Most people say that Islaam forced people from other lands to become muslim.
We usually get the muslim response that this isn't the case, and that 'there is no compulsion in religion':
Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things. [Qur'an 2:256]
Then people usually ask why islaam spread to other lands, why couldn't the people just go to the other lands and call the public to islaam. Why couldn't the muslims go in the streets of the other nation and give the people leaflets, pamphlets explaining the truth and reality of islaam?
The answer to this is simple; 1400yrs ago - nearly in every nation a person was bound to follow the religion of his/her ruler. If a person turned away from the religion of the nation/ruler, they were likely to be executed straightaway.
We know that this was the case when an arab [located on the border of Al-Sham/Greater Syria] who was a former ally with the Byzantinian Romans became muslim, he was executed by the Byzantinians. This shows that the people weren't allowed to follow another way of life other than what their ruler followed, otherwise they would face death.
This is also the case with Khisra, the ruler of Persia who tore up the letter recieved by the Messenger of Allaah, Muhammad (peace be upon him) - because he never wanted his people to follow another religion, otherwise he could lose his authority.
Therefore if the ruler was christian, the people were forced to follow that religion. Anyone who was in Iraq/Iran would have to follow Zoroastrianism. Anyone who was in India would have to follow hinduism etc. This happened for many centuries in the world, it was also at the time of the Messenger of Allaah (peace be upon him), and continued for many centuries even after that.
What did Islaam come to do? It came to the oppressive rulers and gave them one of 3 options:
1) Become muslim.
2) Pay Jizya [a small tax] and you will be under the protection of the muslims.
3) If you don't want to accept the above, then fight.
That might seem violent, but lets look at it this way - all the nations of the world would force the people to follow the religion of their ruler.
When islaam came, it abolished this ideology of following the faith of your ruler, and because the people were living under oppression anyway by these rulers, who were taking advantage of the people. At the same time these oppressive rulers may have taxed the people heavily, because all they had in their mind was to keep the poor - poor, and keep themselves rich.
So what options did the muslims give to these oppressive governments?
The government had one of the 3 choices mentioned above.
They could either accept islaam and become brothers and sisters in faith, the muslims would allow these people to keep their land and wealth etc. But at the same time they would have to rule with the justice of Islaam. This would give safety to those who wanted to accept islaam within the nation because no-one could harm them if they wanted to accept the truth.
They could pay Jizya [a small tax] and this would be used to strengthen the security of the state, and also to help the needy etc. The benefits with this tax would be that, the people who lived in the state - they would keep their land, wealth, their honor and blood would be protected - which means their oppressive rulers can't harm them no more, and if anyone waged war against them - the muslims would fight on their behalf.
Compare this to the oppressive rulers before who would tax the people heavily, take over their lands, take their wealth, even harm them physically and take away their honor because all these people wanted was this life, they wanted to keep their empire so keeping the poor - weak would make them feel superior and feel less under a threat.
Or the war would take place. The muslims would actually tell the enemy that within 3 days the opposing government has to make a decision. If they don't accept either terms 1 or 2, they will be fought against. This gave the enemy time to think carefully and the muslims trustworthiness meant that they weren't ready to be attacked at any moment, rather the muslims would fight only when they had said so, unlike other enemies who may have done a surprise attack without notice.
The muslims would fight the government until the muslims had authority in the land, and then the justice would be set for the public. 1400yrs ago, if a nation took over a land - the people there would become slaves of the rulers. However, when islaam had authority the people were still free and could either pay Jizya (option 2) or become muslim without the threat of being killed.
Muslims were only told to fight against those who fought them. The Messenger of Allaah, Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“Do not kill any old person, any child, or any woman.” (Abu Dawud)
“Do not kill the monks in monasteries,” or “Do not kill the people who are sitting in places of worship.” (Musnad of Ibn Hanbal)
The people living in the state, whether muslim or non muslim were under the protection of the muslim government and like mentioned earlier, their blood and honor was protected. They weren't forced to become muslim, but due to this justice alot actually became muslim.
Those who never accepted islaam were allowed to rule by their own scripture, and they even had their own courts. However the major crimes would be taken to authority, and would be dealt with justly. Even if a non muslim was wronged, they would have the right to equity.
If anyone mentions situations which may have happened in muslim history in which the muslims were unjust, realise that we don't take our example from them - rather we take it from the example of the Messenger of Allaah, Muhammad (peace be upon him), and the way of his companions, who all applied justice. It was only after that some people ruled with oppression. Islaam is perfect, muslims aren't.
Someone might claim that alot of countries today allow people to follow a religion of their choice without being executed for switching religions. So why is this rule of: 1) Become Muslim 2) Jizya 3) Fight. come into it? Why is it still an islamic rule? Isn't this just an ancient idea now?
We simply say that it has only been a few centuries since the idea of 'being executed' for not following the religion of the state has been abolished [Especially in the west.]
We have seen an increase in the amount of people from other parts of the world settling in other nations (especially the west) where you have the right to follow your religion and not be harmed. And this is a basic rule in islaam, that the muslims are allowed to live in a state which allows the muslims to practise their religion freely.
Why don't the muslims go to other nations to fight and have authority in the land like the past?
Allaah Almighty out of His Eternal Wisdom has made the world in a situation that the events leading to the final hour [i.e. Judgement Day] are coming to pass. One of these events has been prophecised by the Messenger of Allaah (peace be upon him) who said:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: The people will soon summon one another to attack you as people when eating invite others to share their dish.
Someone asked: Will that be because of our small numbers at that time?
He replied: No, you will be numerous at that time: but you will be scum and rubbish like that carried down by a torrent, and Allah will take fear of you from the breasts of your enemy and last enervation into your hearts.
Someone asked: What is wahn (enervation). Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him):
He replied: Love of the world and dislike of death.
Abu Dawud Book 37, Number 4284.
We can see this today, where we have wahn
in our hearts - when the love of this world has entered our hearts, over the love of the hereafter [i.e. Paradise.]
Where we have deviated from the religion of Allaah/God Almighty, so we have turned away from establishing Allaah's Just law on the earth. So the oppressors can oppress, and the weak stay poor. This is still taking place in the materialistic world we live in today. Where the people are put under pressure to get the latest things, in order to be respected or accepted by society. The media is our 'guidance' and if we turn away from this 'guidance' - we are looked down upon by the public. Then something new comes out and the gadget you got before is 'old' and you need to move forward, otherwise you're looked down upon again. Where if you don't move forward with society, you're left alone.. rejected.
It's a continous circle, and we as muslims have fallen into it. We've actually become the slaves of this society, even though the purpose of this life is to be the slave of our own Creator, Allaah Almighty.
Due to this attatchment to this world, we have turned away from the guidance which was revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him.) Which means we have stopped striving for Allaah's cause, and in return for that - we are facing the humiliation on earth we see today.
So - no, the establishment of justice with the law of Allaah, isn't 'ancient' - rather we are becoming slaves of society instead of slaves of Allaah. The real life is the afterlife, and the establishment of Justice for Allaah's sake holds a huge reward in this world and the hereafter. This can only come through striving in order to please Allaah, and with your sincerety - you will see the fruits inshaa'Allaah [God willing.] If not in this world, in the real life of the eternal hereafter.. where you can have all that you desire, and more. They are pleased with Allaah, and He is pleased with them. That is the great victory.