I was born into a household with two faiths. My mother is nominally Christian, with a (mostly) rational mind. My father is Muslim. I was raised the latter; learning to read Arabic, learning prayers and following the traditions of the faith. I spent much of the early part of my life in front of a Qaida, Koran or other religious book. While other children played and watched cartoons after school, I read aloud Surats from the Koran. My aunt had a miraculous ability to correct every mistake, every mis-pronounciation while cooking nearby. As for the meaning of what I read, I had no idea.
Growing up, I was very close to my father. He was incredibly loving and selfless. It is for this reason that I held Islam close and dear to me. My father didn't lie, he was a caring and devoted man; I believed that this must be associated somehow with the religion he believed in so strongly. Any religion that my father believed in had to be Truth. So when I attained something good, it was by the grace of Allah. Indeed, I felt in my heart that it really was a reward from God. When I needed help, I turned to Allah. Sinning meant praying for forgiveness, du'ah, sadka.
Unfortunately, there was trouble from an early age -- my mind was filled with questions, doubts, compassion. There is an unwritten rule in Islamic society: 'don't ask questions'. While apologists and `modern' muslims may claim this the fault of the individual community leaders and not the religion, it is accepted as fact that Islam does nothing to promote critical thinking. The most common response to questions was, 'who told you about this?', 'who have you been talking to?'. The Jews and Freemasons were always out to destroy Islam with their friends the Christians. It was never explained exactly why this was going on, just that it was.
Family and community politics drove my parents away from the Mosque and community. As I grew older, religion became less important. It wasn't until I was 19 or 20 that I came back. The emptiness of a life of `hanging out', going to nightclubs, etc, drove me to find a greater meaning to life. I remembered once feeling that Islam was great and true. I always felt, in the back of my mind, that one day I would return. Turning to the Internet, reading testimonials of reverts moved me emotionally. Studying the history of 'glorious' Islamic civilizations fanned a desire to identify.
I was comfortable, for a while. What I liked about being a Muslim was the community. Muslims are generally very warm and hospitable. There was nothing nicer than going to Jumma, praying with and saying Salaam to everyone. The khutbas did not teach me very much. When they were not about the virtues of donating to the Mosque, they discussed the obvious faults of man and how Islam was the solution.
I tried really hard to find some deep meaning in the Koran. I read it every night, trying to work my way through. At first, I was disturbed by the contradicting nature of Allah. In the Koran, Allah constantly asserts how all forgiving and merciful he is. That's very nice, except for the fact that he threatens `fire' for this or that almost as often. I didn't understand this. I continued to read it, assuming that I simply could not comprehend the greater meaning. To be completely honest, the more I read, the less I believed it was divine. It was repetitive and uninspiring. There were very few verses that touched me.
The cracks in my faith grew deeper than simply questioning the divinity of the Koran. Several important tenets of Abrahamic religions just did not make sense. The anthropomorphic God. I cannot believe in this concept. In Judaeism, Islam, and Christianity, there is a human framework around God -- this is limiting and not acceptable to me as the Absolute. The concept of God to me is an Absolute that transcends the human properties of `ego', `jealousy', etc. Any `all-powerful' and `all-knowing' is not the overlord of Abrahamic religions, who has a `chosen people', sends prophets and destroys unbelieving nations. What a ridiculous notion. Anyone who has the courage to step away from their precious and dear beliefs will immediately see that the description of this God defies logic and common sense. And then there are the concepts of soul, judgement, and the afterlife. I cannot believe in any of these. The concept of judgement is wholly irrational and unfair. In Islam, an infant who dies goes straight to heaven. What a deal. While most of us must live through the trials and temptations of life, these souls get a free ticket to an eternity of paradise. Is this fair? Of course not. It is ridiculous. So absurd, in fact, that it feels trivial to mention. Yet this is believed in by billions. Most importantly, why? Why heaven and hell? Why are we here? Was Allah lonely? Did he create us because he was lacking worship and praise in his infinite void? Why do Heaven and Hell feel all too Earthly?
It finally fell apart on Sept 11/2001. The attack itself was shocking and heartbreaking. It was nothing short of pure evil, murder in the worst possible degree. What was far more disgusting was the worldwide Muslim response, or rather the lack thereof. Muslims all over the world were largely silent. While many sympathized, the majority seemed to cry crocodile tears. Where were the Mullahs and Islamic leaders, making honest and loud condemntations? Where were the demands for reform, for eradication of the root of terrorism? Instead of accepting responsbility, absurd theories like `three thousand Israelis did not show up on Sept 11.. Mossad did it to frame Muslims' were circulated. Evil, cowardly terror attacks continue against _civilians_ in Israel. I have always believed that Palestinians deserve a homeland, however, nothing can justify the butchery of innocent Israelis -- children, women, the elderly. Why? Why isn't this hated and despised, like it should be? What is wrong with the Muslim world? The last realization to move me was that I am happy to be part of a modern, secular, and free Western society. Muslims living comfortably in Western countries speak of the good of Muslim society.. why don't they try it? How was Taliban Afghanistan extreme or misinterpreting the Shariah? They tried their best. It is not as though they decided to misinterpret Islam. They wanted to create an Islamic utopia. They tried to follow Islamic teachings as precisely as possible. What I realized is that, I don't want to live in an Islamic society. I believe that women and men are equal. I do not believe that a shoplifter should have their hands and feed amputated. I do not believe that the Men should get away with rape, or that slave trading is acceptable. Clearly, to any rational individual, these beliefs and rules are backwards and often cruel.
