Apostasy–What is it, Exactly?

Apostasy— what a mouthful! It’s a word full of harsh sounds, more consonants than vowels. Its’ pejorative connotation suggests more than a mere disaffiliation with a religion, yet sometimes, it’s not even that.

In recent months I’ve discovered a number of blogs dedicated to apostasy from Islam, yet no one ever uses this word. Perhaps former Muslims shudder at the thought of capital punishment called for by fanatics who understand nothing about human nature. let alone divine.

What I find curious is the defensiveness that marks these writings. Islam is accused of usurping free will, and ruining lives. Islam is accused of all sorts of tricks that rob the person of something that doesn’t belong to Islam. Since most religious systems could answer to the same accusations, I wonder about the maturity of such writers, and of their original motivation for adhering to Islam in the first place.  One thing is sure– when a person tries to fill the culturally square Islamic peg with a round Western personality, some spillage is bound to occur.

I suggest that many tears and arguments have been poured into the world not because the circle doesn’t quite fit the square, but that the square was not large enough to contain the circle.

When you consider how differently Islam is practiced from country to country, community to community, individual to individual, you may be surprised to discover as much variation as can be found in Christianity. For the person who feels in need of reformation, self-discipline, or spiritual development through ritual practice, Islam offers much, and so does Christianity. For the person whose character holds tenaciously to the preservation of what little free will we think we have, Islam offers much, and so does Christianity.

Using the broadest definition of terms, a Muslim is one who believes in one God and Mohammad’s prophethood. A Christian is one who believes in Jesus. Therefore,  a Muslim is also a Christian. Since both believe in the Judeo-Christian divinity commonly called “God”, both Muslims and Christians are also Jews.

So what’s the big deal?  Hindus and Buddhists and Atheists remain.  How ironic, then, that the most violent religiously based infighting occurs historically and persistently amongst Jews, Christians and Muslims, who supposedly believe in the same divinity! One would think that Jews, Christians and Muslims would get together and make war on Hindus, Buddhists, and Atheists, because those groups reject the singularity of an almighty god.

Getting back to apostasy, then, one can rightly ask of any so-called apostate, “From what are you apostatizing?” I think the answer would have something to do with the container being too small to accommodate the spirit being poured into it.

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26 responses

  1. For me, I am apostasizing from the belief that a book is the direct and verbatim word of God to man. While Islam is practiced very differently across the globe, at the heart of Islam is the Quran. For me, questioning of the divine nature of the Quran is what began my journey into disbelief. Many of the the things held within it, when I really allowed myself to be honest, just couldn’t be reconciled with my values nor my idea of reality. I don’t believe that my testimony is half that of a man’s, nor does my husband have the right to discipline me if I am disobedient because I am not a child (even if it is only with a miswak). I don’t believe in jinn or shaitan whispering in my ears or black magic. I don’t believe in fantastical stories of men sitting in the belly of a whale or virgin births or men collecting every species of animal into an arc. I also don’t feel anything divine in the idea of a god which constantly berates it’s reader with threats of hellfire as a result of disbelief, when that very god is the one who guides the believer in the first place.

    So after reaching the conclusion that the Quran was not for God, the obvious doubts of the prophethood arose.

    For me, I’ve never claimed Islam ruined my life, although I sometimes look back and am bewildered at my actions. I wonder why I spent so much time making sure my behind was covered, or not a hair was showing, or worrying about the souls of my non-muslim family, or feeling guilty for listening to Mozart. Yes, there is beauty and truth held within Islam. But I don’t think that’s anything special about Islam, or unique, when compared to other religions. I think all religions are humankinds attempt at understanding the divine, the Great Mystery that we all seem to get glimpses of from time to time. Religion is one way to see the unseeable.

    I think stripping away all of the layers of your belief system and then finding nothing underneath can be extremely life changing and even tramatic for people who undergo this process. I’d caution you to not rush to judgement and call them “immature”. I realize Muslims tend to take apostasy very personally, but that doesn’t eliminate the legitamacy of the exerience of the one who leaves the faith.

  2. Thanks, Stephanie, for commenting so thoroughly. I must confess that after many years as a Muslim, I, too, have rejected many of the points you specified. The difference between us, however, is that I never believed them in the first place.

    I never believed the God deemed my testimony worth half that of a man, for instance. I never believed in events that were not objectively possible, like the virgin birth. When hearing or reading these things, my reaction was always one of, “Yeah, whatever…” By virtue of the great psychological device called denial, I was able to remain content within Islam, even in the face of irreconcilable differences between me and it.

