FreeSoul (Former Muslim)
Testimony of Leaving Islam
My reversion to Islam began with a fascination for Islamic dress. However, before I go into that, I will give a little bit of background about me. I was born into a Christian Mennonite family who I love very much. My family was very loving and generous. I was very much into Christianity until reading a small, green book about Atheism at age 21 that I was fortunate enough to stumble upon at an eclectic, uptown boutique. At the time, I didn't even know there was such a thing as having no religion but the book just made so much sense to me.
So anyway, I became super interested in Islam because I thought that the headscarf and long skirts that Muslim women wore were very beautiful so I looked deeper into the religion and even went to Mosques and talked to other Muslims and Imams. I studied Islam in depth for about five months before converting.
I was very active on Facebook in chatting with other Muslims and learning as much as I could about the faith. I was told things like "Islam liberates women" and that it is the most peaceful religion. I was told quite a few other inaccurate things about Islam that at the time, I didn’t question.
One thing I was told was not to believe everything I hear about Islam in the media especially when it comes to violent groups of Muslims. However, while I do not believe everything I hear and see in the media, I wonder what made those particular stories about Muslim groups engaging in violence for the sake of Allah so appealing to be publicized in the first place. I don’t believe that the media is always truthful or that all Muslims are violent terrorists, but I also think that the fact that the ones that are violent keep on making the news in the first place is a fact not to be taken lightly especially because religion has historically and still now today been used to justify the most horrifying and unthinkable violence in the name of some distant deity in the sky.
In the course of my journey, I was also told that Muslims aren’t perfect but Islam is. For a long time I tried to make sense of that but then I realized that that statement really made no sense because how could God expect imperfect human beings to follow a perfect religion? If you ask me, that is just a recipe for failure.
Then there were a few questionable experiences I had with the Muslim community. Don’t get me wrong. I met a lot of incredibly nice people who happened to be Muslim and I am not here to say that all Muslims think the same way or have the same mentality as their fellow Muslim might have. I am just simply writing about the less than satisfying experiences I had in some aspects because I think that it is important to bring these issues to light.
One questionable experience I had was when I asked a fellow Muslim sister who I already thought was a little off her rocker, why God would allow so much suffering in Syria and Somalia and other places ravaged by war and political unrest. She said that it is because God is punishing those people. I immediately lost what little respect I had for her. Muslims tirelessly claim that their God is merciful so why would He punish innocent children, innocent mothers, innocent families for political unrest and senseless violence that is totally beyond their control? More importantly, why wouldn’t this alleged merciful God put a stop to all suffering in the world in the first place? That doesn’t sound very merciful to me-it sounds psychotic and tyrannical and leads me to conclude that God is either a sadistic sociopath and immensely enjoys our suffering or more accurately, that He doesn’t exist. In another situation, I even asked a Muslim on Facebook if God might not be so merciful after all. She told me to be careful what I say because God is in fact merciful. If that is the case, then why should I have to be careful about what I say?
On another occasion, I was at the house of a family with three kids. The oldest daughter who was only 11 at the time was telling her mom how afraid she was of hell and she was even crying. Rather than comfort her, her mother began to tell her how terrible hell was and how the girl had to pray five times a day or else terrible things would happen to her (no compulsion in religion my ass). Then the mother went into detail about what would happen to her daughter in hell though I forget what exactly she said and the poor girl was becoming more and more upset. I really wish I had said something such as “there is no hell” or “stop mentally abusing your child” but for much of my conversion experience, it was like I was trapped in some bizarre, not to mention terrifying, Islamic brainwashing trance (I wonder if other Muslims are caught in this trance also and either don’t realize it or refuse to admit it?) At the time, I was also too terrified of hell myself to speak up for that poor girl due to graphic depictions of liquid pus being poured down one’s throat and other horrible afflictions that happen to one in hell-more proof that the Muslim God is in fact, not merciful after all or more likely, non-existent. On a side note, I don’t think that any religion that uses fear as a way to get people to follow it is worth my time. Just recently, I received an e-mail from a Muslim asking me what I think is going to happen to me if I die and what my purpose in life is especially since I am not religious. That question in itself is just another way that Islam and all other religions plays on people’s fears so I didn’t even respond because I can proudly say that I don’t buy into that anymore.
