Abdul Quddus (former Muslim)
Testimony of Leaving Islam
I'm often asked, despite knowing the pros and cons of Islam, why would a Westerner embrace a religion they hated? Though surrounded by believers, while growing up as a child, I was essentially an agnostic. I pondered that if this Creator actually existed, an unbiased investigation was needed to discover who He was and what He wanted from me. The following testimony is a trustworthy account of a journey through Islam.
I was raised by non-practicing Christians who immigrated to Canada from an anonymous country near the Caribbean. In the beginning, our family would occasionally attend Sunday's church services. However, my mother later realized that her husband's inattention and son's rebellious behavior during the sermons conveyed an undeniable expression of disbelief. Considering we had more nominal believers in the household, our church visits as a family unit slowly withered and then finally ended abruptly.
To my adolescent mind, the deity of the Judeo-Christian faith baffled me. I would curse the Biblical God, who although was once supposedly involved in human affairs, for now being idle during all the injustice and suffering I saw rampant in my world. However, following the blasphemous utterance, I'd immediately reprimand myself. To battle my agnosticism, during age twelve, my parents gave permission for the public school to have myself proselytized to by a Christian minister. In an experiment that would likely be illegal today within public school walls, a few other parents consented and we children were in the library being handed a red book labeled The New Testament. This book I would soon abuse with a black-ink marker with obscenities and my scissors. Without any guidance or education, I was left confused about God, albeit, the Judeo-Christian interpretation of the being.
Beside from my almost quasi-religious upbringing, early in my youth I had close contact with a conservative Christian family that would subsequently influence my behavior and thinking. One of their boys was my age and I would never find a closer companion and friend in life like him. Originally from Newfoundland, the father was a minister and both husband and wife had a zealous demeanor towards their sons. To my shock, even uttering damn in their home was reprehensible and would bring chastisement. The mother always fed me as if I were her visiting nephew, even though we were not related by blood. Aside from my immediate family, from these people I perceived love and friendship. Although disciplined and strict, the warmth and compassion received from this God-fearing family I would consider ideal and exemplary in a world void of.
As a teenager, an encounter with a Jehovah's Witness introduced me to another kind of believer. While waiting at a bus-stop, standing beside myself was a woman who suddenly began preaching to me from her copy of the Bible. Throughout the pages, her penned notes around the verses, which accumulated over the years, caught my interest. In order to approach a complete stranger in this manner, she must surely have believed in her religion, I thought. The sense of purpose and spiritual fulfillment she seemed to receive from her religious practice would plant a seed on my own spiritual path.
During my mid-teenage high school years, I developed a severe clinical depression that would endure for many years affecting my religious perspective. My social and academic life became strained and eventually I found myself dropping-out of high schools repeatedly. During one early morning, I came across 'Nightlite Live', a call-in television show about prayer, repentance, and salvation. The messages of hope from the counselors were candy for the downtrodden folk and I would frequently view the program. I resonated with the despondent callers. This Christian-owned television station CTS was balanced and tolerant enough to allot program space for other religions faiths in order to reach their adherents. The hope I was receiving from these Christian ministers watered that planted seed given earlier by the Jehovah's Witness preacher. My clinical depression would become propellant for a now unequivocal spiritual endeavor.
Browsing through a CD-ROM encyclopedia, I came across the section on Religion and would gravitate towards the entries on Buddhism. The biographies of the world's religious figures was a favorite read but I then attempted to educate myself on doctrine and theology. An upbringing of Christianity could not motivate me, however, the gnostic perspective on the Gospel almost renewed a passion for Christ. The Baha'i Faith, being fairly new compared to other organized religions, was difficult to view as anything but a cult eclectically borrowing from a multitude of sources. The idea of a direct and transcribed communication with God, along with a photograph of the Arabic verses, ignited an interest in Islam but my agnostic mindset squashed it within days. Hinduism offered nothing that Buddhism couldn't deliver and, to my knowledge, even absorbed many elements of Buddhism. From the outside, Sikhism appeared steeply cultural and as a hybridization of Hinduism and Islam. Daoism intrigued me for a brief period, but I later discarded the philosophy because it seemed to lack direction and purpose. From a comparative analysis of the world religions, the path of Buddhism and it's founder resonated with me deeply and seemed closest to an absolute truth Ive been searching for.
I would return to the character of Siddhartha Gautama, who I resonated with personally. According to my comprehension, his character was impeccably ideal and his dispensation faultlessly moral and rational. Buddhism had profound wisdom, encouraged independent thinking, discouraged blind faith, was not exclusive but inclusive for all humankind, and could be practiced without the superstitious beliefs abound in other religions. With an agnostic and/or atheistic temperament, and a leaning towards scientific inquiry than blind faith, Buddhism seemed befitting. Influenced by my discoveries in the encyclopedia, I would pursue a devout Buddhist practice that would last six years.
However, for reasons and causes unbeknownst to me then, the Buddhist practice that once filled my life with meaning and purpose would meet with disenchantment. I would perform quadrupled fasts each month for uposatha, an occasion dedicated for intense discipline, doctrinal study, chanting and reflection. The duration of each fast spanned from noon until the next day, with a break in between for plain tea. Although most Buddhists partaking in this observance would be at the temple, I eventually chose the confines of my bedroom in isolation. My withdrawal from public life and anti-social behavior would be the result stemming from a surging illness of clinical depression. The total lack of guidance from engaging mentors, and sole reliance on inanimate books for my religion stifled my inspiration and I began to experience disenchantment.
In retrospect, if it were not for a family member converting to Islam, I would likely have not embraced it myself. Having a lost loved one unanticipatedly reappear and noticeably dedicated to this Arab cult would spark my curiosity. Recent terrorist campaigns overseas by Muslim extremists were escalating and the need to understand the Muslim perspective was paramount. My obligation to reconnect with my sibling would contribute Islam to affect my own religious experience.
