What Really Makes Muslims Leave Islam


I was preparing an article with just this very subject, but this man has beaten me to it – and done a better job of it I dare say! He also seems to have arrived at the Maturidi position on salvation and damnation – largely ignored by Muslims today.

Also available here:http://bloggingtheology.net/2015/09/13/what-really-makes-muslims-leave-islam/

        By Adil

Which conversation topic is likeliest to cause the most exquisite discomfort amongst Muslims? ISIS? Dress codes? Whether our financial transactions are ‘Sharia compliant’ or not? Saudi Arabia? Allegedly ‘Muslim’ Grooming gangs? All of the above and more can, and do. Often. However, the lofty first prize easily goes to the subject of Muslims leaving the faith. So much so, that it is discussed little in proportion to the immediate importance of the issue. Perhaps we feel that bringing the topic into the open legitimises the concept or perhaps we feel that discussing apostasy makes us appear weak and defeatist. Regardless, the phenomenon is real, and almost certainly growing. As I Muslim, I do not believe that there exist ‘valid’ grounds for apostasy, but I have to accept that there are some that warrant empathy as opposed to ostracisation. I also agree with the reality of many of the reasons that Muslims who question Islam give, though I may disagree with the conclusions drawn from them.

This is the first of a series of articles where I discuss and reflect on some of the reasons for the rise of atheism and agnosticism in the Muslim communities in the West and worldwide. My hope is that Muslims can recognise these problems and avoid perpetuating them. Meanwhile, I hope that doubting Muslims will re-evaluate some of their reasons – though this article is no debunking exercise.

In no particular order whatsoever (here or in the grand scheme of this series), I discuss my first five reasons for why many Muslims start doubting Islam.

1. The lack of Muslim representation in modern day science…and the over representation of pseudo-science continues to make young Muslims insecure

The cumulative effect of the scientific abyss devoid of recent significant Muslim influence and the inept pseudo-science peddled by several prominent Muslim apologists is a huge source of insecurity amongst young Western Muslims. Whilst the quality of arguments one puts forward for a particular proposition do not logically determine the soundness of that proposition (i.e. the truth of Islam), should the arguments be dire, the psychological response of a human is to consider the proposition similarly improbable.

Thanks to certain prominent apologists (especially hailing from Turkey and the Indian subcontinent), there are several widespread unscientific facts which are now believed by a disproportionate amount of lay Muslims. This can be illustrated in the ‘why don’t Muslims eat pork’ discourse. According to certain ‘people of knowledge’ (and now lay Muslims) this is for reasons including but not limited to: ‘Pigs have an evil filthy nature, pigs eat tumours, pork has very little nutrition, pork contains a worm which will eat your eyeballs and is impervious to heat, and even that by eating pork you will inherit a pigs shameless nature, just like those Westerners.’

Whilst the older generation, or generally less scientifically literate Muslims might believe the above, one studying biology to ‘A-level’ or higher will correctly identify these arguments the hogwash that they are. They simply aren’t true. Granted, one could probably make a case for pork being one of the less healthy meats, but the argument that pork is forbidden for the very secular reasons above is very problematic anyway, not least because there is no Quranic evidence for such reasons. Would a prohibition on such grounds be eternally relevant? Why not eat free range organic pork instead of the revolting steroid bloating hormone infused ‘halal’ chicken that most Muslims happily consume? This whole line of reasoning (apart from generally being insulting; how would such an apologist give Dawah to a farmer who raises pigs in clean and excellent conditions?) smacks of insecurity; it implies that Islam has to satisfy secular criteria for it to be considered valid or true. Thus if the secular criteria is disprovable (and it easily is: pork is not always filthy and dangerous, yet many widely consumed ‘halal’ foods are), the Islamic ruling is irrelevant. This is but one example, and some might argue a trivial one, but I have seen first-hand that it is often allegedly trivial things which just ‘don’t make sense’ that sow seeds of doubt. Whether a core doctrine or a niche commandment, if something a Muslim believes is integral to Islam appears to make no sense, the crisis of faith is the same. A very simple explanation as to why Muslims don’t eat pork, without the huffing and posturing with fake science can be found here.