    Deconstructing one’s religious belief system can be traumatic, indeed. I experienced the pain of it when I converted from Christianity to Islam. The conversion was not an easy or pleasant affair, yet it positioned me for real spiritual growth, and I don’t mean in the exclusive province of Islam.

    I don’t mean to label people who experience this as “immature,” though I’ve noticed that people who convert (myself, included) sometimes demonstrate a sort of naivete, or perhaps idealism, that might not have gotten ruined had the conversion not happened.

    This is an interesting subject on which I’d like to read and write more. Thanks again for commenting, and I hope to hear from you again.

  3. Hello sister Marahm,

    I too have come across some of these websites and blogs, and I share all of your observations, and I have some more to add:

    1. These people hate Muslims. And they hate us with a passion.
    2. These people do not call themselves Atheists or Agnostics or [Insert Religion Here]. They call themselves only “ex-Muslims”, which is nonsense and a fake identity. I have come across many Atheists, Agnostics and Muslims of Christian, Jewish and Hindu backgrounds, and never have I seen one of them call himself an ex-Christian or ex-Hindu etc… They take pride in their new worldview. Very few of them hate on and degrade their former co-religionists, unlike the self-described “ex-Muslims”.
    3. These people only criticize Islam. They rarely criticize other religions. Most of them have even formed alliances with fascist Christians, Jews, Hindus and other haters of Muslims. Of course the sole goal of these unholy alliances is to demean and degrade everything Muslim. I have never seen Atheists and Agnostics of Christian, Jewish or Hindu backgrounds form alliances with people of other religions to demean their former religions and co-religionists, and they criticize all religions. These self-described “ex-Muslims” have no integrity whatsoever.

    These people need to get a life, and to stop obsessing themselves with Muslims and their religion. I have no problem with honest and unbiased criticism of Islam. I love healthy debates based on knowledge and mutual respect. But until these guys, with their unjustified arrogance, and unholy alliances, stop targeting Islama and hating on Muslims then there will be no chance whatsoever for a civilized and healthy debate.

    Regards,

  4. Issam, I respectfully disagree with you regarding your first statement. I don’t perceive “hatred” on the part of ex-Muslims. If some of them are vehement in their rejection, and critical of what they formerly believed, it is only due to their struggles within themselves regarding the truth of divine identity.

    I’ve realized we will never perceive divine identity fully until we die, and that all of life is not long enough to investigate the topic to satisfaction. We are all on crooked paths, but our ends will converge at the point of death. Beyond that…well..during life we believe what we need to believe.

    Your second point is interesting. Ex-Muslims do call themselves ex-Muslims, and I wonder whether they go to other religions, or drop religion altogether. You say it is “…nonsense and a fake identity.” I disagree that it is a fake identity.

    When a person calls him/herself an ex-Muslim, I’m sure they know what that means with regard to identity. Perhaps you are asking about what fills the void that Islam once filled. When persons no longer call themselves Muslims, then what do they call themselves?

    Your third point addresses the emotional bitterness that often accompanies an apostate with his/her declaration. I am always suspicious of tremendous emotion. It says more about the person feeling it than the object of its energy.

    Cultivating arrogance with respect to one’s religion (former or otherwise) is a natural tendency. It’s easy to look down one’s nose a those who haven’t seen the light. At the end of the day, after the debates, the studies, and the inter-faith meetings, we are still left with our own consciences. I wish we could be satisfied with that, and not have to insist that one or the other side has to be right.

  5. Hello sister Stephanie,

    Please let me respond to your objections to Islam;

    1. The Quran does not say that the testimony of a woman is half that of a man’s. There are several verses in the Quran regarding testimony, and in all of them the Quran does not make any difference between men and women. Actually in one sura, [24-8-9], the testimony of women overrules that of men. There is no other religion or constitution that gives women such rights. The confusion about women’s testimony comes from verse [2:282]. This verse only concerns commercial dealings, and so it only applies to a specific situation, and is not universal. It also does not say that the testimony of a woman is half that of a man’s in commercial dealings. It means that there should be another woman witness should the first woman witness make a mistake. This is because in those days men used to do all the work while women were kept at home, rare exceptions notwithstanding. And so women were far more susceptible to making mistakes than men. But since nowadays women work alongside men and have acquired the same work experiences as men, then the condition for the second woman witness becomes void and so one woman witness becomes sufficient.

