Note: This is
the story of Imtiaz Shams who says he has left Islam and is now helping others
do the same. This young man has been a devout Muslim since his childhood. But
now, an ex-Muslim. Having grown up in Saudi Arabia, he is like many other young
Muslims, particularly in Turkey, who are leaving Islam, some to become Atheist
or Christian, but mostly to become Deist, who believe in God but not in any
religion. I think we Muslims should seek to understand this phenomenon as much
as that of radical Islamism which is attracting tens of thousands of our
children. Merely castigating them as crazy or apostate is not enough. This
approach is not helpful at all. We should try to explore the roots of the
problem. What is attracting some of our most intelligent, well-educated, youth,
who are also well-versed in Islamic theology to violent extremism and some to
altogether leaving the religion. Let us listen to Imtiaz Shams’s story and
ponder. This might do us some good. – Editor
By Imtiaz Shams
Feb 17, 2016
The first thing you need to know about
ex-Muslims is that the best term in Arabic to describe us is basically a swear
word: Murtad, meaning someone who "turns their back" on Islam.
The word has a dirty, spit-on-the-ground feeling to it, with a rolling
"R" and a sharp drop at the end. This is where you need to start if
you want to even begin unpacking the ubiquitous, systematic discrimination we
face that can pervade all aspects of our lives.
Also Read: Muslims
Need To Reflect Why So Many Millions of Us Are Leaving Islam for Christianity
or Simply Calling Ourselves Ex-Muslim
One key form of discrimination is the
erasure or downplaying of our experiences through stereotypes, the most common
of which is, "You probably weren't a real Muslim." I spent half my
life growing up in Saudi Arabia, travelling to Makkah every year for Umrah, a
holy pilgrimage. My first book was a gorgeous red and gold-trimmed copy of the
Riyad us-Saliheen, a compilation of Hadiths (transmitted sayings and actions)
of the Prophet Muhammad and his Sahaba (companions). I've been praying,
fasting and memorizing the Quran since as long as I can remember and would
devour books proving Islam's truth through scientific miracles and its moral
Also Read: Why
Are The Muslims Converting To Christianity - A Soul Searching Exercise?
My family moved to the UK just before 9/11,
and many Muslims will understand what I mean when I say the atmosphere changed
after that day. At school boys gave me the nickname "terrorist" and
to this day I still own a shirt where some of them drew explosives and bombs on
my last day of high school. That discrimination didn't affect what was then a
deep and abiding love for Islam — it just strengthened it.
So what happened? If everything was geared
towards me spending my life as a practicing Muslim, why would I leave? One of
the key tenets of orthodox Islam is its perfect nature and the infallibility of
the Quran, two claims I unwaveringly held on to for two decades. But as I grew
older and my critical thinking developed, the accepted truths about the
morality of the Prophet's actions and the miracles described in the Quran got
harder to swallow.
I stopped believing mountains were
"stakes" or "pegs," protecting the Earth from earthquakes.
Ironically, mountains are actually most common where earthquakes are most
plentiful: in tectonic zones.
I no longer believed that Islam had come
down to slowly phase out the loathsome institution of slavery. Instead I began
to feel that the institutionalization of slavery in Islamic scripture under the
auspices of "prisoners of war" allowed for millions of Africans and
other non-Arabs to be taken as slaves by the various Caliphates, in some places
exceeding even the horrific Transatlantic slave trade.
I had thought that Islam had given women
equal rights to men, and this may or may not have been true if we were talking
about 1,400 years ago. However, taken literally the same scripture can be used
to reduce the inheritance and legal rights of women, enforce certain
ritualistic clothing and practices on women but make them either a choice or
non-existent for men, ban women from marrying non-Muslims but extend that right
to men... the list went on and on in my mind.
Related Article: Role of Dawah in Islam: Islamic Dawah at This Moment Must
Focus Inwards and Not Outwards
Yet through all this I could not internally
accept I had left Islam because I didn't know I could leave. The very idea that
one could be a practicing Muslim but then leave Islam was completely and
utterly alien to me. I was finally forced to accept I no longer believed in
Islam at the beginning of 2012, but I had no identity to go to and nobody who
understood what I was going to speak to. My friend Aliyah described this stage
as being like an "alien in your own skin," and I felt like a complete
Another feeling that hovered over my
leaving Islam was fear. Islam had presented itself as a complete and objective
blueprint for my life, in charge of dictating my role in this world and my
relationship to death and an afterlife. This left me believing that without the
religion, even if I lived life making a difference in this world I would no
longer be Abd Allah, a slave of Allah, and thus my life would be
aimless. It told me that that apocalyptic Yawm al-Qiyamah (day of
judgement) would come when I would be judged as an apostate, one of the worst
of sins, and put into Jahannum (hell). The language around hell in Islamic
scripture can be terrifying — is it any wonder many new ex-Muslims have to cope
with the anxiety it creates?
