Early Conversions to Islam

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Two of the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence and Islamic law (the Hanbali and Shafi'is) permit the forced conversion of Idolaters and pagans upon Islamic conquest (on pain of death), whereas the other two schools (the Hanafis and Malikis) maintain that the conquered practitioners of any religious faith are simply to be reduced to the status of Jizyah-paying dhimmis.[1][2]

All schools of Islamic law agree, however, that apostates, even if they convert to another monotheistic religion, must convert back to Islam, or be killed.

Early Islamic history

Under Abu Bakr

Immediately following Muhammad's death, the first caliph, Abu Bakr (one of Muhammad's companions), begun the Apostasy Wars (wars of Ridda) against nominally Muslim tribes who rejected his authority as caliph - an act that was deemed the equivalent of apostasy and thus merited death or, in this case, war. This stands out as the earliest instance of forced conversion in Islamic history at a massive level[3][4], though was justified by the Islamic death penalty for apostasy, which finds ample precedence in Islamic scriptures and multiples instantiations in Muhammad's life.

8th-19th centuries

In the 9th century, Samaritans of Palestine faced persecution and forced conversion at the hands of a rebel leader ibn Firāsa, against whom they were defended by Abbasid caliphate troops.[5]


In an invasion of the Kashmir valley in 1015, Mahmud of Ghazni plundered the valley, took many prisoners and carried out conversions to Islam.[6] In his later campaigns, in Mathura, Baran and Kanauj, again, many conversions took place. Those soldiers who surrendered to him were converted to Islam. In Baran (Bulandshahr) alone 10,000 persons were converted to Islam including the king. Al Qazwini writes that "when Mahmud went to wage religious war against India, he made great efforts to capture and destroy Somnath, in the hope that the Hindus would then become Muhammadans."[7] Tarikh-i-Yamini, Rausat-us-Safa and Tarikh-i-Ferishtah speak of construction of mosques and schools and appointment of preachers and teachers by Mahmud and his successor Masud. Wherever Mahmud went, he insisted on the people to convert to Islam. [8] The raids by Muhammad Ghori and his generals brought in thousands of slaves in the late 12th century, most of whom were compelled to convert as one of the preconditions of their freedom.[8][9][10][11] Qutb ud-Din Aibak is said to have demolished almost 1,000 temples and built mosques on their foundations.[12] Sikandar Butshikan (reigned 1394-1417) demolished Hindu temples and forcefully converted Hindus in Kashmir.[13]


Ismail I, founder of the Safavid dynasty in Persia, decreed Twelver Shia Islam to be the official religion of state and ordered executions of a number of Sunni intellectuals who refused to accept Shiism.[14][15] Non-Muslims faced frequent persecutions and at times forced conversions under the rule of his successors.[16] After the capture of the Hormuz Island, Abbas I required local Christians to convert to Islam, Abbas II granted his ministers authority to force Jews to become Muslims, and Sultan Husayn decreed forcible conversion of Zoroastrians.[17] In 1839, during the Qajar era the Jewish community in the city of Mashhad was attacked by a mob and subsequently forced to convert to Islam.[18] Bagrat V was an Eastern Orthodox Christian. Timur invaded Georgia and defeated and captured him. Bagrat agreed to convert to Islam.[19] Only after this, he was released. Timur plundered state of Jammu in 1399. He forced the Hindu ruler of Jammu to become a Muslim.[20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28]


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  18. Pirnazar, Jaleh, "The "Jadid al-Islams" of Mashhad", Foundation for Iranian Studies, Bethesda, MD, USA: Foundation for Iranian Studies, http://www.fis-iran.org/en/irannameh/volxix/mashhad-jewish-community. 
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  22. Prof. Sukhdev Singh Charak. Maharaja Ranjitdev and the rise and fall of Jammu Kingdom, from 1700 A.D. to 1820 A.D. The Dogra-Pahari Itihas Kendra, Pathankot, 1971.
  23. Sorabji Jehangir and F.S. Jehangir Taleyarkhan. Princes and Chiefs of India: A Collection of Biographies, with Portraits of the Indian Princes and Chiefs and Brief Historical Surveys of their Territories. Waterlow and Sons Limited, London, 1903.
  24. Prof. M.L.Kapur (ed.). Maharaja Hari Singh (1895-1961). Har-Anand Publications, New Delhi, 1995.
  25. Revised List of Ruling Princes, Chiefs and Leading Personages of the Jammu and Kashmir State and the Gilgit Agency. The Manager of Publications, Delhi, 1939.
  26. Karan Singh. Autobiography 1931-1967. Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1994.
  27. Mohinder Singh. Raja Ram Singh, the forgotten prince and his times (1861-1899). Gajral Printers, Sanyaj Gandhi Nagar, Jammu, 1990.
  28. G.M.D. Sufi. Kashīr, Being a History of KashmirFrom the Earliest Times to Our Own. 2 Vols. Light & Life Publishers, New Delhi, 1974.