Initially, when Islam was a fledgling teaching, Muhammad taught that Muslims should peacefully persuade people to follow Islam. But when Muhammad fled from Mecca to Medina in 622, his followers in Mecca faced persecution. Then, he advised them that fighting for Islam was allowed, but only in defense or to retrieve possessions that have been stolen.
Later, as Islam was spreading, Muhammad encouraged Muslims to take initiative in war to spread Islam-including going on the offense to kill people who didn't believe or convert-except for four holy months out of the year. "When the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and give alms, then leave their way free" (Sura 9:5). Muhammad also taught that the only way to be guaranteed to be accepted into paradise was to die as you were spreading Islam.
Muhammad's final teaching on jihad is what a majority of Muslim scholars declare to be the final and authoritative revelation about the topic since later revelation trumps earlier revelation in Islam. With that interpretation, Muhammad's final teaching on jihad removes all restrictions on fighting to spread Islam because the Koran teaches that jihad should be the practice of any Allah-honoring Muslim. There are over one hundred Suras-passages in the Koran-that command violence or murder of infidels, or people who do not choose to follow Allah.
But within Islam there are various responses to this teaching. Many cultural Muslims focus on the passages in the Koran that talk about peace and religious tolerance. In fact, every Muslim that I have known over the years has practiced and promoted peace and religious tolerance. These Muslims do not practice jihad because they argue that the passages in the Koran about jihad were solely relevant during Muhammad's time.
But Koranic Muslims and militant Muslims agree with the majority of Islamic scholars and believe that the commands to practice jihad for the spread of Islam is universal and for all time. These groups of Muslims believe it's their religious duty to kill and die for the spread of Islam. Muhammad is seen as the perfect man in Islam, and his militant actions are to be as immoral-such as lying-are overlooked if done in the name of spreading Islam or when interacting with non-Muslims. Koranic and militant Muslims will often pose as cultural and peaceful Muslims if it will be beneficial to jihad.
Regardless of the mixed interpretations of jihad within Muslims, it is universally believed within Islam that dying to spread the religion is the only way to guarantee entrance into paradise. It is seen as the highest, most honorable act. And regardless of whether the command to kill non-Muslims was a command for a select period of time or for all time, it was once commanded, which provides insight into the nature of Allah.
Christians, who are reading this post should be asking... "what should be our response?" As Christians we must remember that our call is not to safety or comfort but our call is to spread the Gospel. Jesus's teaching in the Gospel of Matthew should be our guide when dealing with Muslims. Matthew 5:43-48, "You have head that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.' And again in Matthew 10: 16, Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpent and innocent as doves. Even if (and this is a big if) every Muslim was out to kill to spread Islam that does not give us license to run and hide and avoid them. We are called for the sake of the Gospel to love, serve and be hospitable to Muslims. When Muslims see our good deeds they will glorify our Father in Heaven instead of Allah.
In conclusion, you can not read the Koran without realizing how violent the religion of Islam is. Every Muslim must deal with these passages in the Koran. The majority of Muslims interpret the verses to apply only to Muhammad and promote peace and religious tolerance. Unfortunately, the focal minority within Islam who believe the verses apply to today and promote violence get the most time on television. As Christians we are called for the sake of the Gospel to love our enemies and to do good to those who seek to harm us. When we practice our good deeds among Muslims they will see our light and will give glory to God instead of Allah.
*Information from World Religion From a Christian Perspective by Walk Thru the Bible