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Ijtihad, Rethinking Islam (15 Feb 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Why I Left Islam and Now Help Others Who Are Doing the Same

Note: This is the story of Imtiaz Shams who says he has left Islam and is now helping others do the same. This young man has been a devout Muslim since his childhood. But now, an ex-Muslim. Having grown up in Saudi Arabia, he is like many other young Muslims, particularly in Turkey, who are leaving Islam, some to become Atheist or Christian, but mostly to become Deist, who believe in God but not in any religion. I think we Muslims should seek to understand this phenomenon as much as that of radical Islamism which is attracting tens of thousands of our children. Merely castigating them as crazy or apostate is not enough. This approach is not helpful at all. We should try to explore the roots of the problem. What is attracting some of our most intelligent, well-educated, youth, who are also well-versed in Islamic theology to violent extremism and some to altogether leaving the religion. Let us listen to Imtiaz Shams’s story and ponder. This might do us some good. – Editor


By Imtiaz Shams

Feb 17, 2016

The first thing you need to know about ex-Muslims is that the best term in Arabic to describe us is basically a swear word: Murtad, meaning someone who "turns their back" on Islam. The word has a dirty, spit-on-the-ground feeling to it, with a rolling "R" and a sharp drop at the end. This is where you need to start if you want to even begin unpacking the ubiquitous, systematic discrimination we face that can pervade all aspects of our lives.

Also Read: Muslims Need To Reflect Why So Many Millions of Us Are Leaving Islam for Christianity or Simply Calling Ourselves Ex-Muslim

One key form of discrimination is the erasure or downplaying of our experiences through stereotypes, the most common of which is, "You probably weren't a real Muslim." I spent half my life growing up in Saudi Arabia, travelling to Makkah every year for Umrah, a holy pilgrimage. My first book was a gorgeous red and gold-trimmed copy of the Riyad us-Saliheen, a compilation of Hadiths (transmitted sayings and actions) of the Prophet Muhammad and his Sahaba (companions). I've been praying, fasting and memorizing the Quran since as long as I can remember and would devour books proving Islam's truth through scientific miracles and its moral code.

Also Read: Why Are The Muslims Converting To Christianity - A Soul Searching Exercise?

My family moved to the UK just before 9/11, and many Muslims will understand what I mean when I say the atmosphere changed after that day. At school boys gave me the nickname "terrorist" and to this day I still own a shirt where some of them drew explosives and bombs on my last day of high school. That discrimination didn't affect what was then a deep and abiding love for Islam — it just strengthened it.

So what happened? If everything was geared towards me spending my life as a practicing Muslim, why would I leave? One of the key tenets of orthodox Islam is its perfect nature and the infallibility of the Quran, two claims I unwaveringly held on to for two decades. But as I grew older and my critical thinking developed, the accepted truths about the morality of the Prophet's actions and the miracles described in the Quran got harder to swallow.

I stopped believing mountains were "stakes" or "pegs," protecting the Earth from earthquakes. Ironically, mountains are actually most common where earthquakes are most plentiful: in tectonic zones.

I no longer believed that Islam had come down to slowly phase out the loathsome institution of slavery. Instead I began to feel that the institutionalization of slavery in Islamic scripture under the auspices of "prisoners of war" allowed for millions of Africans and other non-Arabs to be taken as slaves by the various Caliphates, in some places exceeding even the horrific Transatlantic slave trade.

I had thought that Islam had given women equal rights to men, and this may or may not have been true if we were talking about 1,400 years ago. However, taken literally the same scripture can be used to reduce the inheritance and legal rights of women, enforce certain ritualistic clothing and practices on women but make them either a choice or non-existent for men, ban women from marrying non-Muslims but extend that right to men... the list went on and on in my mind.

Related Article: Role of Dawah in Islam: Islamic Dawah at This Moment Must Focus Inwards and Not Outwards

Yet through all this I could not internally accept I had left Islam because I didn't know I could leave. The very idea that one could be a practicing Muslim but then leave Islam was completely and utterly alien to me. I was finally forced to accept I no longer believed in Islam at the beginning of 2012, but I had no identity to go to and nobody who understood what I was going to speak to. My friend Aliyah described this stage as being like an "alien in your own skin," and I felt like a complete outcast.

Another feeling that hovered over my leaving Islam was fear. Islam had presented itself as a complete and objective blueprint for my life, in charge of dictating my role in this world and my relationship to death and an afterlife. This left me believing that without the religion, even if I lived life making a difference in this world I would no longer be Abd Allah, a slave of Allah, and thus my life would be aimless. It told me that that apocalyptic Yawm al-Qiyamah (day of judgement) would come when I would be judged as an apostate, one of the worst of sins, and put into Jahannum (hell). The language around hell in Islamic scripture can be terrifying — is it any wonder many new ex-Muslims have to cope with the anxiety it creates?

