We have seen above that the foundation of Jihād is Islamic propagation (da'wah). The question often asked is whether Islam condones and teaches the forced and armed conversion of non-Muslims. This is the image sometimes projected by Western scholars and as any Muslim scholar will tell you, is seriously flawed. The Qur’ān clearly states:
لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ
There is no compulsion in religion, the path of guidance stands out clear from error
In this verse, the word rushd or “path of guidance" refers to the entire domain of human life, not just to the rites and theology of Islam.
There is no debate about the fact that pre-Islamic Arabia was a misguided society dominated by tribalism and a blind obedience to custom. In contrast, the clarity of Islam and its emphasis on reason and rational proofs excluded any need to impose it by force. This verse is a clear indication that the Qur’ān is strictly opposed to the use of compulsion in religious faith. Similarly, Allah addressed the Prophet saying:
فَذَكِّرْ إِنَّمَا أَنتَ مُذَكِّرٌ
Remind them, for you are only one who reminds.
Allah addresses the believers, urging them to obey the injunctions of Islam:
وَأَطِيعُواْ اللّهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ الرَّسُولَ وَاحْذَرُواْ فَإِن تَوَلَّيْتُمْ فَاعْلَمُواْ أَنَّمَا عَلَى رَسُولِنَا الْبَلاَغُ الْمُبِينُ
Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and beware (of evil): if you do turn back, then know that it is Our Messenger's duty to proclaim (the message) in the clearest manner.
However, this verse makes it clear that the Messenger's duty is only to proclaim and preach the message; it remains to each individual to accept and to follow.
As for forced conversion, no reliable evidence exists that Muslims ever intended or attempted to impose the specific rites and beliefs of Islam. The histories of Central Asia, Spain, India, the Balkans and all of Southeast Asia are concrete proof of this.
Islam’s History of Good-treatment of non-Muslims
It is thus well-established in history, that when persecution took place in non-Muslim lands against the People of the Book, they would seek refuge with the leader of the Muslims (caliph), and this refuge was not refused. A well-known example of this is the plight of the Jews in Andalusia after it was conquered by the pish and taken from the hands of the Muslim Moors. With the imposition of the infamously cruel Inquisition in 1492, Jews and Muslims had no choice but to flee their homes, convert to Catholicism or die. The Jews sought the protection of Sultan Suleyman of the Ottoman Empire and caliph of the Muslims and asylum was granted. For this reason, one finds a sizable population of Jews in Istanbul, which was seat of the Ottoman Empire at that time.