    2. The Quran does not give your husband the right to discipline you. If your husband is good with you, and yet you are not good with him, then he can admonish you first, and then banish you to bed apart, and lastly separate from you. Unfortunately this verse [4:34] is mistranslated as “beat them” rather than “separate from them”. The word at question here is “idrib” which means to separate in other verses in the Quran. The Quran orders men to treat their women with kindness in verse [4:19] and thus verse [4:34] cannot mean “beat them” but rather “separate from them”.

    3. The Quran never says that jinn or shaitan whisper in our ears, nor does it say anything about black magic. This is not in the Quran at all.

    4. What is wrong with men sitting in the belly of a whale or virgin births? Of course these events defy natural laws because they are miracles. That is what miracles are all about. But they do not defy the rules of logic. God is omnipotent and He is the Creator of the universe and its laws, and thus He can break the laws of nature if He wants.

    5. The Quran does not say that Noah collected every species of animal into an arc, because the flood of Noah is a local event in the Quran, not a global one. Noah only collected pairs of animals in his habitat in order to survive on the arc and after the end of the flood.

    6. God’s favours on us are unlimited, therefore rejecting God is an unlimited crime which requires an unlimited punishment and that is eternal Hell. That is justice.

    7. God only guides those who seek guidance, and misguides those who seek misguidance. God does guide those who seek misguidance because that would infringe their free will.

    8. Islam says that both men and women should wear decently. Do not you think that exposing your back is not very decent?

    9. Covering your hair is not an Islamic law. The Quran does not command women to cover their hair or face. This is a cultural custom.

    10. If your non-Muslim family are good people, then you will go to Paradise. You need not worry about them.

    11. Music is lawful in Islam. The Quran does not forbid listening to music. You can listen to Mozart and all your favourite musicians and composers as you wish.

    12. Religion, particularly Islam, is the only rational way to conceive God. A disinterested god who does not care about his creatures is not a just or merciful god. A Good God should communicate with His creatures to show them the good way from the bad way. A Just God should reward the good and punish the evil. Your god is neither good nor just Stephanie.

    Sister Stephanie, I would caution you not to dismiss Islam so quickly. Your knowledge of Islam is much distorted. You believe many things about Islam that are not in the Quran at all. I advise you to lay out your objections to Islam point by point so that we can have a civilized discussion. I know several acquaintances who had abandoned Islam in the past and then reverted to it later on and became more Muslim than ever before, because they were sincere in their questions about Islam and in their quest for the truth.

    Regards,

  6. Dear sister Marahm;

    There are many of these self-described ex-Muslims that hate us with a passion and even curse us with the worst language you can ever imagine. This is a fact. Of course not all of them are like that but a very significant proportion of them are very hateful. They also happen to be the most vocal among them.

    I believe we can perfectly understand Divine identity by using simple rules of logic. We do not need to wait until we die to fully perceive Divine identity. Deploying simple elementary logic will do the job. You just need to use it correctly of course.

    I have never seen atheists, agnostics or Muslims of Christian or Hindu backgrounds etc… consistently call them “apostates” of this or that or ex-Christian or ex-Hindu. They always describe themselves by their newly embraced ideology or religion. It makes no sense to ask someone what is your religion and he answers: ex-Christian or ex-Hindu. This is an irrelevant answer, if it can be considered as an answer. Normal people do not define themselves by their past beliefs, but by their current beliefs. That is why I consider this “ex-Muslim” or “apostasy” rhetoric to be a fake identity. These people are just looking for a confrontation with Muslims. They want to provoke Muslims. They do not want to relish their new ideology because they suffer from inferiority complexes toward Muslims and their religion.

    An atheist or agnostic who rejects all religion and yet joins other religious fascists to demean a specific religion or religious group is a hypocrite who is unworthy of respect.

    Atheists and Muslims of Christian or Hindu backgrounds for instance, have also gone through emotional bitterness, yet I have never seen or heard of ex-Christian Atheists, for instance, and Muslims join hands to criticize and demean Christians and Christianity, yet I have seen the reverse many times. This is because Muslims and ex-Christian Atheists have integrity and pride in their beliefs, while these sectarian “ex-Muslims” and Christians have neither integrity nor pride in their beliefs. They hate Muslims and Islam more than they love their own beliefs.

    When you are hammered by sectarians who always question your religion, but never question their own religion with the same force, then you have to prove to them their errors. People of house glasses should not throw stones at others. I do not proselytize Islam but if a sectarian bigot comes and starts rudely questioning Islam then rest assured I will put him in his place.

