Q1: Was Islam spread by the sword?
Had Muslims adopted a strategy of propagation of Islam by the sword then they would have gone against the following fundamental tenet of the Holy Qur’an:
There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong… (Ch.2: V.257)
They would also have gone against the example of the founder of Islam, The Holy Prophet (saw), who always opted for the most peaceful and just strategy in any situation. His example of peace and forgiveness is matchless.
A prime example of his life of peace is when the Muslims, headed by the Holy Prophet (saw), entered Makkah with a ten thousand strong army. At that historic occasion when they were in a position of strength they did not impose Islam on a single person nor punish anyone for not becoming a Muslim, despite the fact that it would have been very easy for them to have done so. Instead the Holy Prophet (saw) left all to practise their religion freely and through this he underlined the true message of Islam.
It is true the Qur’an instructs that each Muslim must take it upon him or herself to propagate the message of Islam in the best of ways and by reason and persuasion, but there is absolutely no room for force of any kind:
Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation and argue with them in a way that is best. Surely, thy Lord knows best who has strayed from His way; and He also knows those who are rightly guided.
Furthermore, for the Holy Prophet(saw) himself the Qur’an clearly stated that his mission was to convey the message of Islam but thereafter it was down to the people to accept or reject this message and this choice was without any coercion of punishment since they were accountable for this decision to God and not to man.
The Qur’an states,
But if they turn away We have not sent thee as a guardian over them. Thy duty is only to convey the Message…. (Ch.42: V.49)
This makes clear that the only duty for Muslims with regards to the spread of Islam is to convey its message and any action that even hints of coercion or force has no basis in Islam.
In this respect it is interesting to note that the largest Muslim population in the world is to be found in Indonesia, which accepted Islam through early dialogue with Muslim traders and holy men. The second largest Muslim population belongs to India which is not even a Muslim country having a Hindu majority. More recently we know that in Europe Islam is the fastest growing religion, yet no sword is used to persuade such people of the beauties of Islam. This emphasis on learning and knowledge as a path to success is captured in the famous saying of the Holy Prophet (saw):
‘The ink of the scholar is more precious than the blood of the martyr.’
(Bukhari, Book of Knowledge)
Q2: Are the West and Islam at War?
A: Islam is not at war with the West. Islam is freely practised in the West, sometimes more freely than in countries that claim to be Muslim. Indeed, the last fifty years has seen an unprecedented growth in the number of mosques in North America and across Europe. Muslims are free to follow their faith and are able to publish books and literature, and host open debates on matters of faith with people of all faiths and none.
It is also worth noting that Islam is a global religion so has followers in the West and the East, the North and the South. There are millions of Muslims in Western countries, and in recent history the pinnacle of Islamic civilisation was in Spain when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in perfect harmony. Islam therefore has no interest in being at war with the West or any other part of the world since it seeks to promote harmony with all. Indeed, the Qur’an teaches Muslims to live in kindness and to have fair dealings with people of all backgrounds (Holy Qur’an Ch.60 V.9 , Ch.4 V.37)
No nation can claim to ‘own’ Islam or have exclusive access to the faith, since it is a universal religion for all mankind. Arabs have a special affinity for Islam because the major historical events of early Islam and the fact that the Holy Prophet(saw) was born in and lived in Arabia. Also the Holy Qur’an was revealed in Arabic. This may give the impression that when there are disputes between Arab states and the West, that Islam is also in conflict. But in actual fact, these are political disputes, which have nothing to do with Islam, just as conflicts between Christian countries and others have nothing to do with the teachings of Prophet Jesus(as).
Q3: What is Islam’s view on terrorism?
Islam categorically rejects and condemns every form of terrorism.
It does not provide any cover or justification for any act of violence, be it committed by an individual, a group or a government. In fact according to Islam, no religion can sanction violence and bloodshed of innocent men, women and children in the name of God, since all religions came from God Who sent His prophets to create peace.
