Spread of Islam
Propagation of Islam
"The Brotherhood of
Truth is one in all ages: it is narrow men who create sects. Let them not think that the
goods of this world can shield them from evil or its consequences. Allah's Truth and His
messenger can be known to all: for He in His mercy has given us faculties
and Judgment, if we would but use them. The message is not new. all Creation proclaims it;
High above all is the Lord of Glory Supreme."
A fallacious charge is frequently brought against Muslims and the Holy Prophet Mohammed that Islam was forced at the point of sword, although the true fact is otherwise. As a matter of fact, Islam does not enjoin upon its followers to use compulsion in religion as the following Quranic verse justifies: "Let there be no compulsion in religion; Truth stands out clear from error: Whosoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things." (Quran: 2: 256.)
It is therefore inconceivable that the Holy Prophet or any of his four succeeding caliphs or the chain of Muslim saints could have acted against this clear commandment of the Almighty God. There have however been cases when some Muslim rulers have resorted to firm action against their opponents in the name of propagating religion, but their individual action, which was definitely un-Islamic, cannot be a plea for the wholesale condemnation of the religion of Islam and its followers.
Before arriving at the rash conclusion that Islam was spread by compulsion or sword or violence, it is necessary to study and understand the true history of Islam which has not only been badly twisted but also misrepresented by the enemies of Islam and their flattering historians.
We are chiefly concerned with the explanation of the teachings of Islam and not with the personal characteristics and deeds of those short-sighted Muslim exploiters and rulers who did not live up to its principles as laid down in the Holy Quran and thus, instead of attracting the people, caused repulsion against the faith of Islam which was unambiguously made clear in its verdict on .the point of compulsion in religion.
It will be a grave and gross injustice to Islam if it is treated in the general sense prevalent among those who know nothing about this universal religion of peace and brotherhood. In fact, Truth has been mixed up with falsehood, and it is for all intelligent and sober people to correct the misunderstanding in order to get a true picture of Islam. The truth of Islam is amply corroborated by the teachings and the exemplary life of the Holy Prophet and his four Caliphs followed strictly by all the great Muslim saints and true Muslims of the world. The life history of all these great personages is scrupulously preserved and a careful study of the same should suffice to refute the baseless charge of compulsion or the use of force in the propagation of Islam.
Islam Never Spread by Sword
Bloodshed was and is entirely against the spirit of Islam and repugnant to the teachings of the Prophet . The warfare which the Muslims were forced to resort to was purely defensive. It was certainly not to propagate their faith. It was only to defend themselves against their arch enemies who always took the initiative of attack with a view to destroy Islam and its Prophet . The instinct of self-preservation is as natural to man as breathing to his life; therefore to fight in self-defense does not mean that Islam wielded sword for the propagation of its faith. All religions, all governments, all people, have the right to fight far their protection.
On the other hand, in the latter history of Christianity we see that sword was frequently used indiscriminately for the slaughter of all non-Christians. Even among the Christians themselves, those who did not follow the Church of Rome were slaughtered mercilessly.
If any Muslim ruler or exploiter acted contrary to the teachings of Islam, it was his personal fault which cannot be laid at the door of Islam and for which he will be answerable to Allah according to Islamic injunctions and restrictions. Against the militants, the Prophet declared: "He who is not affectionate to Allah's creatures and to his own children would not receive the affection of God." (Abu Huraira).
"Charity of the tongue, the most important and least cultivated of all charities, was likewise earnestly inculcated by Mohammed ," writes Irving. How can a religion that keeps all the finer qualities of human character in the forefront be, therefore, aggressive by sword? The Prophet was supremely patient and tolerant when the bitter animosity, sedition and betrayals of the Jews prevailed against Islam in Medina. It was in such a terrible state of affairs that Allah ordered the Prophet : "Defend yourself against your enemies, but attack them not first; Allah hateth the aggressors." (Quran: II: 190).
"Citing various examples of coercion to which Muslims were subjected by the Jews and the Christians, Dr. M.A. Salmin proceeds:
"I challenge anybody to show me an instance when the Prophet used sword, or force, or compulsion, for the promulgation of his faith while, on the other hand, history tells of many instances of dreadful wars waged by the Jews, the Christians and the gentle Parsis. In the case of Jews, the force and compulsion were sanctioned by religion, and in the case of early Christians, the teachings of the Prophet of Nazareth were soon forgotten for the pride of power.