    Regards,

  7. Firstly, regarding exmuslim blogs and forums– I have not personally come across many blogs that I would call hateful. Actually there are only a few ex Muslim blogs that I’ve run across that are still active. Some bloggers do have lingering anger issues which is understandable, but I don’t believe they hate Muslims (at least the ones I’ve read). I can say in all honesty, that I personally have responded to comments on my own blog in at least an underhanded or passively hostile way. Perhaps it’s a flaw of mine to lash out at criticism and I certainly have no patience for ignorance or closed mindedness. I try not to, but I’m sure my annoyance has come across in at least a few of my responses to comments.

    There does exist a few exMuslim forums that I do find distasteful. I’m not in the business of bashing Islam or the prophet. Even as an ex Muslim myself, it offends me when people slander Muhammad. I’ve also noticed that many people on those sites have a superiority complex about their beliefs and view believers as simply stupid. Issam’s right, this attitude doesn’t lend itself to civil discussion.

    Secondly, and regarding the rest of Issam’s comments, I’m not a believer in the existence of “true Islam”. By this I mean, I don’t believe the salafi’s are right, or the progressives are right. There is only a wide and varied body of opinion within Islamic tradition. This is a source of strength and should be embraced more by modern Muslims.

    However, one cannot deny the place of the scholars and the opinions that have come to represent orthodoxy and formed the character of modern Islamic thought. These things, too, make up Islam. You can choose to reject certain ideas and not others. However, Issam, you claim tha my view is distorted, and yet the opinions that you express are completely and wholly outside of orthodoxy. Are the thousands of scholars and so called experts on Islamic law wrong and you are right? There is no tangible answer to this question, but the point I am leading to is, at some point when one changes the character of the religion so much, when one is completely outside of the the ideas of past and present about what is Islamic, when’s one interpretation of the Quran is so different, are you still within Islam or have you fabricated your own religion entirely? We can mold Islam however we see fit to coincide with our own observations and opinions. But where are the boundaries of the faith? For me, I realized that my ideas were no longer part of what could in any sense of the word be called Islam. So why call it that? At some point boundaries do exist, else we are talking about something else entirely.

  8. I am not familiar with this word apostasy, but I gather it does not mean apostle in ecstasy. :-))

    “The truth is the world must change” The Revelation of Arès 28/7

    Among other things, our Creator calls on us to form an alliance within the family of Abraham. He points out that things established through the centuries by scholars, doctors, etc., are not necessarily true. A prophet speaks so as best to convey the message to his people of that day and time. Our Creator would prefer we find salvation in joy but if the only way is through fear, then so be it, hence the warnings of the consequences if we do not choose to put our steps in His Steps, to follow a path towards Good by freely changing within.

  9. The very thing that brings people to convert to a religion (Islam) is the very same thing that takes them away from it (apostacy)….and that would be knowledge.

    A little bit of knowledge is what most converts to Islam use to decide to convert into…a lot of knowledge is learned (willing or not) once one is a part of the great Ummah and THAT is generally what eventually leads one away from it.

    I find it interesting that a new convert is viewed with celebration and assurances of how intelligent and blessed they are to have made such a wise decision and favored by God to have been lead to such a path….but then the moment one IS a Muslim….that same intellect that lead one to convert..is suddenly meant to be discarded in favor of “because the Prophet said so” sort of mindset. No further thinking required.

    Generally, I like to think…and because I think I ponder…and my pondering leads me down paths towards questions I didn’t ask before converting. After I converted nobody wanted to answer the millions of questions I had…it was as if my right to ask was cut off the moment I took shahada.

    Well let me rephrase..I could only ask the RIGHT sort of questions…how do I wear hijab…do salat…how I must NOT pray while on my menses cause Im polluted…how I MUST please my husband at all times and heres how..etc etc..but anything more complex than that was frowned upon.

    Islam is the great DADT of our time. Dont ask cause you wont Be Told.

  10. Coolred, your point is interesting– that knowledge brings one to Islam and knowledge (or the lack of it!) takes one away. Evidently, this has been your experience, and, I suspect, the experience of other converts who end up questioning themselves with regard to their participation in Islam.

    I did not have that experience. I was able to learn and continue learning the entire time I lived in Riyadh. Yes, I learned the Saudi “version”, but I always knew there were other ways of observing Islam, and I always looked forward to learning the “non-Saudi versions.”

