Firstly when someone comes to us with false accusations that Islam is a violent religion, we would like to object by saying that all of the wars fought by the Prophet (s) were in self-defense and Islam was not spread by the sword, rather it was spread by the excellent morality of the Prophet (s).
Secondly yes, the Muslims after him did conquer territories in the name of Islam but did so by un-Islamic practices. The methods used by the first three khulafa during their reign were not the practice of the Prophet (s). We, as Shia Muslims, do not accept them as our role models or examples and do not support the terror that they havocked on the Muslim community after the death of the Holy Prophet (s), especially their murdering Fatima daughter of the Prophet (as) in their quest for power.
There is a great difference in the so-called Islam which was from the Ahl ul Saqifa vs. the Islam of Ghadir. When we refer to the true Islamic practices and the way that things should be, we need to look at the practices of those who truly followed the Prophet (s), and by saying this we mean, the 12 Imam’s (as) after him.
There are many Qur’anic verses which if collected show that jihad and war are secondary & extraordinary & that peace is the primary ruling. In a hadith, Imam ‘Ali (A) spoke to his troops before meeting the enemy at the battle of Siffin: “Do not fight them until they begin to fight, for you by the grace of Allah have the just cause, and by leaving them until they start on you, you will have another just cause over them.”
He also said to his son al-Hassan (A): “Do not call to combat.”
Look also at this hadith related by Imam al-Sadiq (A) who said: “The Messenger of Allah when he wanted to send out a troop he called them and bid them sit before him. He then said to them: Go out in the name of Allah and by Allah and in the way of Allah and according to the religion of the Messenger of Allah. Do not handcuff or tie up (the prisoners of war), do not mutilate (even the dead), and do not betray people. Do not kill the old man, the child or the woman, and do not cut down a single tree except when you are forced to do so. And if any Muslim be he lofty or lowly gives a man of the Polytheists sanctuary, then his safety must be secured so that he hears the word of Allah. If he follows you then he is your brother in religion. If he refuses then give him his sanctuary and seek the help of Allah regarding him.
لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ
« Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error» (2:256)
This means that we must clearly explain the right path to people; its own reality, is manifest. There is no place for the use of compulsion in religion, no one must be obliged to accept the religion of Islam. This verse is explicit in its meaning.
In the Qur’anic commentaries it is written that an Ansari who had previously been a polytheist had two sons who had converted to Christianity. These two sons had become fascinated by Christianity and very devoted to it, but their father was now a Muslim and upset that his sons had become Christians. He went to the Holy Prophet and said to him: “Rasul Allah! What can I do to these sons of mine who have become Christians? Whatever I have tried, still they do not accept Islam. Do you give me permission to force them to leave their religion and become Muslims?” The Prophet said: “No. La ikraha fid-din, there is no compulsion in religion.”
Another famous verse is: « Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious…» (16:125)
The verse asks people to invite others to the path of your Rabb, not with the use of the sword, but with beautiful admonitions and advice: « …and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious… » (16:125) This says that we must dispute beautifully those who dispute with us. This verse has introduced clearly the way for Islam to be embraced.
In another verse we are told: «Say, “The truth is from your Lord”: Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it)…» (18:29) This verse makes clear that faith and rejection must be freely chosen, and cannot be forced onto others. Islam says that whoever wants to believe will believe, and whoever does not want to, will not.
There is also this verse: «If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe! » (10:99)
These verses clarify the idea of jihad in Islam & make clear that jihad in Islam is not that which some self-interested parties have said it is. These verses clarify that Islam’s aim is not compulsion; that it does not command Muslims to raise the sword over the head of whoever is not a Muslim and offer the simple choice of Islam or death. That this is not the purpose of jihad.