Persons who have left Islam

yBeayf, in another thread, you posted:

I’m interested in hearing the story of your time in Islam. How did you become a Muslim? Is there anything that prompted or inspired you to leave Islam?

My interest has to do with the fact that I’m a former Muslim myself. :slight_smile:

WRS

PS. I put this in the “Great Debates” forum because it deals with religion and could potentially expand over certain touchy theological issues. If this was misplaced, I would be eternally grateful for a moderator to move it to the proper forum.

I’ve recounted the story of my travels to and from Islam in a pit thread a while back, but the short version of it is that I was raised Catholic by very devout parents, but the post-Vatican II Catholicism never really impressed me, and I unfortunately had little exposure to traditional Catholicism.

<ahem> Let me try that again…

I’ve recounted the story of my travels to and from Islam in a pit thread a while back, but the short version of it is that I was raised Catholic by very devout parents, but the post-Vatican II Catholicism never really impressed me, and I unfortunately had little exposure to traditional Catholicism. I was an on-again off-again atheist/neopagan for several years. My senior year of high school, I read the Qur’an, thought “cool”, and decided to convert to Islam. It was exotic, as well as offering a very tightly knit community of believers, coherent worldview, and meaningful ritual worship. I stayed with it for about a year, and then left for various reasons: I was sick of the nitpickery of the Wahhabis and Deobandis that filled the mosques around here, I had some issues with the claimed historical transmission of the Qur’an, and I found that while the Islamic theological worldview was coherent, it wasn’t very intellectually satisfying (for me, at least); a lot of things are asserted, but the only intellectual justification for them is that “Allah has willed it so”.

By this time I had discovered traditional Catholicism, and attended Tridentine masses for awhile, but my true revelation came when an Orthodox friend invited me to Divine Liturgy; I absolutely fell in love with the services, and started attending Orthodox churches regularly. As I studied more into it, I found that it had a true continuity with the patristic age and the early church that Catholicism did not. It also had a serious respect for the free will of man, whereas Islam leads to a system similar to that of the hyper-Calvinists, where we are little more than automatons already destined for heaven or hell.

Your turn now. :slight_smile:

Three questions to WeRSauron:

  1. What are your beliefs now?

  2. Where are you from?

  3. Why did you leave Islam?

Thanks, yBeayf!

Now, to reciprocate and also to answer Silocke’s question:
I cannot put a label currently on my beliefs. Definitely Christian, but I am not active in any Christian denomination, although Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints appeal to me the most. (I am officially a member, albeit inactive, of the third organization listed.) In addition, there are elements from other religious systems (which may or may not have an echo in Christianity) that I believe in and practice.

My ancestors are from the South Asian continent (Pakistan and India, and maybe even Afghanistan), so our relatives practice a very South Asian type of Islam. My immediate family is a bit distant from this, though. My father believes all organized religions, including Islam, are evil. My mother doesn’t like superstitions in and additions to Islam. My sister is a Westernized Muslim (she believes, may even pray, but also drinks, eats pork, etc.). My brother believes but does nothing about it.

I was born a Muslim and for a time was very into the religion. But as I grew older, I became disillusioned by the state of affairs in the Muslim world, and eventually decided to renounce Islam. This renunciation was private, and continues to remain so. Meaning that I do not openly proclaim my renunciation in a manner that the renunciation can be traced to me personally. I could go on and on and on as to why I feel Islam is, well, less than adequate, but I’ll not do that now. Suffice it to say that the more I study about Islam, the more adamant my separation becomes.

I have been Muslim (obviously), a neo-pagan eclectic witch. I went through a phase of believing in Twelver Shia Islam, and a similar phase believing in Nizari Qasim-Shahi Ismaili Shia Islam (known also as Aga Khani Islam). A have been an active Latter-day Saint, and am currently an aleyo creyente. I have very, very strong positive feelings towards Judaism. (I’ve almost converted to Judaism three times so far. Various reasons held me back.) My current arrangement allows me to fully practice what I believe, fully explore ways to bring into action beliefs and philosophies I have long held, study truthfully at the same time religions and religious movements and phenomena without blinding myself with faith-imposed blinders, and to keep it all on a level that brings no harm or undue consternation upon me.