    Apart from learning, one must also respond to inner cues, and for we Western women, inner cues tell us that wearing an abaya on the beach is a ridiculous idea. Here is where culture intersects religion, and I wonder how many of our inner conflicts are actually related to this kind of reluctance on our parts to do things which not only seem ridiculous but are unconnected with our gut-level connection to God.

  11. Dear Stephanie,

    I have run across ex-Muslim blogs and forums that hate Muslims with a passion. When these people have nothing but negative things to say about Muslims, when they try as hard as they can to degrade Muslims, when they divide the world into non-Muslim vs. Muslim, when they always call themselves “ex-Muslim” or “apostate of Islam” instead of calling themselves atheist or agnostic or whatever they embrace, then they hate Muslims. Of course they do not say that they hate Muslims so as not to appear as the hate-filled, pitiful and arrogant people that they really are.

    True Islam does exist. Either the Salafis are right, or the Progressives are right. Both cannot be right at the same time. I believe the Progressives are right, and that is why I am a progressive Muslim. And by the way Stephanie, I do not consider division a source of strength. I believe both the Progressives and the Salafis need to sit together and resolve their differences. These differences exist because the Progressives believe only in the Quran, while the Salafis believe, beside the Quran, in the absolute authority of fallible men. These differences need to be resolved, not embraced more by modern Muslims. A unified community is much stronger than a divided, contradicting community.

    Of course one should not ignore the opinions of the ancient and modern scholars that have shaped modern Islamic thought, but they do not make up Islam. Islam is what the Quran says. Everything else is human opinion. The opinions of the ancient and modern scholars are interpretations of Islam. They need to be studied and evaluated in light of what the Quran has to say. Moreover, we do not have to follow what the ancient scholars said letter by letter. We do not even have to follow them at all. They have their opinions and works, just like we have our opinions and works. What the Quran says should be the only judge on this.

    You say that the opinions that I express are completely and wholly outside of orthodoxy. But what exactly is orthodoxy? Orthodoxy is a Greek word that means the right path, so I am actually following orthodoxy. Of course my opinions differ from the opinions of traditional Muslims, that is because they believe in the Hadiths and the authority of ancient scholars. Are the thousands of scholars and so called experts on Islamic law wrong and I am right? This is a fallacious argument from authority. It is also the fallacious argumentum ad populum. But anyway, there have been hundreds of scholars who totally agree with my understanding of the Quran. You have heard about Khaled Abou Elfadl, Nimat Hafez Barazangi, Amina Wadud, Kecia Ali, Fatima Mernissi and Asma Barlas. You probably have not heard of Ahmad Sobhy Mansour and Gamal Albanna because their works are in Arabic, nor have you probably heard of ancient progressive scholars like Abu Hanifa and Mohammad Abdu. Over the centuries, and especially in recent decades, there has been a massive progressive literature in Arabic, Persian and Urdu. The scholars I mentioned here are only the tip of the iceberg. So as you see, my interpretation is not at all outside of the ideas of past and present about what is Islamic, nor is it very different to what many others believe about Islam. So yes, I do believe that my interpretation, along with the interpretations of the thousands of progressive scholars to be right and those of the traditional scholars to be wrong. And in any case the Quran should be the judge here, not the number of scholars on both sides.

    We cannot mold Islam however we see fit to coincide with our own observations and opinions. The Quran is written in a certain language. That language is made up of words that have meanings, depending on the context. It has grammar rules. It is all a matter of context, Stephanie. Once you understand the context of the verses and the meaning of the words everything will be clear.

    The boundary of the religion is the Quran. A Muslim is any person who believes the Quran to be the Word of God. That is the boundary of Islam. A person can certainly believe in Islam and also believe in gender equality, human rights, social justice and even the theory of evolution. But a person who believes that God is Trinitarian or that fornication is ethical cannot be Muslim. These are examples of the boundaries of Islam.

    I think you realized that your ideas were no longer part of what could in any sense of the word be called Islam because you were immersed for a long time in the Salafi interpretation of Islam, but I believe the Progressive interpretations answer all of your objections.

    I, like you Stephanie, believed in the Salafi interpretation, and that was for a much longer period of time than you. I also, like you, was disillusioned with some aspects of the Salafi interpretations. However I never abandoned Islam because I believed that there was an abundance of evidence for the existence of God and that the major doctrines of Islam made perfect sense. When I got exposed to the liberal interpretations of Islam everything clicked and made sense. And now I feel freer and more intellectually fulfilled than I have ever felt before.

    Peace and Blessings.

