And whoever of you reverts from his religion [to disbelief] and dies while he is a disbeliever – for those, their deeds have become worthless in this world and the Hereafter, and those are the companions of the Fire, they will abide therein eternally (2:217)
I am writing the following article primarily for my extended family, but since I also want other people to benefit from it, I will be keeping details anonymous throughout the article. For my relatives who have been linked to this article, I am the third son of the family which resides in Canada.
I count in total more than 60 uncles, aunts, and cousins in my extended family, and since I know that not all of you will be able to read through the whole article, the main takeaway will be that:
I have left Islam and Ahmadiyyat. I no longer consider myself an Ahmadi, or any type of Muslim.
For those of you who have not yet cast any judgment, are willing to keep an open mind, and are interested in learning why I have left Islam, I encourage you to read the rest of this article: it is fairly extensive and covers the various reasons for why I have made such a major decision.
Table of Contents
- My Personal Journey
- About Ahmadiyyat
- About Islam
- Have I Misunderstood Islam?
- Moving Forward
But I want you to understand how people often grow to believe things the way that they do, and how fear can entrench those beliefs so deeply in one’s mind—especially a child’s mind—that they become all but intractable (Ali Rizvi)
For most of you, if not all, this message will come as a surprise: as far as I can tell, I will be the first one on both, my father’s side as well as my mother’s side, to explicitly leave Islam.
This was not an easy decision to make, nor was it a hurried decision: in fact, I have spent hours, days, weeks, months in an objective study of Islam that brought me to the conclusion that there indeed was no divinity contained therein.
Before going through this article, it is important that you familiarize yourself with two fundamental ideas: cognitive dissonance and indoctrination.
The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feelings of discomfort that result from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is an inconsistency between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is going to play a very big role as you read this article: you will undoubtedly go through internal conflicts as you will learn more about Islam and Ahmadiyyat, all the while trying to reconcile this information with your own preconceived notions of religion.
I just want you to be aware that this will be a very natural feeling, and instead of fighting it from the onset and immediately discarding any conflicting evidence, simply try to keep an open mind. At the end of the article, you will have the opportunity to digest what you have read.
Regarding indoctrination, Google says:
Indoctrination is the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.
One thing should be clear to all of you: every single person who was born in a religion and grows up to believe that that religion is from god has been indoctrinated.
When we’re discussing Muslims in particular, the very first thing a child hears is the Adhan, which includes statements such as I bear witness that there is no god except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.
Growing up, we’re told that Allah revealed the Quran, that Muhammad was the most perfect human being ever and the chosen prophet to guide the world to God, and for those of us who were raised as Ahmadis, we were told that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the promised messiah and reformer.
When you teach such ideas to a child, especially when further contextualized with ideas such as heaven and hell, punishment and reward, the child has no other option but to accept such beliefs as facts.
By the time they grow into full-fledged adults with the capacity for critical thinking, it is often too late for them to question such inherited beliefs, and they will spend the rest of their lives committed to such ideas which were ingrained from when they were young.
As Ali Rizvi writes:
Your religious beliefs aren’t really you. They are simply part of the medium you were cultured in when you were raised. You know, deep down, that if you were born in a Hindu family, you’d probably be Hindu; and in a Christian family, you’d be Christian. You know, deep down, that your faith is really just an accident of birth. So, logically speaking, it can’t be about ideas, can it? Ideas don’t come with birth. They need to be considered, explored, and evaluated.
And we will do exactly that through this article: we will consider, explore, and evaluate Islam because that is the right thing to do.
My Personal Journey
This will come off as a bit impersonal, but I have already been writing about my personal experiences, as well as objective studies and analyses of Islam for the past few months. So, at the risk of repeating myself, I will simply link to existing content to serve as primers to understanding why I have left Islam.
- About – this page serves as an introduction to why I am writing about Islam. It also explains the name of this blog, as well as contains links to my social media accounts.
- My Story – this page provides a good overview on how I went from being a devout Ahmadi Muslim to how I identify today: an agnostic.
- Is the Quran from God? – this page is an objective study into the lack of divinity in the Quran.
While it is not necessary to read the above to follow the rest of this article, I do recommend that you do, especially the article covering the Quran.
Before continuing, I want to be firm in the following statement:
I am not interested in debate.
I do not want to be told that I am wrong, or that I have misinterpreted Islam, or that I have not prayed hard enough, or that I should have written a letter to the khalifa, nor do I want to be linked to pro-Islamic/Ahmadiyyat material.
You might be thinking: isn’t it hypocritical that I have written criticisms of Islam for you to read, but I am not willing to hear from your side? To that, I say:
Firstly, you are an adult, and you are choosing to read this article containing critique of Islam: as I said above, if you’re not able or interested in keeping an open mind to consume such content, there is no reason for you to read this article and your time will be better spent elsewhere.
Secondly, I am assuming a lot of what will be written here will be novel to most of you and will give you an opportunity to learn more about your faith: if this is all very familiar to you, I would be very interested in knowing how you have made peace with such concerns and still have firm faith in Islam and Ahmadiyyat.
Thirdly, and more importantly, I have been there. By most metrics, I was a much more devout Muslim than the majority of my cousins: I prayed 5 times a day, I read the Quran (in Arabic) daily, I fasted every year, I attended Ijtimas and Jalsas, I’ve paid thousands of dollars of chanda, I have never drunk, I have never taken drugs etc.
I know what it is to be Muslim. I have heard arguments in favour of Islam and Ahmadiyyat my whole life. I believed in those arguments, which I now attribute to my indoctrination.
