Was Islam Spread by the Sword?

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

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.

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