بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
“I visited an online discussion forum once. I left it quickly when I started hearing some ex-Muslims bring up criticisms of Islam to which I had no defending answers. I was afraid that if I lingered there, I too, would start having doubts about my faith..”
“My sister’s best friend went to study in America 2 years ago. Now she is an atheist, and is asking me to prove to her that god exists. I don’t know what to say. All I say to her is, “Look its just faith in the heart. You can’t explain it.””
“How can god make us go through so much pain and suffering if He is so merciful? Why would He deliberately afflict people with problems, then call them to account for succumbing to sins because of them? Why does He let innocent children and animals die in horrific accidents and killings? Why should a person be punished with eternal suffering in Hell for sins committed in such a short life? If god is the one who guides to the right path, why would He let so many people go to Hell?”
Sound familiar? It should. Why? Because as you read this article, more and more people, most of them young ones in the age range of 15-40, are turning away from religion and adopting a set of “beliefs”, or a purported lack thereof, that is classified as ‘atheism’.
Promoting secularism, a deep compassion for all causes humanitarian and philanthropic, so-called freedom for all races, and respect for people of all ‘inclinations’, atheism is based on the dogma that there is no god. Hence, a follower of this creed, or an atheist, worships no one — or so he thinks.
“Stop bringing the man upstairs into it…”
There are quite a few factors that are contributing towards the rising tide of atheism the world over. Often, these factors work in conjunction to bring about an individual’s disdain or disregard for religion. Since I am a self-professed Islamic evangelist, I would like to focus in this post only upon Muslims who become atheists i.e. who relinquish Islam quietly.
“Why did you tell [your parents] that [my Physics tutor, an alumnus of Harvard and MIT] is an atheist?! They cannot digest these things, because they have lived in Pakistan all their lives, where leaving one’s religion is taboo. Don’t talk to them about such things!”
I would also like to point out, in advance, a strangely dichotomous fact: that whereas all of the factors outlined below, at one end, cause the relinquishment of religion in some individuals, they are increasingly also achieving the opposite effect among non-Muslims and non-practicing, apathetic Muslims: acting as catalysts for their guidance and, as a result, bringing about a statistically staggering numbers of eager and willing conversions to Islam!
One man’s perceived ‘poison’ is another man’s meat, eh?
Once you have gone through these factors, you will know what I mean.
First, what prompted me to write about this
If your jaw is dropping, er, where have you been? Older and more conservative Muslims tend to get scandalized by the mere mention of atheism. Perhaps they will also be shocked that I am writing about this, which for them probably amounts to an endorsement of this trend, right?
To answer that question, I would first like to ‘welcome’ you to the contemporary world of SEO and online searches – in which every problem, idea, fear, doubt, confusion, thought, rumor, or question is put on a Google.com search for answers. Perhaps you as a Muslim are not at all tech savvy, and get no time to sit on the computer and Internet, but believe me, your offspring DO, and if they are still kids, then in the future, they WILL be searching on Google (or some other new phenomenon) about everything.
The primary catalyst for Muslims leaving Islam to become atheists, besides the core root causes that I will outline below, is the ease of availability of the writings, talks, books, articles and videos made by atheists, online.
Before the current digital age, Muslims who dwelled in Muslim-majority areas did not even hear about atheism or apostasy. However, now all that is changing. As most older, orthodox Muslims remain oblivious and frigid in their adaptiveness and affinity to the latest advanced technological devices and gadgets, their progeny is tapping away on iPods and iPads while barely out of their cribs and cots, looking at videos on their Dad’s smartphone as they eat their cereal.
Therefore, the reason I am writing this post is, so that when a young or not-so-young, confused Muslim who is beginning to have doubts about Islam, sits on the Internet and Googles search terms that encompass both atheism and Islam/Muslim, he lands here.
Atheism in my circles
Please remember that I come from an urban class of people born, bred and catapulted to adulthood in Pakistan, who more often than not epitomize and desire the luxuries, opportunities and comforts of life in the West, simply because they are lacking here – quite severely, in most places. These Pakistanis attach a great value to higher education abroad, and strive to acquire it in order to improve their career prospects in life.