Out of curiosity of Muslims, belief in Islam, and fear of Allah, I considered the process of converting to Islam to become Muslim. Beforehand, Id been a mild opponent of Abrahamic religions. After an exigent probing of Islamic websites, inconceivably, I was mesmerized. Islam wasn't a cult, but a rich faith tradition that rivaled all others. I highly regarded the comradeship of the Ummah (Muslim community), clarity of the Quranic text, and simplicity of the religion for the adherent. I brought myself to open the Quran, beginning with page numero uno, Surah al-Fatihah. Islam seemed created in a competently organized fashion. Allah (Arabic; lit. The God) was distinguishably one and without partnership. Understandably, all those sincerely contemplating on converting to Islam have already accepted theism over atheism. The primary attraction to Islam was not in geometric Arabesque art, Islamic-inspired calligraphy and architecture, the constant argumentative fights over Middle Eastern politics, nor the latest innovative model of hookah. No question about it, on the minds of all sincere converts to Islam was tawheed (monotheism, affirmation of the Oneness and Uniqueness of Allah).
In the past, I had encountered some uncompromising critics who vigorously presented explosive accusations on Islam and the character of Prophet Muhammad. I was not unfamiliar with the charges of pedophilia, genocide, thievery, rape, and murder. Supposedly, Islam was a barbaric cult stuck in seventh-century Arabia bereft of human rights and with a disavowal for advancement. Initially, as a kafir (unbeliever), I had accepted some of the charges as true and was perhaps an Islamophobe. However, once I held a belief in Allah and an admiration for Islam, any propaganda or criticism could easily be dismissed as an undertaking to discredit the religion. I bared in mind that all organized religions harbored objectionable and disagreeable content, at least in the eyes of some. I was given a sanitized version of Islam by moderate Muslims and read merely segments of the Quran in English translation. Naturally, I felt compelled to fully trust the Muslims explanations since a selected few had the monopoly on this Arabic revelation from God. I decided to reject any subconscious Islamophobic mentality, ignore all anti-Islamic subject matter, and solely submit myself to brainwashing
Despite having close friendships with Muslims, my initial exposure to Islamic subjects was via cable television. Airing on VisionTV, a nationwide Canadian multi-faith and multicultural television network was a program called Journey Through Islam. Using material from the Islamic Information Service (IIS) based in California, this one-hour show featured conversion testimonials, documentaries, interviews with scholars and thinkers (Maher Hathout, Muhammad Asad, Muzammil Siddiqi, Jamal Badawi, John Esposito, Yusuf Estes, Yusuf Islam, Hamza Yusuf, etc.), and snippets from Harun Yahya's cunning videos on Creationism. Another program was Let The Quran Speak by Shabir Ally which featured mostly Quranic lectures and interviews. Reflections on Islam by Ezz E. Gad and Call of the Minaret by Steve Rockwell also were influential to my indoctrination. Besides the wealth of Islamic programs on VisionTV, the Christian CTS network aired Islam Today with host Bashir Khan and The Muslim Chronicle hosted by Tarek Fatah. Both programs featured local interviews, documentaries and educational material. With this wealth of Islamic education, my heart and mind was won.
But by far, the most stimulating and persuasive piece of all was footage of a talk (titled: Glorious Quran, The Liberator) delivered in 1987 by Yusuf Islam (formerly the pop singer Cat Stevens) at the University of Houston wherein he spoke of the Prophets and their struggle to present the same revelation to mankind. With a pointed index finger and green Quran in hand, he spoke with profound meaning, contentment, spirit, composure and enlightenment. His gift left me in awe and craving what a billion Muslims possessed; a sense of purpose.
With assistance from cunning Muslim proselytizers, I deprogrammed my acquired beliefs and swallowed the dawaganda. After one converts and embraces this religion, all previous sins will be blotted out. Even the name Islam (submission, to the will of God) seemed truthful and posed actual meaning; the other religions were either named after a man or tribe. Apparently, the Jews were strict monotheists but had rejected Jesus, while the Christians accepted Jesus but then rejected Muhammad. At the time, Islam seemed a sure option as Judaism was for Jews and Christianity had the polytheistic Trinity. One common point delivered repeatedly to me was how only in Islam had a revelation been absolutely preserved in its original language uncorrupted. No brilliant criticisms of Buddhism were given; no Muslims knew what the Buddha actually taught. As I became increasingly impressed with the Islamic position on theism, Buddhism seemed odd with its absence of an omnipotent Creator God and obscure purpose for man's existence. I saw the superb design pervasive throughout creationism that pointed to a higher intelligence. Coupled with clinical depression and a loss of conviction, I became disillusioned with Buddhism. Vegetarianism became too strenuous to endure. If Allah willed meat for our consumption, and I disagreed by being a vegetarian, it would put me with the munafiqeen (hypocrites) since I would be protesting to have more knowledge than Allah al-Hakeem (the Most Wise). With Islam, I could return to succulent meat-eating dinners and abandon my daunting dream of becoming a monk. However, now that I was admonished with threats by al-Quran, I was fearing Hellfire for believing yet denying the revelation simultaneously.
Harboring an aversion for a decadent Judeo-Christian modernity, believers born into Christianity began to search for meaning elsewhere. The prevailing vehicles facilitative to escaping a sinking Western society were usually Buddhism, Islam, and secular humanism. Islam, 'the fastest growing religion, was an ubiquitous mantra. The vast majority considered converting to Islam following a relationship with a Muslim. When an empathetic accord with a Muslim peer ensued, exposure to Islam increased in addition to curiosity while submerging into a foreign culture. The media's popular portrayal of Islam would be contradictory with a first-hand experience with Muslims. Western society seemed to degrade women as exploitable objects while Islam offered a woman security and respect. When juxtaposed to our Christian environment, adherents to Islam exhibited uppermost consciousness of God; they appeared pious to the halaal (permissible) and apathetic to the haraam (impermissible). The foremost decisive factor captivating soul searchers to Islam was aversion for and disillusionment with the West or dunyaa (this temporal world, as opposed to the Hereafter).
