FAQs & Fatwas Islamic Studies

"Did Islam Spread by the Sword?"

Question- When one reads history, they see that Islam and the Muslims waged many wars against others and that this was the teaching of Muhammad. When we look at Jesus, we see him teaching to spread his message with love and peace. Yes, I know that later the church digressed from this but that was their mistake. So how do you believe in such a violent intolerant religion?

Answer- Bear with us, you’ve asked a big multifaceted question.

First of all, it is clear to me that you have only read about Islam from those who disbelieve in it and/or have an agenda against it. Would it be prudent for me to ask a Jew about Christianity? He will tell me one of two stories written in their holy talmud (keep in mind it is prophecies in Jewish books kept and recorded by Jewish Rabbis through which Christians trace their roots). He will tell you one of two stories-

1- This radical rabbi named Jesus strayed from Judaism and began build upon a big lie that he was the messiah. The large majority of the Jews (especially the rabbi’s) pronounced him a liar and rejected him and finally for his heresy and mischief they sought to have him killed.

2- The other Talmudic story defends as to why they admit some Jews followed him- He was a Rabbi who went mad traveled to Egypt where he learned sorcery and came back converting the people with his magic.

First of all I would like to help you to the truth as I myself was born in the west and was similarly brain-washed by the subliminal pre 9/11 anti-Islamic messages there as well as the outright openly bigoted post 9/11 era in the states. I personally know many converts to Islam who also began their search trying to clear up this dirty image which was painted in their minds as a result of the history curriculum in school, western/orientalist books on Islam, and the media in general.

The reality is that there were wars fought by Muslims and most of them by the just command of God very few of which were tyrannic conquering seeking power and wealth. The question you may be thinking of is why??? Well before answering that, we need to clear up another western born misconception which appeared in your question- The claim that Christianity spread by love, peace, and doves. This is an outright lie, the only reason Christianity is the worlds largest religion is because a Roman Caesar called Constantine became Christian. Many converted with him simply for the fact that he is a symbol of the great Roman empire and in addition to that, through time there were many people tortured, killed, or expelled from the empire for rejecting the “prince of peace”. After that, the blood bath of forced conversions and intolerance continued with the crusades. After failing to regain Palestine from the Muslims, Europe began many colonial/imperial missions across Africa, Asia, and what is now called the America’s. They forced their culture, religion and language upon these unsuspecting innocent people. The proof in this is that the official country language in many western and southern African and Eastern and South Asian countries is English or French and Spanish is the language of South America. That is not their mother tongue and it was made the official long before the modern empire of America and commonality of the English language.

As far as the bible is concerned, I’ve always had a hard time understanding the texts and their various explanations of Deuteronomy 20:10-17, 1 Samuel 15:2-3, Matt 10:34-36 as well as Luke 19:27 to name a few.

To answer the question I asked, which was a part of your question- Why did the Muslims fight in many wars?

When the Prophet (pbuh) was miraculously blessed with the amazing turn of hearts and conversion of the hostile Pagan Makkans after years of being attacked, tortured, oppressed, and sanctioned by them. God instructed the Prophet (pbuh) to send letters to the surrounding powers inviting them to Islam and testing the waters before entering these lands to call to the path of the Almighty. This is similar to how Moses did to Pharaoh. Well, the Christian Byzantine king murdered the messenger whom the Prophet (pbuh) sent and then sent his headless body back to the Prophet (pbuh). The Persian Emperor became outraged and cursed the letter-bearer and told him that if it wasn’t against international practice he would have him mutilated. Instead he cussed the Muslim letter-bearer and claimed that the Arabs are merely slaves to the Persians and that He will send an army to have the Prophet seized, humiliated and imprisoned. On the other hand, the Egyptian Christian king sent a respectful no but thank you message while sending three beautiful maidservants as a nice gesture. The Ethiopian (Abyssinian) king voiced his will to embrace Islam, yet secretly because he feared what the church might do to him.

So as a result of this scenario, the Prophet immediately sent armies to the closest and most clear threat which was the Byzantines who showed no respect. After the death of the Prophet (1 year after that), His successor in authority over the Islamic state and not in Prophet-hood, started sending armies to wage an all out war on both hostile powers in Persia and Byzantium who obviously will not allow a peaceful mission of spreading Islam in their lands. You must understand that- back then- the world was made up of empires and nomad lands. No borders and no free democracies. The world was in a perpetual state of war. So if the leader shows hostility to a group before they come, then you can guarantee that if entering these places they can expect all kinds of trouble unless they can take over the political authority of these lands.

