This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3| Volume 4 | Volume 5 | Volume 6

Religious tolerance and religious violence

To the myth of Islam being spread by the sword and maintained by the sword, we can reply with the direct words of the Prophet: “Will you then force men to believe when belief can come only from God?”

If comparisons mean anything, we can cite many examples in which the Islamic response to other religions was more benevolent and respectful than the Christian one.

When Spain was under Islamic rule, the Jews who lived there enjoyed a kind of golden age; when Christians came to power the result was the expulsion and disenfranchisement of both Jews and Muslims alongside the infamous Inquisition, a development that has no corresponding event in Islamic history.

At roughly the same time Spain was coming under Christian rule, the opposite was happening in Anatolia (present day Turkey). The result of the Islamic victory there, however, looked much different. While every Muslim was being driven from Spain, Constantinople (present day Istanbul in Turkey) remained the seat of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, with no real effort on the part of Muslims to either expel or convert the now vulnerable spiritual center.

The attitude of Muhammad toward other religious groups who existed under his rule was one of tolerance and mutual respect. He demanded of the Jews (and later the Christians) who lived in his lands merely that they pay a special tax in lieu of the Zakat, in this way contributing to the general welfare of the community, as is proper. Regarding the practice of their religion, he made charters, stating:

“the Jews who attach themselves to our commonwealth shall be protected from all insults and vexations; they shall have an equal right with our own people to our assistance and good offices: the Jews…and all others domiciled in Yathrib [Medina], shall…practice their religion as freely as the Muslims.”

The teaching of the Koran was clear on the question of forced conversion: “There can be no compulsion in religion.”[1]

What permits this attitude of tolerance is the allowance in Islam for the existence of other revelations that have a very real validity. This kind of openness, by and large absent from Christianity, is explicitly stated in the Koran:

“To every one have We given a law and a way…And if God had pleased, he would have made [all humankind] one people [of one religion]. But he hath done otherwise, that He might try you in that which He hath severally given unto you: wherefore press forward in good works. Unto God shall ye return, and He will tell you that concerning which ye disagree.”[2]

And this is further expanded in another surah, that other messengers were sent by God, some mentioned and some not:

“Verily We sent messengers before thee, among them those of whom We have told thee, and some of whom We have not told thee; and it was not given to any messenger that he should bring a portent save by Allah’s leave, but when Allah’s commandment cometh (the cause) is judged aright, and the followers of vanity will then be lost.”[3]

On the other hand, we should acknowledge that this tolerance was generally limited to other ‘People of the Book’, and that there are definite instances where Muhammad his enemies with the choice between conversion or death. Yet we should take care to understand what this meant. When an enemy was defeated, and if this enemy was one of the ignorant or godless peoples that surrounded the new faith, and because Islam was not strictly a ‘belief system’ but was, in a sense, identifiable with the political and economic orders as well, to insist on ‘submission’ in the Islamic sense is merely to insist that the enemy admit defeat and not remain an enemy. What else could we expect? This is not the same thing as searching out minority sects in one’s lands and placing them on the rack in order to discern how authentically they professed one faith or another. The situation is complex but we must be willing to draw distinctions, and when it was a question of conversion by force, it could usually be better framed as a question of survival and the establishment of a modicum of peace in a terribly violent context.

In closing we can simply say that the Muslim’s response to the accusation of being a ‘violent religion’ would be that Islam is, at the very worst, no more violent that Christianity. This is obvious to any objective appraisal of history, and is only veiled in the modern context because Christian nations no longer carry out their violence in the name of God, and in this way they are permitted to remain violence and to carry out violence all over the globe while congratulating themselves on how peaceful a religion Christianity is. They have created a convenient dichotomy wherein their violence is atheistic or at least secular while elsewhere they claim a Christian spirit, and who can disagree with such a one?

[1] Koran, 2:257.

[2] Koran 5:48.

[3] Koran 40:78.

Share This