Whilst the ball is rolling, have I been merely unlucky or are young Muslims far more likely to say that plants feel pain than other people? Few if any plant biologists actually give the notion any credence but Muslims in my experience seem incredibly likely to think it! I am almost certain it comes from some Zakir Naik publication as an ‘argument’ that humans should eat meat (along with the outright insane argument that humans should eat beef otherwise cattle would over-reproduce. This might just be the worst argument I have ever heard, and clearly shows no basic understanding of what agriculture is).  

Again, I re-iterate that just because the ‘Islamic scientific miracles’ movement is often argued atrociously, the logical conclusion is not that Islam is false, but what is implied? Worse, this movement, has spawned a huge atheist ‘debunking’ movement, which actually includes accurate take downs of some arguments put forth by Muslim apologists! True, debunking a Saudi funded unscientific apologist doesn’t make atheism true and Islam false, but how does it appear to a young and confused Muslim? It says ‘Atheist beats Muslim.’ That is not such a large mental jump to ‘Atheism beats Islam.’

Please also visit a Muslim critique of the ‘science proves Islam’ movement here.

2. Many Muslims have blatant political double standards which makes educated Muslims distrust their communities

Most if not all humans have some level of double standards when interpreting or discussing politics. Issues with some groups will cause more emotional gut reactions then others; some groups we have more personal empathy with, many people argue for ‘their side’ on principle, and others will argue against what they perceive to be the establishment on principle, others in favour of the underdog, and so forth.

I do not believe Muslims are necessarily more inconsistent than any other group. However, as many Muslims have some level of pan-Islamic identity (which say, an English Christian probably would not), combined with the current political realities in many Muslim majority countries, our double standards are being given more opportunity to surface. Unfortunately, this means that many politically educated Muslims start to lose trust in their community.

Israel. The most unoriginal example conceivable.  All but the most institutionalised ‘house Muslims’ in the West have very critical views on Israel, as do I.  But why? Is this because of the Qur’anic injunction to do justice, no matter who it is against? Is it because we cannot bear to tolerate any one nation brutally occupying another, stealing land and terrorising the population? Or could it be because the Palestinians are (mostly) the same identity group as us? If the plights of the Israelis and Palestinians were reversed would our responses be the same? Or would the vast majority of us be asserting that the ‘PDF’ is only defending Palestine, and has a right to do so (by flattening neighbourhoods filled with innocent people), that the Israeli resistance were using people as human shields (thus making bombing children acceptable), and that even if Palestine was getting ‘a little boisterous,’ that boycotting Palestine would be Islamophobic? Would we have a silent or complicit majority and only a couple of Muslim Noam Chomskys and Norman Finkelsteins criticising Palestine, and being labelled as sell outs of self hating Muslims for doing so?

Our blatant lack of consistent criticism of Muslim regimes suggests the answer. Even much of the Muslim discourse against morally depraved Muslim organisations or states, say Saudi Arabia is done in a backhanded way i.e. ‘they are bad….but only for selling out to the West.’

Using a parallel methodology to the Islamophobic bigot (with the obvious difference), many Muslims will dismiss, disregard and make excuses for crimes carried out by Muslims. This does not always suggest covert approval, as some Islamophobes and certain ”counter extremist liberal secular non practising cultural Muslims ” (or whatever they call themselves these days) claim, but it does show that many of us fail to be consistent.

Not for a moment do I advocate relenting from criticising Israel, or American foreign policy, or brutal secular dictators in the Islamic world, or the thinly veiled anti – Muslim approach taken by our own Prime Minister (for UK readers). But when our criticism stops there, and we fail to pro-actively criticise say, the rights  of non Muslims in many ‘Muslim’ countries, we create a minority within our communities who either stay silent and resent the community for having a persecution complex, or who are vocal in their dissent and get at least partially ostracised. Either way it boils down to the same: people being further away from the people who practice Islam…potentially another step towards being further away from wanting to practice Islam. If the followers of any particular idea fail to be just and consistent on a widespread level, what does one deduce (wrongly but understandably) about the idea itself?