While home alone contemplating and pacing repeatedly back and forth, I sensed my existence in jeopardy and so decided to plunge into Islam wholeheartedly. I rode my bicycle to the local masjid (mosque) with the ulterior motive of requesting books. The Islamic building was a fortress, surrounded by concrete and brick walls and metal gates. Since the main entrance was sealed off by a barrier, I attempted to access the masjid through the car entrance. The building's rear had an entrance for Sisters Only so I ran away with lightening speed. Through another entrance, I wandered about searching for the masjid office. Inside that office, while looking at the security-camera monitors, I awaited assistance while noticing the unclean and disorganized mess. A middle-aged committee member approached me, a man that would later order me to come to the masjid everyday. I received some moderate Islamic material and a Yusuf Ali translated Quran Out of fear of Hellfire, and with a growing belief in Islam, I confessed that I wanted to say the shahada (declaration of faith). It was either during Asr (mid-afternoon) or Maghrib (sunset) prayer that I sat on the floor and viewed the men prostrate in prayer. Just as the speaker announced a statement, someone grabbed my hand and then guided me to the front. The Pakistani imam asked if anyone was forcing me to convert, to which I replied negative. He recited with me, in Arabic and English, the shahada (declaration of faith - There is no deity but Allah, Muhammad is His Messenger). An individual yelled Takbeer! This signaled the congregation to chant Allahu Akbar! (Allah is the Greatest) two more times. A procession formed wherein everyone anticipated to hug the new Muslim. After the ceremony, I felt frightened, extremely drained, and disorientated.
At the end was a fully bearded Muslim in Islamic wardrobe who asked the committee member of my previous religion. When told of my Buddhist past, he scorned twice, So he's a loser? So he's a loser? After mocking my conversion, he offered a hug. I later learned that he viewed me as an idolater that could never make it to jannah (paradise). According to al-Quran, Allah will never forgive shirk (associating partners with Allah) and And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers. (3:85) On my first day as Muslim, even before taking my first steps, I encountered fitnah (trials, tribulations, sedition). The Muslim that chastised me, who was perhaps of the Salafiyoon, never was seen again.
I was led into the masjid office to sign a document testifying to my Islamic faith, in case I wanted to perform hajj (pilgrimage) and needed verification in Saudi Arabia. Then, I was given a prayer mat, many Islamic books and Syed Abu-Ala Maududi's Arabic-English Quran with his famous commentary. This was a totally different ideology given to me before they knew I was with them and not simply interested in studying the religion as a kafir (unbeliever).
My parent's reaction to the conversion was tolerant, to say the least. After two days as a Muslim, I approached them in our living room and uttered, Mom, Dad, I have something to tell you. You won't get angry, will you? When they said no, I replied, I'm a Muslim. The excitement from their faces quickly vanished. Regardless, they responded with tolerance and acceptance, saying, Are you sure? If it's what you want, it's your decision.
With Islam my only obligation, the following year after my conversion was devoutly productive. As a high school drop-out without employment, all my energy was dedicated to worship Allah and learning the deen (religion, way of life). Day and night, I resided at the local masjid. In my Arabic class, the teacher remarked about me, Ive never seen anyone learn it this quick. I grew my beard unshaven like the Prophet, studied the Quran and ahadith, would pay zakat, give sadaqah, sawm during Ramadan, walk by foot to the masjid, perform all the fard, sunnah, waajib, nafl, duah prayers, and basically do everything right down to Islamic toiletry etiquette. Successfully, I gave dawah (missionary activity to invite others to Islam) and converted people to the religion. My conversion testimony was being read on Islamic websites. Most reverts were often paraded around as tokens. As trophy Muslims, our conversion to the religion apparently was validation for the insecure Muslims born into the faith that Islam was true. Before going to sleep, I sincerely yelled, Ya Allah (Oh Allah)! I am a Muslim. Alhamdulillah (Thanks to Allah), I am safe and secure now. Don't you dare ever leave the deen, boy! You re going to jannah (paradise)!
Over time, certain individuals were introduced to me that changed the course of my journey. Being a revert (convert) and impressionable, I was vulnerable prey and acquainted with predators. After taking shahada, I was given many telephone numbers for contacts. The first contact being from a brother named Yusuf eagerly seeking my attendance to reinstate a revert support group dismantled after the founder left the country. Id encounter numerous brothers attempting to recruit me into their organizations. My hesitation to partake in many activities perhaps saved my life. The claims by brothers who left us for Arabic studies or humanitarian work overseas caught my suspicion. Some actually went for jihad; one brother returned very depressed from qitaal (warfare, fighting) in Iraq. Yet, even with all precautions, the dreaded risk of having 'tea with terrorists supervened. When over a dozen Muslims were arrested on terrorism-related charges, we discovered one 'suspect was from my close-knit clique of brothers, passing his house hundreds of times while he plotted using three metric tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. Reverts were wandering sheep that had to be extra cautious of acquaintances.
The only way for the non-Muslims to consider Islam was by proving our Quran superseded previous revelations. To establish the immaculacy of the Quran to Christians, it was imperative to expose the fallibility of the Bible. Once the Christian had encountered inconsistencies in the substructure of his faith, he became more open to the possibility of Biblical errancy. Faced with numerous contradictions, the keen recipient would be guided to a more agreeable theology found within the Quran They knew not Arabic, so we provided selected material to them. In specific cases where Christianity and/or Judaism lacked in subject matter and Islam had the leeway, I took advantage to prove the superiority of the Islamic religion and its honor by staying true to the previous revelations with Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), or Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus, son of Mary). To convince atheists and agnostics, we exposed the loopholes in evolution and modern science, presented the finest examples of Islamic creationism, and perhaps mock their presumption of the universe existing merely by chance. Once the non-Muslim was eagerly reading the Quran and Islamic material, I would present Muhammad as a prophet of God no different from the accepted Hebrew prophets. Guilt and fear were common tactics used to pressure the conversion process. Just as the Jews denied Jesus, so did I admonish the Christian for rejecting Muhammad. If they recognized monotheism and Muhammad, I seized the opportunity by recommending the individual to embrace Islam and take the shahada (declaration of faith - There is no deity but Allah, Muhammad is His Messenger).
