What are we to make of the glaring contradiction between the Koran’s claim that “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:256) and the many other verses that call for war, slavery, and death to those who refuse to submit to Islam (9:5, et al)—to say nothing of the militant behavior of the prophet of Allah, Muhammad? This is the question Stephen M. Kirby examines in his new book, Islam’s Militant Prophet: Muhammad and Forced Conversion to Islam.
Rather than offer speculations or cite nearly 1,400 years of Islamic history that is heavy laden with forced conversions, Kirby answers the question in an objective and meticulous fashion—in a fashion that any Muslim will be hard pressed to counter: he focuses exclusively on the career of Muhammad, from its beginnings in 610 till his death in 632, as recorded in Islam’s primary sources, the Koran and Hadith, and as understood or interpreted by Islam’s most authoritative scholars, such as Ibn al-Kathir. Along the way, readers are provided useful explanations—again, directly from Islam’s learned scholars themselves—of arcane or misunderstood doctrines, such as abrogation, which is essential for any exegesis.
The long and short of it all?
The command of “no compulsion in Islam” was a unique command that had doctrinal authority for only a little over two years. It was abrogated both by the Sunnah and the Koran. Its short lifetime was preceded and followed by commands that non-Muslims were to be given the option of converting to Islam, fighting to the death, or, at times, paying the Jizyah. Muhammad was indeed the militant prophet of a militant religion that supported forced conversions to Islam.