Leaving Islam is not something easy. It’s even more difficult to admit to such a thing. Former Muslims who have had strong contacts with Muslims would know what I mean - Muslims cannot comprehend why anyone would leave Islam. Part of this has to do with the fact that accepting Islam also means accepting a certain paradigm of the world: leaving Islam would mean changing that paradigm radically, which is something people cannot easily or comfortably do.

Regarding traditional Christianity: there is certainly something magnificent in ancient liturgies. I went to only one Orthodox service, but it was not as traditional as others might be. It was in a Greek Orthodox Church, a modern one (with pews and all). The service was in English (with Greek thrown in here and there). I would love to go to an Orthodox service that is more traditional, but I’ll need someone to take me. Recently, however, I’ve planned to start going to St. John Cantius Church, which is a bit away from here but well worth it. They have pre-Vatican II masses, including Tridentine high masses with magnificent music.

:slight_smile:

Questions? Comments? Revelations? Anyone else want to come out of the woodwork and state why they felt inspired to leave Islam?

WRS

It confuses me how people can pick and choose religions. Surely what you believe is not based on conscious choice???
Sorry to ‘dump’ this in here, but I am just saying I don’t get it.

I am an atheist. Not by choice but because I find it difficult, nigh on impossible to believe there is a God. I am baffled that a strong belief can be ignored for the sake of choosing what suits you best or what you like best.
I’ll get my coat.

Excellent comments, Lobsang.

Why a person follows a religion is based on many factors. Usually, people are born into a religion, and that is all the religion they are familiar with. Whether they are faithfully active in it or not depends on their individual personality, but most remain in that mindset, whether knowingly or not.

Others “search” for the “truth”: these people assume that the truth or spiritual truth can be known or found. People base their acceptance of a version of the truth on many elements: how it makes them feel, how rational it may be, how their mind/soul/spirit/heart reacts to it, etc.

Others choose a religion based on what they like or with what they feel comfortable with. For these people, a traditional liturgy may or may not be the most truthful and divine-sanctioned expression or worship: they really don’t care. What they do care about is that the liturgy makes them feel good, makes them feel connected with God, and/or appeals to their senses or mentality. These people also determine by themselves what should be: God must be such and such, and not like such and such. These people believe their senses inform them of what reality is or should be. Thus, a God, who is called just, who condemns innocent babies or others to Hell would not be acceptable because that does not fit their concept of “just.” This element is significant, because there has been a shift in the theology of mainline denominations, changing to fit the mainstream mentality as to what “just,” “merciful,” etc., are to mean.

People who believe strongly in God cannot see how others cannot believe in God. And in the same way, as you stated, those who do not believe in God (or who believe there is no God) cannot fathom how or why others would believe in God.

The fact remains that whatever reasons or circumstances there may be, everyone chooses a religion (whether it’s continuing what one was born in, whether choosing one actively, or whether choosing not to believe in one at all), and their choice is something that very little will shake - they hold on to it fervently, cherishing it more than life itself (as the existence of “martyrs” attests to).

WRS - We write long time. :slight_smile: We love many words.

Moderator’s Note: New thread title, so the rest of us will have some notion as to what the thread is about.

<<< Lobsang writes:

It confuses me how people can pick and choose religions. Surely what you believe is not based on conscious choice???..

[snip]

I am an atheist. Not by choice but because I find it difficult, nigh on impossible to believe there is a God. I am baffled that a strong belief can be ignored for the sake of choosing what suits you best or what you like best.>>>
I disagree with both these elements (respectfully).

First off, when it comes to my own ponderings on what can only be termed “religious philosophy”, I am deliberately slow on forming an opinion until I have garnered as much evidence (as I subjectively deem fit) so that I can begin the process of making up my own mind about matters. I would say my beliefs are very much based on “conscious choice”. Maybe not all of them - I do believe in plenty of things just on a whim - however, upon nearly all the subjects that I consider of greatest importance, I have formulated my beliefs via the (above mentioned) process of deliberation.