I no longer worry about what will happen to me when I die or what my purpose in life is because the unfortunate, harsh truth is that when we die that’s it and there is no magical kingdom or place of torture that we go to because it has never been proven. Therefore, it is much better and more life affirming to be living the best life we possibly can now so that when we are on our death beds, we don’t regret wasting our lives on frivolous things such as whether or not we are going to hell or whether or not God will accept our prayers. We as the human race should be worrying about how to alleviate and put an end to worldwide poverty, suffering, war, rape, murder, misogyny, racism, homophobia, greed, and any other kind of human misery that befalls us rather than wasting energy worrying about strange rituals such as bending over for God five times a day, washing yourself in a certain way (wudu, ghusl) or memorizing more often than not, violent verses in the Koran that are basically both irrelevant and unhelpful in today’s world. In terms of what my purpose in life is, I prefer to be honest and say I don’t know rather than disillusion and lie to myself by blindly adopting a religion, but what I do know is that it is important to be a good person and help others when one is able to do so. I also know that all religions use this largely man-made concept of divine purpose as a way to entice people (especially those who feel lost or confused in the path of life) to follow them by implying that they need to have some kind of supernatural purpose in life besides just being. I think it is pretty pathetic how religion preys on the lost and those who are so desperate for any shred as hope as a tool of manipulation like this by telling someone that they must have a purpose in life and that purpose is Islam, Jehovah's Witness, Christianity, etc. I am more at peace with the fact that we just simply exist and that life is what we make of it. We don't necessarily have to have any kind of purpose other than to not hurt each other and try to help those who are struggling. I think I finally realized this after much obsession with Islam and what my purpose in life is which was actually serving to make me more miserable and disillusioned in the end. The long and short of the matter is that no one really has a higher purpose other than to live life as well as she or he can in the here and now and to help those in need. There is no divine being that is somehow humanity’s ultimate aspiration in life and just knowing that alone is the beginning of the path from Islam to complete secular freedom.
During my conversion experience, I ended up reading the entire Koran and being appalled by most of it but I managed to convince myself that with time, I would soon begin to "understand it" and so I took my Shahadah. I was especially encouraged to take my Shahadah because I met a fellow female Canadian revert who had only reverted a month ago at the time. I figured that if she saw something in the religion then it was worth converting. On a side note, it has been two years since then, and she is now married to a Muslim man and pregnant with his child. She will give birth next month most likely. I often wonder if she still wants to be a Muslim or if she is now trapped. I kind of lost contact with her. Anyway, her story or alleged story, is why I left Islam after less than a month-because I was afraid of becoming trapped the longer I stayed.
I also got really sick of Muslims telling me that Islam is easy when in fact it is not. The manner of prayer and the proper way of taking wudu and figuring out which way to face is difficult in and of itself to master and the learning of what to say in Arabic while you do so is even more daunting. Not to mention that Islam is full of strict and more often than not, pointless, petty rules and regulations about what one can and cannot do even if it doesn’t harm others. I mean why is it evil to listen to music if it brings you enjoyment or what is wrong with owning a dog?! I am sure that an all-powerful, all-mighty God has much more important things to worry about than petty things like that-and if that is in fact what He does worry about, then maybe He needs to get a life and stop trying to micromanage His creation to such an impossible extent. If anything, Islam is difficult, inflexible and seems to take pleasure in controlling every single miniscule aspect of people’s lives from what one wears to how one uses the toilet.