3. Many Muslims want to escape the paradigm that all non Muslims are damned…but are browbeaten into believing that Islam unambiguously dictates this

How does one actually interact in a damned society? One which almost solely contains people destined for eternal damnation. With contempt because they are worse than worthless? With compassion because they need ‘help?’ Though of course, it seems likely that a few at most will be saved. How about just like anyone else, because you block out thoughts of their doom? Perhaps with apathy because you know there is no hope anyway?

Unfortunately, even though Islam does not claim that all non Muslims are damned, many Muslims are brought up to face the dilemma above. Non-Muslims, they are told or implied are worthless, though this differs from the claims of Islamophobes who insist that most or many Muslims are actively taught to ‘hate’ non-Muslims (whilst hypocritically preaching hate against the Muslim population). This problem may not stem largely from theology (though the Saudi funded Wahhabism which has permeated many Muslim establishments clearly doesn’t help), but in Europe at least, the desire for communities (from a particular province of their country of origin, often Mirpur in Pakistan for British Muslims) to remain compact and insular. Thus, outsiders, including the host population are considered unimportant at best, and can only be interacted with on a basic and necessary level. This insecurity and insularity makes views of ‘damnationism’ and contempt for the host population more appealing. It also leads to other ghastly problems like perpetual cousin marriages, and unsurprisingly it makes some people miserable enough to want to ‘break free.’ Ponder that as you will.

So what happens once a young and confused Muslim goes to say, university and befriends non-Muslims who turn out to be kind and decent people – far more inclusive and understanding then his or her own family? Aside from the mental trauma of imagining these good and sincere people being eternally tortured (even though in fact, the nature, duration and inhabitants of hell is very much an open question), they are faced with the intellectual problem of (un)justice. Is it just that people should be damned almost by default, whilst Muslims, however despicable will end up in heaven?

Thanks to the abundance of Salafist websites, an internet search will probably reveal the Muslims worst fears. Non-Muslims are indeed damned. And Hell is definitely eternal. And Hell is definitely literal fire. The authenticated hadiths about people leaving Hell are definitely only referring to Muslims.  Ultimately even the worst and most murderous Muslims will go to heaven. And Nelson Mandela is going to hell. And there is no debate about this. At all.

Of course, some Muslims will broaden their search, scrutinise their sources, and make a rigorous and scholarly investigation. Such people will find that according to many Muslim scholars past and present, that non-Muslims (even ones who have heard of Islam), and not necessarily damned, or that whilst punishment in the afterlife should be taken with the utmost seriousness, the punishment may not be eternal; or that the Qur’an states that people will only be punished for what they have done, or that only the wicked will go to hell.

But will most Muslims do this? Many will simply remain confused, some will reluctantly believe in the ultra damnationist paradigm, but others will outright apostatise. For them, the emotional, spiritual and intellectual burden is too great, and they would rather simply not believe it. Once the desire not to believe manifests itself, it is doubtless easy to reinforce, and can be done so by visiting almost any atheist channel or website, of which there are thousands.

Young Muslims need to be taught theology responsibly; or at least given more chance to do so. Of course, many of the classical Muslim scholars did have very unforgiving salfvific views, but many of the greats were far more inclusive, and supported their views using scripture. The view that one’s own community is universally saved, and the others are universally damned, leads to either fanaticism or apostasy from within, and distrust or hostility from outside.

For more discussion on salvation, punishment and mercy, I recommend the hyperlinks below.

Gai Eaton: When Hell melts away

Hamza Yusuf: Who are the Kafir?  and   The fate of non Muslims

Timothy Winter: Is God merciful?  and Can non Muslims be saved?

Shabir Ally: The fate of non Muslims. Is Hell everlasting?   Is Hell just?  Disbelievers condemned to hell?  Who goes to Heaven?   More on who goes to Heaven

The Punishment of Hell


4. The failure of Muslims to clearly be better human beings sheds doubt onto the effectiveness of Islam for many Muslims

If Islam is the ‘true’ religion (or the true-er one, depending how far you go on the pluralist spectrum), one thing you would probably expect is that its followers would be, broadly speaking ‘better’ then other people.  In the significant absence of this, the value that Islam actually has is questioned.

