One of my friends here visited official website of our Ahmadia - a peaceful community in Islam and suggested me reading an essay titled “Jihad with Sword” as mentioned in the OP. I continue giving an excerpt from it next .
Kindly read the essay and feel free to comment here, for a friendly discussion:
"The circumstances under which this measure had been resorted to have nothing to do with the spread of religion; they are connected with the preservation of life. Briefly, they are as follows:
The savage inhabitants of the deserts of Arabia, who could hardly distinguish right from wrong, conceived a hatred towards Islam in its early days and became its bitterest enemies. The reason of this hatred may be easily conceived. When the unity of God and the Islamic truths were preached openly to idolatrous Arabs and convincing arguments against idol worship were impressed upon their minds and they were told how degrading it was for the noblest of God’s creatures to bow submission to stones, they found themselves unable to meet the adherents of the new faith upon argumentative ground.
This exposure led to a motion in favour of Islam among the more reasonable of them. The ties of relationship were cut asunder, the son parted from his parents and brother from his brother. This exasperated them the more and they saw plainly that if their fathers’ false religion was to be saved, excessive measures must be taken to stop the ingress into the new religion.
The new converts to Islam were therefore violently persecuted and no efforts were spared to block the way to the new faith. Those acquainted with early Muslim history know full well what barbarous and cruel treatment was meted out to the early converts, and how many were murdered in cold blood. But those harsh measures did not prevent people from the acceptance of truth, for even a superficial glance is enough to convince a man of the reasonableness and purity of Islam as against idolatry.
At length when the implacable foes of Islam saw that severe persecution availed but little and that their ancient religion was threatened to be swept away in the current of Muslim reason, they planned the death of the Prophet himself. But their designs were frustrated. Almighty God saved His messenger and took him to Medina.
The unbelievers, however, could not rest in their homes so long as they heard that the religion they had persecuted was gaining ground in another place. They pursued the Muslims to their new abode, and nothing but their extirpation could satisfy them. What could Islam do under the circumstances but defend itself? For what fault were Muslims to be mercilessly butchered and not allowed to protect their lives?
Why should not the inveterate persecutors have been brought to retribution and just punishment? The Muslim battles were therefore not undertaken for gaining converts but to protect innocent Muslims lives. Can an unbiased judgement accept the conclusion that Islam was unable to prove its reasonableness as against savage Arabs? Can an unprejudiced mind believe that men who had sunk down so low as to worship images and lifeless things and who indulged in every manner of vice, could yet vanquish the noble religion of Islam on intellectual grounds, and that failure in proof led it to resort to the sword for increasing the number of its followers?
Those who have advanced such objections against Islam have been guilty of grave injustice, inasmuch as they have concealed the true state of facts.
It is, however, true that the Muslim Maulvis and the Christian missionaries are equally to blame for this unjust charge against Islam. The ignorant Maulvis while pretending to support Islam have by their repeated inculcation, ingrafted the false doctrine of Jihad upon the minds of the unenlightened public who were misled by the fatwas of the Maulvis on the one side and the objections of the Christian Missionaries, whom they took for learned men, on the other.
The doctrine of Jihad being thus supported by the evidence of two opposing witnesses, its validity could not be questioned by the masses. Had the Missionaries taken a different course and with true honesty declared that the fatwas of the Maulvis were based on ignorance of the early Islamic history, and that the circumstances which then rendered an appeal to arms necessary for Muslims, did not exist any more, the idea of Jihad would long have been eradicated from the face of the earth.
But they never looked to the consequences and a misdirected zeal for their own religion cast a veil over their judgements in grasping the truth.Unquote