Non Muslims claim that in the beginning Islam was spread by force. Whereas Muslims claim that in Islam no one can be forced to accept any religion in a true Islamic society. What can be said to substantiate this claim of Muslims?
The statement ‘in the beginning Islam was spread by force’ is not true. It is true that the expansion of the Muslim empire – as the expansion of any other empire would have been – did entail the use of force, but it is only fantasy to suggest that people were forcibly converted to Islam. Even if there were any instances of forced or coercive conversion to Islam, these instances are not representative of the Muslim collectivity. On the contrary, these instances represent an imbalanced class of individuals, which exists in every human society.
The only exception to the foregoing principle is the polytheistic creed of the Arabian Peninsula. These were a people, among whom God sent His messenger and, as a result, were subjected to complete annihilation in case of their rejection of God’s messenger and continued adherence to the polytheistic beliefs. Thus, the polytheists of the Arabian Peninsula were, in fact, the only people, who – as a directive of God – were to be killed, if they did not desist from their polytheistic beliefs and accepted the call of their messenger.
Even today, when the representatives of Islam – the Muslims – have generally lost all the glory of character, morality and ethical behavior that they enjoyed during their initial stages, the eloquent call of the Qur’an still attracts people towards Islam in millions. It is quite predictable that when ordinary Muslims generally adhered to the teachings of Islam and were a practical and living example of the beliefs and values of Islam, this attraction towards Islam would have been manifolds more than it is today.
In my opinion, a more accurate presentation of the initial spread of Islam would be that the initial Muslim conquests removed the political and collective hindrances lying in the way of any prospective Muslim conversions, while it was the depth of the message and the character of the adherents that attracted people towards converting to Islam.
I hope this helps.
June 15, 2002