Reflections on Islām’s Non-Believers

Reflections on Islām’s Non-Believers

Ignoring the emotionally stimulating subtleties – like starting by depicting an angry protest, for example, or conveniently cherry-picking clips of lectures and doing a voiceover immediately after the desired sentence is over  – the documentary alluded to some interesting points.

The overwhelming majority of the interviewees came from ‘extremely religious’ families of a Bangladeshi background. Being a first-generation British-born Bangladeshi myself, as well as someone traditionally educated in Sharīʿa, it did not take long to realise the interviewees all had a convoluted understanding of Islām. In fact, family photos of men with beardless faces and women with uncovered hair is enough to question whether the claim of being ‘extremely religious’ is even true. Had Islām truly been embedded in their hearts, they would don the Sunna attire on the outside.

Bad Parenting

Considering the beating of children a deed rewardable by entry into Paradise suggests the parents either followed a religion other than Islām, or misused their authority and fabricated their own laws. Sadly, a number of Bangladeshi parents who have not had an Islāmic education do cherry-pick parts of the religion to suit their fancy, while ignoring everything else that opposes their evil nature. The Qurʾān is clear when condemning such behaviour. It says:

 أَفَتُؤۡمِنُونَ بِبَعۡضِ ٱلۡكِتَٰبِ وَتَكۡفُرُونَ بِبَعۡضٖۚ فَمَا جَزَآءُ مَن يَفۡعَلُ ذَٰلِكَ مِنكُمۡ إِلَّا خِزۡيٞ فِي ٱلۡحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنۡيَاۖ 

“[…] Do you, then, believe in some parts of the Book and disbelieve in others? So, what can be the punishment of those among you who do that, except disgrace in the worldly life? […]”[1]

The children, therefore, seem to have run away not from Islām per se, but from an embarrassing case of bad parenting (and rightly so). This is what every interviewee seemingly had in common: the inability to demarcate between scripture and culture.

This becomes further evident from another fact the interviewees had in common – that is, they all seem to have left Islām at a tender age, some being only fourteen years old. Many teenagers and young adults are naturally inquisitive and begin their theological journey. At this stage, they are on a quest to find the truth. It is an adventure where questions will arise. The error of many parents, here, is to discard all questions and deem it taboo to discuss it. If anything, a healthy dialogue ought to be welcomed and the family should engage in both intellectually and spiritually stimulating conversations. The Qurʾān reminds us of the life of the prophet Ibrāhīm, who intellectually challenged his parents and community on more than one occasion. For example:

 أَلَمۡ تَرَ إِلَى ٱلَّذِي حَآجَّ إِبۡرَٰهِ‍ۧمَ فِي رَبِّهِۦٓ أَنۡ ءَاتَىٰهُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلۡمُلۡكَ إِذۡ قَالَ إِبۡرَٰهِ‍ۧمُ رَبِّيَ ٱلَّذِي يُحۡيِۦ وَيُمِيتُ قَالَ أَنَا۠ أُحۡيِۦ وَأُمِيتُۖ قَالَ إِبۡرَٰهِ‍ۧمُ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأۡتِي بِٱلشَّمۡسِ مِنَ ٱلۡمَشۡرِقِ فَأۡتِ بِهَا مِنَ ٱلۡمَغۡرِبِ فَبُهِتَ ٱلَّذِي كَفَرَۗ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَهۡدِي ٱلۡقَوۡمَ ٱلظَّٰلِمِينَ ٢٥٨ 

“Do you not know about the one who argued with Ibrāhīm about his Lord because Allāh had given him kingship? When Ibrāhīm said: ‘My Lord is the One who gives life and brings death,’ he said: ‘I give life and I bring death.’ Ibrāhīm said: ‘Allāh brings out the sun from the east; now, you bring it out from the west.’ Here, baffled was the one who disbelieved, and Allāh does not bring the wrongdoers to the right path.”[2]

Intelligence or Emotion

The reasons the interviewees gave for leaving Islām are, therefore, predominantly of an emotional nature and not based on a theological conviction. To put more simply, there is no logical connection between bad parenting and the existence or non-existence of Allāh . There was one gentleman, however, who apparently left the faith because of his love for science. An amateur mistake, there could have been a chance to study deeper, had he not committed suicide, and come to the conclusion that the existence of Allāh is beyond the competence of science and actually falls under metaphysics, a branch of philosophy. Ironically, the only thing that could have deterred him from taking his life is the very thing from which he fled: Islām. The Prophet has said:

من تردّى من جبل فقتل نفسه، فهو في نار جهنم يتردّى فيه خالدا مخلَّدا فيها أبدا؛ ومن تحسّى سُمّاً فقتل نفسه، فسُمُّه في يده يتحسّاه في نار جهنم خالدا مخلدا فيها أبدا؛ ومن قتل نفسه بحديدة، فحديدته في يده يلجَأُ بها في بطْنه في نار جهنم خالدا مخلدا فيها أبدا