Truly, there are Muslims who do amazing things, and some polls, for instance suggesting that British Muslims are the most charitable community are most encouraging. However, we can’t claim that goodness or helpfulness is the first thing that comes to mind when the Muslim community is mentioned. What proportion of Muslims are members of Amnesty international? How many Muslims work for environmental organisations? How many Muslims are in caring professions? A high proportion in medicine granted, though from personal experience I question how many really did it for altruistic reasons. How many food banks in the UK are run by Muslims? How many Muslims are ethical shoppers (ethical shopping by the way means assessing the environmental impact or detriment to human or animal well being as a whole, not just boycotting ‘Marks & Spencer’ because someone told you they support Israel)? The answer to all of the above is ‘some but very little.’ Probably no larger proportion then in any other community, and in some cases probably less.

Typically, the values ascribed to predominantly Muslim communities are not brilliant. Family values at a push. Maybe a sense of community. But we are scraping the barrel here. Tightness. Insularity. Disorganisation. Have only a care for their ‘in group.’ Of course, we can claim media bias of under-reporting good things Muslims do, and over reporting instances of Muslims being especially unreasonable or belligerent. Such a bias categorically exists, and large sections of the media are indeed run by rampantly Islamophobic provocateurs. But let’s not kid ourselves; many excellent things that the Muslim community in Britain does are reported in the mainstream media, and were some of the negative stereotypes utterly and completely untrue, the gutter press would have a hard time fabricating them whilst retaining any credibility at all. Furthermore, it seems very unlikely that the Islamophobic wing of the rightwing media has any serious direct influence on young Muslims religious convictions, and most young Muslims have the sense to dismiss it. Many non-Muslims too, see the right wing tabloids for the incoherent nonsense they are. Thus, instead of burying our heads in the sand and perpetuating the culture of blame (something else many of us have mastered), we should accept the empirical reality that our communities are not filled with paragons of virtue, or even people who measurably display finer human qualities then our non-Muslim friends and neighbours. We must then put two and two together to realise that this will clearly lead to a crisis of faith for many Muslims. ‘Judge the religion, not its practitioners.’ Yes, I know; but if Muslims are failing to put the most basic Islamic concepts into practice like justice over kinship groups and helping their neighbours, what potency, one might ask, does Islam even have? This becomes even more emotionally and spiritually problematic if combined with the damnationist view that all of these Muslims, however wantonly ignorant are promised salvation, whilst even the best non Muslim neighbour is damned. I do believe that there are valid answers to these problems; that God judges people by different standards according to their upbringing, that non-Muslims who are just unaware of the truth of Islam, or are given a distorted view of it (largely our fault not theirs), will be judged according to the choices they were given and their intentions. Also that non Muslims, even atheists still have a God given sense of morality, diminishing the intellectual problem of ‘why are they are good, or better than us Muslims, without specific religious writ?’ Finally, the failure of many Muslims to put basic Islamic and human values into practice does not stem from Islam not being clear enough, but the compartmental thinking of many of its practitioners. Such people may have a strong faith and observe rituals but be de facto secular when it comes to issues of morality and personal conduct – not even considering what Islam says, especially when there is any room for interpretation; commandments to be kind for instance are more commonly ignored then specific prohibitions on say, pork. This morally bankrupt approach is the fault of the person, perhaps their culture, but certainly not Islam. Not all Muslims find answers however, many of them see this as a reason to disregard and move on from their community. Their community and all that goes with it.

5. The Marriage culture of Muslim communities is creating miserable relationships, preventing permissible ones, and creating dysfunctional young Muslims who are prime candidates for apostasy

Many Muslims acknowledge that there are problems with our ‘marriage culture.’ When I say ‘acknowledge,’ I mean of course:

‘Do nothing, agree in theory, but say that we have to be practical.’

‘Practical’ of course meaning considering skin colour, race or kinship group legitimate grounds to reject someone, accepting that marriages have to be obscene and vulgar displays of material wealth and fashion, that personality of an individual, or indeed happiness of the couple is of low importance, and so forth.

To put it bluntly, our current rules, unspoken rules and regulations for marriage are destroying the future of Islam in our community. ‘Well that escalated quickly,’ one might think, but I am right. Our  ‘marriage paradigms,’ regardless of whether we are talking the Pakistani, Bangladeshi, or Arab communities amongst others, are going to destroy Islam in our societies piece by piece, unless something changes.