For this reason, almost all the families I know who reside here, in my geographical location, aspire and strive to send their teenagers (particularly sons, the supposed future family breadwinners) abroad, to USA, UK, Canada, Australia and other countries in Europe (lately Ireland is an oft-availed option as well) for undergraduate and even graduate education – basically, anywhere but here.
Many a time, when these teenagers land in foreign lands, they encounter for the first time in their lives, societies with complete “freedom” i.e. where a person’s religion and its practice is by and large considered a decidedly ‘personal’ matter that is not given much importance in social and corporate spheres; where, in fact, there are countless people (successful, talented, educated, well-mannered, friendly, humble and amazingly well-to-do people) who adhere to no religion at all.
In fact, open religious practice that affects a person’s social interactions, career and fashion choices, dress, demeanor, language, etiquette and ‘assimilation’ into secular society – mostly detrimentally – attracts (mostly negative) attention from others.
Vocal and blatant religious practice in these secular societies, hence, comes attached with a certain amount of social stigma and chances of marginalization. Consequently, in an indirect, non-confrontational way, it is actually frowned upon and discouraged.
Result? A gradual disdain for and growing intolerance for religious rituals, practice, and eventually, beliefs.
Prevalent and unrestricted progress, peace, justice, equality and law enforcement found in “godless” societies
The undeniably smooth systems, material progress, prevalent peace, equality of all ethnicities and races, efficient law enforcement and commendable justice in societies that do not worship any god, or give no importance to those who do, plays a role in some Muslims’ growing criticism of religion and its practice. This is a classic example of a “What’s in it for me?” way of thinking.
Someone who grew up being trained to regard religion and worship of ‘God’ as only a means of attaining some material benefit in this life – be it good grades, health, marriage, provision, any other form of worldly success, and/or peace of mind and heart – gets a really huge shock when they come across hundreds of thousands of people who have no religion in their lives, yet who possess (or apparently so) all of the above things that are considered a requisite for acquiring happiness in this world.
They thus begin to not ‘feel the need’ for religion any more, and gradually relinquish it. Why? Because it convincingly appears to them that this life is all there is, and they assume that, in order to fully succeed at it, religion and its practice is no more than an impeding obstacle, a chore, or a downright ‘nuisance’!
Off it goes then, in return for material benefits and the enjoyment of other “freedoms” that accompany secular living in “developed’ nations nowadays.
The despicable character, conduct and actions of some Muslims; plus the lack of peace, justice and unity in religion-promoting societies
Some Muslims do atrocious and abominable things. This is the other factor that often works in conjunction with the first one (above) to make a person move away from Islam.
Have you ever been in the same room with Muslims when they are discussing Islam? What happens to the overall aura in the room once such a discussion starts? Do they remain composed and polite? Do they listen respectfully to others? Do they start committing blasphemy, or do they remain respectful in their choice of words? Do they get personal and put others down by name? Do they start hurling accusations? And the clincher: do they exhibit more praise, admiration and tolerance for non-Muslim dogmas, habits, beliefs and social mores than they do for those purported by their own faith?
Transfer such intolerance on to a communal, scholarly and societal level, and you get the melting pot that is the Muslim ummah today. We do not uphold the character of Islam, and yes, we do not act upon it even half as much as we like to talk about it. We fight a lot. We criticize, condemn and even curse the dead and bygone earlier generations of Muslims for their mistakes, and with the energies that we still have left, we go after those Muslims who are unfortunate enough to be still alive to hear our emotional rants.
We slander, backbite and gossip to kill time. We watch too much nonsense on TV instead of reading good literature/books. We kill without haqq (murder not sanctioned by Islam) and let criminals go scot free after they openly commit heinous crimes against humanity, while the victims continue to suffer before our very eyes.
The constant mutual bickering of Muslims over trivialities, and their ignoring or undermining the more serious issues that happen right before their noses, such as open flouting of major Islamic laws and limits in their societies, not to mention, their getting into minuscule and insignificant nitty gritty of fiqhi matters that get blown into further dissections, public debates and divisive arguments – all result in an urgent sense of “escape” building up inside the confused and ignorant bystanders (mostly the youth) of the Muslim ummah, as the beliefs of comparatively more peaceful, just and supposedly “free” (I will get to that) secular societies, which completely disregard religion in lawmaking, economics, and in establishing their social order, begin to seem more and more attractive as a way of life and a mindset to them.