I would therefore state that my beliefs are greatly a consequence of my own personal “choice” - and I have not been born with these particular ideals. In fact, in some cases, my perspective on certain issues is so contorted from what everyone else in my immediate environment believes to be true, that I often feel (or at least had felt for a good majority of my life) alienated.

There are many different ways (some of them hinted at by WeRSauron) that this can occur.

For example, through intensive study. For me personally, this came from a combination of my understanding of science along with certain philosophical viewpoints that I came to adapt. This was by no means the complete guide to my personal philosophy of life, as it came in to creation. However, it was a beginning.

There is also deep introspection. I gather this is what a lot of people refer to when they say, “I am seeking the truth within myself”. I think that it’s a personal journey to find out who you really are, what matters to you most and what you do and don’t agree with in a particular belief system.

For myself personally, I could never get to grips with this type of “soul searching”. It’s highly likely that during my years of isolation and the need to be socially accepted (I felt that I never was, either in my family or amongst my peers), I never got to find out who I really was. If you had asked me the question “what do you really like or enjoy?”, perhaps for me, I would not have known (at the time) an answer. It felt that in a sense (and perhaps to a certain extent it still does), I had eluded myself.

So for me, answers came in a far more (what I considered to be) logical and scientific manner. I would study of things based on evidence and scientific enquiry. I would use these “concrete” facts to form my philosophy (or in forming my philosophy) of the world.

And for me personally, I’m satisfied that I’m on the right track.
That’s why I can’t agree with your assertion, Lobsang. Because for myself I truly feel I have “picked” my beliefs. There were many ways I could have been led one way or the other, but I made a conscious search for what I defined (rather ambiguously ) as “the truth”.

<<< WeRSauron writes:
The fact remains that whatever reasons or circumstances there may be, everyone chooses a religion (whether it’s continuing what one was born in…>>>
By definition, I disagree with this. The very word “choose” entails a propensity to pick something out through preference.

Those that are born into particular circumstances, such as which religion to follow, do not have this conscious choice. You can argue that they choose to follow a religion by the mere inclusion of its customs and rituals in thier everyday practice, but there are obviously factors (such as peer pressure, pressure to conform, stoning of infidels) that influence these people. In many cases, these factors are paramount in guiding them towards thier decisions.

For example, I knew that when I formulated my opinions on these matters, that I had the complete freedom to do so. Obviously there were certain peer groups or organizations that had thier vested interest in me, however I could (relatively easily) choose to ignore them without fear from a lack of impunity.
Im sorry, I just do not see how being born into a particular belief system is equal to choosing that belief system.

However, I totally agree that you may form your own ideas and then still choose the belief system you were born into i.e. you can grow to believe in your designated belief system, through conscious choice.

Yes. Though I can somewhat understand how someone can be religious despite being myself atheist, there’s something I really don’t get here. Both you and ** yBeayf ** have been everything under the sun : catholic, muslim, LDS, orthodox and pagans. Religion is supposed to be a deep experience, to have resonances in your view of the world, etc… How can you switch from a belief to a totally contradictory other like from Islam to neo-paganism? How can you change so utterly your worldview from one day to another, and not only once, but several times in a row, and each time being convinced that you get it right?
How religious were you, each time? Were your various religions really significant for you? What do you believe in, exactly?

if i had a general area for you, wersauron, i may be able to recommend an orthodox church that has a bit better music than the greek church. i understand the kind of church you mentioned. in the 60’s and 70’s many greek churches got into pews. if you know the service and can join in it helps a lot in some greek churches. although a good greek chant well done can be quite something.

in the us the greek church tends to be a bit more liberal than russian ones. some greek churchs even have organs in them! and they use them!!! i’m a bit baffled on how they get away with it, if i get the chance i’m telling the patriarch.

russian or russian based churches (oca) have the major (and many good minor) musicians going for them. in my church we can run through rachmaninov, archangelsky, rimsky korsakov, kedrov, etc in a service. a good choir or good congregation participation can really add to the service.

Reading your recap here, the conclusion is easy made.