“Whoever jumps from a mountain and thereby kills himself, he will be in the fire of Jahannam jumping from [a mountain therein] forever and ever. Whoever drinks poison and thereby kills himself, he will have the poison in his hand that he will be drinking in the fire of Jahannam forever and ever. And whoever kills himself with a knife, he will have his knife in his hand stabbing his stomach with it in the fire of Jahannam forever and ever.”[3]

Other Ironies

As the Muslim interviewee rightly noted, it is rather ironic for an ex-Muslim to want to feel welcome and equally part of the very community he/she has voluntarily left. To understand this better, take the following analogy: If the employees of a particular company are entitled to free tea and coffee, then one such employee angrily resigns and resorts to making provocative and insulting remarks against the employer, should he expect to continue enjoying free tea or coffee at the employer’s expense? The logical conclusion would be no. Since he/she is no longer an employee – and the free beverage is only for the employees – it would be incorrect to demand (or even expect) to continue receiving the same benefits as those of an employee.

This incoherence was repeated throughout the documentary. For example, a Tunisian woman wished to broadcast an insulting film to the Muslim public, and the Iranian woman was shown to have publicly preached anti-Muslim hate in the town centre – all justified under the ambiguous banner of freedom of speech/expression. However, if Islām should be up for criticism, mockery and satire, ridda (leaving Islām) should equally be up for criticism, mockery and satire.

Another irony was the Iranian woman preaching in town centre that she has seen nothing more intolerant than religion. Little did she realise how this very sentence of hers is in itself intolerant.

As a point of humour, it is interesting – to say the least – that one young woman mentioned how, after leaving Islām, ‘all of a sudden you feel you’ve become dirty.’ Ironically, it is the Qurʾān that asserts:

 يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ إِنَّمَا ٱلۡمُشۡرِكُونَ نَجَسٞ فَلَا يَقۡرَبُواْ ٱلۡمَسۡجِدَ ٱلۡحَرَامَ بَعۡدَ عَامِهِمۡ هَٰذَاۚ وَإِنۡ خِفۡتُمۡ عَيۡلَةٗ فَسَوۡفَ يُغۡنِيكُمُ ٱللَّهُ مِن فَضۡلِهِۦٓ إِن شَآءَۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٞ ٢٨ 

“O you who believe, the mushriks are impure, indeed, so let them not approach al-Masjid al-Ḥarām after this year. And if you apprehend poverty, then Allāh shall, if He wills, make you self-sufficient with His Grace. Surely, Allāh is the Knowing, the Wise.”[4]

One wonders if she is aware of the above āya, and how she has possibly opened up a new interpretation to it.

Probably the greatest irony of all is how almost everything said in the documentary can equally be said about converts to Islām. Feeling hatred from their ‘community’, not welcome at home, being thrown out by their parents – all are traits that likewise exist in those who have found a theological and spiritual enlightenment in the religion of Islām.

If an individual is sincere, coherence would show in their approach. Whether one embraces or exits a religion, a thorough and objective study ought to be undertaken before the decision is made. Faults and criticisms are due only to where it belongs. Just as it is wrong to blame the son for his father’s error, it is likewise erroneous to blame religion for the cultural ills of an adherent of that religion. If one is to sympathise with the troubles an ex-Muslim faces, the trials and tribulations the convert to Islām encounters likewise deserves to be acknowledged.


[1] [Al-Baqara: 2/85].

[2] [Al-Baqara: 2/258].

[3] Al-Bukhārī (5778) and Muslim (109).

[4] [Al-Tawba: 9/28].

8 thoughts on “Reflections on Islām’s Non-Believers

  1. why did they leave ……..the dire need for an altruistic and pragmatic approach
    im sure many have heard by now about the recent itv programme about apostates/atheists however its phrased.

    i only have questions,they are genuine and also for reflection for the communities which they left.

    some observations and assumptions first. yes ..i could be wrong

    1 :it appeared the issues and grievances were with retrogressive culture and bad parenting primarily and not religion..i could be wrong

    2 :vulnerable and lonely people were looking for love and support..i could be wrong

    3:parents and communities in their ignorance overreacted and in fact made the situation worse..i could be wrong

    4:self righteousness and lazy cultural parenting along with an ignorance of the spiritual aspect of islam may be to blame..i could be wrong

    5:the inability and refusal of the muslim community ,to address its own failings and rot constantly shoved under the proverbial carpet came to the surface..i could be wrong.

    the carpet itself has now rotted away,and no new carpet will be able to cover the rot we constantly try to shove under it..of course…i may be wrong

    murdering people on the streets makes things worse,calling for murder makes things worse,shunning people and not listening to them makes things worse.
    ignoring people with doubt and confusion makes things worse.over reaction and ignoring the voice and feelings of those in deep pain and dilemmas makes things worse.shunning and excommunicating makes things worse.mocking and hunting and dehumanising someones daughter,son makes things worse

    islam is a way of life which makes things better,it heals,it manages,it comforts.
    it draws people near and embraces humanity without prejudice.

    am i right?

