Leaving Islam

I don’t like the term “leaving Islam”. It connotes  a complete and permanent separation and I don’t believe this can ever occur in my case. I don’t know if it’s that I can never truly leave Islam, or that Islam just won’t leave me.  Certainly I am not practicing, nor do I ever plan on practicing Islam again.  I don’t believe in the most basic tenets and foundational assumptions required to be a part of the religion. I don’t believe the Quran is the word of God. I don’t believe Mohammad had a special relationship with God, although he did have an understanding of monotheism, as have many.  He must have been a tremendous leader and still continues to lead many today.  I don’t believe he was infallible and I question his morality. For now, I will leave that one alone, chalk it up to relativism and leave my own moral and ethical understandings at the door. I don’t believe in angels and jinn and black magic and fantastical miracles. I don’t believe in hellfire for unbelievers and paradise for Muslims. I don’t believe he would create us and then torture us for eternity.

I will never again succumb to guilt for not following the rules of orthodoxy. I won’t question myself or feel any underlying sense of  begrudging anger when listening to music or viewing a sculpture of the human body. I’ve recently cracked open more than one bottle of merlot and sipped a fine cognac. I will never question my worth as a woman in relation to a man and religion. I will speak up and be heard even when it’s “not my place”. I feel liberated with my hair blowing in the wind, although at times my ears get a bit cold.

And yet, somehow Islam will always be with me and I will always love it even as I must divorce myself from it. Islam is like an autocratic, controlling  parent and I am like a newly independent adult who just isn’t going to take it any longer. I have had my arguments and raved and stormed out of the room slamming the door behind me. I’ve thrown the dishes and tried to reason but we just can’t get along.  I may go years in silence without speaking a word to Islam. I may have dark days brooding over the perceived abuses I suffered under its guide. I may go months without thinking about it at all.

But at the end of the night, after I’ve said my peace and I know our relationship is over, I still love Islam. I am like a child who will always love her mother, even when that mother is not the one of kindness and compassion, but instead, callous and manipulative. As much as I would like, I will never be able to cleave her from my consciousness or erase her from the fiber of my experience. As painful as it is,  I will move forward while shedding my tears over what used to be. I will always love Islam but have to leave it now in my memory and find new avenues of happiness in this life.  I don’t believe I can ever truly leave Islam for  it will remain with me in my memory and heart,  but I will continue to seek truth and God without it.

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23 Comments

Filed under apostasy, ex muslim, Islam, Quran, religion, spirituality, Uncategorized

23 responses to “Leaving Islam

  1. As painful as it is to read your thoughts on this, because you’ve obviously been through a lot, you do sound at peace — so I’m wishing you all the best. I’ve said it before (or at least thought it), you are an incredibly strong, intelligent and beautiful woman. Your children are adorable and absolutely deserve to have a happy mom. I’m looking forward to continue reading along on your journey.

    {next time, have a glass for me}

  2. This post is painfully sweet or sweetly painful. There is pain, but there is also hope. There is heartbreak and deception, but there is also longing for something more meaningful. Your thoughts may disappoint many who may think you are on the highway to hell, but there are also many who believe in one God although not necessarily through Islam and for such people it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you love Him/Her.

    “As much as I would like, I will never be able to cleave her from my consciousness or erase her from the fiber of my experience.” – so well said!

    I wish you all the best in your journey!

  3. Steph,

    I realize this has been an enormous decision for you; at the end of the day you have to be true to yourself if you want to find the truth. I applaud your honesty. I think this journey takes courage, and please, don’t let what others think make you feel badly. I sense that you won’t. I can only speak for myself, I am sad to see this post, but undertstand where it comes from- and I cannot judge. I just don’t have it in me. Perhaps that makes me a heretic or less muslim in the eyes of others? Dunno/don’t care. My instinct is that there are other ways to find and connect with God, so I wish you peace and solitude in your quest for divine knowledge. Hope you can carry the good with you and let go of the bad.

    Takes guts, sister. All the best to you and your family, and I hope you keep writing.

    xoxo

  4. PS: Mind if I add you to my blogroll?

  5. I feel quite like this too. I never converted, but was very into Islam for a while before I concluded it wasn’t the truth. Despite a good deal of anger towards Islam, I won’t let anyone who doesn’t know it like I do talk shit about it. 😀

  6. h

    I always feel the people misunderstand religion for spirituality. Then all religions become problematic.

    If the right interpretation of any religion were given, people would be better off. I would suggest if youd like trying to find people who better understand the spiritual ideas behind all religions, the quran etc.

    This will be hard though.