In all honesty, I got super tired of having to plan my day around those above mentioned five daily prayers. It just seemed to me like such a waste of time but I was so terrified of hell in all its graphic depictions in the Koran. Eventually, I finally decided that there was more to life than bending over for Allah five times in my day and furthermore, that I was more likely to go to hell (if there were such a thing which I don't believe there is), for murdering and harming innocent people. I just cannot believe that if I don't pray in a certain way that I will go to hell. Not to mention, that I never really knew what to say when I prayed because I didn't know Arabic and apparently, the prayers are only valid in that language. Wouldn't a God who created everything know all languages?
When I tried to leave the first time, I posted on Facebook that I needed to go back to being myself and could no longer carry on the way I was. A few Muslim sisters saw this (one of which wore the Niqaab), and they must've put two and two together because they inboxed me and told me that they were going to be at my place in ten minutes. I guess I could’ve just not left my apartment, but curiosity has always been my downfall.
The sisters took me to a nearby Dawah Center and convinced me to stay in the religion. I don't remember what they said except that I needed to be saved from hell, but I came back home really upset and it scared me more than ever because I realized shortly after that incident, that the deeper I got into the religion of Islam, the more difficult it might be for me to leave.
The second time I left the faith, the sisters didn't come to my "aid." They must've decided that there was no hope for me. However, I got a lot of really nasty comments on one status on Facebook (over 150) about how I am going to burn in hell and one girl even said that Muslims are humble and I am not. I swiftly replied that no self-respecting humble person would proclaim their humility to the world in such a manner but I never got a response. Through this comment chain, I even received a death threat. I swiftly replied that they knew where I lived and if they wanted to kill me they should come on over and do it because I would rather die than subscribe to a set of beliefs that are so violent and abhorrent especially toward women. Needless to say, nothing happened but the experience shook me up for quite awhile though I denied it for some time-nearly two years to be exact. It only occurred to me to tell my story recently and I need to do so in order to heal and move on or else I fear that my unhealthy obsession with Islam will never cease.
The Niqaabi sister who I mentioned above because once sent me an e-mail with an article attached detailing how God is vengeful and will punish the disbelievers. I responded that I would rather believe in a merciful and loving God and she said in her reply that everything I say to her sounds like “blah, blah, blah” but she still had hope for me so she sent me another article to read as if that would help the situation at that point. I was incredibly hurt because she expected me to listen to what she had to say but somehow what I said wasn’t valid. Then I realized that she was actually being honest because anything that contradicted her belief in God probably did sound like “blah, blah, blah” to her since that was how far gone into the religion she was. I replied to her that everything SHE said to ME also sounded like “blah, blah, blah” and to not contact me anymore. However, I guess she really did just read a bunch of blahs in my response because she did e-mail me back but I did not open the e-mail and deleted it forever because I finally realized that she expected me to take her opinion as law but she didn’t have the same respect for what I had to say and that is actually a very common theme among Muslims; they can say what they want but Allah forbid that somebody contradicts them or has a difference in opinion.
Before this incident with this sister, she had shared her story with me as to why she became Muslim and even when I was deeply entrenched in the conversion process, her reasons for converting sounded more like psychological brainwashing than proof of Islam being the “true” religion. She sent me a very long and detailed story but basically, she explains how Islam saved her from a life of being in gangs and getting in with “bad crowds.” However, any religion or belief system could’ve done that. The only reason it happened to be Islam for this one sister is because when she was at her lowest point there happened to be Muslims around and they told her that she needed to take Shahadah in order to be saved from her life of misery. In that situation, I probably would’ve grabbed on to any form of hope myself and that is just what she did. She traded one form of psychological harm (gang life) for another (religion). So I guess the whole “blah” incident makes sense now that I think about it because that Niqaabi sister is holding onto her religion basically with a the firmest of death grips even though she hasn’t gone back to her former gang life in ten years; she appears unable to see past her narrow outlook on life and God and that is what scared me the most out of this whole situation-I never want to be so far gone into a religion that I become blinded to everything else because then all I would have left is the religion and that is a terrifying thought for me.