"From the moment Christianity became a recognized force, it became aggressive and persecuting. The name of religion served as the plea and justification of aggression upon the weaker nations to lead to their spoliation and enslavement. Thus it is Islam that has suffered endless persecution patiently at the hands of its enemies at every step of its peaceful Propagation and progress."
Referring to the diplomatic toleration of Christianity, Dr. Salmin continues: "In the history of religion as well as individuals, except in Islam, we see that the spirit of toleration is preached and insisted only as long as they have been powerless, which spirit gave way to intolerance and persecution the moment they attained power. Till the time of the conversion of Constantine, Christianity was weak and in consequence remained passive, but from the moment of the conversion of Constantine, it became a stage for molestation. From this moment began a system of religious persecution unparalleled in conception. "From the very moment," writes Lecky, "the church obtained civil power under Constantine, the general principle of coercion was admitted and acted upon against the Jews, the heretics and the pagans."
Dr. Salmin multiplies such instances and then deplores: "Yet the followers of this religion have the temerity and impudence to say that Islam became militant since its advent in Medina. Yes, Islam did become militant in so far as it was necessary to fight for self-preservation."
It is a well-known fact that Islam, as a religion, never took initiative in aggression even against its worst enemies. It was quite contrary to its spirit and teachings. Islam was always ready to say to its enemies: "Cease hostilities, be our allies and we shall be faithful to you; or pay tribute as a cost of protecting your life and property, and we shall secure and protect you in all your rights.
Muslim laws of war are also admittedly more humane than those of any other religion. The Holy Quran has ordained: "And fight for the religion of Allah against those who fight against you, but transgress not by attacking them first, for Allah loveth not the transgressors."(11: 257).
Describing statecraft in Christianity, Khwaja Kamaluddin, author of The Ideal Prophet, says: "The pulpit has always been subservient to statecraft. The clergy furthers the ends of the state rather than guard the conscience of the people. They read homilies of war when the state wants war, as did the Bishop of London in 1914 at the Marble Arch, but they lay special stress on the Sermon on the Mount when the time has come for the sword to return to the scabbard. Humility, meekness, forgiveness and non-resistance to evil are some of the claimed ethics of Christianity, but her history discloses quite a different chapter. There we find heartless, sanguinary persecution of others, want of charity and lack of kindliness."
While religious wars and persecution have blackened many chapters of European history, it must be noted that Prophet Mohammed always preached and practiced supreme toleration, allowing his bitterest enemies full freedom of conscience in religious matters. We do not read of the persecutions of Galileos, Latimars and others in the annals of Islam. The Prophet respected and also preached to his followers to respect other religions. He also protected life and property of the unbelievers without any discrimination whatever. Those Muslims who violate the laws of Islam are not true Muslims.
"Besides the various old scholars and impartial historians belonging to other religions, many of the recent writers on Islam, like Khwaja Kamaluddin (author of The Ideal Prophet), Syed Amir All (author of The Spirit of Islam) and AI-Haj Dr. M.A. Salmin (author of The Holy Prophet Through Different Lights) have also refuted this fallacious charge. We cannot do better than reproducing here a few relevant extracts from their works and leaving the judgment to the people themselves.
Writing about Prophet Mohammed's migration from Mecca to Medina, Dr. M.A. Salmin says:
"The Prophet next turned his attention to another important affair, namely, to establish friendly relations between the various tribes inhabiting in and around Medina. He was not satisfied with the brotherhood that he had established between Muslims in Medina and the resident emigrant Muslims there. He concluded a pact between Tus and Khazraj, (who had now embraced Islam) and the Jews.
The terms were: (1)The Muslims and the Jews shall live as one people. (2) Each one of the party shall keep its own faith, neither shall interfere with that of the other. (3) In the event of war with a third party, each was bound to come to the assistance of the other provided the latter were the party aggrieved and not the aggressors. (4)In the event of an attack on Medina, both shall join hands to defend it. (5) Peace, when desirable, shall be made in consultation with each other. (6) Medina shall be regarded as sacred by both, all bloodshed being forbidden there. (7) The Prophet shall be the final court of appeal in case of dispute.
These terms themselves, which form the starting point of Islam, refute the baseless charge of spreading it by the force of sword. On the contrary, they prove how the Prophet was anxious to maintain an atmosphere of peace and harmony among all classes of people in Medina from the very beginning of his hijrat (migration) there.