Identity Crisis

Human beings naturally seek out like-minded individuals to spend their time with. We form religions and societies, clubs and cliques. We are also social creatures; evolutionarily speaking we need each other to survive in this wilderness.  We often form a group mentality and exhibit a profound distrust toward outsiders. Often times, group members bicker amongst themselves. Hierarchies form. Resentments grow. But in the end, its members always have the group to identify with. So what happens when you consciously separate yourself from the group, either physically or ideologically?

One of the things I’ve been grappling with as of late, is the knowledge that as the product of losing my religion, I’ve also lost a good part of my identity. Islam was as much for me an aspect of identity as belief. Early in my exploration, even before conversion, I was fascinated by the idea of a global ummah or identity. I longed to belong to a worldwide group of people who cared about one another and viewed other Muslims as  “brothers and sisters”. One of my favorite hadiths was: ” “The Muslim Ummah is like one body. If the eye is in pain then the whole body is in pain and if the head is in pain then the whole body is in pain”.  I felt a profound connection to strangers who shared no other trait with myself other than a belief in Allah and the Messenger.  Even the hijab for me was out of a sense of identity. I wore it out of a sense of pride and revelled in being recognized as a Muslim, even when that label was looked upon negatively by many.

As  so many converts find, the idea of a collective, unified ummah is a myth. I was soon bitterly disappointed by my local community. Many converts know the feelings of alienation when entering the masjid and being ignored or even shunned. Going into the masjid literally initiated a visceral cascade of  nervousness and gut wrenching anxiety. I often recalled the few times I went to church and the smiles and greeting of the parishioners. I was bewildered as to why the same friendliness wasn’t expressed by this group, especially given the importance of brotherhood within Islam. It didn’t take long for me to avoid the masjid altogether, but it was by the kindness of a few sweet sisters, and the meeting of a couple of other outsider converts that I slowly began to build a loose cluster of friends and acquaintances I felt comfortable with.

Now that I’ve begun to acknowledge my apostasy publicly, I worry about some of these relationships I’ve formed.  I am no longer part of this group. I am now the outsider. In Islam, it seems the apostate is the most hated of persons. Muslims take the rejection of faith personally. Some of my more liberally minded Muslim friends may stick it out and continue to be friendly toward me, at least on a superficial level. Some of them may actually like me for my personality, while some of them may make a conscious effort to show me how open-minded they are with the hopes that I will someday see the light.

Either way, however, I doubt I’ll be invited to many parties.



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75 responses to “Identity Crisis

  1. Sarah

    “He who Allah guides no-one can misguide him. And he who Allah misguides, no-one can misguide him”. I belive Allah swt gives everyone a chance, and tries to connect with each and every living human being.. but they turn him away.

  2. Sarah

    *And he who Allah misguides, no-one can guide him

    • I take issue with your thought that I have turned away from God. I desperately tried to find Him in Islam but I didn’t. As the verse you quote points out the Quranic god has complete control to guide or or not. When he doesn’t guide us then he sends us to hell for eternal torture, scalding fire and all that nice stuff. This concept makes god seem petty, hateful and vengeful. These are very human qualities–an idea that anthropomorphizes God in a sense. This is one of the biggest problems I have with Islam’s view of God.

      It’s quite possible to seek out God using other avenues besides Islam. Islam is an inherently flawed system made by man. God is not.

      • hannah

        Hello! This post reminded me of part of a book I read recently, called “Inquiries about Islam”. There is a section (Chapter 9) which talks about this very point. You can read it here:

      • Sarah

        As I said, when Allah swt tries to go to people and they turn him away, they are misguided. Its isnt God’s fault that they ignore him and don’t seek to worship him. They may belive in him, but they never really seek to see what he truly wants from them, how they can please him etc. why haven’t you found God in Islam. Are there any flaws with God presented in Islam? Is he not unique, is he not forgiving, is he not the sustainer of the universe, is he not all of these wonderful things that make God. If you can answer no then fine, keep searching for God in other places but you can’t deny that God in Islam is not him. It is him, you just don’t want to accept it because you read verses about torture and hell and you start to get confused and think that you know better what God should be. Doesn’t God after every verse about Hell and fire say ‘BUT I AM THE MOST FORGIVING, THE MOST MERCIFUL’ Repeatitly Allah will warn his belivers from killing, stealing, lieing, cheating, slandering, all these horrible things that humans do but then as beautiful as it is, its followed by, ‘but I am the most forgiving’. Giving humans HOPE. You don’t want to accept Islam because of the hell-fire, you don’t want to accept Islam because of the punishments made for Human-beings, trust me, I know you can’t swallow hell-fire. Whatever it is you shouldn’t let that cloud your vision of a God who will bring justice to those who have been wronged in this life.

        You say God in Qur’an seem hateful or whatever. Answer me, what is the first thing you recite when you open the Qur’an? ‘In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful’ Yeah.. real hateful.

      • Sarah said–
        “you shouldn’t let that cloud your vision of a God who will bring justice to those who have been wronged in this life. ”

        But don’t you mean Muslims who have been wronged in this life?

        “Answer me, what is the first thing you recite when you open the Qur’an? ‘In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful’ Yeah.. real hateful.

        Yes, that is quite the dicotomy. On one hand we’ve got a god who claims to be merciful. On the other we’ve got a god who will throw people into hell–the most excruciating thing imaginable–simply for not believing in Islam.

  3. Lisa

    I’ve often wondered, Stephanie, how many seemingly devout people there are out there who really secretly doubt and even dismiss a lot of what their particular religion teaches, identifies with, and stands for, but they stick with it and continue to go through the motions because they’ve built almost their entire familial and social network around it, and so to leave it would be akin to social suicide. I think the Mormons are well known for completely disowning and alienating anyone who leaves the church, but I suspect this goes on to some degree in all religions.

    • Lisa, it is much much easier for me to leave Islam than it would be for a born Muslim, especially one coming from a strict family. The fact that many Muslim countries still have blasphemy laws that are punishable by death says alot about the way some muslims view those who leave the faith, especially those who don’t leave quietly.

      • m

        The fact that many Muslim countries still have blasphemy laws that are punishable by death says alot about the way some muslims view those who leave the faith, especially those who don’t leave quietly.

        Sure, but it also says something that it is rarely enforced, the Aasia Bibis are rare, and the openly irreligious are numerous. Yes, class definitely matters, so does the era and the place, but also I think people’s sense of whether one is committed to the good of the community. An older friend of mine was one of a generation of men who left religion and became leftists in the 60s/70s, and he always had amicable relationships because people saw him in the community doing literacy work for example . I actually think born-Muslims have an easier time of leaving religion and maintaining relationships because there are other non-religious ties, culture, ethnicity, good works etc.

        • sara

          Asia bibis are rare? Er… They just don’t get highlighted in the press or deemed worthy of mention, as with many common frequent if nor daily occurances. That certainly doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Say, in pakistan, for example, the blasphemy laws along with other ‘hard/hadood’ laws are responsible for many injustices, unlawful and wrongful imprisonments and excecutions. In fact a politician fovoicing his concern hereof and opposing these laws was assassinated in cold blood by his own body guard. Now take Iran, now mu h different. If we keep sweep.g problems under the rug to keep up appearences, then ultimately we fool nobody, but ourselves. In the meantime the many Asia Bibis are suffering. You just need to watch the/read the news and follow human rights coverages which highlight these issues moreso than media.

          I also have to agree with Stephanie that born Muslims n’t have it easier when leavinf Islam. They ultimately stand to lose to their entire life, family, friends and network. Family and the social network are important factors for Muslims. Hence they’d probably prefer to hide their apostacy and live double lives rather than loose their families. I spoke to one Arab man, who did just that. I think it is easier for converts, as the have less tolise. That said, a marriage won’t be easy when one part goes in the opposite direction. But if you can find a balance, then perhaps its possible. I know of a couple where the guy us is selfprofessed apostate and now agnostic while his wife to be is muslim. I don’t think they are vocal about it though.

      • @ m–hmm, that’s interesting that you think it’s easier for non-muslims to leave. I know in my husbands culture it’s almost unheard of for people to leave Islam, and especially people who are vocal about it. I’m sure there are plenty who entertain their disbelieve in private.

