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Did Prophet Muhammad spread Islam by the sword and force people to accept his religion?

Under category : Sunna in our Lives
4089 2012/10/06 2024/05/28

Did Prophet Muhammad spread Islam by the

sword and force people to accept his religion?




It is a widespread belief that Islam was spread

by the sword. There are two main reasons showing

that this was in fact not the case.


First, the Messenger of Mercy, Prophet

Muhammad, proclaimed that he would adhere to

God’s commandments. And contrary to forcing

people to accept Islam, God explicitly prohibited

forced conversion: “There is no compulsion in

faith” (Qur’an 2:256)



There is an interesting story related to the

revelation of this verse. A man, who was among

the companions of the Prophet, had two sons who

embraced Christianity before the emergence of the

religion of Islam. The two sons came to Medina

among a group of Christians, and at that time their

father insisted that they both should become

Muslims. However, they refused their father’s

request and brought the matter before the Prophet.

The father asked, “Oh Prophet of Allah, how

could part of me enter hell while I am watching?”

It was then that God revealed the above verse

forbidding any compulsion in religion. Thus, the

man’s two sons were free to remain Christians.



The Messenger of Mercy did not force them to

become Muslims according to their father’s wish.

In another verse, the Qur’an says: “But had

your Lord so willed, all who are on the earth would

have believed in your message, each one of them

and all of them together - will you then be the one

to compel people so that they become believers, O

Prophet?” (10:99). All admit, even those who

accuse the Prophet of forced conversions, that the

Prophet was a God-fearing person who obeyed

Him whole-heartedly in everything. How, then,

can he violate these explicit divine commands?


There are even authentically recorded

incidents in which the Prophet advised some

individuals not to accept Islam for a time being,

due to their safety. In one instance, a person by

the name of Amr bin Abasa Assulami came from a

far distance to Mecca to embrace Islam. It was a

time when Muslims were persecuted in Mecca and

it was extremely difficult to meet the Prophet.

Somehow, Amr managed to find the Prophet and

he expressed his desire to embrace Islam.



The Prophet, however, told him that he should not

embrace Islam at that time, since the situation

between the Prophet and his people was

dangerous. The Prophet then advised Amr to go

back to his family until the victory of the Prophet

becomes apparent. It was not until approximately

7-8 years later that Amr met the Prophet again to

embrace Islam. Surely, had the Prophet been only

concerned with converting people despite their

own safety, he would not have advised Amr to

return to his family on account of the imminent




It is true that the Prophet was extremely keen

to convey God’s message and to lead people to

salvation. The Qur’an describes this eagerness:

“Would you, perhaps, torment yourself to death

with grief over them if they are not willing to

believe in this message?” (18:6). But this eagerness

never prompted him to convert even a single

person against his will.

Second, there is no historical evidence

suggesting that the Prophet Muhammad acted

contrary to the principle that there should be no

compulsion in religion. There is not a single

recorded instance in the Prophet’s thoroughly

documented life of such an incident.



Although  some early Western historians advanced such

claims, more recent studies have shown that

conversions did not happen suddenly at the point

of the sword, but when people living alongside

Muslims gradually and genuinely accepted the faith

voluntarily. Indeed, it is as the Orientalist George

Sale said: “Whoever says that Islam spread by the

power of the sword, his/her word is a pure

allegation, because the sword was not even

mentioned in many countries and Islam spread



Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation of

India, once said, “I became more than ever

convinced that it was not the sword that won a

place in Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It

was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of

the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges,

his intense devotion to his friends and followers,

his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in

God and his own mission.”


The famous French historian Gustaf Lobon

stated in his book, Arab Civilization, “Power was

not a factor in the spread of Islam; that’s because

Arabs left the people they vanquished free to

practice their own religion.”


Another famous European writer, Thomas

Carlayle, said: “Accusing [the Prophet] of relying

on the sword for people to respond to his

preaching is incomprehensible nonsense!”



History, logic, objectivity, and scholarly

research all reject the notion that the Prophet

Muhammad forced his religion on unwilling

masses. It was voluntary acceptance and the utter

conviction of the truth of Islam that caused mass

conversions in many countries. Indonesia,

Malaysia, China and several South Asian countries

are telling examples of this reality. We can see a

glimpse of this today – though in a less dramatic

way – in Europe and North America where in

those continents Islam is the fastest growing






Ten Questions and Answers

about the Prophet Muhammad

May the Blessings and Peace of Allah be upon Him

By Ibrahim H. Malabari



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