Was Islam Spread Through the Sword?
Muslims expanded beyond Arabia (now Saudi Arabia) in order to propagate Islam and remove any obstacle that stopped them from informing people about it, and giving them the freedom to enter it if they wished, without force. As stated in the Quran: “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:256).
At the time, the Middle East was under the occupation of foreign powers of Roman Byzantine (Today’s Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, Jordan) and Persians (Todays Iraq). Many of these tribes asked Muslims to come liberate them as they were treated as second degree citizens in their own land. This was the main war campaign at the time of the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH), and his immediate followers who are known the Guided Leaders (Khulafa’a Alrashideen).
Muslims went to other nations to inform them about Islam, indeed they fought those that stopped them from spreading the word of God Almighty, but forcing anyone to become Muslim was against the Quran. The defeated nations in front of the Muslim rule had the following rights and obligations: having the right to religious freedom, and pay the jizya tax, which was in fact less than the tax Muslims paid (known as zakat), or become Muslim.
However, today’s largest Muslim country Indonesia with 200 million Muslim never saw an army of Muslims. That entire region had Islam spread in it, by good conduct and behavior from the Muslim merchants, who followed Sharia (the code of Islamic conduct) in their business transactions. The Indonesians were impressed by them, and all became Muslim not by force but by their own free will. But when early European colonization powers of Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and others reached that region after the 1400’s they forced the inhabitants to become Christians. For example, the Philippines were mostly a Muslim nation before being forced into Catholicism.