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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

 

Was Islam Spread by the Sword? by Idris Tawfiq

Here's another excellent mind opening article, a reply by Idris Tawfiq (a British writer who became Muslim a few years ago. Previously, he was head of religious education in different schools in the United Kingdom. Before embracing Islam, he was a Roman Catholic priest) from a question at Islam-Online.net web forum; 'Was Islam Spread by the Sword?'
"Perhaps one of the greatest misconceptions about Islam is that it was spread by the sword. However, this idea is now so widespread that people accept it as a fact. Even the Pope, whether he intended to or not, caused great offense to Muslims throughout the world by referring to this myth of Islam being spread by the sword. It is not the place here to discuss the Pope's ill-timed and ill-conceived remarks, but we can address your central question about whether or not Islam was spread by the sword. It is, in fact, a pleasure to do so, since Islam has nothing to be ashamed of.
Indonesia has around 450 million Muslims, which is more than the population of all the Arab countries put together. In fact, Arabs count for only around 18 percent of all Muslims. By far the greatest concentration of the world's 1.1 billion Muslims lives in Southeast Asia. Islam has been deeply rooted there for centuries. Those who beat the drum of Islam being spread by the sword fail to mention Southeast Asia, since it does not fit into their agenda. No Muslim armies ever went there. In fact, the story of Islam being brought there is quite marvelous and well worth telling. It was brought not by soldiers, but by merchants.
Soon after the death of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the death of Abu Bakr, the first caliph, the Muslim faithful were led by Caliph `Umar, one of the
Prophet's Companions. When `Umar entered Jerusalem at the head of a Muslim army in 638 CE, just six years after the Prophet's death, he entered the city on foot, as a gesture of humility in a city sacred to Muslims, Christians, and Jews. There was no bloodshed. There were no massacres or forced conversions.

On the contrary, those who wanted to leave were allowed to do so with all their possessions. Those who wanted to stay were granted protection for their lives, their property, and their places of worship. `Umar very famously declined to pray one of the five daily prayers in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, lest in years to come Muslims might try to turn it into a mosque in his memory. Instead, `Umar cleansed the so-called Temple Mount with rose water and built a small mosque there, where the Dome of the Rock now stands.
All of this is in marked contrast to what happened when the Crusader armies later took Jerusalem. Seventy thousand men, women and children were slaughtered. Any remaining Muslims and Jews were driven out. When the city was recaptured by Salah Ad-Din (Saladin), the Christian inhabitants were granted protection and were escorted to safety by the Muslim army. But those who have a different aim would have us believe that it is Islam that is cruel.

When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) finally entered Makkah at the head of a Muslim army in AH 8, he did so not to force the Makkans to convert, but because they had violated their peace treaty with the Muslims. The Prophet entered with great humility, ordering that there should be no fighting or bloodshed. Instead, he forgave all those who had opposed him and the growth of Islam for so many years. Those who wanted to leave were allowed to do so. The whole city, so impressed by the men they had fought against for so long, converted to Islam.

We might ask if Islam was taken to America by the sword, or taken to Denmark or Ireland or Poland by the sword. It wasn't. And yet Islam is now the world's fastest growing religion, according to some people.

Islam is a religion of peace. It is the natural religion of mankind and has existed since the beginning of time. In some countries today we see violence on a massive scale. We see tragedy in Afghanistan and Iraq as the people respond to the invasion of their countries by foreign armies. We see violence in Palestine as the Palestinians respond to oppression and injustice.

Let it be clear that Islam does not condone violence against innocent people. Perhaps those driven to violence are being mistaken for Islam itself. If individual Muslims present a distorted image of Islam, all Muslims in the world must not be labeled as violent. When IRA violence was at its height in Northern Ireland and Britain in the 1970s and 1980s, no one spoke of Christian terrorists. The ETA bombing campaign in northern Spain is not labeled Catholic. So why are all Muslims linked with violence?"

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