      • Ayah

        Hi Stephanie,
        I’m just a lurker. The blasphemy laws you talk about are only enforced in Afghanistan and, to a lesser extent, Saudia–hardly the yardstick by which all Muslim-majority states should be measured. (This may also go on in Pakistan–not certain.) Most Muslim-majority states have no such laws and of those that do, they don’t enforce them. Muslims apostate all the time throughout the Arab states and nothing much happens to them beyond the disapproval of family and friends. The prevailing view is that of the early Caliphs, who gave apostates the option of leaving the community. The *only* time apostates were put to death was when they attempted to convince others to leave Islam. Of course, the “Salafi” in the US are constantly bollocking on about how apostates must be put to death, so perhaps this is where you formed your impression, given that it is an unfortunate reality that most converts are immediately bombarded by Wahhabi/Salafi propaganda and hence are given the impression that these nutcases are somehow the Muslim welcome wagon and therefore the representatives of Islam.
        You also said, “On the other we’ve got a god who will throw people into hell–the most excruciating thing imaginable–simply for not believing in Islam.” That’s more Salafi/Wahhabi gobbledygook. If they knew how to read, they would understand that there is a difference between Islam and islam. Little-i islam is a general term for worshiping and believing in God and that’s what is in the verses about accepting islam to stay out of hell–to accept God and worship him–not that one must be a Muslim to stay out of hell, else we’d not have the ayaht:

        “Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians — whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve” (2:62).

        “…and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, ‘We are Christians,’ because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant” (5:82).

        “O you who believe! Be helpers of God — as Jesus the son of Mary said to the Disciples, ‘Who will be my helpers in (the work of) God?’ Said the disciples, ‘We are God’s helpers!’ Then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved. But We gave power to those who believed, against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed” (61:14).

        I know the Salafi have tried to reinterpret these ayaht, saying that they weren’t meant for “all” non-Muslims, but most of us (Muslims, that is) do not interpret the verses so and believe that non-Muslims most surely have a place in Heaven.

        And so on and so on. I see you’ve mentioned music and a host of other things that you were informed are “haraam.” Again, all that crap is a load of Salafi nonsense, but unfortunately, those are the people who are most vocal and most likely to try to do outreach to new Muslims, taking advantage of their enthusiasm in order to gain adherents to their strange, joyless doctrine. So shame on those of us (most) who are not Wahhabi/Salafi fools for never allowing converts to see a non-insane version of Islam. I apologize to you and to all the other people who’ve been disillusioned by the crazies and their hate talk.

        I’m so sorry that you never had the opportunity to see how non-crazy Muslims believe and I hope that you will continue to build your relationship with your Creator, even if you don’t accept Islam. As for all other converts who are questioning–my advice is that if you want to be Muslim and to build a relationship with Allah, then stay far, far away from mosques. Do your own reading, forge your own ties with God and with good and tolerant Muslims–build your own community and let the Wahhabis have the rest.

  4. Midnightmama

    I also wonder why God would choose not to guide someone and then punish her/him for it. I’ve had some pretty uncomfortable experiences with the local mosque culture and avoid going at this point. I find the mindset there to be very narrow, and it just doesn’t do anything for me. I wish I felt differently.

    You will may loose some ‘friends’, you may not. Let each day unfold as it comes, keep your chin up and continue to be awesome.

    I hope you & the cute kiddies are ok.

    • Thanks so much for being such a sweet soul. Even though our paths are different I’m sure you’d be one of those friends I’d keep in real life.

      • Sarah

        Im replying here because it won’t give me the option above.

        But don’t you mean Muslims who have been wronged in this life?
        Um exuse me? Not only Muslims in this life have been wronged. There are plenty of non-muslims who have been raped, killed, stolen, kidnapped. All these things are CONDEMNED IN ISLAM for a reason. The Qur’an does not say it is forbidden to steal from a MUSLIM, it says it is forbidden to steal full stop. If your thought is correct that only muslims who have been wronged will get their redemption then why do Muslims who commit these crimes get punished in Islam? Wouldn’t it mean that Muslims can commit crimes without being punished?

        And what I have to say to your second comment? Well I am quiet happy worshiping a God who I know, if one day I got raped, he would take my revenge, and I am sure that the rapist is quiet happy worshiping a God who at any given time he decided to repent, he can forgive him for what he has done.

        Its a contrast, but it is beautiful and I wouldn’t have it any other way. A God who will never let your right be taken from his beliver, but at the same time will never deny another beliver from his mercy.

        You may see it as contradictary I see it as complementary.

        And as I told you before, its not as simple as ‘not beliving in Islam’. Allah swt tries to connect with people but they turn him away. Do you think that a person can live a long life without thinking once who created him and whats his purpose. Ofcourse they think about it, ofcourse it crosses their mind, but they simply push God aside because they don’t see worshiping him as a priority in their life. YEs Islam is the only religion acceptable in the eyes of God because Islam is worshiping ONE GOD. Theres no way out of it, if you wan’t to worship one God alone (WORSHIP, not just belive in one God then ignore him) then you Islam to you will become inevitable.

        If you want to worship God your own way, then I have one thing to say to you. God deserves to be worshiped in the way he wants. What if one decided he wants to worship God by throwing stones at people? Where is your guideline, How do you know what God likes and doesnt like. How do you know if what your doing is not pleasing him? (I am assuming you want to worship and please God no?)

  5. Midnightmama

    You betcha 🙂

  6. Ameira

    There is no compulsion in religion. I have always believed this. Your beliefs are between you and your creator alone. Anyone who judges you for your beliefs is arrogant and ignorant and should humble themselves. I hope you believe me when I say that I will always be your friend no matter what you believe and I hope u dont categorize me in the “superficial” group either 😛 You know you are always welcome in my home and I hope you will still continue to join us for Eid and Ramadan dinners if you still plan to celebrate those with your family. Im kind of interested in how you are planning to work out islamic holidays, school, functions, etc with your family? just curious… 🙂

    • @ Ameira–Thank you dear. You’re one of the “sweet sisters” I was referring to in the post. I’m still going to celebrate Eid with the family and attend Ramadan dinners, etc.

  7. unsettledsoul

    Who is your support system, aside from hubs? Are you near your family? Are you able to talk to them about it? I gave you my number also, and you are totally welcome to call me at any time. How could you not go through an identity crisis sis? You put your all into it and I admire you for that! You gave it all you had and you gave your best! Therefore, no one can judge your decisions, especially yourself. Do not judge yourself sis, do not. You know beyond a doubt that this is the step you need to be taking, so no one can say you gave a half -assed effort at being Muslim. No, you gave your all, it didn’t work out, now it’s time to move on. You should be embracing yourself, you are trusting yourself and embracing your true identity! You are shedding one part of you for a new part of you. This is renewal! This is change. Change is difficult, it is why so many people don’t change. You have to recreate yourself.
    When you came to Islam you loved the idea of it because you were looking for a place to belong, remember that part of you that needs that sense of belonging, always be mindful of it. It can get us in trouble. Maybe you can start embracing the idea of the black sheep? Of depending on no one but ourselves. I know that was what I had to do when I was completely on my own and had no one. It can be a liberating feeling to know you are fine without anyone, that you will survive regardless, and most importantly; embracing that you would rather be an outcast than a fraud to yourself. You can have your family and still work on yourself. It is doable and attainable. Not only that, but you are a role model, your actions are telling your children(and your husband) that being true to ourselves is important. If calling me feels odd, FB me anytime sis. Congratulations on your renewal! You have some changes to make, and this is a beautiful thing. It is time to become your authentic self.

  8. unsettledsoul


    This is funny, but in grad school a lot of the girls like to know someone in their classes, so they can all group together. I walked into class and saw a girl I know and said hi to her and she was like “omg I am so glad you are here, I was afraid I wouldn’t know anyone.” I thought that fear sounded so odd. I was thinking to myself, “who cares if you don’t know anyone?” and this is the strength of that black sheep mentality. We are just fine all by ourselves. lol
    It can become a source of strength. We appreciate the people who do come into our lives, but we don’t need anyone. I am very extroverted. I am social and talkative and find it quite easy to spark conversations. So it is not that we don’t want social ties, it is that we don’t need them. And sometimes our lives are at a point where we need to lean on that part of us. If being the outcast in your community is a part of your life that you are living in, then embrace that part of your life and derive strength from it. I am a firm believer that these things happen in our lives because there is something we need to learn from it. If your friends can’t accept your changes, you don’t need them in your life. If they can accept your changes, then you know they are your real friends. People who love you will cheer you on, they will accept unconditionally. Anything less than that should be shed from your life anyways.

    • you know i’ve often considered myself a “black sheep” of sorts. I’ve never had a large group of friends and I don’t enjoy large social situations, etc. However, as I’ve gotten older having a group to belong to does seem to be more important. It becomes exhausting after awhile feeling like you always have to go everything alone. Of course, I do have the support of my family and my husband is there for me even if he strongly disagrees with me. It’s just a weird experience to suddenly find yourself outside of the group you’ve identified with for so long. It will take a period of adjustment for sure.

      • unsettledsoul

        How long did you identify, if you don’t mind my asking? Do you live in a small town, or a neighborhood that is mostly Muslim?

        • well i was muslim for 7.5 years. since I wore hijab during all but the last couple of months, even my non-muslim coworkers and colleaques kind of know me as “that muslim girl”. I live in a middle sized city but live by the masjid where there is a large concentration of Muslims. I’d say my friends are split up half and half, muslim and non. As for the couples that my husband and I socialize with on a regular basis, they’re almost all Muslims.