As I gained experience as a Muslim, I sought a more literal interpretation of Islam closer to the pristine deen of Prophet Muhammad. Without equivocation, the notorious Yusuf Ali Quran was a translation that pandered to Western liberal values attempting to lure non-Muslims to Islam. Although I used Syed Abu-Ala Maududi's Quranic commentary as a reference, I closely adhered to Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan's translated work The Noble Quran which offered a summarized version including the efforts of At-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, and Al-Bukhari. Tasawwuf (Sufism) and modern progressive movements conniving to reform Islam were not considered the real McCoy for they presented serious drawbacks and discrepancies that revealed an intentional divergence from Sunnah (the sanctioned practices, sayings, or actions of Prophet Muhammad). The Saudi-based movement of Salafiyyah, heavily influenced by ibn Taymiyyah's call to renounce innovation and return to the genuine Islam, seemed to be a viable option. However, concluding that being Muslim was sufficient, I rejected any labels of sectarianism that would consequently divide the Islamic Ummah.
Guidance and companionship from my brothers in Islam gave me a sense of belonging. Being a revert signified the reversion to a state of fitrah (the inherently pure disposition a being was created with). Everyone adopted an Islamic first name, shunned music, and only ate halaal. We new Muslims delightfully welcomed a brainwashing since years in kufr (disbelief, ungratefulness to Allah) left us feeling filthy. An unadulterated Islam was difficult for the kaffir (unbelievers) to digest so deviants evidently had a higher success rate in their propagation of Islam (dawah) as they modified principles to suit the nafs (carnal self) of recipients. The moderate and sanitized version of Islam that initially brought me to conversion had to be reassessed. Through the local masjid (mosque), always available was a handshake and anticipated hug. This was a comfort unavailable at home, especially from a mother always unsatisfied with my performance and father unconcerned with my progress. Encouraged by my Muslim brothers, I desired to excel in my religion; possibly get married, master the Arabic language and be a mujaahid (partaker in jihad) and shahid (martyr).
We viewed contemporary Muslims as crippled by colonization and far adrift from the straight path. In much insecurity and drifting, I found fundamentalism a perdurable anchor. We romanticized the early generation of pious predecessors and sought to capture their vigor by imitation. To revive the Islamic spirit for a fresh renaissance, we propagated a fundamentalist version of Islam to unite Muslims under one refined but exemplary model. Un-Islamic programs such as communism, democracy, socialism, and capitalism were thought as destined for the dustbin. The ideal of freedom was vehemently rejected as implausible, even in a democracy; the latter we ridiculed as democrazy. The plan we envisioned was a homologous Islamic Ummah comprised of compliant Muslim nations willing to accept this nostalgic ideology, followed by a pan-Islamic government. Funded by Arab petroleum sales, this jihad could be sustained because Muslim countries held approximately 80% of the world's readily accessible reserves of crude oil. This would enable the restoration of the Caliphate, and thus usher in a Caliphate. The military defeat of an emasculated mujaahideen brought about some promising perspective and reformation. Our focus was needed elsewhere, besides Chechnya, Kashmir, Mindanao, Pattani, Palestine, etc. We chose the alternative frontier in jihad, Islamic dawah, to rectify the decadent affair of present-day Muslims. However, from the very get-go, politicized Islam was a dud that failed to launch. The Salaf (pious predecessors of the first three generations of Muslims) of seventh-century Islam were far from exemplary and their Ummah was riddled by schism and assassinations. With a religion that advocated jihad and causes belie, it was inevitable to have infighting factions. We had never achieved an Islamic utopia and, without an appropriate method for reformation of Islam, the future seemed not promising without a strategic platform to alleviate the plight of Muslims.
With hindsight, I perceive the quintessential factor sustaining my Islamic faith to be fear. I had buckled under the coercion. After embracing the notion of a Supreme Being, anxiety ensued while receiving admonishment from Allah's Book. A substantial amount of ayat (verses) of the Quran are intimidating threats against your personal well-being. Consequently, after departure from the masjid as a new Muslim, I sensed regret and remorse. By taking precautionary action, I had determined the expected value of submission to Allah over weighing the value of punishment in Hellfire or emptiness of non-belief. This erroneous and biased wager sought the necessity of considering God for personal convenience, without considering the necessity of truth for the sake of truth itself. There lies Pascal's Flaw. When emotions took precedence, in dire desperation, I abandoned my most cherished opinions and chose to surrender voluntarily as Allah's slave.
Surprisingly, the greatest challenge that threatened my servitude to Allah came, neither from criticism by Islamophobic orientalists nor polemics by Neo-conservative Christians but, from Muhammad's holy book itself. Muslims may interpret my doubt as possession by the whispers of Shaytaan (Satan). Prior to my conversion, I had read merely a third of the Quran accompanied by a minuscule amount of ahadith. Since Arabic is foreign to the majority of non-Muslims, conniving proselytizers with impunity can expurgate a compromising interpretation of the Quran Conceivably, had I examined Islamic subjects more thoroughly, I likely would have never walked in a mosque, let alone convert. From my sincere study of al-Quran and Sunnah, at an occurrence when my credence to Islam and servitude to Allah was culminating, I would become disillusioned with an apparently incongruous Quranic text.