  12. Sister Coolred38

    You offered several interesting points, since they are coming from experience. You say that a little bit of knowledge is what leads one to convert. Well I think one should acquire a lot of knowledge to take a crucial decision such as conversion, do not you think?

    You also say that a lot of knowledge is learned after one converts, but what kind of knowledge is that? Is it theoretical knowledge? If so then how did the person not learn it before converting? Or do you mean practical knowledge from living within a not so righteous or progressive Muslim community? But then how could this lead someone away? Surely theory and practice cannot be expected to be always identical?

    I am very disappointed that none bothered to answer your questions, and that instead you were given the “because the Prophet said so” answer. But I think it is harsh to call Islam “the great DADT of our time”. The Quran encourages people to ask and inquire. It is filled with verses that command people: “Will you not reason?” and “Will you not think?” etc… The story of Prophet Abraham with God in verse [2:260] is evidence of how the Quran tolerates extreme scepticism, which then leads to firm belief.

    Would you be interested in sharing with me your questions, sister Coolred38?

    Peace and Blessing,

  13. Issam, one of your central points has been that objective reality exists, and that one of our interpretations is right, and the others are wrong.

    I agree that objective reality exists, but we get into trouble when we start deciding that one perspective is wrong and the others are right. Why? Well, how does humanity determine the veracity of any of our concepts of objective realty? The Scientific Method can be applied for all kinds of theories, and objective evidence emerges. We cannot apply the Scientific Method to matters of divine reality; we get into circularity, and end up having discussions like the ones we are having here.

    Also, consider matters which are just plain obvious and seem not to need any examination by any scientific method. Many religious people think that God exists based upon the complexity of the universe.

    The world is flat. Anyone can see for him/her self, that you can walk or drive or ride your camel forever and ever, and you’ll never fall off the edge.

  14. Why should someone not be unhappy at a religionthey left? why should they always associate to another religion or be athieusts , are there no otrher state? Once can leave islam and yet beleive there is a higher power, just doesn’t feel the need to do things a certain way to please that power. So if i believe that there is a god , and heaven and all that and as long as I’m good to myself and do not carn harm to anyone else and mind my own business i will reach heaven? is that so wrong, why should i join a particular group/sect/religion…

    Coolred – you are 100% right, I’m married to a wonderfula human being who also professes to be a muslim, I was toying with decalring my faith yet when i read and learn and question i was put off by what i read, translations, corruptions and generally the people inthat religion who seem to not want to hear other views. It is damn difficult to question the Koran / interpretions and get a decent reply . The biggest issue i had was that i was beinig judged, constantly. so i figured, i put my trust in the almighty , do good and live my life without provingmy aliegience to any book or group.

    Now i didn’t harm anyone, didn’t do wrong, didn’t commit apostacy, didn’t demean anyone , yet i’m judged . why ? my birth religion doesn’t care if i leave it’s ranks, why does islam care so much if i choose to investigate and not join it’s ranks? why is my alliegienfce to islam a must to be married to a muslim? isn’t it enough that i’m stiving to be a good human being?

  15. Maya, you raise some excellent points. I agree with your first paragraph wholeheartedly.

    With regard to why you are judged, you hinted at it in your third paragraph. You claim that you don’t do wrong or harm anyone (and I’m not challenging that!) but certain religious people will claim that you are in a perpetual state of doing wrong if you do not embrace their version of belief.

    There is no way out of that circular claim, because there is no way of knowing for sure which, if any, religion, or version of religion, is true.
    All the centuries of religious thought, philosophical theories, and human diversity of belief cannot tell us for certain what happens after we die.

  16. Thanks marahm , Yes it is a circular claim, unless someone comes back from heaven and tells us we will never know. However from what i know i feel we can trust in goodness / kindness and thereby make this life more happy.

    I attended a lecture on religion and the speaker told us all ( of various faiths) who believe there is a higher power to close us all and pray/make peace with that power and for 10 min everyone prayed in their form, to their god and when we opened our eyes we all felt the same peace, the same oneness and i do beleive about 5 religions were represented there and not a bit of animosity. i wish we lived everyday life that way. however man unlike god is selfish, greedy and think their way is the only way, does not the face that god created so many different people and different races and different religion prove that every religion has a place on this earth and in the afterlife?

  17. “Perhaps former Muslims shudder at the thought of capital punishment called for by fanatics who understand nothing about human nature. let alone divine.”