          It’s just a strange sensation to not be a part of that group anymore. It’s just a matter of getting used to it I guess.

  9. Hi Stephanie,

    Maybe I’m being too naive and optimistic here. But I believe that your friends who truly valued you as a PERSON-not just as a Muslim-should still be your friend. True friendship should transcend religious affiliation. My journey into and out of Islam showed me who truly had my back and loved me for the person I am-not just for my religious beliefs(or lack thereof).

  10. I completely understand why it must seem like such an identity crisis, especially when you have identified as being Muslim for so long. Your braveness and honesty is an inspiration to me. Continue to follow your heart! If people no longer want to be friends because you are no longer Muslim, they’re not worth it. Just like, if people no longer wanted to be friends because you became Muslim, they’re not worth it. Those are not your true friends. Stay strong, you are a beautiful soul.

  11. unsettledsoul

    I can appreciate the difficulty you are feeling. It is a big adjustment for you.

  12. Sultana

    Well sister all the best, believe me there will be many who are going to turn their back on you for leaving Islam, as they identify via Islam/Hijab. It happened to me when I took off Hijab, people were not able to connect to me or talk to me anymore so I really know what that’s like, they valued you for something superficial instead of knowning your character and loving the person you are.

    Afterall, religion is a way to God, each can choose his/her own in order to attain it.

  13. stayinislam

    1) A mother to her daughter: Don’t play on the road, you may fall under the vehicles and die, if you don’t listen to me, I will break your bones and kill you. (comparing to Allah’s warning of burning in hell)
    2) Allah granted jannah for a prostitute that quenched thirst of a sick dog ( Allah is most merciful)
    3) Allah asked to stand trial of a 5times praying Muslim who neglected to feed his hungry neighbor before performing hujj. (Allah is impartial to Muslims and non Muslims).
    4) If someone thinks to lead righteously without consuming alcohol and other wrong stuffs, Allah will guide him/her…, if somebody thinks of having alcohol by refusing Allah’s guidance, Allah will not guide him to right path.
    5) “Goodness lies in the person who doesn’t see goodness within himself.”

  14. @I desperately tried to find Him in Islam but I didn’t.

    How did you try to find Allah SWT in Islam? I am trying to find those answers in your posts. I gather you converted to Islam (perhaps for marriage), been a Muslim for nearly 8 years, and find the religion restrictive, see God as vengeful, unmerciful that sends people to hell for not believing, religion that is oppressive to women, etc, basically a flawed system made by man was the conclusion you made at this moment in your life about Islam. I am making the assumption you still believe in God and just wondering how you view God currently when you think of God. In another post, I read in one of your posts a reference to God as a she, which makes me wonder what your relationship with Tawheed as described by the Quran has been in the past when you were practicing Islam. In my experience those who refer to God as a she, are rather battling what they view as patriarchal interpretation of religious texts which refer to God as a “he”. And understanding Tawheed, there would be no need for such a battle or conflict, since Allah SWT is genderless, beyond human qualities and characteristics, but because of language we have become accustomed to these words such as “he” in translations etc, but in our hearts and imagination, we cannot comprehend Allah, we only have the description of attributes and believe in those.

    As for hell and punishment in the hereafter. First I like to point out I am only speaking generally, nothing specific or personal since I don’t know you, just so happens the topic fascinates me and thus I am sharing my thoughts on your blog about the topic in general, nothing personal on your story. Just wanted to make that clear. I think this concept about hell goes back to the purpose of why are we are? What is the purpose of life? Now for some, they will answer, my purpose is to be a good person, to work hard, to do good on to others and so forth until everything is done. A noble purpose indeed. Namely I don’t need an organized system tell me how to live or to be good and here’s where Islam say’s people are flawed in thinking they are self-sufficient. For Muslims and others that follow an organized system of belief, that purpose is defined. Since I am Muslim, I will speak on that, our purpose is to worship Allah. For us there is a difference between religion (which consists of rituals) and the deen (which consists of a moral code, laws etc). As human beings, we don’t know what is good, right and so on, beyond the universal belief among all cultures of murdering unjustly is wrong. Beyond this point, what is right and what is good, varies from culture to culture, and from one era to another. So depending on one’ culture, environment or time period, the definition of what is right and good changes, history is evident to this fact. As Muslims we believe the Quran gives us the central code of what is right, good, just and to contrary what is what is wrong, wrong, and unjust. This does not change or vary with culture or time, ie drinking alcohol was haram (wrong) in 7th century mecca, and its haram in 21st Boston. Why? Is it because God is being rigid and wants to spoil our good time? No, because we believe whatever Allah told us to do is good for us and whatever Allah told us to avoid is bad for us. Allah certainly does not need us, Islam is for our benefit alone and success both here in this world and in the next. In short, Allah is Most Just, not an atom of injustice will be done to any human being. And neither is this world created without a purpose, in which we all disappear to a shallow dark grave, without any accountability. And this is what Sarah is conveying. No one will be wronged by Allah, Muslim or Non-Muslim, black or white. If one is seeking Allah sincerely and thinking about their purpose, then Allah SWT will not fail them, because Allah is closer to us then our jugular vein. The problem arises when we think we are self-sufficient and reached full independence. Iman goes up and down, and our current state is never stagnant. There is wisdom why the Quran was revealed the way it was, the Meccan sura’s first about Tawheed, and heart softeners, then the sura’s about the laws were revealed afterwards. Hence when faith enters the heart, it is easy for a believer to pray 5 times a day, fast ramadan, pay alms, ie submission makes sense because I understood the purpose. But Iman goes up and down. And this is why we are encouraged to nourish our souls, with dhikir, seeking sound knowledge, and surrounding ourselves with good company etc, just as we nourish our bodies.

    One more thing about the topic of apostasy, because I think it is very important, that unfortunately causes divisions. The Quran mentions apostasy. Several verses:

    “Let there be no compulsion in the religion: Surely the Right Path is clearly distinct from the crooked path.” Al Baqarah, 2:256.

    “Let him who wishes to believe, do so; and let him who wishes to disbelieve, do so.” (Al-Kahf: 29)

    “Those who believe, then disbelieve, then believe again, then disbelieve, and then increase in their disbelief – Allah will never forgive them nor guide them to the path.” Surah An-Nisa’, 4:137.

    “Yours is only the duty to convey the message; you are not a guardian over them.” (Al-Ghashiyah: 21- 22)

    Nowhere in the Quran, does it mention the death penalty for apostasy, even though Allah mentions apostasy, to the extent of several rejections of faith, believing then rejecting Islam, there is no worldly punishment for the apostate. No compulsion in religion requires people to adopt or reject a religion without fearing punishment. If you wish to not believe, let him do so the verse says, your duty is only to convey the message, in other verses it instructs convey with kindness and good words, not to be their guardian and certainly never to abuse or harm people. This is not Islam, Islam instructs us to be merciful, and just. Further there are no records of the Prophet scw or companions ever sentencing someone to death for rejecting faith. Our deen is beautiful. Thus I can’t see how some Muslims could reason, to accept converts kindly, then want their death if they changed their mind. That is crazy to me. Someone who decides Islam is no longer is not for them in their hearts, is not like someone who declared war upon the Muslims and has an agenda to see their destruction, the latter would be treason in Islamic Law, the former, as Quran say’s, it’s a right of the person. That distinction I think is blurred for some.

    • “How did you try to find Allah SWT in Islam? I am trying to find those answers in your posts. I gather you converted to Islam (perhaps for marriage), been a Muslim for nearly 8 years, and find the religion restrictive, see God as vengeful, unmerciful that sends people to hell for not believing, religion that is oppressive to women, etc, basically a flawed system made by man was the conclusion you made at this moment in your life about Islam.”

      I think you basically answered your own question.

      As for how I view God, I think we can see God in his creation. The wonder of the seemingly infinite universe. The birth of a child. A piece of grass blowing in the breeze. I don’t doubt god. I do wonder if the creator really plays any part in our lives. Does he answer our prayers? Does he care about us in any way? I simply don’t know the answer to these questions and doubt I will ever.

      I am not muslim anymore. It’s not a personal attack. People come into religion and people leave them.

      Regarding apostacy, there are hadith that support the death penalty for appostates. Thankfully many Muslims take the more moderate viewpoint on that issue. Still doesn’t stop me from looking over my shoulder occasionally though.