This sister actually has a much better life now based on what I have seen in comparison to what she had told me her former life was like, but she still thinks that she somehow needs the religion to save her when really, she got out of that life of misery all on her own since God doesn’t actually exist. Psychologically, she thinks it was the religion that saved her when in all actuality, it was just plain, straight up hope that did the job. That is why I mentioned earlier just how psychologically damaging religion can be especially when it blinds you to what is really going on and to all other viewpoints except for the religion itself.
All the above being said however,I myself even went through a period in my life recently where I felt suicidal and considered going back to the faith because I felt hopeless and decided Islam was the only way to regain this hope. Then I read something in a book entitled "The Happy Atheist" by Pz Myers that probably saved me from both suicide and from the cage of Islam: "The hard question, though, is why women ever fall for women-hating religions in the first place...religion is a kind of parasite of the mind that promotes its own disease. Where does religion have its greatest success? Among the miserable and the oppressed, because it is very good at promising (but not delivering) hope. If you are among the downtrodden, magical answers have a great appeal...These answers do nothing but make the believer feel better about his or her problems. In fact, they actually increase the misery by encouraging believers to shun productive solutions in favour of nonanswers. Misery leads people to turn to religion, which can make the misery worse, because religion doesn't address the material causes of the misery, and the increasing despair leads to more and more succor from religion which makes it even worse...And who has been slapped down consistently throughout human history? Women. It's not surprising that the segment of society that is oppressed is also one that often turns to faith to gain the illusion of relief" (89-90).
This quote was just what I needed because I could not figure out why me, a Canadian born and by all respects, liberated woman, would be so obsessed with such a misogynistic religion. The answer that it was because my misery was getting the better of me should've been obvious due to my suicidal thoughts, but I clearly wasn't thinking in rational manner at the time. I still wear long skirts and dresses on a daily basis when I am not in the gym (I am a fitness buff), but I don’t associate it with any kind of religion. That is just my style and I feel comfortable that way. I still have a deep fascination for Muslim fashion, but I am never going to let this fascination go beyond fashion again. There are days where I do miss wearing the headscarf but for the most part, I am happier this way. I sold all fifty of my scarves to that Canadian convert I mentioned, and only kept one because I needed to get Islam out of my home and my system. Not to mention that because it is women who are usually victims of rape, shouldn’t it be the men learning how to control themselves whether she is covered or not? I guess in Islam it is easier to coerce women to cover up than it is to expect men to act like human beings. When you think about it, it is actually really immature and doesn’t give men much credit as human beings capable of offering love and protection regardless of a woman’s fashion choices. Men should be insulted that the religion even remotely portrays them in this manner as primal beings who cannot control their sexual thirst if they happen to see a woman’s naked arm.
There is also a satirical cartoon that Muslims will use to try to point out the benefits of women covering up that features a woman completely covered except for her eyes and a woman completely uncovered except for her eyes. In the cartoon both women are thinking that the other woman is oppressed but the reality is that they BOTH are especially because the cartoon is so extreme in its portrayal. Where is the happy medium? A woman is only truly liberated when she can be seen by society for more than just what she does and doesn’t wear-namely, her mind. Muslims claim that a woman covering up will help others see her for her mind but in reality, it just reinforces our society’s victim-blaming mentality by telling women that they can only be seen for their minds if they dress a certain way because men are somehow too weak to control themselves. I have a mind whether I am covered up or naked and true equality will only be had when society can fully acknowledge this without focusing on something as petty as my outward appearance or my clothing. Islam is just as guilty of focusing on what a woman should and shouldn’t wear as Western society though many Muslims will adamantly argue that this is simply not the case when all the evidence points to the contrary but that’s religion for you!