The way we approach love, marriage and relationships is preventing Muslims from forming functional and suitable relationships, sometimes none at all, as the increasing incidences of reported abuse, divorces, and single middle aged Muslims testifies. What happens when a Muslim ends up single, or in a dysfunctional relationship because of ‘cultural or Islamic’ reasons? They blame Islam. Even if a ridiculous or obscene rule (like the necessity of marrying someone from the same kinship group) is not overtly Islamic, the Muslim will still blame Islam if they have been brought up thinking it is at least compatible with Islam.

What happens when a young, intelligent Muslim girl correctly identifies all her proposed suitors as unattractive, sleazy young men who either slept around at University, or tried and failed because they didn’t have the social aptitude? Or equally bad, if they were hard-line Wahabbis (sorry I mean, ‘followers of orthodox Islam’, the preferred self-conferred title of most modern puritans) who would make her wear a niqab (face veil) and confine her to the house? Or potential wife beaters, unethical business men, bitter, career hating doctors who were forced into it by their parents, ones with controlling parents, the list goes on. What if that same Muslim girl met a boy on her course who was kind, helpful and decent, but wasn’t a Muslim?

Heart-warming and incredible stories exist, there have been ‘dream couples’ where one genuinely converts, sometimes practising Islam better than their born Muslim spouse, but this is a rare reality. More often, the Muslim youth is browbeaten into doing what their parents want, and either blames Islam for it, or grows up to become a clone of their repressive and unfair parents. Either that, or they rebel, and have a relationship with the non-Muslim. Can we not empathise with that, even at all? Most of us accept that our children will interact with non Muslims of the opposite sex whether at school or work. But despite them doing so for hundreds of hours, we refuse to accept the possibility that they may become romantically attached. Then we introduce our children to other Muslims of the opposite sex, and expect them to make a lifelong decision in minutes, and with serious constraints; like the presence of parents! If we don’t train our young men to be less well, ‘chavvy’, or judgemental, or downright ignorant, and more Muslim girls to be less materialistic, brattish, Machiavellian and gossip mongering, we are as good as begging for other young Muslims to prefer non Muslims.  

Throughout this section, I have broadly referred to bad marriage rules and approaches without being especially specific; this is because I have discussed many such ideas in detail in two previous articles which I urge readers to go through.

11 Problems With The Muslim Marriage Market

Even More Problems With The Muslim Marriage Market

I hope that my first article has given readers food for thought and as always I would love to see constructive critique of the ideas put forth here. Stay tuned for the next in the series and have a blessed day.

Recommended reading:

Islam and the Destiny of Man (Gai Eaton)

Losing my religion: A cry for help (Jeffrey Lang)

The Message of the Quran (Muhammad Asad; this is a Quran with extensive commentary)

Islam and the fate of others: The salvation question (Dr Mohammad Hassan Khalil)

Hanafi Principles of testing Hadith (Shaykh Atabek Shukurov)


21 thoughts on “What Really Makes Muslims Leave Islam

  1. As someone who left Islam (and came back later), the main reason for me were the stringent and often nonsensical rules. Everything from not being able to wear certain colours to mastrubation to even having a girlfriend, rules that were justified with round after round of apologetics and eventually that drags you out. Islam becomes just some old man dogma like a t shirt you wear for a while and throw in the closet when your sick of it, that position is a stone throw away from outright atheism. One really begins to ask, how did a tradition that produced people like Ibn Sina, Rumi and Moulana Jami turn so narrow and legalistic? Minor issues are what often cause Muslims to make that leap into atheism, things like Aisha’s marriage and punishment for adultery, things easily answerable.

    In my opinion, in the west at least, the reason people leave Islam is because their culture and faith is bombarded with a liberal rehash of old colonial orientalism. Islam with its stringent rules is just unmodern (ie uncivilised), with its despotism and hate of women and sexual repression, tropes that are then substantiated by hordes of religious puritans who have suddenly become mainstream and quick to advertise themselves as ‘orthodox’ and ‘traditional’. Where is a Muslim to turn when atheists wheel out the more problematic hadiths in Bukhari? Indeed often some people will be unfortunately duped into thinking their faith and culture are inferior to this mythical ‘west’, but whose fault is that really? Muslims are often Islam’s achillies heel, but noo best blame the ‘corrupting influence of the west’ than own up to that fact.