    • impraying

      @Fatima W
      @I desperately tried to find Him in Islam but I didn’t.
      How did you try to find Allah SWT in Islam? I am trying to find those answers in your posts. I gather you converted to Islam (perhaps for marriage), been a Muslim for nearly 8 years, and find the religion restrictive, see God as vengeful, unmerciful that sends people to hell for not believing, religion that is oppressive to women, etc, basically a flawed system made by man was the conclusion you made at this moment in your life about Islam. I am making the assumption you still believe in God and just wondering how you view God currently when you think of God. In another post, I read in one of your posts a reference to God as a she, which makes me wonder what your relationship with Tawheed as described by the Quran has been in the past when you were practicing Islam. In my experience those who refer to God as a she, are rather battling what they view as patriarchal interpretation of religious texts which refer to God as a “he”. And understanding Tawheed, there would be no need for such a battle or conflict, since Allah SWT is genderless,………………………………………………………………………………….
      ME: regarding genderless of god , while answering to the same question Dr Zakir Naik has answered as follows.
      In some extent GOD and Allah is not the same.
      God can be God’s
      God can be Goddess (Goddesses)
      God can be God father, God mother etc..
      Allah cannot be Allah’s
      Allah cannot be Allah (ess)
      Allah cannot be Allah father, Allah mother.
      So Allah is Genderless.
      Calling Allah as “he” or “she” is not important whether Allah is he or she, it is something like calling USA (any country is genderless, but ppl call as she) is not she, that must be HE…
      Stephanie can call Allah as “she” as Hindus also has “he gods “and “she gods”.

  15. Lotus Blossom

    For what its worth, I am Muslim and do have friends that have left Islam. I do not love them any less because of their choice…I may even love them more because they are now happier than they’ve ever been before. We still talk, enjoy each other’s company, and they are still welcome in my home and I am welcome in theirs. That is what being a true friend is about. Your true friends will continue to stand with you and will not leave you at a time when you could use a friend the most. Losing one’s religion and losing one’s identity is not an easy thing, and the support of your true friends will certainly help you get through it.

    As Ameira said, there is no compulsion in religion, and I firmly stand by the saying “to you be your deen, and to me be mine.” I do not feel it necessary to judge others according to what they do or do not believe, because your beliefs are for you and your Lord alone. Although I personally know some of the Muslims who feel that apostasy is the worst thing in the world, I would much rather worry about myself, making sure that I am should be doing, as opposed to spending time worrying about things that are not my business. I hope you realize that I do not mean this in a selfish way, but rather, I am suggesting that…well…people in glass houses should not throw stones.

    I can identify with the loss of identity as I feel that my own identity was lost for years. However, I have fought hard to get it back, and while I may not be a perfect example of the “Muslim Identity” nor do I practice Islam perfectly, I am who I am, and that is good enough for me. I can also identify with your disillusionment about your local community, as I am also a “member of this community” if you can even call it that. Yet, as you have seen, you have “get in where you fit in” so to speak, and it sounds as though you have done just that. And honestly, if you are talking about some of the sisters I believe you are talking about, I can bet there will be more than one party or dinner in your future. 😉

  16. I have not (as yet) read much of your blog, but I gather you are living with a Muslim husband and children. Under this circumstance, your feeling of rejecting the faith must surely cause stress on the whole family. With all due respect, could you not continue observing whatever you’d be comfortable observing, without having to announce a formal severance?

    Must we all accept every word, every letter, complete with translation– hook, line and sinker? I don’t think so. If that were the case, how many of us could remain Muslims in good standing? How many Christians would remain Christian? Think, for example, of all those Catholic families using birth control. The formal structure of religious belief seldom fits the structure of modern family life.

    • “Must we all accept every word, every letter, complete with translation– hook, line and sinker? ”
      That was one of the major questions I was grappling with for quite awhile. However, given the nature of revelation in Islam, leaving part of it out, taking the good and leaving the bad, is essentially ignoring the actual and literal word of God. If one is a believer in the Quran as God’s last message to mankind, then how could you not accept it?
      Regarding my family, my husband is aware of my views, but it’s not something that comes up in our everyday conversation. One of the reasons I have this blog is to explore some of these issues in a semi anonymous manner. There are few people in my actual life that I would feel comfortable discussing these issues with. As for my children, I have some guilt and I know I’ve confused the heck out of them. I don’t badmouth Islam, but at the same time they should know there are other ways of viewing God and the universe other than through Islam. I can only hope to raise intelligent, inquisitive, independent human beings. That has always been my hope for them, even before these recent events.

      • Even if you continue to raise your children Muslim, I sense they will know (if they don’t already know) that there are other ways, other legitimate ways, of perceiving God, the universe, and the human condition.

        There are few people, indeed, who are comfortable discussing the issues we are discussing. I, too, cannot talk freely to anyone in my family, Muslim or Christian, about the attributes of either faith, let alone a third religious system.

    • unsettledsoul


      I think for people who do not study Religion and just accept it, no problem. Ignorance is bliss. But I think for people who study it and know all of the problems they have with it, it is much harder to just ignore as if it is not there.

      Maybe that is the point, if everyone knew everything about their religion, there would be no more religion, because so many people would leave. Or not, I’m just thinking out loud.

      • Yes, ignorance is bliss– sometimes. When people study religion, they do so from a perspective, rarely from the scientifically desirable state of objectivity, so they will, indeed, find evidence to support what they want to believe. Those of us who have the capacity to “hold the tension of the opposite” (to borrow from the psychological perspective) have all the trouble. I’d love to delve into this idea further, but I have to go work now, unfortunately.

  17. Fatima W

    @I think you basically answered your own question.

    Not, really. I know those are the conclusions you have reached, I was just curious on how you sought knowledge of Islam that is all. As for the topic of apostasy and hadiths, there is no justification for death penalty. The Quran is clear on the matter, and the one hadith that is used that is attributed to the prophet is weak and goes against the Sunnah of the prophet scw. The daleel for this is clear. InshaAllah all be khair, anyone that is deprived of mercy is deprived of all good the prophet scw said, let’s hope we all live up to that regardless of our chosen path and you won’t need to look over your shoulder.

    @Must we all accept every word, every letter, complete with translation– hook, line and sinker? I don’t think so. If that were the case, how many of us could remain Muslims in good standing?

    There is a stark difference between remaining in good standing and accepting the Quran as the Word of Allah, and this means every word in the Quran. We are human beings, human beings are weak and will sin, and thus may not be in good standing all the time in obeying what is commanded in the Quran. Allah is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful, this repeated throughout the Quran. However failing to remain in good standing, is different then accepting parts of the Quran and rejecting other parts. For example, someone may skip salah at times for whatever reason, this person is sinning, or someone may drink, commit zina, these are sins, however rejecting salah all together and saying there is need for it, i don’t believe it or will perform it, or saying I don’t accept this verse of the Quran etc, then this amounts to kufur.

    • unsettledsoul

      @ Fatima,

      Salams, I think one point I would like to make is this: There may not be justification in Quran for that specific example, but there is justification in Shariah. That makes it part of Islam. In Malaysia, for example, one can be arrested for apostasy, and conversion is absolutely illegal.

      • Issam


        Islam is the Quran. And Islamic law, or Sharia, should be derived from the Quran alone. the Quran grants absolute freedom of religion to everybody;

        “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error” [2:256]
        “Say, “The truth is from your Lord”: Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it)” [18:29]
        “Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.” [109:6]

        I can go on and on.

        What they have in Malaysia contradicts Islam. Indeed, most Muslim-majority countries have no blasphemy laws.

        Peace and Blessings,

  18. Issam

    Hello sister Stephanie

    Please allow me to briefly respond to some of your objections to Islam;

    1. The idea of a collective, unified umma is not a myth. In my experience the converts at my local mosque feel welcomed appreciated very much. The local Muslim community usually sticks together everywhere. Your experiences about your local mosque are strange to say the least. Muslims are known to welcome converts with open arms. Still you still managed to form friendships with few kind sweet sisters who will stick with even after abandoning Islam as seen here on your blog. I honestly find your judgement about the truth of a collective unified umma to be wrong.

    2. God guides those who seek guidance, and misguides those who do not seek guidance. God does not guide those who do not seek guidance because this violates their free will. It is not because god has complete control to guide or not.

    3. God does not send sincere nonbelievers who have never come across Islam, or who have learnt a distorted message of Islam and rejected it, to Hell. God only sends evil people, or people who do not want to believe in Him, to Hell. This is because God’s favours on us are infinite, and so denying those favours is an infinite crime and that requires an infinite punishment which is eternal Hell. I see no reason for mocking this by saying “nice stuff” as you did. It does not make God seem petty, hateful and venegeful. It makes Him Just. Rewarding the Good and punishing the evil is what justice is all about.

    4. It is not possible to seek out God using other avenues besides Islam, which you dismiss as “an inherently flawed system made by man”. The Islamic concept of God is the only rational cocept of God. An unmerciful and unjust God who does not care about His creatures cannot be a rational concept of God.

    5. There are not many Muslim countries that still have blasphemy laws that are punishable by death. Only few of them do, and even those which have blasphemy laws do not enforce them. Muslims do not take apsotacy personally at all as long as the apostate is respectful.

    6. How can you be sure that there are plenty who entertain their disbelief in private if they do it in private? We can only know about one’s views, whether they are religious or not, from the internet, not by wishful thinking.

    7. As I said above, a God who does not care about us is an unmerciful and unjust God. Do you really believe in such a God?

