Question: Was Islam Really "Spread by the Sword"?
One of the most widespread myths about Islam is that it is a religion that was spread by the sword. This myth is propagated by certain groups with vested interests for political, religious and economic reasons. So is this really just a myth? The answer is clearly yes, and the evidence is clear for everyone to see.
If Islam was truly spread by the sword and if Muslims conquered nations and forced the inhabitants to either convert to Islam or die, then logically it follows that any nation that was conquered and ruled by Muslims should have a majority Muslim population. So let us consider some examples. Egypt came under Muslim rule early during the expansion of the Muslim nation, almost 1400 years ago. Although it is a majority Muslim nation today, at least 10% of the people of Egypt (8 million out of a total of 80 million) are still practicing coptic Christians, which is the religion that existed in Egypt before Islam. If Muslims had forced Egyptians to convert to Islam or die, then how come one out of every ten Egyptians is still a coptic Christian? In fact there are sizable Christian minorities in many Muslim nations, most notably Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Iraq. Muslims ruled Eastern Europe for centuries, yet Muslims today are a small minority in Eastern Europe living mostly in Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo. Muslims also ruled India for almost one thousand years. Only 15% of Indians today are Muslims. So how can any logical person who knows of all these examples still believe that Muslims forced people under their rule to convert? Does this sound like a religion that was spread by the sword?
Another interesting piece of information is that the country with the largest Muslim population today is Indonesia. It is a well known fact that no Muslim army ever crossed the ocean and invaded Indonesia. Islam was spread in Indonesia and the surrounding countries simply through contact with Muslim merchants and traders.
The fact is that Islam forbids the forcing of people to change their religion: "Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error" (Holy Qur'an, Chapter 2, Verse 256). Islam has clear instructions for Muslims on how to spread the word about this religion: "Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious" (Holy Qur'an, Chapter 16, Verse 125).
Finally, it is interesting to hear what the well known British historian De Lacy O’Leary says about this topic in his book "Islam at the Crossroads" (London, 1923, page 8): "History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myth that historians have ever repeated."