  1. You went to The Religion Exchange Shop.
  2. You picked Islam because it looked “cool” and “exotic”.
  3. You thought that made you Muslim.
  4. You thought that you could not agree with how others you encountered played the game you choosed because it looked “cool” and “exotic”.
  5. Since you had no clue about Islam itself besides that it looked “cool” and “exotic” to you, you could not enter any argument with these people (and try to win it by pointing out to what Islam is supposed to be).
  6. Hence these people were for you a “reason” to find the toy not so exotic and cool anymore.
  7. You also had the idea that a few months playing with that cool and exotic looking toy made you an expert in matters like Al Qur’an as text.
    On this I can tell you that the experts themselves (and I am one) still have different views and disagreements on about every aspect, and even on the ones they more or less came to agree about. This is an never ending ongoing and very exciting discussion. Discoveries are made regularly, published, discussed/refuted… Just like in every other academic field.
    But I don’t need to tell you that, you know everything since you played a few months with the exotic cool Islam toy.
  8. You went once again to The Religion Exchange Shop and now found a toy that comes down to “making you feel good” and “liking the rituals”.
  9. Then you declare yourself to be able to display religion comparitive study and come to some amazing results.
    Not only the Orthodox get labelled, the poor catholics as well and the Muslims and Islam get a label that is amazing enough to me to run down my house to find to best mirror possible and take a good look at myself.
    I must be a very “exotic” weird Muslim… I don’t fit your description.
    I am not an automat, I don’t think God predestined me to what is named paradise or hell and I always follow and exercise my own free will (ask those who raised me and educated me what that maeans).
  10. You felt the need to come public with the drama that you once were “Muslim” while you only were playng a “cool” and “exotic” game with a religion. Next you state “reasons” why you felt the need to “leave Islam” while you don’t even have the slightest idea what Islam is about.

I’m sorry for you, but this can only provoke a compassionate smile with every Muslim.

In all of this you never seem to have given a second of your attention to God. In your view - and this comes across very clearly in your post - religion must be about and for you, not about and for God.

Maybe practicing what is described in this line - which is my device since I first read it when I was a teenager - can help you to understand that religion is not about you, but about God.

Quam salubre, quam iucundum et suave est sedere in solitudine et tacere et loqui cum Deo.

Salaam. A

If your mother thinks that superstitions and additions (custom or cultural) are Islam, then how far does her knowledge of the religion goes?

What have things that are solely worldly matters to do with Islam? Why should it make you “renouncing” Islam?
Seems to me that you only can focus on the outside instead of knowing that only the inside matters, which in fact means that you have no clue what religion (any religion) is supposed to be. Not about you, not about worldly matters, but about God and you worshipping God = not give value to worldly matters and not think about yourself, claiming that this is religion.

Maybe you should seek a better teacher or ask yourself the following: “Is it the world in which Islam is practiced these days that I study, or do I really study the religion as it is”.
I think you do the former and neglect the latter completely.

Next you went to the Religions Exchange Shop.

In my view it is extremely easy. You believe in God and the way Islam describes as the path towards God, or you do not believe in this.

There is truth in this. I can not understand why someone would go to The Religion Exchange Shop to change the belief in One God (read AQ 112, al-ichlaas) into one incorporating all the side jumps to make of that one God 3 in 1. Shopping for Judaism would have been much more logical. But you even managed to come to believe that God could become human… This alone gives proof that you have no understanding of Islam at all.

It depends on the environment/society you live in and with.

Regarding you comments on Christianity: I also like the Orthodox rites very much and especially the male choirs (and especially the Russian male choirs) I have a CD collection of this. You however talk about it as if that is something you can make your decision on for jumping from one religion to an other.

Maybe you could read my post to YB above and also start practicing to talk to God instead of shopping of a religion you can follow because it can please yourself.
Salaam. A

This isn’t quite fair. I was raised Catholic, but stopped believing in it as soon as I had the mental capability to do so. I was never a very serious pagan, but just kind of floated along believing whatever took my fancy. My conversion to Islam was the first time I really took religion seriously.

Actually, I picked Islam because the Qur’an spoke deeply to me (and it still does). It is an extremely beautiful book, I merely no longer believe it is the literal word of God.

