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