And yes another miracle happened, these nomad Muslim warriors for the spread of truth and justice who were way outnumbered and out-equipped toppled the Persian empire and Byzantine (half of the roman empire) in less than 50 years. They didn’t force religion on anyone as there is a well known juristic principle of making a contract of a tax in return for freedom of like, religion, and trade in the Muslim lands for all non-Muslim believers in God (ahle-dhimmah). Throughout the centuries, it was the morals, uprightedness, and justice of Islam and its law that attracted most of these people to become Muslim. So it is the opposite of what you thought. No one could say it is our history books against yours.

My two indisputable proofs are in the fact that across the Muslim world you can find beautiful ancient churches and temples which are traced back to before the Muslim rule. Case in point Jerusalem, Bethleham, and Nazereth. There are 30 million orthodox/catholic Arabs across the Middle East today whose roots go back also before the Muslim domination of these lands. This is roughly 10% of the Arab world. Secondly, there was never a war fought by the Muslims anywhere near Indonesia. Indonesia is the most densely populated Muslim country of close to 200 million Muslims whose ancestors learned of Islam through traders and merchants from the Persian Gulf.

If your thinking that this guy is a biased brainwashed Muslim (hopefully you don’t think I would lie which is a big sin in Islam). Here are some sincere fair historians with no agenda. Either unbiased atheists or real Christians who tell the truth.

“History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam a the point of a sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated.” (by: De lacy O’Leary “Islam at the crossroads” pg.8)

“The more important factor for the spread of Islam is its (just) religious law (shariah) which was designed to cover all manifestations of life” (Franz Rosenthal, “Political thought in Medieval Islam” pg. 21 Cambridge Press)

Feel free to get the book “The Spread of Islam in the World- A history of peaceful preaching” by sir Thomas Arnold.

Please read this link from our website. http://thelastingmiracle.com/eng/article.aspx?id=330&cat=133

You will see that the truth is clearly the opposite of what you proposed.

Abu Majeed

About the author

John (Yahya) Ederer

John (Yahya) Ederer

Imam John Yahya Ederer left a life of spiritual decadence and embraced Islam in 1998. In 2002, he accepted a scholarship offer from the Islamic American University in Michigan and spent 6 years travelling the Muslim world studying with prominent scholars. He attained an associates with IAU, a certification of mastery of the Arabic sciences from the ministry of education in Egypt, a diploma in Islamic Studies from the Cordoba Institute in Kuwait and a license with one of the highest chains of transmission in Qur’an memorization and recitation. He served as the Religious Director of the Islamic Foundation of South Florida for two years and now lives with his wife and two children in Charlotte, North Carolina where he serves as Imam of the Muslim American Society. He currently sits on the clergy board of one of the largest interfaith coalitions in Mecklenburg Ministries and is a board member of the Shamrock Drive Development Association.

Add Comment

  • You were asked a simple question,that suggested Islam is a violent religion and asks you to justify it.You didn’t
    You answered the question by pointing to others misbehavior.You then Excused the violence by saying it was either a lie or ordered by God.(re read it if you dont believe me) My God would never order violence nor try to justify it.I might sin by letting my head rule my conscience but I would answer to him for it.
    If your God condones violence and advocates as you suggest he might then no wonder we have the problems we have today.
    Please answer this question again and this time not with your own nasty little preconceived prejudices.
    I spent a week in Hospital last year with a wonderful Devout Muslim Gentleman,his knowledge and kindness ensured friendship. He enlightened me to Islam. We both agreed that those of us who do violent things in the name of our God (The same One)will forever suffer deserved damnation. NO EXCEPTIONS.

  • Dear John

    May I say that you are correct in saying that violence causes nothing but despair. In the Quran (2:30-33)it mentions Allah saying to the angels: “‘Verily, I am going to place mankind generations after generations on earth.’ They (the angels) said: ‘Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood, while we (the angels) glorify You with praises and thanks and sanctify You.’ God said: ‘I know that which you do not know.’”