    AND ALLAH TAALA KNOW BEST

  2. There are numerous factors that contribute to individuals leaving Islam and factors such as upbringing (in West), hypocrisy/lack of religiosity of many Muslims and bad Islamic education are definitely such factors. But we cannot deny there are Muslim individuals who’s faith is shaken by arguments against the Islam, originating not so much from apostates, but from various critics – implicitly and explicitly. Topics of much doubt is aside from the existence of Allah (SWT), is universe and human origins…evolution/creationism/Adam&Eve, where we Muslims differ (many tending towards creationism, others trying to combine human evolution with divine creationism) leading to much doubt, we come across as hostile to science, disorganised and dogmatic – hampering our efforts to put a common front on this topic. We need more Muslim physicists and biologists.

    Other topics I’ve encountered (lurking in conversations with apostates), is proof for claims like the existence of prophets i.e. Adam, Abraham, Noah, Lot and related events i.e. Exodus, Flood, Noah’s Ark. We need more Muslim historians and archaeologists.

    Accusations that “Islam copied aspects of pre-Islamic cultures”, “evidence of corruption”, “objective/subjective morality/morality being based on what Muhammad (SWS) and past Arabs thought”, other moral issues like child marriage, slavery – accusations of “rape” of captives, hadd punishments – stoning adulterers, death for leaving, equal rights and opportunities – for non-Muslims, homosexuals and particularly Women and doubts about scientific, linguistic and numerical miracles.

    But the one that really upset me was the perception that Islam is somehow a “cause for allot of violence, misery and suffering”.

    We need proper Islamic education with awareness of good sound arguments for Islam amongst the youth (I recommend William lane Craig, yes he might be a Christian, but many of his arguments are very good and can be used for Islam). We also need good upbringing (preferably amongst pious Muslims), the western world and it’s dominant unIslamic culture, laws and secular education are a source for much doubt. I wouldn’t mind recommending moving to developed Muslim majority countries such as Turkey, UAE, Oman even parts of Saudi Arabia.

    I don’t feel good about the future, I fear there’ll be allot more closet apostates. I know, I know, it’s probably been said lots of times, but we really need to do something about this. Just not sure what can be done and how successful it will be.

    May Allah (SWT) strengthen the faith of doubters and the Ummah. Ameen.

    , hasn’t gone down well with Tzortzis distancing themselves from it, going instead for more sound and persuasive arguments

    1. Agreed, 100%.

      Some of the mentioned topics, however, have actually been dealt with quite well already – alhamdulillah. Others still require a thorough write up and even videos (for those who are comfortable with videography).

      Another common argument – not mentioned in your post – is how can you believe in something in the first place without evidence? Now, what exactly is ’evidence’, and to what extent can it be said for our beliefs to be based on no evidence? Alhamdulillah, this was dealt with over a year ago and can be read here: http://www.al-rahma.co.uk/2016/03/17/what-is-evidence/.

      1. -“Some of the mentioned topics, however, have actually been dealt with quite well already – alhamdulillah. Others still require a thorough write up and even videos (for those who are comfortable with videography).”

        Some arguments can be quite convoluted and it’s just a matter of explaining it in layman’s terms, enough to be fully accepted and free from doubt – which can be quite problematic.

        But I can’t foresee anytime soon the next generation of Muslims (atleast here) understanding and advocating eloquent arguments. Too often I see fellow Muslims rest their faith on shaky stuff like the scientific, linguistic and numerical miracles
        and also leting others i.e. Scholar X, y, z do the thinking for them.

        – “Another common argument – not mentioned in your post – is how can you believe in something in the first place without evidence? Now, what exactly is ’evidence’, and to what extent can it be said for our beliefs to be based on no evidence? Alhamdulillah, this was dealt with over a year ago and can be read here: http://www.al-rahma.co.uk/2016/03/17/what-is-evidence/.”

        Thanks. I think the appropriate word is “proof” i.e. “What proof does one have?” Is what should be asked, instead of “evidence” or atleast follow up evidence with “arguments”.

        1. Alhamdulillah, there are a handful of students and ʿulamaʾ throughout the UK are tackling these issues on a professional level. Unfortunately, not all of them gain popularity and are out of the limelight (hence, go unnoticed by a large number of the public).

          It would be brilliant if all like-minded people get together and collaborate in tackling such issues. Alhamdulillah, a lot of work is out there and more are in the pipeline. Sometimes, it is more of a case of bringing them out to the public and good marketing than anything else. Although, of course, both are imperatives. Duʿaʾs are requested.

  3. dman

    “The reasons the interviewees gave for leaving Islām are, therefore, predominantly of an emotional nature and not based on a theological conviction.”

    Can you list the emotional reasons given for leaving Islam. I saw the program twice, and did not hear any.

    1. There are many, but just two will, insha’allah, suffice.

      1) Anger at parents’ behaviour and/or approach to their children’s upbringing. This does not disprove the validity of Islam or the existence of Allah in any way, shape or form.

      2) The concept of theodicy – that is, the existence of suffering in the world. Again, it does not mean at all that Allah does not exist. It only shows a disapproval of things happening in the world, and that is taken out in the form of projecting one’s anger at Allah ﷻ. Perhaps this can, insha’allah, be discussed in detail in a forthcoming article. Duʿaʾs are requested.

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