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Was Islam Spread by the Sword The idea that Islam was spread by the sword has had wide currency at many diffrenet times and the impression is still widespread among the less reflective sections of the media and the wider public that people converted to Islam because they were forced to do so This is of course a very useful argument in all sorts of ways It allows non Muslims to explain the otherwise problematic fact that so many people converted to Islam when it was clearly an inferior or even completely wicked religion Claiming that people were forced to convert meant avoiding the difficult idea that people might have converted because of inadequacies or failings among the Christian clergy or worse the intolerable thought that Islam was the true religion and that God was on the side of the Muslims So much easier then to say that people were converted because they had no choice or rather that the choice was between conversion and death In this paper I want to consider the role that violence and armed might played in the spread of Islam in the central Middle East between the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 and about the year 1000 By the central Middle East I mean the lands between Egypt in the west and Iran in the east All these lands Iraq Syria Palestine Egypt and Iran were conquered in the years between 632 and 650 It was an astonishing series of campaigns and victories campaigns and victories which have affected the history of the area ever since If we want to abandon clich and take this discussion further we must start off with the Quran and ask what the Muslim sacred text says about conversion and violence The Quran contains a number of passages instructing the Muslims as to how they should relate to the unbelievers and the different passages seem to give very mixed messages There are a group of verses which recommend peaceful argument and discussion with the non Muslims in order to convince them of the error of their ways 16 125 for example exhorts the



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