Reflections on Islām’s Non-Believers

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Shaykh Shahin-ur Rahman

Ignoring the emotionally stimulating subtleties – like starting by depicting an angry protest, for example, or conveniently cherry-picking clips of lectures and doing a voiceover immediately after the desired sentence is over  – the documentary alluded to some interesting points.

The overwhelming majority of the interviewees came from ‘extremely religious’ families of a Bangladeshi background. Being a first-generation British-born Bangladeshi myself, as well as someone traditionally educated in Sharīʿa, it did not take long to realise the interviewees all had a convoluted understanding of Islām. In fact, family photos of men with beardless faces and women with uncovered hair is enough to question whether the claim of being ‘extremely religious’ is even true. Had Islām truly been embedded in their hearts, they would don the Sunna attire on the outside.

Bad Parenting

Considering the beating of children a deed rewardable by entry into Paradise suggests the parents either followed a religion other than Islām, or misused their authority and fabricated their own laws. Sadly, a number of Bangladeshi parents who have not had an Islāmic education do cherry-pick parts of the religion to suit their fancy, while ignoring everything else that opposes their evil nature. The Qurʾān is clear when condemning such behaviour. It says:

 أَفَتُؤۡمِنُونَ بِبَعۡضِ ٱلۡكِتَٰبِ وَتَكۡفُرُونَ بِبَعۡضٖۚ فَمَا جَزَآءُ مَن يَفۡعَلُ ذَٰلِكَ مِنكُمۡ إِلَّا خِزۡيٞ فِي ٱلۡحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنۡيَاۖ

“[…] Do you, then, believe in some parts of the Book and disbelieve in others? So, what can be the punishment of those among you who do that, except disgrace in the worldly life? […]1

The children, therefore, seem to have run away not from Islām per se, but from an embarrassing case of bad parenting (and rightly so). This is what every interviewee seemingly had in common: the inability to demarcate between scripture and culture.

This becomes further evident from another fact the interviewees had in common – that is, they all seem to have left Islām at a tender age, some being only fourteen years old. Many teenagers and young adults are naturally inquisitive and begin their theological journey. At this stage, they are on a quest to find the truth. It is an adventure where questions will arise. The error of many parents, here, is to discard all questions and deem it taboo to discuss it. If anything, a healthy dialogue ought to be welcomed and the family should engage in both intellectually and spiritually stimulating conversations. The Qurʾān reminds us of the life of the prophet Ibrāhīm, who intellectually challenged his parents and community on more than one occasion. For example:

 أَلَمۡ تَرَ إِلَى ٱلَّذِي حَآجَّ إِبۡرَٰهِ‍ۧمَ فِي رَبِّهِۦٓ أَنۡ ءَاتَىٰهُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلۡمُلۡكَ إِذۡ قَالَ إِبۡرَٰهِ‍ۧمُ رَبِّيَ ٱلَّذِي يُحۡيِۦ وَيُمِيتُ قَالَ أَنَا۠ أُحۡيِۦ وَأُمِيتُۖ قَالَ إِبۡرَٰهِ‍ۧمُ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأۡتِي بِٱلشَّمۡسِ مِنَ ٱلۡمَشۡرِقِ فَأۡتِ بِهَا مِنَ ٱلۡمَغۡرِبِ فَبُهِتَ ٱلَّذِي كَفَرَۗ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَهۡدِي ٱلۡقَوۡمَ ٱلظَّٰلِمِينَ ٢٥٨

“Do you not know about the one who argued with Ibrāhīm about his Lord because Allāh had given him kingship? When Ibrāhīm said: ‘My Lord is the One who gives life and brings death,’ he said: ‘I give life and I bring death.’ Ibrāhīm said: ‘Allāh brings out the sun from the east; now, you bring it out from the west.’ Here, baffled was the one who disbelieved, and Allāh does not bring the wrongdoers to the right path.2

Intelligence or Emotion

The reasons the interviewees gave for leaving Islām are, therefore, predominantly of an emotional nature and not based on a theological conviction. To put more simply, there is no logical connection between bad parenting and the existence or non-existence of Allāh ﷻ. There was one gentleman, however, who apparently left the faith because of his love for science. An amateur mistake, there could have been a chance to study deeper, had he not committed suicide, and come to the conclusion that the existence of Allāh ﷻ is beyond the competence of science and actually falls under metaphysics, a branch of philosophy. Ironically, the only thing that could have deterred him from taking his life is the very thing from which he fled: Islām. The Prophet ﷺ has said:

من تردّى من جبل فقتل نفسه، فهو في نار جهنم يتردّى فيه خالدا مخلَّدا فيها أبدا؛ ومن تحسّى سُمّاً فقتل نفسه، فسُمُّه في يده يتحسّاه في نار جهنم خالدا مخلدا فيها أبدا؛ ومن قتل نفسه بحديدة، فحديدته في يده يلجَأُ بها في بطْنه في نار جهنم خالدا مخلدا فيها أبدا

“Whoever jumps from a mountain and thereby kills himself, he will be in the fire of Jahannam jumping from [a mountain therein] forever and ever. Whoever drinks poison and thereby kills himself, he will have the poison in his hand that he will be drinking in the fire of Jahannam forever and ever. And whoever kills himself with a knife, he will have his knife in his hand stabbing his stomach with it in the fire of Jahannam forever and ever.3

Other Ironies

As the Muslim interviewee rightly noted, it is rather ironic for an ex-Muslim to want to feel welcome and equally part of the very community he/she has voluntarily left. To understand this better, take the following analogy: If the employees of a particular company are entitled to free tea and coffee, then one such employee angrily resigns and resorts to making provocative and insulting remarks against the employer, should he expect to continue enjoying free tea or coffee at the employer’s expense? The logical conclusion would be no. Since he/she is no longer an employee – and the free beverage is only for the employees – it would be incorrect to demand (or even expect) to continue receiving the same benefits as those of an employee.

This incoherence was repeated throughout the documentary. For example, a Tunisian woman wished to broadcast an insulting film to the Muslim public, and the Iranian woman was shown to have publicly preached anti-Muslim hate in the town centre – all justified under the ambiguous banner of freedom of speech/expression. However, if Islām should be up for criticism, mockery and satire, ridda (leaving Islām) should equally be up for criticism, mockery and satire.

Another irony was the Iranian woman preaching in town centre that she has seen nothing more intolerant than religion. Little did she realise how this very sentence of hers is in itself intolerant.

As a point of humour, it is interesting – to say the least – that one young woman mentioned how, after leaving Islām, ‘all of a sudden you feel you’ve become dirty.’ Ironically, it is the Qurʾān that asserts:

 يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ إِنَّمَا ٱلۡمُشۡرِكُونَ نَجَسٞ فَلَا يَقۡرَبُواْ ٱلۡمَسۡجِدَ ٱلۡحَرَامَ بَعۡدَ عَامِهِمۡ هَٰذَاۚ وَإِنۡ خِفۡتُمۡ عَيۡلَةٗ فَسَوۡفَ يُغۡنِيكُمُ ٱللَّهُ مِن فَضۡلِهِۦٓ إِن شَآءَۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٞ ٢٨

“O you who believe, the mushriks are impure, indeed, so let them not approach al-Masjid al-Ḥarām after this year. And if you apprehend poverty, then Allāh shall, if He wills, make you self-sufficient with His Grace. Surely, Allāh is the Knowing, the Wise.4

One wonders if she is aware of the above āya, and how she has possibly opened up a new interpretation to it.

Probably the greatest irony of all is how almost everything said in the documentary can equally be said about converts to Islām. Feeling hatred from their ‘community’, not welcome at home, being thrown out by their parents – all are traits that likewise exist in those who have found a theological and spiritual enlightenment in the religion of Islām.

If an individual is sincere, coherence would show in their approach. Whether one embraces or exits a religion, a thorough and objective study ought to be undertaken before the decision is made. Faults and criticisms are due only to where it belongs. Just as it is wrong to blame the son for his father’s error, it is likewise erroneous to blame religion for the cultural ills of an adherent of that religion. If one is to sympathise with the troubles an ex-Muslim faces, the trials and tribulations the convert to Islām encounters likewise deserves to be acknowledged.

  1. Al-Baqara: 2/85
  2. Al-Baqara: 2/258
  3. Al-Bukhārī (5778) and Muslim (109)
  4. Al-Tawba: 9/28