There are days where I deeply miss being Muslim because of the community it gave me since I was lonely, but in the end, I would rather be lonely than subscribe to such a violent, hypocritical, dishonest and confusing belief system that only views me as half as good as a man even though I have a keen mind and thoughts of my own that are just as valid. If I am to be true to myself in terms of my solid belief that women are complete equals to men and that freedom of thought and expression are basic human rights, then only a secular viewpoint can offer this freedom and equality because Islam is directly incompatible with even the smallest notion of freedom especially in other countries based on what I have read and therefore, has no place in my life or the lives of anyone else. Speaking of what I have read, in addition to “The Happy Atheist,” as mentioned above, I recommend to anyone to read the book “Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out” by Ibn Warraq. It has probably been the single most helpful book to me in my journey to and more importantly, from Islam. We need more people like Warraq to speak out on these issues so that others who are seriously considering converting to Islam will not do so under the guise of ignorance and hidden information that seems to be so commonplace in Islam.
One piece of advice that I can offer to anyone who is thinking of reverting, DO YOUR RESEARCH! Don’t just do what I did and read the books that the Dawah Centers or Mosques provide for you about Islam. They paint a very rosy, inaccurate picture of the religion that does no justice to the horrors that people, especially women, have endured at the hands of Islam such as honour killings and rape.
Did you know that in Islamic countries, if a woman is a political prisoner to be killed, she is raped first so that she doesn’t get to Heaven because of the belief that only virgins (if they are unmarried) go to Heaven. I mean doesn’t that just sound like a convenient excuse for men to justify acting like tyrannical, inhuman monsters? Also, did you know that the Prophet (I refuse to wish him peace) stated that a man should not have to give explanation as to why he beats his wife and also married a six year old girl and started fondling and having sexual relations with her at the age of nine just because she had started her menses so that somehow made it ok?! I don't care what the time period is; it is still straight up pedophilia. The Prophet also stated that if a man wants to beat his PREGNANT wife he must first take her into a separate room which is incredibly cruel and cowardly especially because men are built to protect women in my opinion and not harm them. Not to mention that it is sick and perverse to not only allow wife beating in the first place in Islam, but to have rules about it rather than just outlaw it completely as a barbaric and unnecessary practice that has no place in any half-civilized society.
Muhammad also states that the majority of hell’s inhabitants are women because they have not been grateful to their husbands for not mistreating them. NO self-respecting woman should have to be grateful for that because as a human being, she is entitled to it and should even demand it because she is a full person in her own right deserving of respect and care. Not to mention that a husband can beat his wife in Islam for disobedience. It is in the Koran 4:34. Of course Muslim apologists will either argue that it is not in the Koran at all even when you are holding it right in their face which basically proves to me just how much denial and mental blocking is needed to believe in such a violent religion in the first place, or they will argue that it is actually a verse against wife beating or they will say that the original translation in Arabic doesn’t really say that when in fact, most Muslims cannot even read Arabic and furthermore, based on my research, it does actually state to beat your wife for disobedience in a much harsher manner than the English translation. I read about four different English translations of that one verse because it is the one that most disgusts me and they ALL say “beat.” So are Muslims telling me that all of those professional Arabic translators are wrong when they cannot even read Arabic themselves?! The word used for beat in Arabic is “daraba” in that verse. It does in fact mean beat or strike and some translations even put the word “lightly” in brackets beside the word “beat” even though the “lightly” part is not found in the Arabic at all. So if anything, the original Arabic is actually much harsher than the English and no, it is not dishonestly translated that way by English scholars just to discredit Islam as some Muslims have claimed, especially because many of the translators are in fact Muslims themselves. Why would they discredit their own religion and why would ALL of them use the word “beat”?
However, favourite justification for this verse, is that it is somehow “taken out of context” even though the Koran itself IS the context but don’t be fooled. The Koran is actually a lot more straightforward than that and basically, what it says is very difficult to portray as anything other than what the verses actually state in terms of endorsing violence, gay-bashing, anti-semitism and monumental misogyny (the worst one in my opinion because when women aren’t liberated, everyone on earth suffers because women are our future and the backbone of our entire planet). In my opinion, all religion is just an excuse to oppress and control women and even if it was changed to suit the modern day in regards to the full equality and citizenship of women, I still wouldn’t buy into religion because the very fact that it can be changed is just further proof that it is made up by humankind in the first place and based on virtually nothing concrete.
