Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Would-be Ex-Muslim: What's the Meaning of 'Alif Laam Raa' and Sufism the Right Way?

A Muslim reader of our site, who said of himself “Possible soon to be an ex-Muslim”, sent a few questions to us below.

Dear Editor,

"Alif Laam Raa. A book which we have revealed to you (Muhammad) so that you may lead the people from out of the darkness into the light by their Lord's leave to the path of the All-Mighty, the Praiseworthy." [Qur'an 14:1]

I am totally addicted to your site as you seem to answer all the doubts about Islam I've had for the past 29 years of my life.

I do, however, wish to ask for you views on the letters in the Qur’an (e.g., Alif laam Raa) as apparently they are inexplicable codes which also correspond to mathematical equations? Could this be a possibility, or, again, hocus pocus gibberish? I would be interested on your opinions of this.

This is probably the only thing left for me to question.

Kind regards,


P.S. I would also like to know you have a high regard for Sufism. I am in a sticky situation as I have a Sheikh Spiritual guider on my path who is also an Orthodox Muslim. I believe in the spiritual side on becoming close to the divine, however do not believe in the harshness of the Qur’an. So how can I be on the Sufi path if it is so closely related to Islam??

Dear AS,

Thank you for sending your comment. Your letter boosts our morale and adds in the fuel for continuing this effort. I will answer your query about ‘Alif Laam Raa’ and Sufism together.

The Sufi doctrine, which is alien to Islam, had partially its foundation in segments of Quranic verses like Alif Laam Raa. Nobody could devise any answer about their meaning until today. The Sufis of the early Islam took advantage of the incomprehensive nature of segments of verses like this and alluded that there must be “hidden meaning” to these. Subsequently, they extended this “hidden meaning” to all the verses – including those explicitly calls for the killing the infidels under clearly defined conditions. As nonsensical as it may sound, the some deviant Sufis went on claim that all Quranic verses have six different meanings. Think about the stupidity here: They even could not attribute a single meaning to ‘Alif Laam Raa’ – how do they know there are five other meanings? And such notion they had propagated defying the fact that Allah has repeatedly affirmed in no less than a dozen verses that the Quran’s message is clear and written in simple language so that everybody can understand it easily – including by the people of Muhammad's time, who were definitely much less intelligent than the people of our time.

The Sufis were often impressed by the simple and selfless monastic life of the Christian and Buddhist monasteries – which were scattered around Arabia at the time. They had to create something like those and some of the early Sufis even used to frequent some monasteries, especially the Christian ones. In order to follow the monastic life, they had to put a stop to violent Jihad and many other things commanded in the Quran and preached and practiced by Muhammad which were obligatory on individual Muslims. So they created this rubbish concept that every Quranic verse has six different meanings about which they themselves never had any idea. I have not seen a single verse to which they have attributed all the six meanings – probably not even half of that.

That being said, Alif Laam Raa and stuffs like this in Quran cannot have any meaning. Think about my favorite Hindi song that starts with ‘La La laa…’ What meaning does ‘La La laa…’ have except creating a melodic verb at the beginning of the song? Muhammad hated the poets, his main antagonists, to his guts – while he himself tried to be as impressive a poet as he could. Consequently, we see the Quran itself is a poetic composition of whatsoever caliber it may – while it also denounces the poets at the same time. My reading is that ‘Alif Laam Raa’ and stuffs like this were included often at the beginning of some Suras to create a poetic verb or theme in order to impress his readers. We must recognize that the Arabs were addicted to poetry, which was the only notable achievement of the Arabs at the time. Their poetry ranked only second to those of the great Greeks up until that time. Muhammad tried his best to exploit this weakness of the Arabs for the poetry. When others were more impressive than him, especially in refuting his mumbo-jumbo revelation which they used to do mainly through poetic compositions – he became angry and denounced them.

I hope, this answer to your doubts about ‘Alif Laam Raa..’ About your following the spiritual path of the Sufis, I would say, it's you to make your mind about it. We, at the core of, are mainly freethinkers and humanists. We do not believe in dividing the human race into any kind of sects, groups or whatsoever it may. Our truest identity is that we are all human beings with our genetic make-ups almost 100% identical. Creating any kind of divide among the mankind for whatsoever cause has never been a pleasant experience for the wider humanity. I personally look forward to learning from the writings and sayings of all great persons of the history – including Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Ibn Sina, Omar Khayyam, Jalauddin Rumi, Kant, Nietze, Bertrand Russell, Einstein and any other individual thinker and philosopher. However, I will be careful about what is worth to embrace and discard the rest. Limiting the resources for learning to a few Sufi individuals undoubtedly severely limits the scope of expanding one’s intellectual horizon and inner growth of one’s human self.