    8. Hadiths are fake records that were authored after the death of Prophet Muhammad by 100-150 years. They have nothing to do with Islam or the Prophet Muhammad. Indeed, many of these Hadiths even contradict the Quran, such as the Hadith about the punishment for apostacy, when there are hundreds of verses in the Quran that guarantee the freedom of worship.

    You said that you converted because of marriage, which means that you did not inquire about Islam before your conversion. I am not doubting at all that you were a sincere Muslim, and I do not care whether you are Deist or Atheist etc… But I wish you all the best in this life and in the afterlife, and that is why you need to be open minded and consider that maybe your decision was wrong. Maybe you did not understand the true meaning of the verses. I would caution you not to close your mind regarding Islam. If you think that it is possible that your decision was wrong, then I would be happy to address any objections that you have about Islam.


  19. unsettledsoul


    I would caution you not to close your mind regarding staying in Islam. Be open minded and consider that you could be wrong about Islam. I wish you all the best but maybe you are not understanding some of the true meanings of the verses, because if you did you would not be Muslim. I would be happy to address any defenses you have of Islam…..

    My point: Wouldn’t that offend you? Then why do it to others?

    Do you really think your paragraph is going to make someone change their mind when they have studied and contemplated for 7 years?

    I apologize, I am sincerely wondering why people do this.

  20. Midnightmama


    I am interested about tour statement that hadiths are fake. Can you explain this?

    • Issam

      Hadiths are allegedly sayings and deeds of the Prophet. Siras are allegedly biographies of the Prophet. Hadiths and Siras were authored 100-150 years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Therefore they hold no historical credibility whatsoever, because for a historical document to hold any credibility, it must be contemporary to, or at least very close, to the period it is talking about. Actually many stories in these Hadiths and Siras flat out contradict the Quran, therefore the Prophet could have never said or done the sayings or deeds attributed to him in these books. And today many scholars of Islam dismiss the Hadiths and Siras.

      Please feel free to ask any more questions.

      Peace and Blessings Sister,

  21. Issam


    Thank you for your advice, and no it did not offend me at all. And I am sure my post did not offend Stephanie. She actually made a similar comment to Marahm on Marahm’s blog, and Marahm did not find it offensive either. If Stephanie finds my post offensive I will apologize.

    I love healthy debates and hopefully Stephanie will engage with what I said.

    Studying for 7 years may not always lead to correct conclusions. I know people who were Deist, like Stephanie now, for 30+ years and then converted to a religion. If you think she will never change her mind then why does she discuss her decision with others? Is she not interested in discussing her decision with Muslims?
    From what I understood of Stephanie’s posts she was not involved in a progressive understanding of Islam. She used to believe that Hadiths were indeed part of Islam and sayings of the Prophet, even the Hadiths that contradicted the Quran. She also gave authority to what traditional scholars had to say on religious issues. She says that she took this decision when she was sure that women were inferior beings in Islam, but did she read any books by progressive women Muslim scholars? I highly doubt it.

    People do what I am doing because they do not wish for people to believe in wrong ideologies. When Antony Flew, atheism’s champion philosopher in the 20th century, decided to believe in God the reaction of atheists verged on hysteria. They flooded him with countless questions and some of them even made childish caricatures of him. I do not believe that the reaction to Stephanie’s decision verged o hysteria or that she was flooded with questions. On the contrary everyone stood by her.

    Everyone should be open minded and open to all the possibilities. People make wrong decisions all the time, even after studying and contemplating for many years. I too am open to all the possibilities. I always read criticism of my religion to test whether my belief is sound or not.


    • unsettledsoul

      I’m not here to debate what Stephanie thinks, I am sure she can do that for herself quite well, I am just telling you what I think, Issam. It can go both ways, and in my experience Muslims don’t like that fact.

      • Issam

        Hello unsettledsoul,

        I do not understand what you mean by “It can go both ways”? Do you mean that conversion goes both ways? That is true in all religions and ideologies, but to single out Muslims on that and claim that they do not like that fact is unfair. Nobody likes that someone abandons their religion or ideology. That is true of all people. Of course the reaction differs from person to person, depending on how much open-minded they are.

        Or may be you mean that truth goes both ways? Well in that case I totally disagree, and you would be very correct in claiming that Muslims do not like that “fact”. Muslims do not like relativism. It is sophistry. By the way all major philosophers believe in objective truth. Objective truth does exist. What is it? That is the question.

        Peace and Blessings,

  22. Nobody

    So much hostility, so much my-way-or-the-highway going on here. I, too, was a Muslim for many years before admitting to myself that I really didn’t — really couldn’t — believe. I once did. Letting go was scary (it’s been three years now), but ultimately freeing. I think you will find the same. That instead of an identity lost, it’s an identity — your identity — refound, reborn. I feel freer than I have ever felt. No more apologizing for being human.

    • Issam

      Dear Nobody,

      I do not find any hostility here. And I am glad that you are happier and freer than ever. We too, are very happy and free. And we do not apologize for being human. I do not know where you got that idea from?
      But if you could not believe then why did you convert in the first place?

      Honestly I do not understand your “so much my-way-or-the-highway going on here” comment? Are we not allowed to address any objections people may have about Islam? How can this be “my-way-or-the-highway”?

      Peace and Blessings,

      • Nobody

        I do find much of the tone here hostile towards people who choose to leave Islam. You are free to see it differently. You are, in fact, free to see it as you do: as a gentle calling back to Islam, a framework in which you have invested so much time and emotional energy. I am free to see it all quite differently over on this side of the fence. It may be a gentle tapping but it is a nonstop tapping nevertheless and the repetition over time turns an annoyance into a sore spot. When you are bruised and angry, even the most gentle of approaches is loaded for bear.

        I am, in fact, much freer and happier. No more guilt dogs my footsteps. I no longer wonder about the arbitrary nature of who gets on God’s good side because it is all arbitrary and in Islam, despite the hype, there is no room for free choice. I could go on but I think I’ve given you enough fodder to try and disassemble and reassemble in a form that’s dawah-friendly.

        Who said anything about what’s allowed or not? You are reading a terribly imaginative amount into what I said. Or maybe it’s simply an altogether too familiar binary viewpoint, the one that has everyone in either the 0 or the 1 category, the idea that says “if you are not on my side you are, by necessity, trying to suppress my side”. I haven’t come here to engage with you, at any rate. I lost my taste for Muslim apologetics at about the same time I lost my taste for self-hatred. I am here to read the words of, to support, and to engage with the writer of this blog. But please don’t feel that I am trying to stop you from anything. Stopping people from saying and thinking what they need is no longer a part of my religious worldview.

    • Issam

      Hello Nobody,
      Thanks for replying to my post,

      1. You are free to see the tone here as you do, let’s just respectfully disagree here, but unless you give evidence of how the tone is hostile your viewpoint remains unbelievable.
      2. I have not invested so much time and emotional energy to call to Islam. That is not my profession. I actually landed here by chance. I do post few comments on blog posts that seem interesting to me, but that is pretty much about it. When people comment on my posts I try to reply, as time permits. So I am not really different from you here.
      3. I do not find my posts here repetitive. Actually it is people “on the other side of the fence” who repeat their stories of abandoning Islam and how they had to deal with it. Their objections to Islam are especially so repetitive. Yet I never found that annoying, let alone sore.
      4. I am happy that you are much freer and happier now. Good for you.
      5. You say that it is all arbitrary about who gets on God’s side, yet you give no evidence or even one verse to support your position. I thought what is right and wrong was clear in the Quran. I do however find your other statement, that there is no room for free choice in Islam, to be actually bizzare. Do you mean that the Quran says that we have no free will?
      6. I do find this comemnt of yours to me “I could go on but I think I’ve given you enough fodder to try and disassemble and reassemble in a form that’s dawah-friendly.” to be distasteful and disrespectful. I do not play with my religion. I write what I truly believe. You have the right to agree or disagree, but you can do it in a respectable way to others.
      7. I never consider those who are not on my side to be trying to suppress my side. People disagree, and that is very normal. And as for your binary comment, I am afraid you did not get what I meant. I reject relativism. I do not believe everything is right, or everything is wrong. I do not believe it is all relative. I do believe in objective truth and in objective morality. Most major philosophers have believed in them too. Relativism is meaningless, and is self-refuting. If you find that “an altogether too familiar binary viewpoint or a that it puts “everyone in either the 0 or the 1 category”, then you are the one who are reading a terribly imaginative amount into what I said. Or maybe it’s simply an altogether too familiar prejudice.
      8. I haven’t come here to engage with you, at any rate, either. I just read your comment to the post here and replied to it. That is about it. I actually landed on this blog by chance, from another blog.
      9. Even though I do not work with Muslim apologetics, I do not find Muslim apologists, or Muslims in general, self-hating. I do not hate myself. All my Muslim family and friends do not hate themselves. Too bad you hated yourself.
      10. I never felt that you were trying to stop me from anything. I actually want this discussion to continue.
      11. Stopping people from saying and thinking what they need was never part of Islam. The Quran is full of verses that command the believers “to think” and “to reason”. You, Nobody, like most people who become atheists or agnostics, never believed in true Islam.

