Did Islam spread by the sword?
The greatest crime, the greatest “sin” of Muhammad in the eyes of the Christian West is that he did not allow himself to be slaughtered, to be “crucified” by his enemies. He ably defended himself, his family and his followers; and finally vanquished his enemies. Muhammad’s success is the Christians’ gall of disappointment:
He did not believe in any vicarious sacrifice for the sins of others. He believed and behaved naturally: “in the state of nature, every one has a right to defend his person and possessions, and extend his hostilities to a reasonable amount of satisfaction and retaliation,” says Gibbon, the master historian in his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” His struggle and victory over the forces of unbelief and evil made the editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica to exclaim, Muhammad to be “The most successful of all religious personalities.”
How can the enemies of Islam account for Muhammad’s phenomenal achievements except to decry that he spread his religion at the point of the sword? He forced Islam down peoples’ throats!?
“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.”
You do not have to be a historian like O’Leary to know that the Muslims ruled Spain for 736 years. The longest the Christians ever ruled over Muslims was 500 years in Mozambique, a territory captured from an Arab governor by the name of Musa-bin-baique, a name they could not properly pronounce, hence the name Mozambique. Even today, after five centuries of Christian overlordship the country is still 60 percent Muslim.
However, after eight centuries in Spain the Muslims were totally eliminated from that country so that not even one man was left to give the Azan (the Muslim call to prayer). If the Muslims had used force, military or economic there would not have been any Christian left in Spain to have kicked the Muslims out.
One can blame the Muslims for exploitation if you like but one cannot charge them with using the sword to convert Spaniards to the Islamic religion. Today, Islam is still spreading all over the world and Muslims have no sword!! The Muslims were also the masters of India for a thousand years, but eventually when the sub-continent received independence in 1947, the Hindus obtained three quarters of the country and the Muslims the balance of the one-quarter.
Why? Because the Muslims did not force Islam down the Hindus’ throats! In Spain and in India, the Muslims were no paragons of virtue, yet they obeyed the Quranic injunction to the letter:
“Let there be no compulsion in religion: for truth stands out distinct from error.
The Muslim conquerors understood from this command that “compulsion” was incompatible with true religion because:
a) Religion depends on faith and will, and these would be meaningless if induced by force. Force can conquer but cannot convert.
b) Truth and error have been so clearly shown up by the Mercy of God that there should be no doubt in the minds of any person of goodwill as to the fundamentals of faith.
c) God’s protection is continuous and His Plan is always to lead us from the depths of darkness into the clearest light.
Except for some eccentrics here and there, the Muslims as a whole adhered to the commandment of God in the lands over which they held sway. But what can you say about countries where no single Muslim soldier had set foot?
It is a fact that about two hundred million Indonesians are Muslim, yet no conquering Muslim army ever landed on any of its over two thousand islands.
The overwhelming number of its people in this country are Muslims yet no Muslim soldier had landed there either.
The majority of the people on the East coast of Africa as far down as Mozambique, as well as the bulk of the inhabitants on the West coast of the continent are Muslims, but history does not record any invading hoards of Muslims from anywhere. What sword? Where was the sword? The Muslim trader did the job. The Prophet good conduct and moral rectitude achieved the miracle of conversion. “All what you say seems incontrovertible, Mr. Deedat,” says the Christian controversialist, “but we are talking about Islam at its very beginning, the way in which your prophet converted the pagans to his faith! How did he do it if not with the sword?”
One against all?
We can do no better than to allow Thomas Carlyle himself to defend his Hero Prophet against this false charge;
“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 take a sword, and try to propagate with that, will do little for him. You must first get your sword! on the whole, a thing will propagate itself as it can. We do not find, of the Christian religion either, that it always disdained the sword, when once it had got one. Charlemagne’s conversion of the saxons was not by preaching.”
At the age of forty when Muhammad declared his mission from heaven, there was no political party, or royalty, and certainly no family or tribe to back him up. His people - the Arabs, immersed in idol-worship and Fetishism were not by any means a docile people, they were no easy meat. They were a very volatile people. Given to internecine and fratricidal wars, subject to “all kinds of fierce sincerities” (Carlyle). One man, single handed, to wean such a people required nothing short of a miracle. A miracle did happen. God alone could have made Islam and Muhammad to triumph through with flimsy, gossamer support. God fulfilling His promise:
“And have We not raised high the esteem in which thou O Muhammad are held?”