Its not long before they jump ship. In this scenario, it is not Islam that “failed” their expectations, but rather, a handful of Muslims – the undeserving current custodians of the Islamic faith – who did.
Fight or Flight: the “testing” formula that results in relinquishing religion and “God”
Some Muslims leave Islam after being severely tested by Allah. I seek refuge from being subjected to such a grave test, because I have seen how it can make or break a Muslim’s faith.
Let us consider a contingency scenario: someone starts losing a loved one to a fatal illness. They pray and pray to Allah, do everything that Islam has ordained to seek a cure, stay away from prohibitions, and rush forth in good deeds, all to no avail.
A point comes when they begin to question whether there really is a Being out there who is listening to their prayers. All of a sudden, walks in a Mr or Ms Non-Believer, who brushes off their “ridiculous” faith and points them in the direction of a doctor or surgeon who is also not a believer (in any god). That doctor prescribes a medicine, or perhaps performs a surgery, and voila! Complete cure is the result.
What else would be the result of such a situation, I ask you?
You guessed it. For people of weak faith and little or no knowledge of Islam and of Allah and His attributes, such a test results in a loss of faith in Islam, because it did not get them what they wanted, despite all their prayers. Allah tested them, and they – sigh – flunked.
I have myself witnessed how some people in my extended family and friends were put through such a test, and how some of them failed. One of them, who passed her test, said:
I had got to a point at which I was about to lose my faith. I had been praying to Him for something for years, and had He not given it to me when He did, I think I would have lost my inner battle to hold on to my faith…
Today, she is more practicing as a Muslim than she was before her ‘test’. Sadly, this is not the case with all the others.
We should strive to gain knowledge of the Quran, which is Allah’s spoken word, to get to know Him, and to find out how His decree works its wonders in our lives on earth, so that we can survive such trials. All the same, we should seek refuge from having Allah put our faith in Him to a test.
Here are 3 of Allah’s “testing formulae” for His slaves:
Person teetering on the corner of faith + lacking knowledge of Quran + having a burning desire to acquire something + exhaustion of all possible means and resources to acquire it + long time period of being thus tested (1 year, 3 years, 10 years) = Pass/Fail
There is another formula that Allah uses to test His slaves:
Giving a person numerous blessings (everything they want) + making that person spend a long time period first working hard to acquire these blessings, then enjoying them thoroughly + sudden loss of most or all of these blessings = Pass/Fail
Earthquakes, tsunamis, multiple miscarriages, debilitating paralysis or injury as a result of gruesome, life-changing accidents, losing family members to a fatal calamity; all such terrible things are forms of such tests.
Lastly, the third formula that Allah tests a person with:
A believing Muslim about to lose something he cherishes and loves OR wants something very badly + other Muslims (or a Muslim government), instead of helping him or her, treat him or her very abominably and cruelly i.e. commit oppression, or target them with an atrocious crime that leaves this person irreparably traumatized, hurt, shocked and helpless + a non-Muslim or atheist person, organization, or government swoops in to grant him or her relief/escape/provision/security = Pass/Fail
As I have said above, these tests, when passed, result in a person finding ‘God’ (I prefer to call Him Allah) and coming back towards monotheism in a rush of rejuvenated faith (i.e. reverting to Islam).
It is kind of what happened to me back in 2001, after a period of studying the Quran myself for 5 years. I was facing an inner turmoil, in which I had started to seriously question myself about why I was Muslim. I knew the answer: only because I was born one, and that was it. I prayed salah and performed all the other rituals because I had been told that they got me Allah’s pleasure. However, I did not really know Him. Which is why I picked up the Quran’s translation as a teenager, and that is how my journey back to my roots started.
The ‘Freedom’ Dichotomy: So-called Liberation, Respect and Tolerance
Atheists usually preach tolerance, equality, respect, justice and freedom, and autonomy for all. They profess intolerance for violence and marginalization; racism and oppression.