Once acquainted with a bona fide Islam, I reevaluated my commitment and questioned whether or not to continue an adherence to the religion. A Muslim eventually stumbles across contestable matter in a Quranic ayat or ahadith. Paradoxically, we questioning Muslims had to use the very scripture under scrutiny that advises us to seek 'the people of knowledge (16:43), or the Ulema (religious-legal scholars) for tafseer (Quranic exegesis or commentary). As one brother put it, you either believe in it or you don't. Now exposed to unadulterated Islam, I would encounter a crucial test of submission. A decisive decision would follow; whether to blindly believe or independently scrutinize a book wherein there is no doubt. (10:37)
The strongest evidence and proof for Islam was al-Quran (Arabic; lit. the recitation). As Muslims, we spuriously believed Jibreel (archangel Gabriel) was sent by Allah to bestow the revelations to Prophet Muhammad. In fact, empirically speaking, the Quran definitively disembarked from the vocal cord of Muhammad's larynx to be heard by his companion's eardrums. If Muhammad was truly illiterate, without the ability to read nor write, then he couldn't adequately supervise the written compilation of the Quran nor proofread. Our faith was reliant upon the fallible sahaaba (devoted companions of the Prophet), whom were not scholars, to manufacture the Quran and preserve it. Devastatingly, most of the companions memorizing the Quran were also illiterate and an enormously significant number of companions died in battle, before and after the death of Prophet Muhammad. Although our Quran was transmitted, memorized, and later written by men, I pondered, could it also have been tampered by them in the process? Religion being the machine and believers the automatons, while avoiding the monumental task of thinking hard, many Muslims would ignore any possible inconvenient truths and say, Allah knows best. Instead of a cold-blooded answer, the evasive responses Id receive from the Ulema were unsatisfactory. With the discovery of the Arabic Quranic containing foreign linguistic influence, I doubted the claim of its preservation in pure Arabic (16:103). Our Quranic text claimed to be an exposition of everything (16:89) and 'the Book explained in detail (6:114). Yet, the actual implementation of Islam necessitated the assistance of ahadith (narrations, the sayings or doings of Muhammad and his companions). Without a hadith, we could not properly perform salat. Regardless if the creation of al-Quran occurred by Allah or in the confines of Muhammad's cerebrum or cerebellum, an unbiased exegete would conclude that nothing new arrived with seventh-century Islam. Likewise, we Muslims postulated the Islamic belief that Islam had the same message revealed to previous Prophets such as Ibrahim (Abraham), Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus), or Musa (Moses), all of whom had the same religion. Truthfully, I found nothing revealed by Prophet Muhammad that couldn't be influenced by or plagiarized from existing sources, especially from the Judeo-Christian tradition (Tanakh, Talmud, New testament, apocryphal works). Everything Islamic could be traced to pre-Islamic origins, from theology to pilgrimage rites. Islam attempted to abolish idolatry when Muhammad, like Ibrahim (Abraham) who was once an idolater (6:76-78), became disillusioned with idolatrous pagan rituals. Prophet Muhammad beseeched the monotheist deity of the Jewish constituents in the Arabian Peninsula but not without undertaking a reform of their Hebrew religion. Evidently so, Musa (Moses), considered the greatest Prophet to the Jews, is the most mentioned Prophet in the Quran Disdain for the Jewish people permeates throughout al-Quran and ahadith for, when the Jewish people eventually rejected Muhammad as a possible Prophet, he vengefully sought against them in heartache. This is why Islam harbors considerable disparagement and hatred for the Jews, a people exceptionally monotheist, rather than Christians or Zoroastrians who apparently commit shirk (polytheism, aligning partners with God). With the epiphany that al-Quran was not Allah's infallible speech, subsequently, I would approach certain aspects of the religion as man-made.
My expectations of a Supreme Being was in contrast to the conventional god of Prophet Muhammad. I yearned for a deity that was transcendent, incomparable, and an indefinable holy unable to be conceptualized. To my discovery, the Islamic deity was actually the generic anthropomorphic Sky Father abound in popular mythology. He was afflicted with psychological infirmities such as megalomania, melancholy, and malevolence. Allah suffered from ambivalence, claiming to be ar-Rahman, ar-Raheem (The Most Merciful, The Most Beneficent), while simultaneously being malicious or fastidious. As an omniscient entity, he should have exhibited irrevocable authorship in his scripture, instead of acting capricious by amending and abrogating revelations like a fallible redactor confused about what He should have written initially. On the one hand, there is the incapacity of man to grasp the nature of omnipotent Allah, yet His Will can be altered by exterior forces such as the affects of human prayers. I could not worship a God that changed. As just another idol, Allah was depicted and contained in the literary work of al-Quran According to one hadith (Sahih Bukhari: Volume 8, Book 74, Number 246), the Islamic God created Adam upon His surah (form, shape, image), sixty cubits in height. Allah rested upon His Throne (arsh) near His Footstool (kursi). He claimed to have an Eye (20:39), a Shin (68:42), a Face (55:27), a Foot (Sahih Bukhari: Volume 9, Book 93, Number 541), even both Right and Left Hands (39:67). Surely, there were many comparable unto Him. (112:4) Discovering Allah to be as mythical as the elephant-god Ganesha or temper tantrum Yahweh was a devastating blow to my heart. Relying on tawheed, the initial attraction to Islam, was ineffectual for I now discerned Allah as fictitious like the rest of the idols. The god of Islam, likely just Muhammad's alter-ego, displayed masculinity, anger, indecision, misogyny, and other moral weaknesses unbefitting of a majestic deity. Between Muhammad and Allah, there was an uncanny resemblance in personality. Similar to the 1939 musical fantasy film, The Wizard of Oz, I realized that the Wizard (Allah) was a fabrication concocted by the man (Muhammad) behind the curtain.
My withdrawal from Islam occurred suddenly as I studied the Quran and ahadith. The same disillusionment I experienced as Buddhist and Christian began to now emerge while a Muslim. I found it difficult to believe in angels, jinn, or talking trees. My mind clustered with doubts and objections as I raged with discontent. The deity was fictitious and cruel, the founder deplorably barbaric and sinful, the scripture mediocre and uninspired, the laws primitive and unjust. I perceived Muhammad as a fraud and Allah as his imaginary friend. Instantly, while holding the Quran still open, I slammed the covers shut. I tossed the book across the room and ran downstairs. With two garbage bags, I eagerly erased Islam from my life. This included every Quran, Arabic course tutorial, hadith book, dawah pamphlet, tape, and paperback book on Islam into the trash. The texts nearly burst the bags. My prayer rug, favorite woolen kufi caps, robe, and compass followed next. I stored the garbage in our garage until night in order to dump near a neighbor's curb for pick-up in the morning. Never had I eagerly renounced an attachment with such certainty and resentment.