    • Superb comment. I have been preparing an article on just these issues for the past few months. I really hope you read it!
      Awesome insight as well, one of the most honest and true I have ever seen on this site. I really hope you write about these things – people will benefit more from someone with your insight than a million of our ‘scholars’. Please consider writing for the site!

      • I never had a problem with Islamic rules like stoning, killing, Jihad and so on. If there is an Almighty God then He can command all those things. Of course I do not believe that shaving a beard is haram or women can be treated bad but this guy has a problem with the belief in God. Masturbation and having a girlfriend is not the same thing. You left Islam because of your values. Now you you nominally came back to Islam but your values are the same. Why do you need to call yourself a Muslim when you don’t accept Islamic values?

      • Sure I’ll consider it’d be great helping contribute, once I get my emails straightened out that is. Thanks for the offer.

    • Best. Comment. Ever. We need important voices like yours. I second what my colleague said! We’d love to see a piece of writing by you!

      Ignore the troll btw either he is just that, or mildly to moderately deranged. I mean c”mon who actually uses the term “dhimmitude” except for Islamophobes….it was invented a few years ago by an Islamophobe!

      • I just wanted to westernize this term instead of using the Arabic Dhimmah. I could have said Dhimmiship but why invent a word when there is already one in use.
        It’s unfair to call me a troll.

  2. I understand that you are not at fault for this (because the error is in the original article) but the link to “When Hell melts away” is incorrect: it should link to bloggingtheology.net instead of .org. Feel free to delete this comment when you read it.

  3. salaam. sorry if you think I comment too much or something. I’m not a thinker enough to contribute here…. -__- but honestly, glad to find a place where we could question what makes us uneasy about Islam or muslims, without getting takfir finger pointing “you must submit!!!”.

    honestly, what used to make me uneasy is the killing punishment to those who insult Prophet(saaw). sure I’ll mad as hell if some non-muslims do that, but isn’t the death punishment too much? I mean, the kuffar did worse than just insult but during Fathul Makkah, Prophet forgave them eventually. and the blind Jewish beggar who insulted him at the market every single day? Prophet gave him food everyday without him acknowlwdging it’s Prophet until he(pbuh) died and Abu Bakr told this beggar the truth.

    if someone insult other prophets or other religion’s deities, in a legitimate islam state, will he get death punishment as well? or just ”jail and pay a small fine”?

    • A non-Muslim living in an Islamic state would have to be a so-called Dhimmi. A Dhimmi can uphold his/her religion but has to accept the sovereignty of Islam. So they can utter their disbelief but not in the form of an insult against Islam. If they do their Dhimmitude is invalid and this can lead to death or expulsion. But there is no punishment in the common sense according to the Hanafi school.

      • Sure! I think your explanation is garbage and you proved you are a moron by making takfir on the scholar, whoever it is (probably Sheikh Atabek): ‘But let us ask if we are even told the truth by the apostate scholar?’.

        Also, it is really funny that there are lots of ‘clear verses’ of the Quran about the death penalty…but you couldn’t show any. Same with criticising a guy who is Hanafi and Maturidi for using Maturidi explanations. You truly are a clown.

        Also, as typical of takfiri morons, when things don’t go your way, you try using the Bible for proof (which is what most of your favourite exegetes did too). Also, you just disproved your won argument because you said that Moses law might be abrogated. So that goes for 2;54 as well.

        You also showed that whether someone is atheist or Muslim, stupidity does not necessarily change. You follow allegedly follow ‘logic’, but then the Quran is incoherent because God tells people to seek repentance and grants it. But they have to kill themselves? So is killing yourself and each other a form of Tawbah now?

        Also, you are dumb because in Hanafi Madhab, commands of previous Sharia of Moses or any other Prophet mentioned in the Quran (for example, taking one life is the same as killing all humanity was a previous commandment but still in force as Quran did not replace it) is in force until abrogated by Quran. So whatever is mentioned by Quran of previous Sharia is accepted unless abrogated by Quran or maybe Muttawatir Hadith. But it is a waste of time to speak with someone as vile and stupid as yourself.