When it comes to gay-bashing, there are at least six verses in the Koran that condemn homosexuality in contrast to only one in the Bible-and the Koran is at least five times shorter in length! It is amazing how much hate and violence can be crammed into such a small book. I even had a Muslim friend (who I still hang out with due to loneliness on my end) declare to me that gay people ruined the rainbow for her. I was in utter disbelief and at a loss as to how I should respond because for me, those who identify as anything other than straight, have made the rainbow that much more meaningful and diverse. I ended up changing the subject because I am lonely and she is my only friend but sometimes I wish I had said something!
I am beginning to become more and more convinced every day that the Prophet made up the entire Koran to serve his own agenda and that God played no role in it whatsoever because if He is all powerful and all knowing, why would He need a mere mortal to write it for Him? Also, if God is all powerful, why is His alleged greatness contained to such a small and obscure book? I believe that the Prophet just said that God told him to write the Koran and the argument that the Prophet was illiterate and couldn’t have written it, therefore proving that God wrote it, is incredibly weak because the Prophet could’ve paid someone who was literate to write down his twisted thoughts for him.
The Prophet Muhammad is the Joseph Smith (Mormonism) of Islam in that he used people’s fear of a non-existent deity to further his own agenda and therefore, should not be revered as a hero but shunned as someone who plays on people’s vulnerabilities and mercilessly abuses women for his own personal satisfaction just to get ahead in life. Not to mention that if God wanted to reveal His final word to people, why not do it now in this day and age with all the technology we have? It sure would’ve reach a lot more people than just those wondering around in 7th century Arabia with no clue why the sun set at night or why it rained other than to attribute it to a vengeful, deceitful deity in the sky that watches their every move.
Another tidbit of information regarding women in Islam (in which many Muslims argue that she is actually liberated through this religion) is that a woman must ask her husband permission before she can go on birth control because in Islam, Muslims are required to have a lot of children in order to keep the religion alive. Can someone please tell me how not having complete control and autonomy over your own body as a woman is liberating?
I have finally come to terms with being an Atheist again and it feels amazing. I no longer have to contemplate leaving my non-Muslim husband or limit what I can and cannot do based on some obscure belief system. As an Atheist and more importantly, as a human being, I don’t have to have all the answers to the big questions in life, I just have to do the best I can with what I have and that gives me a sense of relief because I can spend my time more productively than agonizing over where we go when we die or whether or not God exists. I have more important things to worry about like being the best person that I can and helping others when I am able. There is something to be said for enjoying the mystery of life and not always having to control everything and have all the answers-religion is very largely based on control and human insecurity rather than just enjoying the here and now without having to always know everything all the time. We are human and we aren’t perfect so how can we have all the answers anyway?
Being an Atheist gives me hope, sense of inner peace and freedom and there is nothing more important to me than these states of being except for acceptance and love for who I am whether I believe in Allah or a flying pink unicorn that shits money. I felt like I couldn’t be myself as a Muslim and deep down it felt so rotten and vile to have to give up my free thought and outspokenness in order to be a “proper” Muslim woman. Not to mention that when I reverted, I was constantly told that I had to leave my husband who I love very much and who would do anything for me solely because he is not Muslim. Islam has no place in my bedroom and Muslims have no place telling me who I can and cannot love. No religion, ideology or person does. So please, if you are seriously considering reverting, RECONSIDER and read that book by Warraq that I mentioned earlier! I really wish I had read that before I converted because it will give you a taste of what true Islam actually is as opposed to the watered down version of it that is taught in Western Mosques. I guess I was so mesmerized by the beautiful clothing in Islam,that I wasn’t thinking very clearly. Don’t let that be your story and always remember that misery is big business for religion. Don’t ever buy into a system of belief that exploits your misery for its own gain! I am here if you need someone to talk to.