I believe that most young Muslims realize this. The problem with this generation is the need to identify, to belong. Most Muslims that I know are more interested in the `unity' or `brotherhood' of Muslims. They would rather believe in an irrational and cruel religion than detach themselves from their valuable identity. We need to be true to ourselves. We need to stop clinging to what we wish to be perceived as, and seek the Truth with a pure and honest heart. Religion is detrimental, a false sense of hope and source of comfort. It is certainly not worth dying for. I am sick of the suffering and killing solely due to religion. Why did those Muslims in Gujarat have to die? Imagine being born a Muslim, living your entire life as one. Absolutely no reason to convert to any other religion. One day, a mob of Hindus surrounds you with Kerosine. Your crime is being a Muslim. What a sickening, and terrible evil. Why should these people suffer? Why did thousands die when a building was torn down? This utter nonsense needs to end. It makes me so sad, what a waste of life. Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Christians, everyone is being killed here or there for being part of some religion. And none of them have any more legitimacy over another. They are all based on ancient books, fairy tales and promises of salvation of some sort. Most demand blind faith. Some are disturbingly intolerant and aggressive towards others.
I love humanity, I love mankind. Every creature on the planet deserves a chance. If I have a dogma, it is compassion. I should never seek anything that causes another to suffer. The golden rule is common to every belief system. We all inherently know that it is not right to inflict on others what we would not like on ourselves. This is the basis for a universal understanding of human rights. We don't need sacred books or rituals to create an ethical society. Look around, see the ruins of societies past. Gods, beliefs, hopes, they have come and gone. Countless have been worshipped and forgotten. Are we any different? Have we found the Ultimate Truth? Are humans at the end of the line? I do not think so. We must constantly evolve and transcend what we are. Our beliefs in the supernatural, divine, etc, are fading away. The Truth can be found with reason and understanding. At least open your eyes and heart to all that the world has to offer.
the kingdom of god is within you.
A comment received from a reader:
Mon, 3 Jun
Hello, I came across faithfreedom.org today and at first was pretty skeptical, but at the same time I was very intrigued. I have always had doubts about Islam, but never before have the obvious faults been pointed out so clearly. I kept reading on and on, and now it is nearing 5:00 AM. The reason I am writing to you now is I would like your help in contacting Mahavira, the newest addition to your testimonial page, with whom I share a frightenly similar life story. I no longer feel like I can turn to my Muslim brothers for advice, and so I would like to find out what he did once he left Islam. I realize that you probably have a policy against giving away the e-mail addresses of apostates, in which case you can simply give him my e-mail, and tell him I would like to correspond with him. It would be greatly appreciated. Thanks,
Mahavira responds to Jamal D.
3 Jun 2002
Ali forwarded me your email. I am very pleased to meet you. This may be of interest to Ali -- for this reason I am CCing him. Please let me know if you wish to correspond in confidence.
My leaving Islam is recent, so I have not quite figured out what is next from here. It was heartbreaking to leave what was once felt as a self-evident truth. I'll tell you what it has been like so far..
As it is generally not a good idea to announce apostasy to the world, very few people know.. I have stopped going to Mosque, so my father is a little concerned. I don't have the heart to tell him that I don't believe any longer. If he says salaam, I say wa'salaam. If he tells me some religious story or parable, I just smile and nod. He is old, I don't want him to be unhappy. He suspects that I don't believe, and I make statements that make this clear to him.. saying it outright will hurt his feelings. My mother thinks that I've become an atheist (I'm not even sure I'm that, agnostic is probably more accurate). She encourages me to read as much as I can and make up my own mind.
Lastly, while I was a practicing muslim, I quit most things `haraam'. I have never in my life eaten pork, I stopped drinking (was never really into it anyways), stopped smoking, stopped fooling around with girls, etc. I have not resumed these bad habits. You don't need Islam to be a good, decent human being. I must admit, I enjoy a nice glass of wine when I'm out for dinner.. but that's about it.
The other reason for staying the way I was as a `good muslim' is to demonstrate that I didn't leave Islam so that I could become a sinner, which is what muslims might have you believe about apostates. I did not quit the religion to be the barbarian that I `would be' without Islam. I left because the religion does not make logical sense to me and I do not believe it is divine in origin.
You mentioned that you cannot go to your Muslim friends for advice anymore. Did you experience something like this? A good friend of mine, who I consider close, first listened and agreed with my questioning Islam one night. By the time next time we hung out, he had done some thinking and come up with Answers. This time around, he was quite stubborn and satisfied with his conclusions. I think that most people are rational, and will acknowledge that there are gaping holes in Islam. It is then that they get afraid of losing their cherished identity and back away into denial.
I wish you the best.
Read Jamal's testimonial
permission from Faith