Leaving Islam for good

I was born in London into a Pakistani Muslim family. As most kids from Muslim families I knew I was Muslim, although I did not know why. To be honest Islam had very little to do with my life growing up. I knew I had to go to madrassas on the weekends or after school. My Mum moved me around because I used to get into arguments with teachers. When I was about 5 or 6 a teacher slapped me at our local madrassa. I wasn’t wearing my head scarf properly so she pulled me close to her by my ear and slapped me with her massive hand. My mother removed me as soon as she heard this.

After this I went to a woman’s house in the evening after school, and then another madrassa. I don’t think I cared about religion or God at this age. I just knew I was Muslim, and that I had to follow some rules that my friends didn’t. Still, my mother wasn’t strict with me. I used to go to the park with my cousins, fall in love with travelling boys and dance with the music channels on full blast.

My life consisted of ignoring drama in my family home, skateboarding, roller skating and convincing the boys at school to let me play football. I watched extreme sports as much as I could, and dreamed of being able to do motor cycle tricks as soon as I was old enough.

Then my parents dropped a bomb shell on me when I was ten. I was to be whisked off to an Islamic boarding school. I cried, and I begged them to not send me away. My mum cried with me and I know she has always felt guilty about it. She believed getting me out of the family home which was turbulent would be good for me. She also is devout so couldn’t have been able to see how disastrous this decision would turn out to be.

I have spoken elsewhere about the school in some detail, but now would like to focus on the factors which led me to finally abandoning the Islamic faith all together.

I found myself aged 17 back in the UK from my year in Pakistan studying the Quran. Out there I had become completely dedicated to Islam, took on the veil and cried in the night about all the people who would burn in hell. Back in the UK my  heart was full of religious zeal. I had started college, and was teaching Quranic interpretation in the prayer room of the college. I was also teaching young children Islamic studies and Arabic. I now found myself with full access to the internet, something which I had not had in years. At school we had the internet in class, and that was about it. Newspapers and novels deemed inappropriate such as Harry Potter were banned or not provided. Television was also banned, although they like to claim that they gave us some limited television which is not true. Back home I started to browse the internet with ease. My parents were fairly strict with me but they always encouraged me to read, and go to the library. It was the acquisition of knowledge which crushed my belief in Islam in the end. I guess the Imaam who told me to stop reading so much when I presented my questions to him as a teen was right all along.

I had also started studying sociology where we looked at religion from a sociological perspective. I was introduced to feminism and Marxism. For the first time in my life I learnt that some people view religion as an apparatus for social control. With the feminist perspective of religion I began to think about religion as an apparatus to control the bodies, sexuality and lives of women. I had always learned that Islam had given women all their rights. For instance Muhammad stopped the practice of female infanticide and Aisha his wife had been a scholar after his death. Before I began studying feminism I thought the hijab was there to benefit women as it protected them. I hadn’t thought of the way that the hijab could be used to control women’s bodies.

I found myself thinking about Islam and women in a way that I had never dared to before. I did not like wearing the hijab as a young teen. I never wanted to wear it in the first place. By the time I was approaching my late teens I would have felt naked without it. I became fully conscious of the suffocation which had followed me for years. I saw my own submission to Islam after years of sometimes silent, and sometimes open rebellion. I remembered how I had said I didn’t want to wear hijab even though I was going to this school. So when did wearing it full time without complaint become a reality? When did I stop resisting?

I was in the library one day and had the tips of my fingers caressing the edges of books. Then a title jumped out at me and my jaw dropped. The God Delusion was staring at me. I had never imagined that belief in God could be a delusion. I genuinely believed that people who did not accept Islam knew it was the truth, but they themselves are rebelling because of their desires. I know.

I grabbed this book, and took it out feeling a mixture of excitement and fear. I had heard of evolution before reading Dawkin’s book. At Islamic school we didn’t learn about it. In Pakistan I read all about it in Harun Yahya’s excuse for a book where he tries to pin Nazism and Stalin’s actions on Darwin. Now I began reading about it in a different way. A lot of what Dawkin said didn’t slot into place because I didn’t really get evolution at all. I put The God Delusion down and decided to focus on evolution for a bit. I looked it up in the library catalog and was amazed at how many books came up. Here I was thinking it was a tiny fringe theory. I focused on that for awhile, and was convinced by all the evidence laid out before me.

I moved on from evolution to cosmology. At this point I was beginning to show cracks but I still clung onto God. I mean it could have been God who actually did evolution right? I tried to ignore Adam and Eve. I came across Carl Sagan’s The Pale Blue Dot. I confess I could only take in chunks of it. My science education was lacking, but one thing did penetrate my brain: how tiny we are. I saw a picture which changed my life forever which was mentioned in this book. It was a picture of a beam of light with a tiny blue dot, and that was earth. My heart stopped for a second when I saw that picture.