Yet again, Sufism itself is a can of worms! Which Sufism do you want to follow? The one of Imam al-Ghazzali – the greatest Sufi master, or those of the lesser Sufis like Jalaluddin Rumi and Hafiz. Let us see what the great Ghazzali has to say about infidels and Jihad:

“…one must go on Jihad at least once a year… One may use a catapult against them when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire on them and/or drown them… One may cut down their trees… One must destroy their useful book (Bible and Torah etc.). Jihadists may take as booty whatever they decide…”

About the protocol of humiliation by the Dhimmis infidels while collecting the Jiziyah, al-Ghazzali wrote:

“…the Jews, Christians and the Majians must pay the Jiziyah… On offering up the Jiziyah, the Dhimmi must hang his head while the Muslim official takes hold of his beard and hits (the Dhimmi) on the protuberant bone beneath his ear.” [Andrew Bostom, Legacy of Jihad, p199]

If not al-Ghazzali, you want to follow the great Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya of India. Auliya thought “warring with the unbelievers (i.e. Jihad)” was one of the ten cardinal article of faith of Islam. He said:

“On the day of Resurrection when unbelievers will face punishment and affliction, they will embrace faith but faith will not benefit them… They will also go to Hell, despite the fact that they will go there as believers.”

A great supporter of barbarous Allauddin Khalji’s Jihadi wars against the Hindu infidels of India, Nizamuddin Auliya used to accept unabashedly huge gifts from booty looted from Jihad expeditions of the Sultan and he would even proudly display his share of the booty in his Sufi Ashram (lodge). [SAA Rizvi, History of Sufism in India, Vol. 1, p224]

About the other group of Sufis, namely Rumi and Hafiz – they were just good human individuals like every other good human beings of the past. Rumi himself does not seem to recognize to be belonging to any group of sect. In a freethinking humanist bent of mind, Rumi wrote “What is to be done Muslims? I myself do not know… I am neither Christian, nor Jew, neither Magian nor Muslim.”

I do agree that Sufis like Rumi and Hafiz were great human beings who were severely criticized and even condemned by the mainstream Muslims and especially the Ulema and even many great Muslims intellectuals. For example, Allama Iqbal (India/Pakistan), the great Muslim intellectual and thinker of the 20th century,  deemed the teachings of Hafiz “poisonous heresy” which could damage the purity of Islam. Yet, one may wish to follow the mystical path of Rumi or Hafiz but I personally believe that the rituals of ecstatic “swirling” (Rumi sect), “howling” (North Africa Sufi sect) or “wandering” (India, central Asia) of the Sufis dervishes achieve nothing spiritually and is definitely damaging materially. These are just illusion or hallucination – which they might think led them to union with a “horny God”. There is no better alternative than living a healthy and normal life: ‘doing your job as best as you can, doing your household chores responsibly, enjoying life with your family and friends and be charitable to the cause of the human race and the world at large’. To a sane God if exist, a helping hand to your neighbor in distress or a charitable giving to save the children of Africa will definitely be more desirable than those mindless and wasteful acts of “swirling” and “howling” of the Sufi dervishes.

As you have said in a subsequent email, “it is 'scary' to become an Apostate of Islam because all your life you are told you will burn in hell for it? This CANNOT be true!! In my opinion, our almighty, peace loving God would never agree with death sentences and vulgarity towards humanity and man kind as stated in the Qur’an.

I see that you have found much of your answers. What I personally want to affirm is that I firmly believe and strongly hope, nobody – be it a Muslim, Hindu, Christian or Jew – is going to suffer the kind of barbarous sufferings outlined in the Koran, Bible and the Torah after their death. If there is truly an Allah or God, Who has created everything, bad and good, in the universe – He has no moral right to punish for doing things He Himself has created.



Response from would-be ex-Muslim:

Hi Mr. Khan,

Thank you for taking so much time to answer my question. Your response does seem to finalise the doubts in my mind. I have left Islam now and will continue my search for true spiritual growth and enlightenment. I will continue my quest for a TRUE & LOVING GOD (something I'll never stop doing). Thank you for helping people like me finally open our eyes to the TRUTH and to also show us that we are not going insane for having such doubts. I feel like a huge weight has lifted from my shoulders and most importantly, I no longer feel FEAR of my loving God!!! I think Ali Sina is right, Islam won't last very long. Bit by bit many will realise that this religion is NOT peace, that they too will uncover the lies bestowed upon us over the centuries. The best religion brings out the best in people. It is now crystal clear to me that something has gone drastically wrong in Islam.

Peace & God Bless.

MA Khan is the editor of website.

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