    I wonder why you claim that, since the specific texts that mandate death for the apostate never claim to provide us with an account of human nature. Moreover, there’s no reason to suppose that, had they done so, it would have been a deficient one. The ummah has pretty much always known apostasy- in this latest Prophetic dispensation- from the time of the sahaba (raa), to the formulation of the classical legal schools, and onwards. That is, people understood the possibility that a person’s convictions might change in the course of their lives, leading them to forsake the religion- they just don’t sanction it, normatively. That, among other reasons, is why your point doesn’t have much going for it. And, since you seem so unsure about most things, I wonder who gave you a better understanding of nature, human or divine, than any of the people I’ve mentioned. Just an honest question.

    No less a ‘fanatic’ (whatever that means) than Augustine abandoned his opinion on tolerance in favour of one more supportive of civil coercion on religious questions, on the point of the Donatist controversy. From what I know he was one of the most influential theorists of religious intolerance (not in the pejorative sense) in history…my point being, implying that those who disagree with you do so because they are either stupid, don’t understand your arguments, or both, isn’t an intelligent way of approaching, let alone settling, any question.

    And my ‘inner cues’ tell me that wearing an abaya on a public beach makes perfect sense. Point is, our own lights followed might lead us the wrong or right way, and so we do our best to cultivate the good cues, that is, those that conform to the sunnah. Good gravy, otherwise how would a convert ever abandon a thing like casual (i.e. non-marital) relationships, if his conscience didn’t suddenly tell him, upon his conversion, that they were wrong? Or any other immorality, if you prefer.

    And as for square pegs and round holes, or vice versa- your point, please? In the beginning you seem to insist that we’re fluid creatures and our convictions don’t hold for very long, and immediately afterwards you write that we’re frozen into pegs that certain religious holes have problems accommodating. Can you decide which it is? People certainly do change their ideas, and a prominent example of this is religious conversion- and so people apparently fit into holes they wouldn’t have previously.

    Anyway, I am behind at school, as usual…take care of yourself.

  18. Though I hasten to add that I always found it weird how people who basically subscribed to a mechanistic, Newtonian view of the universe (complex machine regulated by inviolable, immutable, discoverable laws) have so many problems with miracles. Newton believed in them himself, and he formulated the whole thing.

  19. WM, you give me pause, as usual, with your astute observations and mastery of argument. I grant that you may be correct about some of what you wrote, especially the part about me being so unsure of everything. That’s OK, I don’t mind being unsure of things. I no longer panic when my beliefs (or training, as it were) start to morph. I’m secure at my core, finally.

    It’s true that “our own lights followed may lead us the wrong or right way,” but that presupposes that we’ve already established a wrong or right way. The problem with many people, and not only converts, is that they don’t always accept that certain ways are right and others are wrong. If you want to give authority to the sunnah, then yes, you are correct. What if a person doesn’t want to give authority to the sunnah? Does that person automatically embark upon upon all kinds of behavior that most religious systems label wrong, i.e., non-marital relationships, and worse? I don’t think so.

    Some people do fit into holes they wouldn’t have fit previously. It’s not hard to understand. Sometimes they fit even better into the new ones. More often than not, a protrusion falls over, so why force things? Let the dollop flop a little, and the whole will be more comfortable.

    OK, OK, jump all over me, and give me the last word. I’m expecting it.

  20. “It’s true that “our own lights followed may lead us the wrong or right way,” but that presupposes that we’ve already established a wrong or right way.”

    Sure, absolutely.

    “What if a person doesn’t want to give authority to the sunnah?”

    Then they’ll give authority to their own opinion, whatever that happens to be.

    “Does that person automatically embark upon upon all kinds of behavior that most religious systems label wrong, i.e., non-marital relationships, and worse? I don’t think so.”

    That’s true, but that’s not what I meant.

    I guess I agree with you in that we should find a space for ourselves in the religion so that we can identify with it- but I have a different understanding of what that means.

    There you go, the last word is now yours 😛

  21. Issam..what I meant by a “little bit of knowledge” is that, generally speaking, converts are shown the “good” aspects of Islam when they go looking. (unfortunately not all of bothered to do an indepth investigation for whatever reasons before converting) We are given booklets full of positives…we are given lectures on tapes full of positives…we are given the Quran and usually read it that first time without knowing anything about Islamic history or “context”….and so the “deeper” meanings are lost to us…but the surface meanings seem pretty good. We convert believing we have made a wise choice and are happy with it.