My fear of hell, dying, God, the hijab all vanished for a second. I stopped thinking about whether Islam was true or not, and just sat in awe about the magnitude of the universe we live in. I reasoned, and continue to do so, that even if God exists, he/she/ it would be magnificent enough to not care which foot I put in the toilet first, or if a drop of urine catches on my clothes which I was taught could lead to punishment in the grave. He/she/it couldn’t possibly be so petty as to punish us forever just because we didn’t worship correctly or were born into the wrong religion.

I know many believers are not convinced by the reasons I give as to why I don’t believe in God which is fair enough. They can believe whatever they like, and if they were convinced by the arguments against God’s existence then they would be skeptics also. Many will say that instructions on putting your foot in the toilet a certain way is not really what religion is about or that I have misunderstood religion. Perhaps I have done so after many years of studying it, but I doubt it. It is all well and good to speak about religion and God in the abstract but that is what religion is about to millions of people. Little instructions on how to live, eat, marry and so on. Eat with your right hand, say bismillah before hand, make sure to clean with your left hand and if you laugh during prayer start all over again.

I used to  sit on the roof of our conservatory with my spider man blanket watching the stars. When I realized that God may not exist I felt a lightness the like of which I have never experienced again. I was finally content realizing that someone was not reading my thoughts, deciphering my dreams and measuring the width of blackness in my heart. There was so much else which made me reject Islam. The rampant homophobia, the half testimony of women, the legitimization of wife beating in the Quran, and slavery of non-Muslim women after war.

I accept some people are willing to ‘contextualize’ the wife beating verse, but sorry if the Quran is the last guide for all of mankind to follow don’t you think Allah could have put a note saying that women should not be beaten in any context, at any time? Also the Quran calls itself clear which doesn’t seem true to me. This is not to suggest that I am not aware that there are so many interpretations of Islam, and that it means different things to millions of people. This only suggests to me that Islam is a product of human invention and creativity and not from a creator. That Islam and the other religions in the world have come from us does not in anyway demean them for me. Rather I see religion as the end result of humanity’s need to understand the world around it. Now with science, the enlightenment and philosophy I don’t feel that belief in the supernatural is necessary to explain the world around us. However I do respect people’s right to believe whatever they like, and to practice however they like as long as it does not harm others.

I have now been Godless for around six years. I now dance, listen to music, go out at night, wear whatever the fuck I like and do as I please. I spent all of my teen years in a mental cage, and I have done my best to burst free from that. I have never regretted the decision to leave Islam, and to choose my own path.  As an ex-Muslim I have dealt with a lot of difficulties which I’ll discuss in another blog. My immediate family knew from the start. At first they did not understand, but as time has gone on they have respected who I am even if they don’t agree with me. As my mother told an extended family member recently, “all my daughter is saying is that she wants proof. I took her to imams”.

I have spent years alone as an ex-Muslim feeling isolated, guilty and ashamed because of prejudice within the Muslim community towards ex-Muslims. I had to re-wire my brain, and unlearn the misogyny that was ingrained in me. I have now found others out there, and I know things are changing for us. Sometimes we need to be told that not only are we not alone, but that there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Being faithless is becoming reality even in conservative Muslim communities. No matter how much religious leaders bleat that we are misinformed our numbers are growing. Prepare for the storm within.

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10 thoughts on “Leaving Islam for good

  1. “Sometimes we need to be told that not only are we not alone, but that there is nothing to be ashamed of.”

    This is so important and powerful. An an ex-muslim for three and a half years, unlearning a sense of shame about my faithlessness is something I still struggle with. Mainly because I live in Pakistan, where I’m forced to stay silent about my views and have to watch Muslims confuse logic with imagination.

    Interestingly enough, I can also trace my skepticism back to studying undergraduate sociology.

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  2. As a Muslim raised, I’m able to listen to music as long as it doesn’t contain any inappropriate message. I can sing, I can dance, I can listen to music with me still being a Muslim. The majority of my country are Muslims. We, and our imaams believe that we can do all of them as a Muslim. I read an article about music is haraam and stuff, then I asked to my mum (she is very religious) and she told me that it’s okay as long it sends us good message. She, herself told me to ask an imaam in our mosque. Then, I did. He said its okay. Even though he’s an imaam, he still listens to songs by Avenged Sevenfold. You know them right? If not, then you can search for their musics.

    Then, for the hijab itself. I wear it since I was 7 years old. It was my mum’s order first. She said we have to be comfortable with it first so when I hit puberty it’s not going to feel strange to me. I first hate it. I just want to take it off. Years after years passed and I still wear my hijab. That’s when I reached 14, I started to feel like I just want to take it off as I see all of my friends don’t wear hijab and getting all the boys they want. I feel jealous of them. I started to post pictures of me not wearing hijab on the internet and I got a lot of likes. From there, I was happy. Then it came that day when there’s a discussion about hijab at my school how it’s compulsory and how it protects us. I believe hijab’s there to protect us. I believe it. Of course, the hijab they meant is the hijab who comes with a not-tight clothes. Women, they’re taking off their hijab, wearing tight clothes until they body shaped in those, are surely looking for some attention, weather it is to make other girls jealous of their bodies or make the guys want them. I knew it, because I’ve been there.