      Peace and Blessings,

    • Issam

      Dear Nobody,
      I am respondng here beause it won’t give me the option to reply directly to your post.

      1. You are also free to see the tone here differently. You are, in fact, free to see it as you do, but unless you back up your viewpoint with evidence it will remain as a baseless claim.

      2. I have not invested so much time and emotional energy in calling to Islam. I even do not own a website or run a blog to call to Islam. I just came across this blog from another blog and made a few replies. I do comment on interesting blog posts from time to time and that is about it.

      3. I do not believe I have repeated myself here. Actually it is people “over the other side of the fence” who constantly repeat themselves regarding their objections to Islam, their stories of how and why they abandoned Islam, how they “couldn’t” believe etc… You do not find that annoying at all! And why should you? It is actually what you want to hear. Yet when Muslims reply to this they become the annoying ones, even to a sore end! You say you are angry and bruised, yet before that you said you were “freer” than ever. I do not know what to believe, but anyway, I hope Stephanie is not angry or bruised by anything.

      4. Your claims about the arbitrary nature of who gets on God’s good side and that in Islam there is no room for free choice are baseless, unsubstantiated claims and frankly downright absurd! I thought good and bad were clear in the Quran. Do you believe in the existence of objective morality? And what do you mean by the lack of free choice? Do you mean that the Quran says that we have no free will? Or do you mean that there is no freedom of chocie in the Quran? Both are wrong anyway.

      5. I do not disassemble and reassemble with my religion. I write what I exactly believe. I do not twist the meanings of the verses for instance. I say what I believe they truly say, and I give my reasons. Your comment about “fodder to try and disassemble and reassemble” is distasteful and downright disrespectable.

      6. I never endorsed, or even hinted at the idea that says “if you are not on my side you are, by necessity, trying to suppress my side”. I respect anybody’s disagrement with me, as long as it is civilized, here and everywhere. You are the one reading a terribly imaginative amount into what I said, buddy.

      7. The “altogether too familiar binary viewpoint, the one that has everyone in either the 0 or the 1 category” is called objective reality. Maybe you believe that you can be in both the 0 and the 1 category, or perhaps in all the categories, but this is not reasonable as you may think. This is sophistry, and it is meaningless. I believe in objective reality. I believe that everything is either right or wrong. Nothing can be right or wrong at the same time. You can call it “altogether too familiar binary viewpoint”, or that it “has everyone in either the 0 or the 1 category”, but that is objective truth and reality for you, and that is what all the major phiosophers have believed in.

      8. I havn’t come here to engage with you, at any rate, either. I just came to this blog by chance from another blog and read your comment and replied to it. That is all there is to it dear.

      9. I am not involoved in Muslim apologetics, but I do not know what it has got to do with self-hatred. Do you mean that some Muslim apologists were trying to justify their unprogressive views of women rights? Well the Quran supports gender equality and I can explain that further if you wish.

      10. I am not trying to stop you from anything either dear. It is not part of my religious worldview. Pleae feel free to reply to any posts, including my posts as long as they are respectable.

      11. Stopping people from saying and thinking what they need was never part of Islam. It is un-Islamic. Read verses 2:256, 18:29 and 109:6 for example. Once again, you are throwing false claims at Islam.

      Next time try to substantiate your claims about Islam with verses from the Quran.


  23. @Salams, I think one point I would like to make is this: There may not be justification in Quran for that specific example, but there is justification in Shariah. That makes it part of Islam. In Malaysia, for example, one can be arrested for apostasy, and conversion is absolutely illegal.

    Wa salaam alaikum. You say there is justification in Shariah, if that is the case then it can only be justified by quoting the Quran or sound Hadith. If you know any, please share it. Malaysia does it is not relevant.

    • unsettledsoul

      Fatima, I do not have Quran or Hadith to quote, I just have Muslim countries that use Quran and hadith as the reason for why they do what they do. And it is relevant! People’s lives and well being under shariah law is very relevant. It is injustice in the name of God. That is just as relevant as to why I am disillusioned by Islam as anything else.

      • Issam

        Hello unsettledsoul,

        Muslims countries do not use the Quran for the blasphemy law. The few countries who have blasphemy laws use a Hadith that even the Azhar university has judged to be very weak. No country enforces that law anyway.

        But are we discussing Islam here or are we discussing what few Muslim countries do?


      • Sultana

        I agree. I laugh at how they say “Muslims/Muslim countries do not represent Islam, who but them does?!”…? Religion should not be taken that far, plus nobody can prove to me that it is the ONLY RIGHT religion/way/philosophy out there…

      • Issam

        Hello Sultana,

        The Quran represents Islam. Muslims and Muslim countries do not represent Islam if they disobey the commands of God. Just like Communist countries such as North Korea or the former USSR did not represent atheism, or even Communism.

        I actually believe Islam can be proved to be the only right religion by a simple logical argument, but that is a different issue.

        Peace and Blessings,

    • sara

      Would it not be easier, perhaps, to just contact the Saudi, Pakistani, Iranian, Malaysian, religious ministeries/national councils, and ask them about their merits for implementing such hard laws and punishments? They will be more than happy to provide you with their detailed scholarly approved reasoning for such laws in light if the sunnah and Quranic referencework they use. Afterall it is not a secret. I recommend going through the embassies first. Unless you can find the direct addresses online. They ate not grabbing it out if thin air. There is also a reason they are not challenged except by those opponents who call for repealing such laws and that unsuccessfully

  24. Oh, I’m late to the party. I think midnightmama said it best. Let’s hope you get to keep the friends you truly enjoy — and I think it was already mentioned, but those you may lose were never really friends with you, FOR YOU, to begin with. A true friendship can last through anything.

  25. I came back from a very busy day and found 20+ comments! I would like to address just a couple of points before I drift off into a coma for the next 8 hours. In some ways I feel these discussions can be pointless because it often reads like the argument of five year olds. I’m right, no I’m right, no I’m right. But in the spirit of civil debate and discussion, here goes:

    @ Issam– For years I entertained more conservative ideas while repressing my own inner conscience that screamed these ideas were wrong. However, the last year or so, I did spend a good deal of time entertaining and learning about progressive ideas and interpretations within Islam. I’m not entirely unfamiliar with the works of Amina Wadud, Kecia Ali, Fatima Mersinni, Asma Barlas and others. I will admit I never had the chance to study their works in their entirety but do folllow several liberal Muslim feminist blogs and have engaged in discussion and readings of many passages from their writings. From where I sit at this very moment I have a Khaled El Fadl and N. Barazangi laying near by. So, yes, I did look into view in Islam from the progressive perspective and the “Quran only” perspective (as I see you subscribe to). The problem is, I felt that these works were just a response to the liberal, Western reaction to the misogynistic and violent readings of the past. I do think the way humankind views religious texts can change as our species change. But for me it is problematic to view the Quran as just a text to be reinterpreted in our modern times. From the Muslim perspective it is the absolute word of God and that doesn’t change. As I pointed out before and even if I could reread certain problematic verses regarding women, slavery, concubinage and polygamy, it still doesn’t negate the fact that I don’t believe in jinn, black magic or ancient Jewish myths. Not to mention the constant threat of hellfire for disbelief and disobedience, which I find disturbing. Lastly regarding your statement that it isn’t possible to seek out God outside of Islam, well I think this statement is just plain wrong. Millions of people of other faiths past and present would certainly disagree with you. You statement is a perfect illustration of the dogma that guides believers and keeps them in the faith. It is essential to the propagation of religion, every religion, not just Islam. I reject this way of thinking fully, because well, we can’t all be right. I suspect that we’re all wrong.

    @ Sarah–the comment I made about Muslims was referring to the orthodox view that only Muslims go to heaven and disbelievers (whether having been wronged in life or not) go to hell. There are dozens of verses to support this statement.

    Regarding the punishment of the apostate, firstly, I’m not sure how this came up as I don’t recall mentioning it. But maybe I did. I’m too tired to go back and read my comments. Either way, whether or not you believe the punishment for apostasy is death, there is absolutely that view in a large body of Islamic work and it does pervade orthodox writing and ideology. There are several hadith that support the punishment in the sahih collections. I don’t care to post them here, but a simple google should suffice. Many people will claim that it only applies to the apostate whom acts as a traitor to the ummah or seeks to misguide other Muslims. But then this begs the question, what does it mean to misguide? Am I seeking to misguide others by publicly and openly expressing my thoughts? I’m not saying that I believe or have ever believed the punishment for the apostate is death. What I am saying is to claim that the punishment doesn’t exist, or has no place in shariah, is just false.