Tell me, what do you call a person who believes the shahada, prays salat five times a day, pays the zakat, fasts during Ramadan, and intends to go on hajj when he can afford it?

Once again, I joined Islam because of the Qur’an, not because of any “coolness” or “exoticness”. I didn’t really try to argue with them, because I am not an expert in fiqh, and never claimed to be. I left that to the lone sufi at the masjid I attended, who himself rarely argued with them anymore, preferring to focus on his prayers rather than looking for bid’ah in every little thing. This was not the primary reason I left Islam, but it certainly did nothing to make me want to stay.

I have never claimed to be an expert on the Qur’an (I’m not even fluent in Arabic!). The fact remains, though, that scholars much more knowledgeable than I have serious issues with the Qur’an. Islam bases its claims of legitimacy on having the pure and incorrupt Qur’an, which they believe is the literal word of God, and I had read enough of these scholars to have doubts planted in my mind as to whether the Qur’an was really as unchanged and as original as the Muslims were claiming it to be.

I will admit that the Divine Liturgy was the initial reason for me being drawn to Orthodoxy, but there is much more that keeps me there. It was through studying the fathers and the writings of the Church that I found a belief system that I could wholly accept without reservations. In my studies, every time a new point of theology was taught to me, I found myself agreeing with it more and more, and points of Christian theology that had never before made sense to me, such as the crucifixion and hell, suddenly made perfect sense when explained by the Orthodox. And the very fact that I had converted to Islam and then left it meant that the priest at my church required me to wait a year and a half before I was allowed to convert to Orthodoxy.

Yes, I have no reservations declaring that I believe that Orthodoxy is true and Islam is not.

I agree completely.

Please, then, enlighten me with your wisdom and special insight about the true nature of Islam.

Oh, quit the condescending crap. If I didn’t think religion was about God, I’d still be vaguely pagan. Certainly, it would be a lot easier, and allow me to be a practicing homosexual as well. Based on your comments to myself as well as to WRS, you seem to think that anybody who leaves Islam simply doesn’t understand what it was about, which is horseshite. A person can understand Islam and still be honestly convinced that it isn’t true, same as with any other belief system. There’s nothing special about it in that regard.

Someone who says to have picked a religion because it looked “cool” and “exotic” does not come across as taking it “serious” to me.

This is a popular believe among Muslims which in my opinion can’t do no harm for the “every day Muslim”. Yet it is my field of study to discuss and doubt this claim. I would not be much of a historian if I would not be capable and willing of discussing an important part of my studyfields. That does not make me lesser a Muslim then those who do not ( or do not want) to discuss this issue.

Someone who follows the outward rules of a religion is not necessary religious.
If you say you believed the shahada then how come that after a few months you all of a sudden did not believe it? Seems to me you only believed what at that particular moment was “cool” and “exotic” to believe in. Hence you didn’t have the solid background and solid belief necessary to overcome the minor issues you bring up as reason for you to “disbelieve” what you claim you “believed”.

I think you did not read what I wrote in my former reply.

We had already a few threads about this on GD in which I posted some answers to questions and remarks.

But what has this issue to do with your belief? My research did not shake mine in the least. You don’t even need to read AQ to know that God exists (which you can find clearly stated in AQ itself if you are an attentive reader).

Next you switch back to Christianity with its doctrine of the Trinity, say that you find this completely logical. And then you claim that I should take it serious that you claim you “believed in the shahada”?

Finally you met someone who took his religion serious enough to doubt the reason why you wanted to convert to it. I can only applaud that priest for his seriousness and caution.

You can declare whatever you want to declare. Yet this only underscores that you never took the shahada and Islam in general serious. (By the way: If you ever seriously had studied AQ, you would know about the statement that God created many ways).

There is no wisdom and special insight needed.

  1. You need to accept that God is your creator and the Creator of All.
  2. You need to read and understand sura 112 and believe it and you need to know that religion is not about you, but about God.
  3. You need to read and understand surat Al Fatiha.
  4. You take AQ as a guidance about how to live a good life and a guidance on the path towards meeting the One who created you.
  5. Death is the last step one takes towards meeting the Creator.
  6. Following this, and in the light of the eternity of that after-life, this life (and all its humanly worries) is utterly meaningless and of no importance at all.