The sword of the intellect
The enemy, the sceptic, the missionary and their passive camp followers will not stop bleating that “Islam was spread at the point of the sword!” but they will not venture to answer our question -“Who bribed Carlyle!?”
In 1840 when Carlyle defended Muhammad and refuted the allegation about the sword, there was nobody around to bribe. The whole Muslim world was in the gutters. The countries of Islam were all under subjugation by the Christians, except for a few like Persia, Afghanistan and Turkey who were only nominally independent. There were no riches to flaunt and no petro-dollars to bribe with!
That was yesterday and many yesterdays ago, but what about today, in modern times? It is claimed that “Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.” The overall increase of all the sects and denominations of Christianity was a staggering 138% with the incredible increase of Islam by 235% in the same period of time of half-a-century.
It is further affirmed that in Britain and the United States of America, Islam is the fastest growing faith. It is said that in Britain “There are more Muslims than Methodists in the country.” You have a right to ask, “What sword?” The answer is, “The sword indeed!” (Thomas Carlyle) It is the sword of intellect? It is the fulfillment of yet another prophecy: “It is he (God almighty) Who Has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam) that he may make it prevail over all religions, and enough is God for a witness.”
The destiny of Islam is spelt out here in the clearest terms. Islam is to master, overcome and supersede every other faith - That He, God Almighty make Islam prevail over all religions … to supersede all, whether it be Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianism, (In the time of Thomas Carlyle this was the team applied to Christianity.) Judaism, Communism or any other “ism.” This is the destiny of Allah’s religion. The same Quranic Verse is repeated in chapter 61 verse 9 which ends with this slight variation - Never mind, though the unbelievers might be averse to Islam.
Triumph of Islam
Islam will prevail. It is the promise of God, and His Promise is true. But how? With the sword? Not even if we had the laser gun! Could we use it? The Holy Quran forbids us to use force as a means of converting! Yet the verse prophesies that Islam would be the most dominant of religions. The triumphs of its doctrines have already started and is gaining hold over the religious ideology and doctrines of the various schools of thought in the world. Though not in the name of Islam, but in the name of reformation and amendments, the doctrines of Islam are being fastly grafted into the various religious orders.
Many things which are exclusively Islamic and which were formerly unknown, or which were being opposed before with tooth and nail by the other creeds, are now part of their believes. The Brotherhood of man The abolition of the Caste system and untouchability The right of women to inherit Opening the places of worship to all. Prohibition of all intoxicants The true concept of the Unity of God etc. etc.
Just one word on the last subject above, before we proceed further. Ask any theist, polytheist, (. Polytheist: One who believes in many gods) pantheist, (Pantheist: The one who believes that everything is god. Of course the “trinitarian,’’ you already know) or trinitarian: how many Gods he believes in? He will shudder to say anything other than one! This is the effect of the strict monotheism of Islam.
“The creed of Mohamed is free from the suspicions of ambiguity and the Quran is a glorious testimony to the unity of God.” Gibbon in his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.’’
Verdict of non-Muslim orientals
Almost all the defenders of Muhammad who spoke out against the false theory that he spread his religion at the point of the sword, were Westerners. Let us now hear what some non-Muslim Easterners have to say on the subject:
1) “The more I study the more I discover that the strength of Islam does not lie in the sword.” Mahatma Gandhi - the father of modern India, in “Young India.”
2) “They (Muhammad’s critics) see fire instead of light, ugliness instead of good. they distort and present every good quality as a great vice. It reflects their own depravity... the critics are blind. They cannot see that the only ‘sword’ Muhammad wielded was the sword of mercy, compassion, friendship and forgiveness - the sword that conquers enemies and purifies their hearts. His sword was sharper than the sword of steel.”
3) “He preferred migration to fighting his own people, but when oppression went beyond the pale of tolerance he took up his sword in self-defence. Those who believe religion can be spread by force are fools who neither know the ways of religion nor the ways of the world. They are proud of this belief because they are a long, long way away from the truth.”
It was Rudyard Kipling who said, “East is East and West Is West, never the twain shall meet!” He was wrong! In the defence of Muhammad, all, who are not blinded by prejudice will converge.