However, throw an atheist or agnostic in the same room as a practicing Muslim, and behold their body language belie their claims. 🙂
For one, they will avoid making eye contact and return a polite greeting in a brusque, gruff manner. They will find it difficult to let the brief, (anti)social meeting go by without a sneer or a snide comment about religions, or the beliefs purported by religions.
I think atheists are the easiest fodder for the contemporary world’s media giants and their backhanded agendas. They fall lock, stock and barrel for whatever propagandized nonsense television, digital, print and online channels, publications, blogs and content mills turn out for them as bait.
The wiser ones among us can easily recognize propaganda and prejudice when we see it, but can we say the same for the gullible people, especially Muslims who lack knowledge of their own faith? Not so.
Consequently, some prominent atheist figures who used to be Muslims in the past, are a perennial favorite of international media (even more so than modernist Muslims and proggies, who can be made to wash their religious laundry in public at the drop of a hat!).
These self-proclaimed ‘infidels’ write and publish sensationalized books and lashing blog posts (or comments under the same) and are eagerly invited by the media to make disparaging remarks about Islam and practicing Muslims on a global public forum, where they sometimes do not shy away from using the foulest words and derisive language for disparaging Islamic beliefs, practices, rituals and laws.
The “F” word is their favorite adjective, noun, verb and adverb, especially when they are angry or offended (which is often), as are other forms of verbal diarrhea, the ‘stinky’ trails of which they leave behind after them whenever they exit an online or in-person argument or rant-fest.
I admit that there are some very polite atheists as well, who respect all religions. But just as Islam’s global representation has been “hijacked” by the more bigoted, loudmouthed Muslims, its the Islamophobes among the atheists and agnostics as well, who tend to ‘steal’ the spotlight.
While the more fearful and closeted atheists among Muslims still remain too afraid to speak out about their (lack of) beliefs in public, the vocal ones living in secular societies abroad are “coming out”, and not just that, they are also lobbying for Muslim gays and lesbians to have “equal rights” and the “freedom” to practice their lifestyle choices and their so-called “natural” inclinations and preferences in life. أعُوذُ بِاللهِ مِنَ العذابِ الاليم
They preach peace and tolerance, yet support government bans on face-veils and “burka’s“. They speak out against marital and other kinds of rape, yet endorse teen-pregnancy abortions as a matter of personal “choice” – forgetting how the process by which any teenager gets pregnant is a kind of rape as well – since most children and teens are coerced or bullied into sexual relations at such a young age, either by peer pressure, fear of humiliation, veiled threats of being dumped by their boyfriends, or to seek acceptance by society in general.
So is the state of “not believing” in a god really “freedom”? Or is it just denial, plain and simple?
I always get amused by how atheists claim to be “free” and “liberated” just because they can apparently eat, wear and do what they want without any restrictions. For example, they claim that they are “free” because they don’t have to pray, fast, or adhere to any religious rituals.
One famous apostate of Islam reportedly asked herself as she sipped wine, “So will I go to Hell because of drinking this?” just before her faith in Islam took its final, fatal blow.
Discard a few restrictions and they think they are “free”?
They are as “free” as a butterfly in a big glass jar; as a fish in a manmade aquarium; as a tiger in a safari park. They might think for a while that there is no higher authority who is in charge of all things, because He – being the just Lord that He is – continues to give them the blessings, joys and provision that He wrote for them when they were in their mothers’ bellies, even if they deny His existence. And when they see that their kufr (denial of god) doesn’t bring about any apparent punishments or Divine retributions in their lives, they increase in their denial, blocking out all the apparent signs of the existence and omnipotence of Allah.
Superficiality is one of the biggest qualities of the life of this world: it covers up truth and reality with a pleasant and attractive facade for people who refuse to “see”. And that is why atheists and apostates are just that: extremely superficial.
In fact, they are slaves of something much more discreet, which rules them like a god: their own nafs, – their intellect, logic and desires all combined together.
You see, man was born a slave, not a master; a worshipper, not a god. Man always seeks a deity to worship, and hence, most human beings who lack the guidance and knowledge granted by the Quran tend to fall into polytheism, or shirk, because the one and only “God” is not visibly apparent, although His decree, creation, will and the clear signs of His attributes, are.
