world. Islamic law also allows non-Muslim minorities to set
up their own courts, which implement family laws drawn up by the minorities
themselves. The life and property of all citizens in an Islamic state are
considered sacred whether they are Muslims or not.
It is clear, therefore, that Islam did not spread by the
sword. The “sword of Islam” did not convert all the non-Muslim minorities in
Muslim countries. In India, where Muslims ruled for 800 years, they are still
a minority. In the U.S.A., Islam is the fastest growing religion and has over
six million followers.
In his book The World’s Religions, Huston Smith
discusses how the prophet Muhammad granted freedom of religion to the Jews and
Christians under Muslim rule:
The Prophet had a document drawn up in which he
stipulated that Jews and Christians “shall be protected from all insults and
harm; they shall have an equal right with our own people to our assistance and
good offices,” and further, “they shall practice their religion as
freely as the Muslims.”
Smith points out that Muslims regard that document as
the first charter of freedom of conscience in human history and the
authoritative model for those of every subsequent Muslim state.