    What I find the most interesting in these comments is the idea of some that God will guide me if only I seek him. What you mean is, if I seek Islam, which of course as you believe is the only true path. But who’s to say God isn’t guiding me? Who’s to say what the right path is? Religion? The Quran? It’s not an argument to tell me that I have to believe this or that because it says so in the Quran because I don’t believe in the Quran as the God given revelation to mankind . You may as well be quoting Harry Potter or the ayuveda’s or the United States Constitution. It’s all the same to me.

    Maybe I’m the only one who’s right and every one else is wrong? See how dogma works? It really all relative, folks.

    • Issam

      Dear Stephanie,
      Thank you for replying to my post. You are so kind.

      I do not find these discussions to be pointless or read like the arguments of five year olds. You offered objections to Islam. They are legitimate objections, albeit typical. And so I do not understand your “I’m right, no I’m right, no I’m right.” comment? Well either you are right, or I am right. Either Islam suppresses women like you believe, or it promotes gender equality like I believe. These two views cannot be reconciled. One of them has to be true. Objectivity demands that, and objectivity cannot be uncivil. So in the spirit of civil debate and discussion let me respond to your post:

      1. I am glad that you were exposed to liberal and progressive interpretations within Islam. Shame that you did not delve into them deeply as that would have cleared up a lot of your misconceptions about women and human rights in Islam. However, your understanding of the immutability of the Quran is plain wrong. It is not the Quran that changes, but our understanding of it that changes. The text is the same since more than 1400 years ago, but it is our interpretation of it that changes. That does not negate the fact that it is the absolute word of God nor that it does not change. The ancient scholars read the Quran with their culture controlling their mindset. They understood the Quran according to the values and conditions of their time, not necessarily according to what the Quran itself says. In addition to that, are not those ancient human anyway? Do not they make errors? Why should we follow everything, or even anything, authored by them. How could you question and reject what you had considered to be the Word of God, and not even dare to question the words of fallible men who lived hundrds of years before you?

      2. Modern interpretations of the Quran are not a response to liberal non-Muslim objections. Liberalism has a very long tradition in Muslim lands, even longer than that of, for example, Christianity. Liberal Muslims from the days of Abu Hanifa (The Great Imam) to Averroes to Mohamad Abdu have always advanced progressive values within Islam. I can mention tens of other names, but these should suffice since they are very popular.

      3. You say that there are certain problematic verses regarding women, slavery, concubinage and polygamy. Care to cite those verses so that we can discuss them?

      4. There is a logical proof of the existence of Demons and Angels. Are you interested in hearing it?

      5. There is no black magic or ancient Jewish mythology in the Quran. Do you have certain verses in mind?

      6. Rejecting God is an infinite crime, because God’s grace and favours on us are infinite, and an infinite crime deserves an infinite punishment which is hellfire. I do not find it disturbing at all, on the contrary it is the just punishment. God constantly reminds us of it because the Quran is the last Message from God.

      7. I am not being dogmatic when I say that it is impossible to seek out God outside of Islam. Of course millions of people have believed in other religions, but that does not make those religions true. As you say, Deism, Islam and every other religion cannot all be true. One version has to be true and all the others false, because they are mutually exclusive. Now beyond that one true version would it not be impossible to seek out the true God, because you would be pursuing a false version of God? It is not dogma, and it is not propagation. It is sticking to objective truth. If Islam is proved to be the objective truth then we should all stick to it, do not you think?

      8. It is true that we cannot all be right, but it is false that we can all be wrong. If we are wrong, as you suspect, then this very statement of yours, that “we are all wrong”, is wrong in itself. See dear Stephanie, relativism is self-refuting. You cannot believe that it is all relative, because then this statement, that “it is all relative”, is relative in itself, and hence cannot apply everywhere at all times. When you get rid of this irrational relativism you will take the first step toward objective truth.

      Peace and Blessings,

    • Issam

      Let me also, dear Stephanie, comment on your reply to Sarah. You are not correct on who goes to Paradise and who goes to Hell. Evil Muslims go to Hell, not Paradise. Good non-believers, those good people who have never come across Islam, or only rejected a distorted version of Islam that was presented to them, go to Paradise. There are no dozens of verses that support your view; to the contrary there are several verses that support what I just said:

      “Those who believe, and the Jewish, and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” [2:62]

      “Those who believe, and Jewish, and the Sabians, Christians, Magians, and Polytheists,- God will judge between them on the Day of Judgment: for God is witness of all things.” [22:17]

      There is no punishment for rejecting Islam in the Quran. Read verses [2:256], [18:29] and [109:6], nor does it pervade “orthodox” writing and ideology. Even so-called “orthodox” institutes like Alazhar University are rejecting this punishment, because they say that the several Hadiths in sahih collections are very weak and unreliable. Of course I do not believe that these “sahih” (Correct or True in English) collections were uttered by the Prophet in the first place, but that is another matter altogether. Therefore this punishment has no place in Sharia (Islamic law derived from the Quran).

      When we say that God will guide you only if you seek guidance, and misguide those who seek misguidance, we were responding to your implication that God is unfair for punishing people whom He misguides in the first place. A person who seeks guidance deserves guidance, and a person who seeks misguidance deserves misguidance. If God guides a person who seeks misguidance, then that would infringe the free will of that person, and would also be unfair to those who seek guidance, because then what would be the difference between the good people who seek guidance and the bad people who seek misguidance? Nothing, treating both groups the same way is unjust, and God is Just.

      We are not saying that Islam is the right path because the Quran says so. That is obviously begging the question. What we are saying is that if you use basic elementary logic without prejudice or trying to prove a point, then you will definitely arrive at Islam. That is why we are Muslim. And whether you are right and everyone else is wrong, or everyone else is right and you are wrong, does not mean that it is all relative. Relativism is self-refuting as I explained above. Either Islam is right and Deism is wrong, or Islam is wrong and Deism is right. It cannot be both ways.

      So use the elements of logic with an honest, true intention to seek out the true God, and He will guide you.

      Peace and Blessing,

  26. I was the one that brought up apostasy coming from the other topic “leaving Islam” that drew me to this blog in the first place. Personally I found it more the interesting subject, then discussing someone’s personal believes and felt the wrong message maybe taken by others, that Islam condemns ppl that convert out of the religion due to some events in Muslim countries. A simple google search can reveal a lot of things and often times then not, negative things about Islam and Muslims, which seek to distort the true message of Islam. This is why seeking knowledge from the correct sources is the right method when one has questions about Islam. I realize the laws in Muslim countries are relevant to the lives of the people that it effects, but that was not the point I was making, which seems to have been lost. Shariah laws can only be justified with Quran, and sound Hadith, law’s need daleel or proof, this is the method of Islam. Muslim countries are corrupt, ruled by oppressive entities, it’s unfortunate this beautiful deen is used to justify oppression in some of these lands and InshaAllah that will change, but currently when an entity, group, or country wishes to justify their oppression by using Shariah, then they will be asked for daleel for their rule from the Quran and hadith, I guarantee you they will find none. Recently at our local masjid, some men protested the sisters after completing the entire Quran, which is a celebration for entire community, not to give a speech to the entire congregation like the brothers do to mixed crowd of both men and women. The imam, may Allah be pleased with him, challenged them, bring your daleel that says this, from the Quran and sound hadith. They failed utterly. Knowledge is very important to counter these ignorant views amongst our ummah. Sure I can go to Saudi Arabia and be treated like a second class citizen, because I am woman be told I can’t drive, go to university, work, denied rights given to men etc, but alhamdullah I know my Islam, not to become disillusioned with my deen by associating their unjust crimes with Islam. Seeking knowledge & learning the beautiful Seerah of the prophet scw will give one this important distinction, between what Muslim countries, groups etc do and what the religion actually teaches.
    Peace & Love.

  27. Sig

    The reality is that you will lose friends. I lost almost all of my friends almost overnight – just from becoming less conservo-Muslim, let alone apotasy. I have one Muslim friend left. However, by coincidence I happened to leave Islam just around that period of time when those “sufi fitnahs” took place. I knew a lot of people involved, closely or not as much, with those groups and what happened caused a *lot* of people to seek and examine and question, and as a consequence, now I have friends who I knew as Muslims who are now, like me, non-Muslims. These friendships have been very important – for me and them. For those of us who were Muslim for a long period of time, it is good to have other people in the same boat as you readjust to life on the outside so to speak. It is important to know other ex-Muslims, even if it’s just for a little bit, for a shoulder.

    My social circle is much wider, more diverse, more intellectually enriching, more everything. I did lose people who were kind, dear, sweet, lovely people — who just couldn’t handle someone becoming less dogmatic (let alone someone rejecting Islam altogether). Everyone is allowed their limits, and those of us who leave Islam know that most of our friends – and sometimes family – have a limit.

  28. m

    @ m–hmm, that’s interesting that you think it’s easier for muslims to leave. I know in my husbands culture it’s almost unheard of for people to leave Islam, and especially people who are vocal about it. I’m sure there are plenty who entertain their disbelieve in private.