So while atheists claim to be “free”, they still obediently worship or obey their ‘god’ – their nafs. This becomes apparent when they, for instance, scrupulously stick to their diets so “religiously” (dichotomy much?) that they won’t eat even one morsel of gluten if their trainer or diet guru advises them against it.
They will work out “religiously” in strict accordance with their physical fitness regimen and schedule.
They will follow every rule, code and law to achieve corporate success, seeking and sticking “religiously” to all the principles, etiquettes, requirements, norms and unspoken mores that help climb the corporate ladder.
They will smoke, drink, and perhaps even “do” drugs as and when they want to, especially when they are initially enjoying their newly-acquired “freedom” as atheists (some of them love parties), but will give up substance abuse completely when their intellect, knowledge, or their doctor convinces them how harmful it is.
They will campaign for women’s ‘liberation’ (with a woman’s level of liberated-ness usually being inversely proportional to the amount of clothes she has on and directly proportional to the length of her heels), looking down upon dowdy Muslim women who refuse to be dictated by fashion trends, but at the same time, be present punctually at launches and store openings to buy the latest in-vogue fashion designs, just the way a practicing Muslim man attends congregational prayer in the masjid, right on time!
Free? Or die-hard slaves of their desires?
They will champion respect and tolerance for all, scrunching up their noses to sneer with disgust at the way religion allows a middle-aged man to marry a 13-year-old girl with her consent, yet in the same breath, support abortions of fetuses by innumerable girls living in secular societies, who, barely into their teens, were lured by their boyfriends into “consenting situations” and got knocked up as a result, sometimes even in public places, actions fully endorsed by their “free” societies.
Yup, atheists worship their own desires: they always do what they feel like doing; what they think is right; what appeals to their rationality and logic. They support the missions of causes, organizations and systems that appeal to their minds; and follow even the most ridiculous ideologies as long as they get to decide to choose them for themselves.
So, for example, they will lobby against violence of all forms, yet not bat an eyelid as they exterminate a rodent or an insect in their own home, or if a police officer in a secular country shoots and kills a man who is attacking an innocent victim. For such purposes, this “violence”, to them, seems justified and acceptable.
Fear of Death, Destruction and Sudden Calamities
One of the biggest giveaway traits of atheists is their harboring enormous, self-consuming innate fears. They fear death, for one. And no, I do not mean death by killing, but any kind of death. They fear the deaths of their families, and they are terrified of sudden natural disasters (since, according to their beliefs, such disasters have nothing to do with any god or His will, rather, they are just random events that happen by chance, for no reason at all).
They live in constant fear of dying and not just of dying, but dying a horrible death. Whenever they hear of plane crashes, floods, tsunamis, epidemics, outbreaks of fatal diseases, and earthquakes, they get scared, because it confuses them why or how hundreds of thousands of lives and livelihoods can be wiped out in an instant (such questions can only be answered or made sense of by beliefs in Allah and in the Akhirah), and hence the prospect of meeting such a bad end themselves, leaves them terrified.
They also cannot understand why a healthy person who always takes extremely good care of their diet and overall physical health could just die suddenly, without any medically-proved cause or reason.
“I can only deal with it [father’s death] by blocking it out; by not thinking about it at all. Otherwise I break down in tears…” – a self-professed non-believer in my extended family.
Death is something that makes them cringe and cower in fear. The reason for this is that they believe that this life is all there is. And that since there is no Creator (for them), and no purpose of creation; that it all ‘just happened’ like everything else they believe randomly happens in life (by chance), they cannot comprehend why human lives and entire thriving nations come to sometimes grotesque and painful ends; why terrible things happen to good people; why, if this life is all there is, that death exists as the twin sister of birth in the first place, and why it sometimes comes so randomly, without any apparent pattern or warning – in the womb, on the street, under water, and on the hospital bed.
When mystifying things like this that can never be explained by their atheistic beliefs happen to them – they just “block it out” and try not to think about it as they move on with their lives, thinking, “It happened to them, not me”. Therefore, some of the more philanthropic ones among them appease their inner turmoil, anguish, distress and confusion, by giving generously in charity to the victims of disasters and terrible happenings.