When I accepted fundamentalism and uncovered the unadulterated religion of Islam, I eventually became unimpressed. Besides tawheed, what the religion offered wasn't much. To the naive, Islam appeared divine with the hypnotic recitation of the Arabic Quran, captivating Middle-Eastern architecture, and stunning Arabic calligraphy. Our Western culture and Judeo-Christian traditions just paled in comparison. However, just like in art, it only seems creative when the influences and sources are left unknown. Once you uncover the plagiarism, what remains is tediously pedestrian. Reverts from a Christian upbringing, because of their dire hatred for Christianity, were blinded to the core principles as taught by Jesus. The grass seemed greener on the other side. But the reality is, where Christians sought forgiveness for sinners, Muslims sought punishment. Muslims prayed towards an inanimate object (i.e., the Kabah at Makkah), while Christians prayed towards the heavens. Ahl us-Sunnah proudly ate on the floor with their hands like animals, while the kaffir used chairs and utensils like rightly guided people. As for the corpus of Islam, unable to find a shred of originality, I concluded the Quran as the most unoriginal composition in religion. Ive read beautifully written books without any errors, but that doesn't mean they're divine. Judaism was actually more Islamic than Muhammad's religion for Yahweh forbid angels and humankind from bowing to creation, whereas Allah commanded the angels to bow before Adam Religion should have man change for God, not vice versa. Allah would make changes to suit the whims and desires of Muhammad. We reverts were lied to, though none admitted it. Islam did not mean peace but 'submission. Even those religious groups - the Jews and Christians - which share theological similarities with the Islamic faith are not to be taken as auliya (friends, protectors, helpers). There was a legal hatred for the Jews, fully sanctioned by our scripture. It was a very politicized religion pushing much propaganda. The longer I was Muslim, the more ahadith and less Quranic ayat we would receive. Sunnah became the obsession as man-made laws and traditions basically replaced Allah's revelations.
For an unbiased investigation, I examined the veracity of Islamic Creationism. Muslims claim that the perfection of creation implies intelligent design. According to creationists, certain natural systems are too sophisticated to be adequately explained without help from an intelligent agent. Using their logic, for the sake of my argument, I will claim that Allah (subhanahu wa taala) al-Mutakabbir (The Supremely Great, The Majestic) is greater than any evidence found in creation. The Quran agrees that not everything has a cause. However, since Allah merely exists Himself in arbitrariness, without any given antecedents, given purpose, nor given meaning, so can the universe itself. If the anomalistic existence of Allah al-Kabeer (The Most Great) can just be without cause, no logical explanation should be required for the lessor entities in the universe such as bacteria, planets, cells, or DNA. This is their logic. Ironically, instead of perhaps concluding that the universe always existed, Muslims create the idol or anomaly of God in partnership with the universe. No longer impartial by blind faith and delusion, I rationally dismissed the Islamic assertion of a Creator in their absence of compelling evidences.
Although the non-zero probability of the existence of God was and will remain present, the same probability exists for gods, ghosts, monsters, and boogie-men. The stated entities have been encountered in every civilization during every time period throughout history. Primitive man once believed everything from trees to rocks contained a spirit. Animism is still practiced today by native populations around the globe. Even the Islamic tradition has kept a few spirits, such as angels and jinn. Eventually, two spirits remained in mainstream belief, because of atheism. Those two are God and the human soul. No reason surfaced to suggest Muhammad's Allah was any more significant than the other quadrillion gods contrived throughout human history. Like all theists, Prophet Muhammad approached the chicken or and egg dilemma by guessing that a motherless chicken once upon a time created everything. The whimsical being of Allah, the epitome of arbitrariness and fortuitousness, exists superficially and accidentally by chance with no given purpose or meaning. He is the fiction of imaginative hope. The Islamic understanding conclusively bypasses the probability consideration and boldly begins at a mind-boggling refutable truth: There is no deity but God.
Certain rituals and conditions required by Sunnah for the ibaadah (worship) of Allah actually were a distraction from worship itself. One must be in a purified condition for acts of worship, and to facilitate this, a ritual of purification known as wudu (partial ablution) or ghusl (full ablution) must be conducted. The wudu would be rendered nullified if, for example, the Muslim defecated, urinated, bled, fell asleep, or passed gas. Since Sunnah allocated a limited time frame for each of the five prayers, the result would be disastrous. If you completed al-wudu to begin an obligatory salah, and suddenly released gas, the entire cleansing ritual had to be redone. This entailed getting semi-undressed, making niyyah (intention), doing recitations (e.g., bismillah, shahada), washing the face, neck, arms, head, nasal cavity, mouth, ears, feet, including the repetition of each act three times. By desperately undertaking to postpone flatulence and the call of nature, during prayer, a worshiper would experience consciousness of one's own bowel movements, rather than consciousness of God. Instead of praying to God alone, we Muslims were submitting to the automatic prayers constituted by mere men. During worship in jamaaah (congregation), especially for Eid or Jumuah salat, you had to prostrate behind men. This position gave one a view of the carpet below, the masculine buttocks of the worshiper in front, or the holes in his socks. For any heterosexual revert, this was an uncomfortable predicament. Truthfully said, for this reason is why brothers came early to reserve a spot in the front row. If a Muslimah was allowed in the masjid, shed unfortunately be behind a man's behind or in an enclosed section separated by a screen. Islam was vehemently against idolatry, yet when we Muslims performed salat, there was always a figure before us. And if you traveled to Makkah following the qiblah (direction of worship), you'd discover Muslims prostrating, touching, caressing, and even kissing the Kabah. During hajj (pilgrimage) at Mina, hundreds would be killed and thousands injured following the idolatrous ritual known as the 'stoning of the devil. Al-Jamaraat, the three symbols representing the devil, have been since renovated into 26-metre-long walls in the hopes that more Muslims don't die trying to make an impression on the idols. The Arabic Quran, believed to be incarcerated Truth and the literal speech of Allah, also became an idol for Muslims. With washed hands, we held our Holy Book and many would actually kiss it. For Christians, Jesus was the Word of God made flesh, while Muslims held the Quran as the Word of God made text. I questioned the necessity of prayers and Quranic recitation being reserved only in Arabic, simply for the pleasure of Allah Clearly, we were following traditions for the sake of Arab supremacy. Most Muslims were not fluent in Arabic, so instead of reaping the benefits in our native languages, we recited in a foreign tongue what many could neither articulate with nor understand. If Allah was omnipotent, he could understand English. In Islam, instead of being Muslim for Allah, we had to become Arab to be Muslim.