Related Article: Why So Many Turks Are Losing Faith in Islam

This period of fear and isolation did not last very long as I quickly found others out there when I stumbled on a Reddit group called /r/exmuslim. Suddenly I had access to thousands of active ex-Muslims, their stories, advice and experiences of discrimination. Almost all of these Redditors were anonymous because of the inherent physical and social risks to leaving Islam, so I began to reach out. I came up with a vetting protocol, carefully checking people out one at a time and hosting private ex-Muslim socials of sometimes up to 60 people. Sharing your story for the first time with another ex-Muslim is exhilarating, and there were so many of us to share with! Sure we still felt like aliens, but there were a lot of us aliens and we felt more comfortable in our own skin.

Around this time, I had a chance meeting with two gay lawyers who gave me some advice: what really changed for LGBTQ people in Britain was not just that they organized into communities but that they began to come out publicly. This resonated strongly with me so I joined forces with Aliyah Saleem, a feminist ex-Muslim activist, and we started what grew to become "Faith to Faithless," an organization that creates online and offline platforms to promote apostate voices.

The very first Faith to Faithless event was a year ago at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). Although we had members of the QMUL Islamic society and some Da’wah (preaching) groups leafleting our event, it was a massive success. Some of the ex-Muslims we met there have since spoken at other events. Although we received support from the wider public (including Muslims), we also received plenty of hate mail and abuse. I've had people spit on the ground and call me a Murtad, while insults to female Faith to Faithless speakers are always framed in disgustingly sexist terms. Even worse is that we've often been let down by the very people who should be helping us, including some feminist and leftist activists who have used racialised terms like "native informant" to describe us, undermining our agency as a minority within a minority.

As you would imagine, many ex-Muslims contact Faith to Faithless for advice or urgent help and have faced abuse in different forms. Some, although accepted as members of their family, are constantly told that they are going to "burn in hell" and should repent. Others are forced out into the streets with no financial support whatsoever. Some are physically abused, such as one ex-Muslim girl who was kicked in the stomach by her brother and then locked into her room by her parents.

It's important to note that not all Muslims have treated ex-Muslims in this way. Some of the most important voices to me were my Muslim friends who privately messaged me giving me their support and love. We need to be able to stand together to fight both anti-Muslim and ex-Muslim discrimination, which can often go hand-in-hand. If you're a young ex-Muslim who has left their faith and feels alone or isolated, get in touch. You are definitely not alone.

Source: news.vice.com/en_us/article/3kw7m5/why-i-left-islam-and-now-help-others-who-are-doing-the-same

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/ijtihad,-rethinking-islam/imtiaz-shams/why-i-left-islam-and-now-help-others-who-are-doing-the-same/d/117755


  • To Naseer Ahmed.
    Sorry to jump in between your and hatts off.
    Your relgion so called Islam itself is based on null hypothesis no statistical evidence but an statement utter by one person and believed by others( and those who do not belive Sura Touba used).
    What can be proved from Muslims action since 1400 hundred years Satan is no other than Allah and Mohmmad was his/her/? Propgater through violence.

    By Aayina - 2/21/2019 9:46:57 PM

  • Hats Off,
    Now you give us something more to laugh about. Are you saying that approximation is not computing or calculating? Do we throw away the calculators as you advised because they compute the irrational numbers?
    Take a simple example. The square root of 2 is an irrational number. If the number one can be represented by a line segment of say length one meter, can we not geometrically determine equally accurately the length of the line that represents the square root of 2?
    You can determine the value of any irrational number as accurately as you wish. What about a rational number such as 1/3. How accurately you wish to represent this as a single number is upto you. You can take it as 0.3, or 0.3333333333333.......
     You keep talking about the null hypothesis and Market research. Give me an example. And why can it not be used the way I used it? What do you understand about the Null Hypothesis  if you understand anything at all?
    If you had any understanding, you would have been a believer. I agree that what I say is what no one has agreed with on this website but what do you say?  The lack of agreement of others is not a proof of it being false. If I was wrong, it would have been very simple for anyone to prove me wrong. I have covered the entire Quran in my articles.
    No one from any religion has explained why we ourselves are responsible for the injustice, oppression and misery in this world and not God or why Hell is a part of God's mercy. Try proving me wrong on this covered in my articles:

    By Naseer Ahmed - 2/18/2019 11:46:26 PM

  • Dear editor sahib, 
    who cares of such things as you are doing?
    For Muslims Islam has become just an emotion. 
    Muslims in the past had honest approach as they used to think Islam as a blessing which should remain for every Muslim but now people are leaving Islam and Muslims do not think that the apostates should come back to Islam.
    Could you please suggest some good points so that Muslims like me would follow your good points, as in my opinion you too are a scholar.