    I used to struggle with the idea that God makes those struggle and brings them closer through trials. Why would he do that? Its simple actually. It gets you closer to the path.

    Religion is for those who fear hell, spirituality is for those whove been there.

  7. unsettledsoul

    You are my sister on this journey called life. I am wrapping you in hugs.

  8. muslim

    You comments on Nida’s blog prompted me to comment.
    The following may not be relevant to your doubts about Quran, prophet, and god.
    Dr William Campbell had many question about Quranic verses and written a book against unscientific ayah’s in Quran..
    To answer DR William Campbell, Dr Zakir Naik invited him for a debate in Chicago USA.
    All videos of the debate and question answers can be watched on you tube:

  9. Lisa

    I’m cheering you for following your heart and being true to yourself. You have courage and I admire you.

  10. What a beautiful and honest post, many of your thoughts resonate deeply with me.

    These days I’m moving more towards freelance monotheism myself, and am getting quite interested in unitarian universalism, there are just so many things in Islam that I am finding hard to continuously defend or talk around.

    Though I always preferred a good glass of Shiraz over Merlot, do have a glass for me next time 🙂

    Wishing you all the best, and please, do continue to write.

  11. This is perhaps the best written post I’ve ever read about struggles with Islam. It says more than the sum of its words.
    Like the prodigal child, you may come back someday, reconciled to the dynamic of dualism that marks deep human experience. The child matures, and its relationship with the parent deepens into one of mutual support, rather than the authoritarianism of one for the protection of the other.

  12. Signý

    I am not a child, prodigal or otherwise. Why is it that Muslims will try to “leave the door” open for those that, in shariah, would be executed within three days, but those of us who have left cannot say “I hope that one day you will join me out here?” Well, the open door does go both ways.

    Personally, I do not love Islam. I have seen it destroy too many people, particularly women, and I still have to sit by as it does this work on people I love. It did not destroy me but it left it’s mark and I can say that b/c of my sincerity in the “siratul mustaqeem,” I did a great deal of undoable damage to my life. Islam, like other religions but especially those who claim a man called Abraham, is like an abusive parent. I do not love this thing. I see little in the poetry of this sage or the writings of the other that can be called beautiful when I have seen how even the works of sufis like Rumi have been used to make worse the quality of someone’s life or make a woman see herself as less than.

    And professing anger and these things – well, that’s an emotion, yes, but it is also right and okay for a person to be angry at such a thing as one would be angry at the parent who destroys their child. And emotions are not inherently irrational, but may be the emotional result of rational thought and conclusions. In all honesty, I think of Islam rarely anymore. Never with fondness, sometimes with laughter, sometimes irritation, sometimes anger.

  13. Signý

    ps – Congratulations. I really mean that. Just as we used to mashallah and humdulillah when a person joined the ummah I congratulate you for walking away from it especially since it appears that you have done so before you sustained the damage that many of us older / long term sisters and brothers experienced. I am happy that you apparently have not been scathed by that. It does make me happy, as a contrast to the anguish, guilt, anger, etc that other friends of mine are living with as they try to work their way back / into non-Muslim lives and careers.

  14. @ Signy– Thank you for your comment. It’s quite thought provoking. As I alluded to in the post, I do have some lingering anger, but I have to say it is more directed at myself than at Islam. These last several weeks, there have been days when I’ve walked around with pure rage beating at my chest. I’m angry at myself for falling for an ideology that is so against my very nature. I’m angry at myself for burying my doubts under the curtain of denial and apologia. You must also realize that I’m in a precarious position in that I’m still married to a believing Muslim man. He’s a kind, sweet soul and my apostasy has dealt quite a blow both to him and the marriage in general. However our love for each other is still strong and I’m truly thankful for that. I’ve never known abuse or control at the hands of my husband, nor do my daughter know it at the hands of their father. I do however feel that women undergoing such abuses do so in part because of Islam and the verses and hadith. Many argue it is purely culture, but that is obviously not the case. Either way, I left Islam after reaching the conclusion that women are truly inferior beings in the religion.

    So no, my life hasn’t been destroyed by Islam.That has not been my experience nor will it ever be. I do think it has been easier for me knowing life before Islam and proceeding with the idea that if need be I could continue life dependent on no one. I am educated and able to support myself and even 4 children if need be. I realise, not every wowan enjoys this priveledge and that alone angers me irrespective of religion.

    Best of luck to you signy. I do hope you are able to find peace. I hope that for us all.