    This shows that human nature can turn violent, be they muslim or non-muslim. With Satan lurking around the corner, he will manipulate our strengths and weaknesses and this can lead to violent outcomes. However, you assume Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) used violence to attack others as a way of spreading the message of the Oneness of Allah. This is far from the truth. Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) was well respected amongst his friends and enemies. His enemies grew jealous of him especially as he was gaining popularity and respect amongst the people. They perceived this as a threat (work of Satan indeed!). He wasn’t using any force or any sword to convince people to Islam. In fact people became muslim because of his character. For 13 years in Makkah, him and his companions were persecuted for practising Islam..not because they were violent, but they believed in one God. They were tortured and humiliated…Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) and there are many incidents detailing the companions who got tortured – the slaves were particularly treated the worst. It was only in Medina, when the issues of Jihad was established in the Quran. Now this does not mean that it gave the excuse for Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) and his companions to unleash terror and chaos around the Arabian Peninsula. It simply gave them the authority to defend themselves against anyone who maltreated them. It was during this time that the Bedouins, some Jewish tribes, the Quraish and the other hostile tribes of Arabia wanted Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) head and the eradication of Islam. Even during the times he and his people suffered at the hands of the Quraish in Makkah, and during the times in Medinah, he always sought to diplomacy before war. Now you say that he was a warmonger and that “your God” will not allow such people to represent Him on Earth. You say Christ (peace be on him) taught with peace and love, and look what happened to him..even with such warmth and care, some plotted to have him killed, and as a consequence Allah made Christ ascend to the Heavens till his Second Coming, when he will kill the AntiChrist. He will use this means of Jihad to end the corruption created by the AntiChrist. Like you I would love people to embrace one another and not fight each other..strength through love and peace..but with Satan around is that possible? He will do anything to make people go against Allah…that is his sole mission – so if people listen to him, they will create mischief and unfairness within society. If the people did not listen to prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) regarding Islam, then it was their choice (and no one should be forced to turn to Islam if they don’t want to) BUT if these people conspired to attack the Muslims with evil intents, then what choice do they have but to wage war? Indeed it is better if the matter is resolved through talks, but if not then war is last resort..and I emphasise last resort….”turn the other cheek” is better; but if needs be then an eye for an eye..” -which is different to what the Jews and Christians believe – the Jews focus more on “an eye for an eye” whilst the Christians are meant to believe in “turn the other cheek” but from history we can clearly see this is not the case. You got to remember that Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) was not just a Prophet of Allah, but he was a statesman, politician, commander-in-chief, family man, a trader, and charitable worker – to be an effective leader, you got to be realistic and make tough decisions. Yes Allah was on his side, but Allah isn’t going to do all the hard work for you – you need to put the effort in as well. Besides there were jihads committed before Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) for instance Prophet Joshua (peace be on him) and the battle of Jericho; Prophet David (peace be on him) against Goliath; and it is stated that even prophet Abraham (peace be on him) had an encounter when he had to rescue his nephew Prophet Lot (peace be on him) against a corrupt regime – they all fought for justice and fairness for everyone just like Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) did.

    The next question “Was Islam spread by the sword”?” – If you are asking during the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) then no – he did not force conversions to Islam – people became Muslims at their own will – even his arch-rival Abu Sufyan became Muslim and helped Islam after his conversion.
    But after Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) demise, the caliphs ruled the Islamic world. The first few caliphs and some others afterwards ruled by the Quran and Sunnah. During the time of Caliph Umar bin Khattab (RA), Persians were conquered and the Byzantines lost the Levant – their jewel. The Persians and the Byzantines were the two superpowers at the time, and they did not want peace with the Muslims – they stirred trouble in the Arabian Peninsula against the muslims, and they both wanted these Arabs crushed. You could just see – the Byzantines on one side, the Persians on the other, and the Muslim Arabs bang in the middle of these two – they would have been eradicated if they didn’t react. After successfully defeating both sides (remember the Persians were going downhill as they were killing their own shahs one after another, the empire was losing its grip and Khosrau II, tried to get things back on track again but it was too late for them), Umar had all these Persian Zoroastrians under his wing – not all of them became muslim, and they weren’t forced to. Same goes for the Byzantine Christians. In fact some caliphs especially amongst the Ummayyads didn’t want many to convert to Islam, because taxing them was far more important than making them Muslim!
    Now there were some characters within the Islamic Empire who did commit atrocities by using Islam as an excuse. They committed them against the non-muslims as well as the muslims..as also committed to forced conversions. But Allah will judge all.

    So in reply to your question “yes and no” is the answer to whether or not Islam was spread by the sword, if I have to be brutally honest. But remember that many non-muslims enjoyed the privileges of living under the Islamic World – they were taxed much less compared to the non-muslim empires, and more importantly free to practise their faiths. The fact that the media uses ‘lazy armchair journalism’ to hurt the reputation of Islam shouldn’t allow you to make irrational judgements concerning the prophet (peace be on him), his companions and Islam, especially if you have an intellect for yourself to do research and find out the truth…which is why I applaud you in asking muslims something which has been bothering you, rather than fixing your beliefs on hear say.
    There were many Caliphs and some were good, whilst some were not fit to be leaders, just like we see with the Popes and political leaders and monarchs of other countries. Satan will try to influence some leaders more than others…but he couldn’t influence Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) as Allah was on his side the whole way 🙂

Leave a Comment