    By GGS - 2/18/2019 10:14:33 AM

  • your strong points are the strawman, the true scotsmen and argumentum ad baculum. and of course absolute ignorance of either morals or ethics.

    you are just an unthinking apologist-victim of arabian barbarism, imperialism, tribalism and colonialism.

    irrational numbers cannot be "calculated". they can only be approximated. i suggest you file a suit against the IIT.

    no wonder with your technic of trying argue from a position of excommunicating those whose arguments you cannot counter, you will never ever win.

    you know nothing about most of what you write. thousands of ulema on both sides of the jihadi divide do not agree with a single thing you are trying to "prove" through your IIT taught exegitic circus.

    so you used null hypothesis about which you are fundamentally ignorant. null hypothesis has its uses but not to prove divinity of scriptures. your arguments were demolished point by point and as usual the only defense of your entirely flawed logic is takfirism.

    this is the stokholm syndrome of those whose ancestors were converted under allah knows what circumstances.

    you don not scare anyone by your constant use of declaring your critics apostates.

    you merely make them burst out in laughter. in fact underground instagram accounts, twitter accounts and facebook accounts are bursting at the seams with anonymous middle eastern "apostate" e-groups. you should be better informed as you are the one and only one defender of sex slavery, jizya, maal e ghanimat and other nicities of arabian tribalism.

    apparently a cauliflower is just a cabbage with an IIT education.

    By hats off! - 2/18/2019 5:41:23 AM

  • The analogy of the mountain being like a peg or stake driven deep into the ground and remaining firmly fixed is perfect. As far as immovability is concerned, what applies to a peg driven deep into the ground equally applies to a mountain.

    Hats Off has never been able to give me an example of how a null hypothesis can be used for market research. That is because he knows nothing about either subject.

    He must have been an art's student but poses as if he knows mathematics logic, geology, science etc. His understanding of irrational numbers is perhaps based on the dictionary meaning of irrational and therefore he argued that these cannot be computed and that if any calculator does so, we must throw it away! He doesn't know that we compute irrational numbers all the time and that not only can these be computed, but represented accurately by a point on the number line using geometry.

    Hats Off is another ex-Muslim and as I said before, all ex-Muslims are those who have made themselves "deaf, dumb and blind" to all reason. Let alone religion and the Book, he will not even accept his mistakes in logic, mathematics, and the Sciences.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 2/18/2019 12:25:47 AM

  • for a person who believes that a null hypothesis can prove the divinity of scriptures and that existence of god can be proved by market research anything is possible.

    amazing logic. everything moves, but it does not move with respect to surrounding land, so it does not move and therefore it moves. some divine, some logic and some religion of peace.

    so your god encourages sex slavery, marriage with one's own adopted daughter in law, encourages caravan raids, and encourages the demolishing of places of religious worship and no wonder you love your god.

    i would love him too if i was in that frame of mind to marry four women, raid neighboring tribes, take women captives to distribute among my minions, or simply press them into service of my lust which i am not.

    only an IIT education can enable one to "understand" such a vacuous, intolerant, sex crazed god.


    By hats off! - 2/17/2019 4:39:13 PM

  • 41:9-10  . Say: "Do you verily disbelieve in Him Who created the earth in two Days And you set up rivals with Him That is the Lord of all that exists.'') (10. And He placed therein firm mountains from above it( MIN FAUQIHA), and He blessed it, and measured therein its sustenance in four Days equal for all those who ask.) – Tafseer Ibn Kathir

    41:9-10  Aur rakh diya unmein bhari pahaad upar se( MIN FAUQIHA). – Tafseer-e-Quran Urdu by Allama Shabbir Usmani

    By Abdul Rehman Hamza - 2/17/2019 8:40:26 AM

  • The mountains move but relative to what? The earth itself is moving so the mountains move with them. If there is a continental drift, it moves with the surrounding land mass but not relative to the surrounding land mass in which it is firmly embedded.

    This much of understanding and reasoning is beyond Hats Off for whom irrational numbers cannot be computed, and if a scientific calculator does that, we must throw it away! That is what he said when he last debated with me. 

    By Naseer Ahmed - 2/17/2019 1:35:52 AM

  • it must be an exceptionally vile god that misinformed the prophet on most of the quasi scientific nonsense he conveyed through jibreel. it is understandable. according to polytheists, there are classes of gods. and allah was probably from the bottom of the class.
    mountains also move. do a basic wiki search. exactitude, similitude or all of the 7th century dudes did not know a thing and mostly cooked up whatever answer they wanted to give folks who keep asking questions.
    just because some lousy islamophobic site says something it does not mean a thing.
    so you want to learn geography from dudes who think mary conceived by parthenocarpy like seedless grapes.
    some geography and some history and some civics.

