BY SHEIKH ABU ISLAM YUSUF SHAQEERO.
This article has been reproduced from Islamic Revival.
The least that can be said regarding the statement that Islam was spread by the sword is that it is a statement that holds no credibility. The enemies of Islam have attempted to pass this off to non-thinking Muslims where they claim the objective of fighting is to make people enter Islam by way of force, even though the falseness of this view is as clear as the sun.
This is because the way of entering into Islam which Islam has demanded, is the Islam which the person embraces by way of complete conviction and wilful consent. As such, there is no worth or value in the presence of something called Islam (i.e. belief in it), unless it came via complete conviction. The fact that it is not Islam (i.e. belief in it) unless it occurs via complete conviction, means that the matter of fighting for the purpose of making the people embrace Islam, represents an impossible matter. This is because force could make an individual from amongst the people change his position towards a matter, but it cannot at all, make him change his conviction.
As such, if we were to raise a sword against a disbeliever so that he accepts Islam whilst he does not want to, then he would be able to give the appearance of Islam (i.e. having accepted it) without having conviction in it i.e. he would be a hypocrite without his conviction in disbelief having been changed; meaning that he would remain as a disbeliever. It cannot be reasoned that Allah obliged the Muslims to fight the disbelievers for them only to remain as disbelievers (albeit with the appearance of Islam) as this represents a kind of futility that cannot possibly be ascribed to Allah.
As for the statement of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ:
أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أُقَاتِلَ النَّاسَ حَتَّى يَقُولُوا لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ فَمَنْ قَالَ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ عَصَمَ مِنِّي مَالَهُ وَنَفْسَهُ إِلاَّ بِحَقِّهِ وَحِسَابُهُ عَلَى اللَّهِ
“I have been commanded to fight the people until they say there is no Ilaaha (deity) other than Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Then if they say it their properties and lives are protected from me apart from their due right”, (Sahih Muslim)
this does not at all mean that we fight the people in order to force them to enter Islam.
This is because concerning that which comes after the word “until” (حَتَّى) in the Arabic language, its accomplishment could rest upon what came before it just as it may not rest upon that. As such, if you were to say, for example, to your son: “Drink the medicine until you are cured”, then that which comes after “until” here, rests upon that which came before it. This is because you only requested that he drink the medicine for the purpose of being cured. However, if you were to say to him “Take care of your money until you grow up”, then that which comes after “until” here, does not rest upon what precedes it, as you are not requesting that he takes care of his money so that he grows up, but rather you have requested from him to continue to take care of his money until the time that he grows up. That which designates the meaning of what comes after “until” are the Qaraa’in (linked indications) and evidences which have come in relation to a particular subject area.
Concerning the Hadeeth of the Nabi ﷺ: “I have been commanded to fight the people until they say there is no Ilaaha (deity) other than Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”, it is clear that what comes after “until” does not rest upon what precedes it. That is because the fighting does not result in the conviction of anyone, whilst “Laa Ilaaha Illallah” (There is no deity other than Allah), which is requested and sought by the Shar’a within the Hadeeth, is that which the person takes by way of conviction in it. This means that what comes after the “until” in the Hadeeth represents a mere cause, whilst it has no relationship to the fighting and the people are not fought at all for the sake or purpose of them to say it. This is similar to the statement of the Ameer to the commander of an army unit: “Fight them until the sun sets”. This is because it would not spring to the mind of anyone, who heard that statement, that the fighting was for the purpose of the sun setting.
This is supported by the remainder of the evidences related to the subject of fighting specifically from the Messengerﷺ especially as it was he, himself, who stated that “I have been commanded to fight until they say Laa Ilaaha Illallah Muhammadur Rasoolullah”. That is because in another Hadeeth we find that the Messenger ﷺ said: “When you meet your enemy from the Mushrikeen, then invite them to Islam” and he didn’t say fight them until they become Muslim. Rather, he said “invite them to Islam, then if they respond positively to you, accept that from them and refrain from them (i.e. fighting them)” … Then, after that, we find him saying: “Then invite them to (give) the Jizyah” and his statement here “Invite them to the Jizyah”, represents a declaration that they be left and to that which they believe … We then find, after that, saying: “And if not (i.e. they don’t respond positively to the offer), then seek help with Allah against them and fight them”. This means, with complete clarity, that the fighting was not for the purpose of entering them into Islam. Rather, the fighting was only for the purpose of breaking the material barriers preventing the application of Islam.
It is according to this that the Hadeeth “I have been commanded to fight the people” is understood. Its affair is like that of all the Ahaadeeth and Aayaat which have come related to the specific subject area. The obligation is therefore to combine them together and to understand them according to a legislative understanding, just like what is undertaken usually by the Fuqahaa’ in respect to every Mas’alah (issue) from among the Masaa’il (issues) of Islam. As for a certain person taking a Hadeeth that he has heard here and there and then passing a Fatwaa based upon it, without referring to all of the evidences related to the issue (Mas’alah), then that is the affair and practise of the ignorant who possess no knowledge at all concerning Shar’iyah matters.
Therefore, the statement that Islam was spread at the point of the sword represents a shameless accusation and that is because the non-Muslim subjects of the Islamic Khilafah State are still present within the territories of the Khilafah until this very day. That is in the case where they inherited their disbelief from their fathers and grandfathers and lived under the Khilafah without anyone attempting to make them change their religion. However, as we have said, this accusation against Islam is indicative of the shamelessness of those who have brought it, in addition to the naivety of those Muslims who take it on board and engage with it. Wa Laa Hawla Wa Laa Quwwata Illaa Billah.