Why I Decided to Leave Islam

Leaving Islam, as other ex-Muslims (though I don’t like that term) will tell you, is much easier than some might think. I mean the part about deciding that you can no longer believe in the teachings anymore, not the part about actually telling your Muslim family that you no longer believe in Allah. Most ex-Muslims have had similar experiences. Once the seed of doubt has been planted, you slowly become more and more skeptical until what you think is true and what Islam teaches become irreconcilable and you simply let the belief go. The difficult part about coming out to your family and friends is where the journey for most ex-Muslims will take place.

I was a devout Muslim, without a doubt. I was born in Afghanistan, and fled to Pakistan after the Taliban took control of Kabul in 1996. Unsurprisingly, Pakistan isn’t any less blindly Muslim than Afghanistan. My early memories consist of Father going to the Mosque and taking my brothers and me along with him. Islamic holidays were adhered to, and they were a lot of fun. Friday prayers were a way of life, and the five prayers a day were just something everyone did. It was normal and expected from everyone. Never did anyone around me ever even in the slightest way question the notion that everything in Islam was 100 percent true. Why would they?

But this early upbringing had, as one would imagine, quite an impression on my childhood. I was told that Islam was the only true religion, and that all other religions were against God’s word. I remember clearly starting every school day with a prayer that everyone was taught to memorize. It was in Arabic, so I never understood any of it. In my first-grade class, we were taught how to pray and read the Koran, and part of our final exam was Koranic recitations. What is missing here is any knowledge of other faiths, or at least any knowledge that wasn’t presented in a neutral and disinterested way. One could forgive this as just a cultural phenomenon if it were not for the detrimental effect it has on the intellectual development of children.

It was not until several years after living in the U.S. that the first seed of doubt was planted. I went to a school where there were many other refugees like myself enrolled. This was very helpful for me as many of the other students there also knew almost no English, and the teachers took the time to explain things to us. But I had always had faith that what I believed in was the true faith.

A couple of years of living in the U.S., imbibing the new culture, and meeting many diverse peoples with different beliefs from my own created the first set of skeptical questions. How is it, then, that there are so many different religions in the world? Do they not know they’re all going to hell? Do they not believe in their religion as sincerely as I do mine? And these questions needed resolution. I found them certainly in some of the words of apologetics who used the Koran and some of its revelations to claim that Islam was the Truth. They pointed to certain scientific knowledge or philosophy. But as I became older, I gathered more intellectual as well as spiritual and moral courage to tackle these things head on. That’s something most theists do not always understand about atheists. Giving up a religion requires courage. And questioning a religion whose followers are not accustomed to being questioned on their faith requires quite a lot of courage. But it was not until I began to learn about the sciences that I finally knew that my intellect was at odds with my faith.

The theory of evolution by natural selection was the first time I came across a real answer to one of the biggest questions that kept me believing in Islam. Having mountains of evidence to look through, and a theory that was so exhilaratingly simple and yet profound, caused me to look for other sources of knowledge. I was entranced by the grandeur of it all. I came across new ideas about where the universe came from, and how certain scientific laws worked, and I knew that I had to test certain claims of Islam if I was going to believe in it. Slowly they all began to lose any credibility and power they possessed over me when I was young. I was not afraid to question any part of the religion. And by the time I was a teenager, I was an atheist at heart.

But to my parents, I was a Muslim. Some of my friends knew I was an atheist, others thought I was a Muslim. Around other Muslims, I wouldn’t dare question the faith. But it came to a point in my house that I would say things that seemed to poke holes in my parents’ faith, like why we weren’t allowed to eat pork, or drink alcohol. To save the boredom of the story, I finally told my parents that I was an atheist in an argument, and all hell broke loose. My parents didn’t know how to handle it. Father wouldn’t talk to us until we said we were Muslims and prayed. The word Kufar was thrown around to describe me, a word with unbelievable damning power behind it. Nevertheless, the moral, spiritual, and intellectual courage I had built up prepared me to stand my ground. I was not going to succumb to force.

Leaving Islam has probably been the best decision of my life. What has taken its place is a more honest search for truth or truths. Art, science, and philosophy have been a much better guidance, I realized, than anything someone might have said 1,400 years ago claiming irrefutability. What it culminates in is a much greater love for life, as you finally see it as it really is, rather than through the narrow and flawed lens of religious dogma.

Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor

12 Comments

  1. I am a muslim, and I have learned Islam. I have studied Sciences and my faith is stronger. I do not see how you can make a sound conclusion when you are a teenager, as you said you became atheist when you were teenager.
    How can you say Islam has a narrow lens when in Islam we believe in all prophets of God including Jesus, Moses and many more?
    Really, this is a cheap conclusion that lacks merit and credibility.

    • Why do you believe in any gods or profits in the first place? What evidence do you have that compels you to believe? Maybe a better question is, what evidence could be presented that would make you doubt the claims of islam?

    • This type of reply is very common. Muslims cannot fathom the possibility that two people can look at Islam honestly and come to two different conclusions. Instead they discredit the person who leaves Islam as someone who does not know it. It may not occur to you, but perhaps he left Islam once he learned about it. Remember he did believe in it before. Has it not occurred to you, that perhaps your claim that you “Learned” Islam which you equate to automatically leading to faith in Islam as a cheap conclusion that lacks merit and credibility.

    • I wish there were a way to free Muslims from Islam, for they are its first victims. For Islam sanctions no individual freedoms – Islam means submission. Submission of the individual to a mindset that stifles human creativity. This is why, of course, despite Muslims making up some 20% of the world’s population they have contributed so little to the arts and sciences. Compare their contributions to those made by Jews. So many with so few contributions versus so few with contributions too numerous to count.
      If “Palestine” (whatever that is) is freed then it is inevitable it turns into another Islamic hellhole. We already know Hamas and Fatah hate each other and readily resort to violence. What is to differentiate a Muslim “Palestine” from Syria, or Iraq, or Iran, or Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, Mauritania, Pakistan etc…
      Why is it a tiny country with a far more diverse religious demographic than any of its neighbors is the target of so much Islamic hatred? Why the Muslims hypocrisy when I guarantee you the countries they come from practice far more cruel forms of apartheid than Israel is accused of doing?
      Pure and simple it is Islam. Submission to a mindset that precludes reason, fairness and true ethics.
      Muslims will only be free when they free themselves from their own Islamic chains.

    • “Islam was like a mental cage. At first, when you open the door, the caged bird stays inside: it is frightened. It has internalized its imprisonment. It takes time for bird to escape, even after someone has opened the doors to its cage.”
      ― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel

    • “One who claims to be a messenger of God is expected to live a saintly life. He must not be given to lust, he must not be a sexual pervert, and he must not be a rapist, a highway robber, a war criminal, a mass murderer or an assassin. One who claims to be a messenger of God must have a superior character. He must stand above the vices of the people of his time. Yet Muhammad’s life is that of a gangster godfather. He raided merchant caravans, looted innocent people, massacred entire male populations and enslaved the women and children. He raped the women captured in war after killing their husbands and told his followers that it is okay to have sex with their captives (Qur’an 33:50). He assassinated those who criticized him and executed them when he came to power and became de facto despot of Arabia. Muhammad was bereft of human compassion. He was an obsessed man with his dreams of grandiosity and could not forgive those who stood in his way…

    • Fortunately millions of non-Muslims are being forced by world events to wake up to how truly dangerous Islam is. We ex-Muslims know that Mohammedanism must go the way of the dinosaur or the planet will drown in the blood of sharia as Muslims enforce the laws of Islam.

    • “By declaring our Prophet infallible and not permitting ourselves to question him, we Muslims had set up a static tyranny. The Prophet Muhammad attempted to legislate every aspect of life. By adhering to his rules of what is permitted and what is forbidden, we Muslims supressed the freedom to think for ourselves and to act as we chose. We froze the moral outlook of billions of people into the mind-set of the Arab desert in the seventh century. We were not just servants of Allah, we were slaves.”
      ― Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel

  2. We ex-Muslims living with Islam’s formal and informal death penalty for apostasy know that Mohammedanism is a cruel and deadly fraud.
    The 164 jihad verses in the Qur’an make jihad warefare a central tenet of the Islamic creed. At least 75% of the Sira (biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him) is about jihad.
    The largest part of the Islamic texts (the Qur’an, hadith and sira) relate to the treatment of unbelievers, kafirs. Approximately 67% of the Qur’an written in Mecca is about the unbelievers, or politics. Of the Qur’an of Medina, 51% is devoted to the unbelievers.

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