    By hats iff! - 2/16/2019 4:00:12 PM

  • Congrats Editor, for publishing the above article in NAI.  It is said that humility and openness are the key to success without compromising your beliefs. This openness will pave the way for many Islamic scholars to ijtihad/rethinking of Islam
    By Royalj - 2/16/2019 1:03:24 AM

  • I am neither surprised nor irked by fools such as Imtiaz Shams. The doubters and hypocrites existed even in the Prophet's times. If anyone was wondering where all of them have disappeared, you now know that they were always there. They have now found a way to earn some fame and notoriety with impunity, that's all.

    You will find one common characteristic with all of them. They have become "deaf, dumb and blind" to all reason and will not return to the correct path.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 2/15/2019 10:59:23 PM

  • The only verse that describes mountains as pegs is 78:7. The rest are about their being firmly fixed. A river may change its course, but a mountain does not move from its place.

    Answering Islam an Islamophobic site, concede that mountains have deep roots except volcanoes. They say: "It is semantically incorrect to equate “roots” with “pegs” because “roots” are not the same as “pegs”. Roots are the result of natural processes. In the case of mountains, the “roots” are created by the collision, and subduction, of continental plates. “Pegs” are made by humans and are driven into the ground by humans. It should also be mentioned that not all mountains, such as volcanoes, have roots."

     The verses talk about mountains and not volcanoes or hills created by deposits and piling up of sand. The argument of Answering Islam is about semantics and not the fact that a mountain is like a peg or that it has deep roots.

     A metaphor or similitude is never an exactitude.  There is a difference between a similitude and an exactitude which escapes the Islamophobes. Yes, a mountain is what comes out from below and a peg is what is driven in from above, but that is not what the comparison is about. This  nit-picking is dumb literalism. Just like a peg is firmly fixed and stays in place unless uprooted, mountains have deep roots and are therefore firmly fixed and do not shake or move about. The description is perfect.

    And yes, describing the mountains as pegs requires deep knowledge of the geological processes which didn't exist in the 7th century.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 2/15/2019 10:50:03 PM

  • We would someday be proud of our Islam when it grants full freedom to Muslims to become ex-Muslims if they want to leave Islam. They still remain our brothers.

    A recent article in NAI stated that as many as 20 to 30% of American Muslims consider themselves to be ex-Muslims.

    The author says, "as I grew older and my critical thinking developed, the accepted truths about the morality of the Prophet's actions and the miracles described in the Quran got harder to swallow."

    This would be a growing problem because Muslims are getting better educated and because translations of the Quran are now easily available.

    If we want to stop this trend, we must make it our top priority to bring rationality, inclusiveness and fairness to our faith and to reject all hatred and violence. We must exalt, recite and repeat those verses which affirm such values and we must parenthetize and be mute on verses which are contrary to our modern ethos. Foolhardy and pathetic attempts by some to justify such verses are more harmful than they realize.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 2/15/2019 12:35:51 PM

  • so you are really irked to the core by this blue-blood arabian apostate.
    it must hurt you when those who sold you the snake oil tell you that it is useless.
    by the way mountains are of diverse geological characteristics none of which can be likened to a peg, unless allah was such a mindless one.
    mountains are of different types. none of them are peg like. a far out comparison might be for volcanic mountains. even then they are no more peg like than a finger nail is like a carpenter's nail. as for the commonest type - that which form from an upfolding of the earth's crust are nothing like pegs at all.
    if it embarrasses you, it is sufi. aren't it?
    half knowledge always needs pomposity and bluster because it is just half.
    half baked.
    By hats off! - 2/15/2019 7:16:09 AM

  • "I stopped believing mountains were "stakes" or "pegs," protecting the Earth from earthquakes."
    Indeed the mountains are like pegs formed by geological processes with  much more of it under the earth (like a peg) and a small part above level ground which we see.
    The Quran does not say that the mountains prevent earthquakes. Maybe it is a hadith of a Sufi based on his mystic knowledge.
    There is no mention in the Quran about enslavement even as prisoners of war. This must be another hadith.
    Islam does not ban a Muslim woman from marrying a Jew or a Christian. It allows Muslim men to marry a Christian or Jew without converting them. The more pertinent question is whether Christianity and Judaism likewise allow their men to marry a Muslim woman without converting them. The answer is that these faiths do not allow which is why the Quran is silent on the subject of Muslim women marrying a Christian or Jew.
    Apparently, this Muslim did not read and understand the Quran although he spent half his life in Saudi Arabia and must be knowing Arabic.

    By naseer ahmed - 2/15/2019 4:44:24 AM

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