    • Please comment as much as you like! We like to see your comments!

      According to Hanafis, there is no death penalty for insulting the Prophet: reason is simple – making idols of God as a man or naked or a calf or whatever is insulting God, and still people are not punished, hence same for Prophet, since insulting God is worse.

      The stories of the Prophet having that female poet assassinated are fabricated according to Hanafis and the two hadith about it are completely contradictory anyway (in one the alleged assassin kills her whole she is sleeping with her kids and in the second while she is at work during daylight. Contradiction = rejected).

      • This argument is used by Avicienna Academy on Youtube. I have said something regarding this story on a forum:

        “So the story of the Golden Calf from the Quran is used by a scholar to prove that there is no death penalty for apostasy in Islam. The deduction goes by verifying that in the Shariah of Moses there is no apostasy law since in Surah 9, where the story is told nothing is mentioned. They then say that since there are no clear verses from the Quran legislating apostasy laws the former Shariah of Moses is still in force.
        Now of course we know that there are clear verses in the Quran demanding death penalty for apostasy. But we are also not really informed about the actual Shariah of Moses. The happening around the Golden Calf took place during the Exodus. The Torah and with it the Shariah law was yet to be revealed in written form. At this point of the long Prophethood of Moses the Israelites still did not conquer the destined land and did not build up a state.
        So I would say this whole argumentation is very far-fetched since we are not clearly told what the Shariah of Moses is. Maybe some Muslims would accept this way of proving because they want to believe it but no one else could be convinced of this.

        But let us ask if we are even told the truth by the apostate scholar? At least in Surah 9 where the incident is described there is no mentioning of physical penalty for the apostate idol worshippers. However, the Bible tells us that the idol worshippers where killed. The Bible has in general clearer commands for killing the apostates than the Quran. What the scholar did not tell us is that there is another mention of the people who worshipped the Golden Calf in another place in the Quran. Namely it is in the verse 2:54 which says:

        “And Moses said to his people: You have truly wronged yourselves by taking the (Golden) Calf (for worship). So repent to your Lord and kill yourselves. This is better for you before your Lord. He will forgive you, He is indeed The One That Forgives and The Merciful.”

        The question is what does “kill yourselves” exactly mean? For all exegetes of the Quran the “yourselves” means “each other”. So those who did not worship the Calf or repented shall kill those who did not repent. That is the interpretation of almost all Islamic exegetes. The only relevant scholar who has an alternative interpretation is Imam Maturidi. His great Tafsir often contains alternative views which are very insightful. His view about this story may suggest he agrees with the scholar . But it is something totally different from what they might want to hear. It will be cleared up next time. “

  4. @mmmclmru so your understanding of 2.54 is that it has been abrogated by other verses in the Qur’an, for example 5.32 ? Notice that both verses are about the shariah of Moses. How do you decide which verse abrogates the other ?

    • Sorry, I was so immersed in the banality of this ‘Sunny’ guys’ takfir rampage that I did not clarify: I don’t think that verse says they were to kill themselves anyway since that is incoherent: God forgave them. Of course, Salafis will say God forgave them for killing themselves but that is dumb too, since most or many of the Israelites were worshipping the calf then that means that most of them were dead. So then who set up this big kingdom and stuff in the time of the later kings? Also, suicide is not allowed and if there is such a thing as killing each other as repentance in the Quran, then it was not abrogated by the Quran (if that’s what Happened) so it should still be a ‘thing’. As for ‘kill each other‘, it doesn’t really say that it seems.