The word Islam literally means peace which is the antonym of terror and it is the obligation of every Muslim to uphold peace. This concept is so deeply rooted in Islam that the Holy Qur’an describes true Muslims as those who:
…walk on the earth in a dignified manner, and when the ignorant address them, they say, ‘Peace!’ [Holy Qur’an Ch.25: V.64]
The Holy Qur’an in fact champions the sanctity of life,
…whosoever killed a person – unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land – it shall be as if he killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one , it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind. [Holy Qur’an Ch.5: V.33]
The same can be observed from the saying of the Holy Prophet(saw):
‘The biggest of Al-Kaba’ir (the great sins) are (1) to join others as partners in worship with Allah, (2) to murder a human being, (3) to be undutiful to one’s parents (4) and to make a false statement, or said, to give a false witness.’
(Ref. Bukhari, Vol. 9, Bk. 83, No. 10)
Furthermore, in his famous farewell sermon the Holy Prophet (sa) said,
‘…to take anyone’s life or his property or attack his honour is as unjust and as wrong as to violate the sacredness of this day, this month and this territory.’ (Siha Sitta)
This leaves no doubt that in Islam there is no justification whatsoever for terrorism.
Q4: Is suicide bombing ever justifiable?
First and foremost The Holy Qur’an clearly sets out the prohibition of the taking of one’s own life ie suicide,
…And kill not yourselves. Surely Allah is Merciful to you. And whoso does that by way of transgression and injustice, We shall cast him into Fire; and that easy with Allah. (Ch.4: V.30-31)
Suicide amounts to nothing less than murder and is thus repulsive in Islam, which is a religion that champions the sanctity of life,
…whosoever killed a person – unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land – it shall be as if he killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one , it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.’’ (Ch.5: V.33)
The forbiddance of suicide is further observed in the saying of the Holy Prophet(saw),
‘… And whoever commits suicide with a piece of iron will be punished with the same piece of iron in the Hell Fire.” Narrated Jundab the Prophet said, “A man was inflicted with wounds and he committed suicide, and so Allah said: My slave has caused death on himself hurriedly, so I forbid Paradise for him.’
(Bukhari Vol. 2, Bk. 23, No. 445)
Suicide is therefore unconditionally forbidden. When it is used as a mechanism to murder others then it becomes an even greater sin. As a protest against intentional suicide the Holy Prophet (saw) has forbidden to observe funeral prayer for a person who commits suicide, [unless the person was mentally ill].
Verse references to the Holy Qur’an item count ‘Bismillah…’ (In the Name of Allah…) as the first verse of each Chapter. In some non-standard texts, this is not counted and should the reader refer to such texts, the verse quoted in Islamic FAQs will be found at one verse less than the number quoted. All Quranic quotes are from the translation by Maulawi Sher Ali as edited by Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru).
In Islamic FAQs, for the ease of non- Muslim readers, ‘(saw)’ or ‘saw’ after the words, ‘Holy Prophet’, or the name ‘Muhammad’, are used. They stand for ‘Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam’ meaning ‘Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him’. Likewise, the letters ‘(as)’ or ‘as’ after the name of all other prophets is an abbreviation meaning ‘Peace be upon him’ derived from ‘Alaihis salatu wassalam’ which are words that a Muslim utters out of respect whenever he or she comes across that name. The abbreviation ‘ra’ or (ra) stands for ‘Radhiallahu Ta’ala anhu and is used for Companions of a Prophet, meaning Allah be pleased with him or her (when followed by the relevant Arabic pronoun). Finally, ‘ru’ or (ru) for Rahemahullahu Ta’ala means the Mercy of Allah the Exalted be upon him.
In keeping with current universal practice, local transliterations of names of places are preferred to their anglicised versions, e.g. Makkah instead of Mecca, etc. For Biblical references the King James translation is used unless otherwise stated.
Generally the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community follows the Hanafi school of thought in light of the guidance of the Promised Messiah(as) and his Khalifas.
Q1: Was Islam spread by the sword?