The Islamic world was a catastrophe for we Muslims were unable to reconcile the discrepancies in our religion, the bedrock of all predominantly Muslim states. In the Quran, particular Madinan revelations conflicted with Makkan ones. Our foundation was an incomplete sacred text quite ambiguous, inconsistent, and without chronological order. With the Quran lacking proper substance to be a constitution for a civilization, we implored man-made ahadith to help a divine revelation. Although this combination provided substance to implement Shareeah (Islamic law), it brought more discrepancies into the religion. According to the Quran, all men and women are born in a state of fitrah as Muslims. However, the Sunnah demands the adhaan (call to prayer) and shahada to be yelled into our infant's ears at birth. While the Quran commanded worship in neither aloud nor in a low voice, (17:110) Sunnah instructed a Muslim to scream at pedestrians the adhaan (call to prayer) from the top of buildings. Allah's Creation is perfect, but Sunnah mandates that Muslim infants should be corrected with circumcision. The Quran says to make no distinction between the Prophets, yet, the hadith-inspired Islam with Allah and His Messenger was awfully similar to the Father and His Son in Christianity. Islam has elevated the Prophet Muhammad to an infallible hero with almost godlike status. However, when Allah commanded fifty prayers a day in the night of al-Israa and Miraj, Muhammad could not 'submit and disobediently sought to reduce the amount repeatedly until it was down to five. Women could legally have no more than one husband, while the Prophet Muhammad could and did have several in one day. Allah created everything perfect, especially the Quran which is considered to be the ultimate miracle (17:88) proving Islam by containing ayat (signs, verses, proofs, evidences, miracles). Non-Muslims who doubt the Quran are challenged by Allah to produce a surah like it (2:23). Yet, throughout Muhammad's prophetic career, Allah would abrogate verses to 'substitute one revelation for another (2:106, 16:101) as if the Truth needed correction. He claimed throughout the Quran to be the The Most Merciful and The Most Beneficent while simultaneously threatening man in detail the prepared punishments and tortures awaiting him in Hellfire. Although the Quran claimed to be the best hadith (39:23) and contained Sunnah, fundamentalists were not satisfied with the Quran Indeed, they abandoned the Quran in the process as the Prophet Muhammad said of his people (25:30). With such inconsistencies, no wonder a schism in the Islamic Ummah occurred immediately after the Prophet's funeral.
The evolution and behavior of a Muslim revert has always been predictable. Soofiyyah (Sufism) was what attracted the ample majority of today's converts. In fact, without a military conquest by the sword, this has basically been the endorsed ideology for the amicable expansions of Islam. Indeed, Islam wasn't completely spread by the sword but was welcomed by many. However, to be downright and straightforward, Sufism isn't Islam but a deviation from it. Tasawwuf or Soofiyyah ingratiated Islam to the kaffir by accommodating a rigid theology into a compromising spiritual mysticism. Islam almost took the backseat for some individuals. Instead of pursuing the Muslim identity, many reverts would become obsessed with their Arab wardrobe, the Arab language, and Arab politics. If they converted in a predominantly South Asian neighborhood, you'd notice the reverts mimicking desi culture in an attempt to assimilate. It's a daunting task, especially for Muslims, to rectify the confusion of Islam with culture and culture with Islam. From firsthand experience, Id generously estimate that merely a quarter of all converts actually remain Muslim by their first year. Oftentimes, a serious revert would exhaust him/herself to the point of burn-out and would slowly disappear into apostasy. The latter individuals were never spoken of as we ignored anything that could possibly jeopardize imaan (faith) and taqwaa (piety, fear of Allah). Judging by their facial expression and physical posture, I could differentiate between a now moderate Muslim and a timid apostate trying to go undetected. Those Mu'minoon (faithful believers) that actually kept their Islam, now keen on fundamentalism, eventually disowned their native culture and decidedly lived and dressed as seventh century Arabian Muslims, even in a North American metropolitan city. The first turban I actually saw was on a Canadian, a Caucasian convert trying desperately hard to be one with his Pakistani congregation. These particular reverts - ripe for a picking by the Salafiyoon - would willingly yearn for a strict adherence to the fundamentals of Islam. As reverts, readily dupable and persuadable, our dependence and submission was crucial for a successful brainwashing.
Reverts to Islam, ever so gullible and naive, were easily susceptible to the prevalent dysfunctional behaviors and propaganda infecting most Muslim societies. By striving to not conform with the kaffir, we duly had to be ignorant by circumnavigating anything un-Islamic. We believed, if a Muslim concealed the faults of another in this world, his own faults would be concealed by Allah on the Day (i.e., Day of Resurrection). One revert declared that Usama bin Laden was better than a million George Bushes and a thousand Tony Blairs simply because he's a Muslim. Arrogantly speaking, we Muslims were 'the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind. (3:110) So when an atrocity occurred that was obviously committed by Muslims in the name of Allah, my fellow brothers and sisters were complacent. We obsequiously forsook the human rights violations in Muslim countries, even when the victims were Muslims. The conspiracy theories widespread in my Muslim society were outright delusion. Not even the moderate Muslims, who neglected salat and committed zina (illegal sex; fornication, adultery, etc.), could accept the Muslim identities of the 9/11 pilots. As my Afghani classmate remarked, It was the Jews! When the opportunity arose for self-criticism, inevitably, we instead blamed the Jews, our favorite scapegoat. Homogenizing oneself into the Islamic Ummah was ostensibly clinched if one supported the latest Arab-Muslim agenda, grew an outstanding beard, abstained from using beads during tasbeeh, expressed hatred for the Jews, uttered the word bidah occasionally, and repudiated the modern state of Israel. We proudly acknowledged the jihad, yet acted stupid if questioned by a kaffir and responded to their accusations with, for example, How do you know it was done by Muslims? Where is the evidence? Although they were not blind to the videotaped confessions by boasting Muslim terrorists, they chose to be. Not all Muslims were terrorists, although it was unequivocally but agonizingly true that most terrorists were Muslims. Sunni Muslims, to be exact. If some Americans or Jews died, there was sympathetic joy and I observed this particular behavior genially absorbed by one Muslimah just five years old. Reverts hopelessly adopted a rigid interpretation of Islam taught by immigrants from oppressive theocracies that incarcerated ijtihaad to keep freethinking and dissent criminal and their rule immutable.