Related Article: Why
So Many Turks Are Losing Faith in Islam
This period of fear and isolation did not
last very long as I quickly found others out there when I stumbled on a Reddit
group called /r/exmuslim. Suddenly I had access to thousands of active
ex-Muslims, their stories, advice and experiences of discrimination. Almost all
of these Redditors were anonymous because of the inherent physical and social
risks to leaving Islam, so I began to reach out. I came up with a vetting
protocol, carefully checking people out one at a time and hosting private
ex-Muslim socials of sometimes up to 60 people. Sharing your story for the
first time with another ex-Muslim is exhilarating, and there were so many of us
to share with! Sure we still felt like aliens, but there were a lot of us
aliens and we felt more comfortable in our own skin.
Around this time, I had a chance meeting
with two gay lawyers who gave me some advice: what really changed for LGBTQ
people in Britain was not just that they organized into communities but that
they began to come out publicly. This resonated strongly with me so I joined
forces with Aliyah Saleem, a feminist ex-Muslim activist, and we started what
grew to become "Faith to Faithless," an organization that creates
online and offline platforms to promote apostate voices.
The very first Faith to Faithless event was
a year ago at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). Although we had members
of the QMUL Islamic society and some Da’wah (preaching) groups
leafleting our event, it was a massive success. Some of the ex-Muslims we met
there have since spoken at other events. Although we received support from the
wider public (including Muslims), we also received plenty of hate mail and
abuse. I've had people spit on the ground and call me a Murtad, while
insults to female Faith to Faithless speakers are always framed in disgustingly
sexist terms. Even worse is that we've often been let down by the very people
who should be helping us, including some feminist and leftist activists who
have used racialised terms like "native informant" to describe us,
undermining our agency as a minority within a minority.
As you would imagine, many ex-Muslims
contact Faith to Faithless for advice or urgent help and have faced abuse in
different forms. Some, although accepted as members of their family, are
constantly told that they are going to "burn in hell" and should repent.
Others are forced out into the streets with no financial support whatsoever.
Some are physically abused, such as one ex-Muslim girl who was kicked in the
stomach by her brother and then locked into her room by her parents.
It's important to note that not all Muslims
have treated ex-Muslims in this way. Some of the most important voices to me
were my Muslim friends who privately messaged me giving me their support and
love. We need to be able to stand together to fight both anti-Muslim and
ex-Muslim discrimination, which can often go hand-in-hand. If you're a young
ex-Muslim who has left their faith and feels alone or isolated, get in touch.
You are definitely not alone.
To Naseer Ahmed.Sorry to jump in between your and hatts off.Your relgion so called Islam itself is based on null hypothesis no statistical evidence but an statement utter by one person and believed by others( and those who do not belive Sura Touba used).What can be proved from Muslims action since 1400 hundred years Satan is no other than Allah and Mohmmad was his/her/? Propgater through violence.
of Understanding Correctly, the Attributes of Allah – Kalam, Al-Alim,
Al-Qadeer, Al-Muqtadi – Part Two
. Say: "Do you verily disbelieve in Him Who created the earth in
two Days And you set up rivals with Him That is the Lord of all that exists.'')
(10. And He placed therein firm mountains from above it( MIN FAUQIHA), and He blessed
it, and measured therein its sustenance in four Days equal for all those who
ask.) – Tafseer Ibn Kathir
Aur rakh diya unmein bhari pahaad upar se( MIN FAUQIHA). – Tafseer-e-Quran Urdu by
Allama Shabbir Usmani
The only verse that describes mountains as pegs is 78:7. The rest are about their being firmly fixed. A river may change
its course, but a mountain does not move from its place.
Answering Islam an Islamophobic site, concede that mountains have deep roots
except volcanoes. They say: "It is semantically incorrect to equate
“roots” with “pegs” because “roots” are not the same as “pegs”. Roots are the
result of natural processes. In the case of mountains, the “roots” are created by
the collision, and subduction, of continental plates. “Pegs” are made by humans
and are driven into the ground by humans. It should also be mentioned that not
all mountains, such as volcanoes, have roots."
The verses talk about mountains and not volcanoes or hills created by deposits and
piling up of sand. The argument of Answering Islam is about semantics and
not the fact that a mountain is like a peg or that it has deep roots.
A metaphor or similitude is never an exactitude. There is a difference between a similitude and
an exactitude which escapes the Islamophobes. Yes, a mountain is what comes out
from below and a peg is what is driven in from above, but that is not what the
comparison is about. This nit-picking is dumb literalism. Just like a peg is
firmly fixed and stays in place unless uprooted, mountains have deep roots and are
therefore firmly fixed and do not shake or move about. The description is
And yes, describing the mountains as pegs requires deep knowledge of the geological processes which didn't exist in the 7th century.