A well known technique in any propaganda war is the spreading of "disinformation" about your enemy. Disinformation is the new postmodern word for lies.
If you repeat the same lies over and over again, listeners’ critical thinking skills are numbed; and in the absence of any opposing argument, the lies eventually cannot be differentiated from truth.
Islam has had many enemies over the centuries and still has. One of the most persistent lies repeated by its detractors is that Muslims spread their faith by the sword.
Yet of all mainstream religions, none is more precisely documented as to its origin, revelation, message and teachings. Since its emergence through the Prophet Muhammad and his transmission of its holy book, the history of Islam has been well recorded. From the Prophet’s time until today, the Qur’an has offered guidance and discipline for everyday life. As Islam spread, the lives and teachings of its messengers have also been documented.
As with Judaism and Christianity, the most influential and revered figures are those from the time when the faith was newly revealed; in Islam, these were Muslims who lived in the age of Prophet Muhammad and who embodied the teachings of the Qur’an as examples to their fellow human beings. Many of their thoughts and deeds were recorded for the benefit of future generations.
To return to the questions of whether the Qur’an encourages Muslims to spread their faith by force, or whether the Prophet himself set a violent example for Muslims to follow, one has only to consult the source.
The Qur’an is crystal clear in stating, "There is no compulsion in religion." The commandment is absolute; there are no exceptions. Coercion, compulsion, force — whatever one chooses to call it — is totally forbidden. No other holy book lays down such a clear directive to its adherents.
Believers in the world’s largest Muslim country of today, Indonesia, have never in history encountered foreign Muslim soldiers on their soil. The same is true for today’s Muslims in Malaysia, China, sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Turkey. All of these countries or regions were introduced to Islam through other Muslims, not by Muslim armies.
Even in Egypt where the earliest Muslims were mostly Arab soldiers, Islam was diffused slowly throughout the country over more than 400 years. The Egyptians loved Islam because the values it embraced, such as justice, equality, modernity and freedom.
And in Egypt, as well as in Persia, Greater Syria, India, North Africa and Spain, converts freely accepted Islam because it offered comparatively more than other religions of the day.
During those early centuries, people who felt oppressed or restricted by the rigidity of Christian and Jewish traditions, or excluded from the caste system of Hinduism, were attracted by the Islam’s de-emphasis on hierarchy. They loved the Islamic teachings that God is One and the Lord of All, that humans can talk to God directly, and that there is no Original Sin –” every human being is wholly accountable for his / her deeds.
So while it is true that Islam spread in some places with the speed of a bullet, no literal bullets have been involved. The whole concept of "convert or die" is utterly foreign and reprehensible to authentic Islamic beliefs and conduct. And the Qur’an itself further reinforces the sanctity of all human lives in saying that to kill another person is as evil as killing the entire human race.
Muslims do not blame any religion for the atrocities committed those claiming to be its adherents.
Thus, Muslims do not blame Judaism itself for injustices committed by Jews against Palestinians. Nor do they blame Christianity per se for the crimes committed by Church-sanctioned medieval Crusades; for atrocities committed during the conquest of Spain by Christian armies and the subsequent persecution and expulsion of Muslims; nor for the horrors of the Inquisition, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, or any number of similar tragedies. All three faiths, rooted in Abrahamic tradition, teach similar values of non-violence, justice and equality. Those who take up the "cause" of any faith through violent means are in effect blasphemers of it.
The earliest Muslims in Arabia were persecuted and subjected to torture. They fled for their lives from Mecca to Medina, but their pagan enemies followed, determined to annihilate them. Then and only then, did Muslims take up arms in self-defence. This was no a religious war, however, but rather a forced political conflict in which the rich and powerful of 6th-century AD Arabia perceived their status being challenged. The Muslims’ aim was not to convert their pagan countrymen, but to defend themselves; similarly, the anti-Muslim pagans were not interested in suppressing Islam itself, but in subjugating its believers through political power.
When the Prophet Muhammad and his followers returned peacefully to Mecca in triumph, he granted pardon to the same people who had persecuted and waged war against him and his fellow Muslims.
This humane and generous behavior reflected the teaching of many Qur’anic verses which stress the importance of courtesy, politeness and civility, even where there has been severe conflict: "And the true servants of the God of Mercy are those who walk upon the earth humbly; and when the ignorant address them, reply ‘Peace’; and they pass the night praying to their Lord, prostrating and standing." (25:63 – 64)