    That’s not quite what I said, I said it was perhaps easier to leave and maintain relationships, since there are other ties. You don’t state your husband’s culture so it’s hard to respond in specific but through the 20th c, there were strong leftist movements throughout the Muslim world, from Senegal to Egypt to Palestine to Indonesia, that people joined in numbers, not to mention countries like Uzbekistan or Yemen or Afghanistan that were Communist-ruled — obviously that’s only one kind of public secularization, there are other forms like Kemalite Turks — people were leaving Islam in numbers. There were unhappy situations of many kinds of course, but leftists like my friend were able to achieve cordial relationships partially because they showed their commitment to the good of the community.

  29. m

    The problem is, I felt that these works were just a response to the liberal, Western reaction to the misogynistic and violent readings of the past. I do think the way humankind views religious texts can change as our species change. But for me it is problematic to view the Quran as just a text to be reinterpreted in our modern times. From the Muslim perspective it is the absolute word of God and that doesn’t change.

    The text has been standardized but the conclusions people draw from it have varied wildly through the course of Islam, Shia painted religious figures, Jahiz opposed hijab, the Druze outlawed slavery. I think Cosma Shalizi’s post on Abou El Fadl hits the right note:

    Our current knowledge and values naturally shape our retrospective take on what is belongs to our tradition’s core. Which is fine: Pericles and Democritus were there for the taking. But let’s not pretend that our predecessors shared our retrospective view of what was the center of the shared tradition. None of the other great traditions emphasized the core of modern civilization (science, freedom, democracy, productivity, etc.), but, on examination, they all had usable elements lurking around, and it’s very hard indeed to honestly say that western Christendom was better-provided with them than Islam, or China, or India. (Amartya Sen had a very nice essay on this point in the New York Review back in 2000.) To cut a long, rambling post short, if some of us can now read Abou El Fadl’s essay and feel, comfortably, that there are places where he’s reaching a bit, it’s precisely because of four hundred odd years of just such creative interpretation and selective attention.

    Actually, I could even say that European liberalism was a response to Islam (via Ibn Rushd’s influence on the Scholastics) but I had better get back to work.

  30. The only problem with religion– any religion–is that it is unverifiable. No matter how strongly a person believes in their religion, no one, but no one, can tell us for sure what will happen to us after death. Objective reality, on this point, is unavailable to us, at least during the current phase of human evolution.

    Therefore, to discuss the veracity of one religion over another, or even different versions of the same religion, leads to circularity that is not satisfying to anybody. I enjoy hearing about how other people believe, and why they believe or don’t believe. Their experiences feed my own experience. Since none of our religious paths are objectively verifiable, we live in an essentially religious free fall, and we are entitled to change courses mid-stream.

    We are not entitled to bash any one else, and I am happy to see that none of that has occurred on the blogs that I enjoy reading. Frankly, I am interested in hearing about all kinds of religious experience, especially those of Muslims and people who no longer consider themselves Muslims. I’ve spent many years practicing Islam and calling myself a Muslim (notwithstanding the fact that many people would not consider me a Muslim). I also spent many years going to a Christian church. Sometimes I’d like to go back to church, not because I believe in a trinitarian God, but because I loved the atmosphere of communal worship. Sometimes I’d like to experience the Jewish worship ritual, just for curiosity. Sometimes I think the Baha’is, or even the Sufis, have much to offer.

    I suppose all those ideas makes me a real kafir, but I don’t think so. This is the kind of tolerance I’d like to see in the greater society. This is the kind of acceptance I’d like to experience, and offer, to my fellow citizens of the world. Why must religion be so tribal?

  31. Liberal Christian Man

    Am impressed by the serious theological analysis, even if amateur, that appears among these comments, and from the blog’s author. It is impressive to see that there is real thinking going on among this blog’s visitors. And, for the most part, it seems that all are quite civil in a type of discussion that — in many other settings and places — would devolve into bitter denunciations and furious abuses, or simply slamming the door and stomping away.

    God has given us a brain, and I suspect He expects us to use it. But I imagine that we are easily tempted to use it too much. I think God tests us, and gives us enough brain to tempt us to reject faith for evidence. And I think God gives each of us just enough grasp of Him that we are able to choose between the seen and the unseen, “the truth” and “The Truth”. I doubt that scriptural “truth” is literal, as scientific evidence has given solid cause for doubt of many scriptures, in many faiths — especially those where the most passionate assertions of scriptural accuracy and precision are made. But I do suspect that God also reveals Himself in differing ways to different people — giving each of us a vision of Him that is uniqe to each individual, and evolving with our time and attention to Him. Astronomers are familiar with this pheonomenon, as are naturalists.

    An astronomer looks through a telescope, and at first makes very little of what he sees — a blur actually. But then he carefully focuses the telescope, and the image becomes clearer. If the image is of a distant and complex object, such as a nebula or galaxy, the astronomer still sees only a faint object. But with time, as the eye adjusts to the light, the image becomes clearer and sharper, and the colors more vivid and differentiated, the whole entity more defined. And prolonged or frequent observations, over time, reveal more: Movement (however infinitesimal). New shapes. Events (like an exploding star) — all of which can reshape one’s evolving analysis of the object viewed.

    So too with naturalists, who — in studying nature — may see an animal, upon a plant, at a time of day, and know little of the whole. Yet as the watcher persists, the light changes, and more is revealed. The animal moves, revealing more of its shape and substance, and more of the plant can be seen, as well. As the hours pass into days, and the naturalist watches the whole in motion — environment, plant and animal — he sees an ecosystem emerging, as the plant nurishes the animal, the animal meets others and interacts — with hostility, fellowship or amorousness — and all these take place at different times of day, under differing conditions of wind, rain, sun, humidity and temperature. Yet no naturalist — however gifted, observant and patient — is ever privileged to know all that there is to know of the world and of Nature. He must leave many of his questions unanswered, and must take some assumptions “on faith” to be able to construct a summary judgement about the nature of life, so as to interact functionally, and practicably, in the natural world. He will be wrong, of course, about many things. And other naturalists, whom God has placed in other times and places and circumstances, will come to slightly (or greatly) different (but equally respectable) conclusions about the nature of the world. No naturalist is privileged to be everywhere at all times, and all-knowing; that is the exclusive privilege of God. But with effort, he is given much knowledge from God, and would be recklessly disrepsectful towards God to not attempt some effort at reaching some conclusions, however incomplete and impossibly inaccurate about the world as a whole.

    God gives us gifts, and surely expects us to do the best that we can with them. Knowledge, Perception and Experience are such gifts. God, however, gives us each a specific and unique set of gifts, exclusively ours. So, too, should our conclusions be individual, and unique. And our understandings should evolve through patient observation, careful thought, and humble respect for that which is beyond our knowing.

    As a consequence, we should all have, to some extent, a unique and personal perspective on God, Truth, and Righteousness. We should each have (even if in the context of a broad religion) our own “personal” religion, as God gives us the Revelation to shape it for us. God gives us senses and sense. He surely expects us to use them, humbly, to see Him as clearly as he will let us, and to form our own lives around the Truth that He makes apparent to each of us, individually, uniquely and with evolving perpective.

    So it is with spiritual truth, that we are each called, by Him, to “know” differently, believe and behave differently, and proselytze one another differently, according to what we have been shown, each of us, by Him.

    “For now we see through a glass, darkly. But in time, all will be known.” says the Bible. I’ll leave it to the Muslims, here, to cite the corresponding quote from the Qu’ran.

    Shalom, Salaam, Peace

    • Issam

      Excellent comment dear Liberal Christian Man. Wish all Christians were like you.

      There is a verse in the Quran that says: “O humankind! We created you from male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” [49:13]

      God bless you
      Peace and Blessings,

  32. Your opening statement acknowledges that our discussions here are impressive for their, “…serious theological analysis, even if amateur…”.

    By amateur, I presume you mean by people who do not practice theology as a profession or vocation. That would be true. I would put forth, however, that all theological analysis is essentially amateur, only because we will never be able to verify the ultimate truth until we are dead and cannot offer it for independent reproduction and verification. The study of historical religion, along with its sister philosophy, does have a place in academia, but those who reside there probably don’t have any better grasp of ultimate reality than we amateurs who exchange our personal experiences in the blogosphere.

    Ultimate Reality is not like science, the theories of which can be tested and reproduced under laboratory conditions. Ultimate Reality has much more of a subjective character than religious adherents want to admit. Therein lies the root of intolerance, IMHO, and therein lies the energy of passionate discussions which stimulate the mind and the heart but never draw reliable conclusions other than what the participants want to draw.

    “For now we see through a glass, darkly. But in time, all will be known.” This is a wonderful quote from the Bible, ringing with wisdom. You challenge the Muslims to bring a similar quote from our Qur’an, but there is no need to do so. This quote suffices. I remind you that Muslims also believe in the Bible. Muslims recognize that historical changes to Biblical text render parts of it unclear at best, erroneous at worst — and Allah knows best.

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