    As I mentioned, generally after you convert is when you settle down into your knew chosen religion and start looking a little deeper in order to gain knowledge and practice properly etc. If you have the misfortune of being surrounded by other Muslims during this time you will be flooded with hadith and sunnah of the prophet that leaves you overwhelmed and frustrated trying to incorporate every little detail into your daily life.

    You start looking for books that offer a little more depth than the prescribed “How to Pray” and “Why the Hijab is a Blessing” that is foisted on you at every turn. You have learned from the early days that Islam is “this” but upon reading the multitude of literature out there, everything from the early days of Islam to the spread of Islam to the corruption of hadeeth and mysoginistic male voice that crept into everything right from the start. You begin learning context and it’s not always as pretty as it was made out to be…nor as peaceful. You begin learning the prophet had his good days..and not so good days. He was, after all, a human being. He was not this perfect creature that did nothing wrong…but all the wrong stuff is washed away and how dare we bring it up in conversation.

    We learn things about the history of Islam that makes us sit back and give pause for thought. Is THIS the religion I converted into?

    Once we have gotten a few books on Islamic history under our belts we go asking questions. It is then we learn how abhorrent Muslims are to answering straight forward questions about Islam that do not present a peaceful non violent front. We are told time and time again that kafirs and zionist are trying to corrupt and sway Muslims away by distorting history and Islamic greatness..meanwhile the books we have read are written by some Muslims and some nonMuslims…not to mention as intellectual human beings that were intelligent enough to make the decision to convert to Islam …why should our intelligence at being able to sift the chaff from the wheat be thrown into doubt now?

    So with these non answers we head back to the books to look for more answers. We read more from a variety of sources…we read various interpretations of the Quran (dont read the Khan version or you will hate Islam rather than just disagree with it) and eventually get digusted with the misogynistic plethora of hadith that have no authenticity nor back up anything of merit in the Quran…NOR make any kind of sense to the intelligent questioning mind…and yet are rabidly protected and honored and presented as having MORE power than the Quran when it comes to Islamic discourse. You learn that for many Muslims, hadith IS Islam. Period.

    So with all this knowledge (and despite what many Muslims would like to accuse me of in regards to how much I know…or dont know according to them…a charge leveled at any Muslim or nonMuslim that disagrees with the accepted concensus) I made the concious decision, and intelligent one, that Islam just isnt for me. Neither my heart, nor my mind, can quiet itself against the information I have learned that present Islam in a light I would rather not have shined on me.

    This does not mean I hate Muslims, they are people like any other; as are Christians, Jews etc. It doesnt mean I go around spewing hate and encouraging people to (other Muslims) to think harshly of Islam. Yes, there are some aspects of it I absolutely despise. There are some aspects of it I cant believe Muslims believe and can say that with a straight face. There are some aspects of it that leave me terrified at the Muslim ability to disregard that bit of knowledge (or to swallow it down) and still hold firm to their faith. They are better than me if they can manage that…I could not. And so I ceased calling myself a Muslim.

    Now, I like to visit blogs etc that discuss Islam and Muslims because I do have knowledge concerning it…I do feel obligated to correct people about the differences between culture and Islamic practice (sometimes there isnt much difference). I like to direct people to books or points in history where they can read up on something to further their understanding of a given topic if I feel it will help. I even step in and correct people who are blatantly misinformed about certain aspects of Islam..or Muslims …or Arabs in general…because misinformation is just as dangerous as no information in my opinion.

    What I do not do is going around hating and spreading that hate. You will not find me writing a single hateful thing about Islam or Muslims anywhere on this internet. When I have a personal experience on the matter to convey…I declare that…when I have facts and information to pass on…I do that too. Otherwise…I just go with the conversation and for the most part…sit back and listen.

    Everyone must come to their own truth in their own time. Those who arent ready to hear it…are more deaf than a person born that way. My heart and my mind spoke to me…based on learning, experiencing, and feeling…Islam wasnt for me. Maybe it is for someone else and good for them…but this former Muslim now nothing specific had her day…and the sun has set.

  22. Coolred, I know from reading your blog that you have, indeed, studied Islam from various perspectives, and that you have an objective attitude toward Muslims and non-Muslims. Now that you no longer call yourself Muslim, do you call yourself anything else (other than a mom and student, of course!)?
    I mean, have you gravitated towards another formalized system of religious worship, or are you free-lancing it? Do you believe in do-it-yourself religion? This would be the next relevant discussion, I think.

    WM, you disappoint me. I am tongue-tied with respect to the last word. Can I no longer depend upon you?

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