The greatest threat to dogmatism is doubt because thinking leads to kufr (disbelief). Islam thought for us. My classmate Mohammad once said, You know what your problem is? You think too much! Ironically, freethinking and open-mindedness brought me to tolerate their dawah and convert. I embraced Islam and gave Allah my undivided worship. But because I now kindly disagree, Islamic scholars say I should be killed. Even moderate Muslims living in the West concede with my death sentence. All Muslims encountered ayat and ahadith too unpalatable to digest. Did submission (Islam) mean accepting not just everything, but anything? I realized that I could not be a muqallid (follower who imitates another blindly and unquestioningly). I found it deplorable that Muhammad, a man over fifty years of age, married six year-old Aisha and then consummated the marriage when she was nine. His hatred for the Jews rivaled the antisemitism of Adolf Hitler. The Prophet, supposedly guided by God, did not abolish slavery but actually possessed slaves. He waged systematic campaigns to exterminate opponents. I came from a civilization where murder was considered, believe it or not, wrong? I had to draw the line somewhere. Yielding to fundamentals and authority is a legitimate endeavor, while fundamentalism and authoritarianism is not.
In the pursuit of a strict monotheistic belief system, I incidentally had accepted the irrational and illogical along with the absurd. In the process of wishful thinking, we fell into willful delusion. As blindly obedient slaves of Allah, resultantly, believers became subdued as mentally comatose Islamobots without the ability to doubt, question, or scrutinize. This dogmatic approach by theists favored delusion and coercion that intentionally set believers as sheep to be led by shepherds into justifying anything they so desired (e.g., Jonestown by Jim Jones, 9/11 by Khalid Sheikh Mohammad). We harbored the delusion that Islam was perfect, while Muslims just did not live up to Islam. We had to agree with the inferiority of women, the amputation of the hand for thieves, and antisemitic hatred of the Jews. There was stoning of women and animal sacrifices. Even the incentives of Islam were ignoble. Paradise, an apparent Club Med in the sky, contained earthly sensuality and materialism catering to primitive man, such as numerous women, wine, and couches. A married Muslimah would spend eternity attending her husband as he titillated with numerous women in bed. A sensible man should expect better treatment for his wife (i.e., an equal human being that is someone's daughter, sister, or mother). No progressive interpretation of such scripture could hide the ignominiousness. Although the Quran alone was a revelation unto itself, to deny a sahih hadith was an intellectual cop-out. One had to simultaneously obey Allah and the Rasool (messenger), without bias to sound evidence. Reason can exist, but so long as its conclusions conflict not with the institutionalized logic frozen in seventh-century Islamic orthodoxy. To be a Muslim, one had to absolutely relinquish heterodoxy, as the name of the game is literally 'submission (Islam). No Muslim could rationally reform a religion that had been perfected (5:3) by an omniscient and omnipotent God. I realized that Islam could likely not be reformed.
Surprisingly, even as an apostate of Islam, I contemplated on reverting back to the religion on numerous of occasions. To outsiders, Islam was an unfashionable and demanding faith tradition to adopt. However, contrary to most apostates, I view my experience with Islam as a blessing. I enjoyed the obligations and would establish my salah regardless if I was under a staircase in a busy subway terminal or outdoors bracing the elements. I immensely miss fajr (dawn) salah and cleansing myself by wudu (ablution), a reinvigorating ritual leaving your body, heart, mind, and soul in rejuvenation. Never had I felt so pure. Islam was intentionally my chosen faith out of sincere submission to God, not for conniving to woo a Muslimah or it being adopted by my forefathers as my birthright. Only with the Quran could I facilitate a belief in God. There seems to exist a religiosity innate in man, including the atheist. Considerably, Allah proved to be a comforting solace, though one day I contemplated on why none of my modest supplications had ever been answered. And I begged Allah (swt) to keep me Muslim. If I could sustain the belief in Allah, I would remain Muslim and try to courageously reform Islam from the clutches of fascists. Eventually, I accepted the fact that I was plagued with doubt from the veritable onset. Although once again skeptical of religion, I continued to uphold ethics and ideals such as pacifism and vegetarianism. I had faith, just not in a particular god or religion and held my quintessential identity to be as ex-Muslim. No longer a Muslim, life now was a vacuum and I knew Islam could never fill that void.
As an apostate of Islam, similar to all dissidents, I keep my views hidden. But on one occasion, I confessed about my apostasy and opinions to one Muslim and was almost physically assaulted. Living with fundamentalist Muslims certainly made for a tense situation. For safety reasons, I kept up appearances and preferred to pose as a nominal or nonpracticing Muslim instead of an apostate. As an atheist, I view all religions as man-made institutions. Unfortunately, due to inadequate evidence, Id concede the existence of God as highly unlikely. Most definitely, this God described in all world religions is but a trivial idol. The whole premise of my conversion to Islam was to embrace a monotheistic view of God and fully submit to Him. I presumably accepted an omniscient, transcendent, and sublime deity, but after delving into Islam, I realized that Allah was just another conventional god. God could still exist, but equally, so could the other supernatural beings abound in mythology. The time has come for adults to grow-up and discard their imaginary friends. Id estimate that 99.99% of believers adhere to a particular religion, not by choice, but because their parents indoctrinated them. Before I was an agnostic, but after my experience with Islam, Ive become an atheist. This testimony ideally must bear criticism of Islam, but don't be fooled. From my intimate experience with Islam, Ive encountered much truth and good. For that, I'm truthfully appreciative. Some of the best people Ive met are, in fact, Muslims. Before my conversion, I despised the religion of Prophet Muhammad. However, I now respect Islam, but notwithstanding that I kindly choose to disagree with Muhammad.
Leaving Islam was likely the greatest decision Ive ever had to make. The religion of Prophet Muhammad kept me shackled from the diverse richness that is life. I rediscovered love; the unconditional loving-kindness and equal respect for all humankind, irrespective of gender, caste, race, language, nationality, religion, or lack there of. By doubt, I scrutinized and by questioning, I sought. In seeking, I increase the possibility that I may come upon more truths. But I'm not as arrogant to claim I possess The Truth, with a capital tee. In conclusion, for the Muslims in the audience, a quotation from Stephen F. Roberts who eloquently said it best: I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.