In fact, have you ever wondered why so many atheists are sometimes at the fore of organizing humanitarian causes and relief campaigns for the severely afflicted people of this world? Why they so publicly help the oppressed, marginalized, ostracized and less fortunate?
You have your answer: it makes them feel better about themselves, as this charity temporarily soothes their hearts and souls. Souls shackled in self-imposed chains of denial of god (Allah).
It also gives their starved-for-food hearts temporary relief and satisfaction to know that they helped eased someone else’s pain and made their life less miserable.
Almost comic emulation of scientists, researchers, writers and thinkers
Imagine this: a person brings you a beautifully decorated, and even more delicious dessert (I am a foodie, in case you didn’t know). As you marvel at its perfection and ooze praise for its taste and look, you begin to emulate and admire the delivery guy or whoever it was who brought the dessert to you. You thank them profusely for bringing this great gift into your life, and go on ladling praise upon them.
You then wonder how such a scrumptious dessert was made, until another person comes along and explains the recipe to you, satisfying your curiosity. After they’re done explaining, you start to gush about how wonderful, intelligent and talented they are for explaining to you how the marvelous dessert was created from scratch.
Throughout the expression of your admiration and pleasure-filled enjoyment of the dessert, while you devour mouthful after mouthful of its rich taste and texture, each bite followed by exclamations of delight and ooh’s and aah’s of gastronomical satisfaction, you forget to even ask about, or give any credit to, the one who actually made the dessert.
Don’t you think that such a person, if this scenario were to ever play out in reality, would be considered an imbecile and a bit “off the rails” by bystanders, because in all their praise and enjoyment of the creation, they remained oblivious and blind to the one who did the actual creating?
After all, where ever we might be in this world, when we marvel at any “creation” – be it a work of art, a designer dress, a carefully planned event, a manicured garden, a well-designed building, a stylish new hairstyle, or a state-of-the art vehicle – we always, always, appreciate, acknowledge and praise the person embodying the “brains” behind the end-result; who not only had the creative idea, but also toiled to bring it to fruition; the chef, designer, architect, decorator, engineer, doctor, founder, inventor, writer or artist. The more unique, one-of-a-kind and exclusive the created product, the more successful, rich, famous and popular the human creator of that object becomes!
Yet, as scientists call Allah “nature” (or even more funnily, “mother nature”) in their educational documentaries, journals and other literature, while describing and marveling at the magnificent universe and its galaxies, the full details of which they have not even discovered yet, atheists swoon over their superior intellect and knowledge in adulatory awe and admiration, lauding their work and giving them standing ovations after their talks, all the while ignoring and denying the existence of the One who did the actual creating, whereas the scientists did just the discovering, delivering and explaining to the masses.
It is for this reason that I find atheists’ admiration and praise of scientists so bemusing.
A challenge for all atheists in the form of the Glorious Quran
I challenge anyone who has doubts about Islam to gather all the copies of the Quran in the world and proofread them to find even a single discrepancy.
I challenge them to bring any other book, poetry, or spoken or written work that has been memorized in its entirety by an equal number of human beings.
I challenge them to listen – intently – to the recitation of the Quran when they are all alone, in complete solitude, in a place sans distractions, diversions and interruptions, for a good one hour, at least.
If they agree to do this, I then further challenge them to resist their inner urge to stop the CD or tape player that is playing the Quran (an inner voice will persistently try to stop them from listening to the Quran, I guarantee that), and force themselves to just sit and listen to the recitation. For one hour.
I challenge them to do this activity (with the conditions I have stated) without feeling something happen to their heart; without being reduced to tears.
I then challenge them to come up with a “logical” explanation of why they cried those tears; why they felt their heart tremble; and why they felt overwhelmed by listening to a melody that comprises of words that they do not even understand?
Stop running away from Allah, because to Him alone will you return one day – the instant you die. And you will die. It is only a matter of time. The passage of each day is bringing you closer to that instant, when this life of yours will end – forever!
Give in now to the urge to submit; to that incessant pull that makes you wonder about Him, want to seek Him, and call out to Him, again and again.
Why don’t you just give in, fall to your knees, place your head on the ground, and cry? Why don’t you?
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