    Then I started thinking. What if… all the women wear hijab, wear a clothing that cover their bodies, their body shapes, and stuff like that. Will jealousy of other women be there? Will men desire how their partners should look like?

    As for feminism. Feminism doesn’t stop at how men and women should be equal in dress code, and all. It goes until freeing the women aurah (nipples) from what I’ve read. Woman and man can be equal, but of course equal in several different things. Because woman and man are two sexes not one sex that can be equaled anytime. For an example, my father says me who’s in high school, my big sister who’s in uni, and my little brother who’s still in elementary are equal. He gives us an equal amount of money when we go to school. My father gives my sister 50 dollars. Will my father give my brother and I 50 dollars too? Of course not. Because being equal in this situation is about equal at fulfilling our needs. So he gives me 25 dollars and my bro 15 dollars.

    And sister, please read the signs in Quran. The signs that indeed Islam is the truth. Scientific one, or whatever you prefer. Studying has no limits. Study as much as you want. Sorry if I had say a wrong statement/senteces. I myself still learning to and always will be insha Allah. May Allah Subhana wata’ala guide you.

    Allah the Almighty has said: “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as its.”

    Wassalam.

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  3. After reading your article, it comes across that you have not studied Islam in the equal manner in which you studied sociology and the other books.

    I am a Muslim and did a sociology degree. My dissertation was on comparative religion. I studied Islam, not from the angle I was taught, but from the Quran and sunnah basis. It honestly made me realise why I am Muslim and why my belief in God remains. For quite sometime now I have also realised that a lot of scientific questions have been answered in the Quran 1400 years ago. Such as the Big Bang theory…yes it is in the Quran. For a brief update, YouTube has many good articles to watch.

    Moreover, I think it’s the way you were brought up. I was brought up not understanding why we did the things we were told to do. That’s why, when I was young, I was told by my mum that as children, parents guide you in life, but when you become older, you should read up about Islam for yourself, for you to understand why you CHOOSE to be a Muslim.

    There is a series on YouTube called ‘bidaayah was nihaayah’ (the beginning and the end). It answers many questions which in the past have not been answered. It made me understand my life better. I would recommend you watch it. Clips are upto 10 minutes only….

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    1. That’s interesting. So an Islamic boarding school, devout parents, madrassa and a year of Koran study in Pakistan were not enough to counter an undergraduate sociology degree? Exactly how much would you suggest she studies Islam to get it right?

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      1. There are many interpretations of Islam. One needs to understand culture and religion. I follow the Quran and sahih Buhari and shahih muslim. Islam has given women so much. The problem is that women allow themselves to be oppressed by cultural practices. I broke out of that. My boys and girls do equal household chores. I bring them up with equalit. Women need to actively change their situation and not be shackled by culture.

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    2. An awful lot of those interpretations seem to involve stoning, beating, mutilating and murdering women. And not forgetting killing gays and apostates and fighting Jews and other infidels.
      I am not saying that’s the only possible interpretation of Islam but it is an interpretation which is sadly too common and too widesp to be dismissed as a som

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      1. An awful lot of those interpretations seem to involve stoning, beating, mutilating and murdering women. And not forgetting killing gays and apostates and fighting Jews and other infidels.
        I am not saying that’s the only possible interpretation of Islam but it is an interpretation which is sadly too common and too widespread to be dismissed as a some obscure outlier and too well supported by passages of thr quran and haddith to be ignored in looking at the religion as a whole.

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  4. Whilst I don’t share your views on Islam per se, I wholeheartedly agree with your criticism of Islam and it’s treatment of women. It is shocking that Muslims born in the West continue to perpetuate the sexism that is rampant in Muslim society.

    Also those young Western born Muslim men and women that choose to adopt Salafi inspired Arab cultural norms and manners is to be condemned. We are Western and our Islamic should be based on Western secular values. For me, Islam like other faiths is simply a model to follow a cherished and fulfilling life. It is a matter of choice and we must not harp back to 6th Century ideals which in any case never existed.

    I support you entirely and I hope you get some peace in your life. You deserve it, Muslim or not.

    Keep speaking up.

    From a believing but non-practicing Muslim.

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    1. If you give fair time and read the Quran and it’s explanation and authentic hadith, you will Come to realise that what the suffragettes achieved in the early 1900s, Allah gave women without women having ton protest for it. Islam, when properly practiced, gives everyone their rights.

      What you experienced is cultural interpretations of Islam.

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