If you follow these points you are already on your way to gain insight in what Islam is about.

What?

As I understand it, pagans do believe in God(s).

I am quite convinced that being a practicing homosexual is no obstacle for being Muslim, but that is an other discussion.

Depends on what you would classify as “understand it”.
Outside factors like cultures, behaviour of people who say they are Muslim, sects and dogmas that claim to be Islamic while they in fact are going against everything one can see as being so, are not “Islam”. They are by-products of human making and human imagination.

You can be honestly convinced of this, yet I shall not be convinced that you have an idea about what you are talking about when it comes to Islam.
Coolness and exotism is not Islam. Wahabbism is not Islam. Culture is not Islam. Islam is a religion and if that religion was brought to humanity via a prophet of God or not can be point of discussion. You do not need to “understand Islam” at all to find that a point of discussion.
Salaam. A

I said that I thought “cool” when I read the Qur’an. By that, I did not mean I thought it was trendy or I would be “cool” for following it, but that I thought the Qur’an was a good book and it spoke to me. In American usage, “cool” can mean things other than “trendy”. Islam’s exoticness was only one factor that led me to it, and through exposure, it quickly ceased being exotic. And, btw, I never found Orthodoxy “exotic”; the first Divine Liturgy I attended (which happened to be at an Arabic church) felt more familiar to me than any other religious service I had ever attended.

Hey, I still believe in the first half of it, and have no trouble confessing that there is no god but God. I just don’t think that Muhammad was His prophet.

I already believe this.

I understand surat al-Ikhlas just fine, but I disagree with the third verse. Verses 1, 2, and 4 I have no problem with.

I’ve read and I understand surat al-Fatihah. I’ve no problems with it as a prayer.

Here, I have a problem. The Qur’an has much that is good in it, but my ultimate reason for disagreeing with it is found in my objection to verse 3 of surat al-Ikhlas. I firmly believe that Christ is the only-begotten Son of God, and this has been evidenced too much in my personal life (in ways that I will not go into here) to disbelieve it just because al-Qur’an says so.

No, the resurrection is. After death, one meets God with one’s soul, but after the resurrection, one will meet Him with both one’s soul and one’s body.

This life is can be important, but only inasmuch as we serve God and our neighbor in it.

Not all of them.

So how come that at you can claim that at one point you “believed” this yet now you claim you do not believe this? (About the part of naming Muhammed being included to the shahada I personally have a problem but for whole other reasons)

If you have “a problem” with it, it only showes once again
1 That you do not understand it.
2. That you never believed in the shahada to begin with.

If you believe in a Trinity, you do not understand it at all. You have no idea about the importance it is given by Muslims and Islam in general. (It is not just by accident the opening sura of AQ.)

See above. You only confirm that you were never Muslim since you never believed in what is the core of the religion, which is clearly written out in al ikhlaas. You can’t find it clearer then there.

No, death is the last step you take in this life towards your meeting with God. When the Last Day comes you are already dead. Hence what happens then belongs already to the after-life. (AQ describes that you meet the Creator on the Day of Judgement).
Salaam. A

I already said, I believe in the first half. Ashhadu an laa ilaaha ill’Allah, wa Muhammad laa 'r-rasool ullah. At one point I believed he was, now I do not. I revised my belief based on new information. I really don’t know how to explain this any better than I already have.

So, in your view, it is not possible for someone to understand Islam and disagree with it?

So once someone believes in the shahada it is impossible for them to reject it? Are you sure you’re not really a Calvinist?

I understand the words, and I understand the implications Muslims attach to them. I disagree with those implications.

I once believed it, but have become convinced that it is incorrect. God both begets, and is begotten.

Here’s a debate where I know an atheist doesn’t belong, BUT

I’ve got to call “No True Scotsman” on Aldebaran for that one. I won’t claim to be an expert on belief, but it’s certainly possible to believe in and understand something, and later on think of it differently and not believe it. I admit that I do see where Alde is coming from with regard to yBeayf changing religions like some of us change socks, but since I don’t know yBeayf I can’t comment on his belief from that standpoint.