  15. Interesting blog, not sure how I came upon it, but very interesting thoughts.
    Due to lack of time (as i type this running to class), sadly can’t participate as much as I would like to. Our journey’s are different and we will certainly come to different conclusions even when we take the same road. I remember in high school going through similar questions as you have shared. . Being a strong believer and supporter of woman’s rights, I found such things as polygamy, etc unfair. Alhamdulillah, through my journey I found the answers by seeking knowledge, and was very satisfied with those answers. As a Muslim woman I feel honored, equal in every means to a man, and never inferior to a man in the eyes of my Lord. Islam is the absolute truth for me and I feel very fortunate to have this deen. Alhamdullah. At the same time, as evident here, we surly won’t reach the same conclusions. Life is indeed a process, a journey we each will take individually until our last breath. All the best to you in your journey.

  16. m

    I do have some lingering anger, but I have to say it is more directed at myself than at Islam.

    Good for you for acknowledging your own agency. I have read more than one ex-convert write as if they were entrapped by an Islamodemon and turned into a zombie who without any agency at all was forced to join some extreme group, eat dry biscuits, wear niqab and worst of all, listen to Umm Kulthum instead of Bryan Adams. I think the interesting questions are about what draws people to become believers.

    One other thing I will say is that Islam is what Muslims make of it. Obviously members of a community have to engage with a history, texts etc, but the historical diversity of opinions/practices on even such well-discussed issues as music, visual portrayals, hijab etc shows that it’s not so simple to go from one verse to a conclusion about what practice is everywhere, much less what it has to be in the future.

  17. I understand. I grew up Baha’i and left the Faith when I was about 23. It’s a very difficult thing to do, isn’t, it? But the right thing to do when that’s what your heart says. 15 years later and I’m back. In a tentative way. But more back than not.
    I wish you all that’s good on your journey.

  18. I just found your blog and I think your writing is absolutely beautiful and moving. You have a lot of strength and courage in your heart. Best wishes. I feel cleansed reading you.

  19. Steph, may I first be honest by telling you that I happened upon your blog while doing research on Google for a novel I’m contemplating. Next, I will say that I have several friends who practice Islam and I always have admired them their very strong faith, while still I questioned their adherence to some practices and beliefs that were not within my ability to grasp or to accept, most particularly as a woman. Last, I will tell you that now, at age 63, I finally have walked away for once and for all from the Roman Catholic Church into which I was born and raised. I have not been a practicing Catholic for years and years, yet I allowed the RC church to rule my life in many subliminal ways while being outwardly and adamantly opposed to many of their doctrines and practices. This year, a series of totally unanticipated and seemingly unconnected events led me to join a Lutheran Church where finally I can be happy with my church, my beliefs and MYSELF. I do not call myself, nor consider myself, a “born-again Christian” and nor do I go around proselytizing. But I am closer to my version of God now and, bottom line, I am happy and no longer have the RC Church as my cranky and disapproving Mother 🙂 My sincere best wishes to you in your personal Journey. ! I will add you to my wordpress blogroll, because I enjoy your writing and that of your followers !

    Candice

  20. Jay

    The post is not at all poetic nor is it sad — it’s liberation. Although reading the post one can see the author to be unabashedly unhappy with the religion of Islam; however, from the personification of Islam, and comparisons she makes with her mother and a reference to guilt, it seems clear to me that she is engaged in projection.

    She feels uneasy and depressed thus needs a source to lay the blame upon and since it is popular trend today to ditch religion she has found a scapegoat.

    In the words of Islam: “God guides whom he wills,” he does not hold or oppress people nor do the Islamic parents attempt to force keep their children in Islam. The last response from Candice is interesting for I know there are Catholics that force their faith upon their children; something Muslims do not do with their children; and eventually the catholic children rebel; common theme amongst the Catholics.

    I have seen much talk about “do what your heart says,” this is a false belief your heart cannot dictate to you and it cannot define morals for you; when people say “listen to your heart,” all they mean is follow your fickle, unstable, unsteady feelings. And those that have been in love and know, feelings lie, your heart lie, therefore following it is following a lie.

  21. Pingback: Response to a Leaver « Qutb

  22. Anonymous

    “In the words of Islam: “God guides whom he wills,” he does not hold or oppress people nor do the Islamic parents attempt to force keep their children in Islam.”

    Tell that to my mother who always forced Islam on me and now she has problem with me not wanting to indoctrinate my children (I tell them they are Muslims but I don’t want to force anything on them as I myself don’t know where I stand any longer). I want them to choose for themselves. She is even contemplating cutting ties with us solely for this reason. She says that she is responsible in front of Allah of how I have turned out. So it is purely fear that is driving her, not love for me or my children.

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