      Most of the Muslim Quran commentators favoured today are those which plagiarised wholesale from the Bible and Christian scholars to ‘explain’ stuff – Ibn Kathir and others [remember, a tiny minority of commentaries on the Quran are written by Sunnis, the vast majority are by Mu’tazzilites and Shia. To hide this undeniable fact, Salafist types grossly exaggerate the few Sunni Tafseers coherence, using them no matter how poor they are. Those are the ones ‘Sunny’ and ilk favour – there are only two or three of them compared to the dozens by others. The upcoming Study Quran by Nasr seems to use the ACTUAL Tafsirs, not the ‘redacted’ ones. It should be VERY interesting – which is why ‘Sunny’ types are already warning people off it]. The relevant ‘independent’ commentaries of people like Maturidi, Razi etc translate those verses as ‘mortify yourselves’. Here’s Asad on this verse:

      And [remember the time] when We vouchsafed unto Moses the divine writ – and [thus] a
      standard by which to discern the true from the false 38 – so that you might be guided aright;
      (2:54) and when Moses said unto his people: “O my people! Verily, you have sinned against
      yourselves by worshipping the calf; turn, then in repentance to your Maker and mortify
      yourselves;39 this will be the best for you in your Maker’s sight.”

      39 Lit., “kill yourselves” or, according to some commentators, “kill one another”. This
      literal interpretation (probably based on the Biblical account in Exodus xxxii, 26-28)
      is not, however, convincing in view of the immediately preceding call to repentance and
      the subsequent statement that this repentance was accepted by God. I incline, therefore,
      to the interpretation given by ‘Abd al-Jabbar (quoted by Razi in his commentary on this
      verse) to the effect that the expression “kill yourselves” is used here in a metaphorical
      sense (majazan), i.e., “mortify yourselves”.

      As for ‘abrogation’, again I was unclear: I don’t believe in this at all and neither do (real) Hanafis. The idea of the Quran being overwritten by hadith is incoherent. It is possible for some verses to abrogate others of the Quran itself, if the God explicitly says so. In theory so could a mass narrated hadith, but there are no examples of the latter and very few potential ones of the former.

      Abrogation was a natural consequence of the Shafi/Hanbali and now Salafi tendency to allow a hadith to specify or replace a verse and their epistemology that hadith is a source of evidence in addition to and separate from the Quran i.e. they do not have to match up woth the quran or they must be reconciled. Non Shafis/Hanbalis don’t believe in this because it makes no sense, since what is the point of showing off about a perfectly preserved and well attested Quran and then abrogating, explaining or specifying it with not perfectly preserved single chain reports?

  5. @mmmclmru Thanks for your detailed answer.

    “what is the point of showing off about a perfectly preserved and well attested Quran and then abrogating, explaining or specifying it with not perfectly preserved single chain reports?”

    Excellent point! But try explaining that to a Salafi-type Muslim.

  6. Item number 3 of the article has a nearly identical equivalent in Catholic history. The translation of « Non-muslims are damned » would be « Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, outside of Church there is no salvation ». According to Catholic tradition, hell is indeed eternal as every sin has a double aspect, one temporal of harm done to finite creatures and one eternal of opposition to God. Those who complain of « an eternal punishment for a limited sin » take out God of the equation.
    People today have the mistaken notion that extremists only exist on one side. On the contrary, extremists always go in pairs. For example, you will have those who only think of God’s mercy and virtually deny God’s justice (liberals) and those who only think of God’s justice and virtually deny God’s mercy (puritans).
    In the Catholic understanding, denying hell’s eternity is a « liberal » heresy.
    According to the Catholic notion of « invincible ignorance », « Outside the Church » only designates apostates or heretics.
    The Catholic equivalent of the Salafi interpretation of « Non-muslims are damned » is a heresy called Feeneyism.

  7. Great article! Speaking from personal experience, I can say that I’ve slowly disassociated myself from a particular Muslim community because their mentality wasn’t conducive to an inclusive, loving environment. I would experience some of the worst aspects of human nature (jealousy, hatred, perversion, greed) and always felt that I never belonged. Growing up in an insular community affected my perspective towards other Muslims during my adolescent years. However, my parents were highly instrumental in broadening my horizons and encouraging socialization with Muslims from various walks of life. Currently, I’m in my mid-20s and have a more balanced and pragmatic outlook on life and strive to love all Muslims for the sake of Allah in spite of their faults and get along with them. I’m still not perfect and will avoid certain individuals, but I thank Allah for blessing me with genuine progress. If nothing else is gained from reading this comment, I’d like to leave everyone with a simple, yet powerful quote from Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti, one of the greatest Sufi saints:

    Love for all, malice towards none.

    We must love one another.

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