But today, I know what it is like to not be Muslim and to have freedom on conscience. This is a perspective which the majority of you have probably not come across, and if you are willing to learn more, this article has been written for you.
Note: The following two sections will focus on a more objective view about religion, explaining why I have full conviction that there is no divinity present in Islam and Ahmadiyyat. If you’re more interested in reading about my personal stories, values, and beliefs, you can head directly to my section “Have I Misunderstood Islam?”
Note: This section can be skipped if you are not Ahmadi or not interested in learning about Ahmadiyyat – I am simply writing about this since it mirrors the beginning of my journey and how I begun questioning my indoctrination in the first place. I talk about Islam at large in the following section.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
The answer is that men and women are not equal. Universal experience has shown that man is superior to woman in physical and mental powers. There are exceptions, but exceptions don’t make the rule. Justice demands that if man and wife want to separate, the right to decide should lie with the husband (Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, p 314)
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is believed to be a prophet sent from Allah after Muhammad to reform Islam: this belief in of itself is contradictory to the mainstream Islamic view that Muhammad was the final prophet, as evidenced by numerous Hadiths (Sahih Al-Bukhari – Volume 4 Book 56 Number 735, Muhammad’s Last Sermon) as well as verse 33:40 in the Quran where Muhammad is said to be the seal of prophets.
Something which may surprise Ahmadis is that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad himself believed in such teachings:
“It should be clear that we curse anyone who claims prophethood” from Ishtiharat Vol.2, p.297
“We be-lie and disbelieve anyone who claims prophethood and messengerhood after the Prophet Muhammad, the Final Messenger” from Ishtiharat Vol.1, p.230
“…that I am not a claimant to Prophethood and that, in fact, I consider such a claimant to be outside the pale of Islam” from Asmani Faislah p.6
Of course, Ahmadiyya literature will find ways of reconciling the above statements with the prophethood of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, dedicating pages amongst pages to prove that he was indeed foreseen by Muhammad 1,400 years ago: https://www.alislam.org/topics/messiah/.
I personally do not care for either interpretation since I fundamentally disagree with the belief that Islam is divine. However, I do want to share with you some examples from Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s writings so that you can assess for yourself whether this person sounds like he’s from god. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has:
- Drawn a caricature of the Christian Trinity and told his opponents to pray to that drawing
- Drawn a caricature of John Dowie (a Christian evangelist), stating that this is what John Dowie would look like once god strikes. Recall that Ahmadis called the caricatures of Muhammad an “abuse of free speech” – regardless of the Ahmadis’ beliefs, John Dowie and his followers considered him a holy individual and he shouldn’t have been mocked in such a fashion by a self-proclaimed prophet.
- Called the Aryans “haram zaada” (around the 3rd line of the text). For those unaccustomed with Urdu, haram zaada translates to bastard and is generally considered a curse word.
- Used 5 pages of his books to curse his opponents.
Before you automatically default to excuses such as god told him to say those things, or that he was simply retaliating against others who instigated such fights … just ask yourself: are you fully comfortable knowing that the man you have been following your whole life has exhibited such behaviour? Do you truly think that god would tell his prophet to write curses for five pages? Ask yourself whether your current khalifa would call people “haram zaada”, or would openly caricature opponents of Islam today. There are many more vocal opponents of Islam today than Mirza Ghulam Ahmad could have ever known during his time and yet we don’t see the later khalifas resorting to such unholy, distasteful retorts.
The above references are, granted, fairly superficial but I hope that this showcases your lack of knowledge of your own prophet – I would be very surprised if any of my Ahmadi family has seen such writings before.
Extensive work has already been done in dissecting the claims, actions, and character of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and once again, I will defer to such references instead.
Nuzhat Haneef wrote an excellent book titled Recognizing the Messiah, which is a critical study into the writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. I recommend starting with the following sections:
- Pages 52 – 60 discuss via direct quotes how Mirza Ghulam Ahmad constantly shifted his prophecized age of death, and how he actually ended up dying at the age of 69 according to his own writings, instead of at 80, which is what he claimed god had initially revealed to him.
- Pages 114 – 120 discuss how he leveraged the plague affecting India and Hong Kong at the time to recruit members to Ahmadiyyat. It personally seemed disingenuous to me how he claimed that acceptance of Ahmadiyyat would save people from the plague.
- Pages 187 – 207 showcase the foul language, as well as unholy content, published by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. It seemed impossible to me that a person engaging in such writings would be from god (the above examples are largely drawn from this section).
- Pages 309 – 324 serve as a useful reminder that there are numerous other religious denominations experiencing similar, if not greater, success than Ahmadiyyat: this objective observation should indicate that Ahmadis do not have a monopoly on religious success, as often claimed to be the sign that Ahmadiyyat is truth.
Marmuzah has also written about the failing claims of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, including:
- John Huge Smyth Pigot, which is where Mirza Ghulam Ahmad said Pigot would die during Ahmad’s lifetime (i.e. before 1908) for claiming that he was Jesus but Pigot actually died in 1927. Ahmadis will claim that this occurred due to Pigot retracting his claim. However, it turns out that Pigot still believed he was Jesus even after Ahmad had died.
- 40 Years, which is where Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed in 1892 to have 30 years remaining in his 40 year mission, but he died in 1908, 14 years shy from his original prophecy. Ahmadis will circumvent this by stating that Ahmad’s son eventually became a khalifa and so Ahmad’s mission was effectively extended but in times like these, we should apply Occam’s Razor: is it more likely that Ahmad was being purposefully elusive or that he was simply pretending to have revelations which obviously went unfulfilled?
- English Revelations from Allah, which includes revelations such as “We can what we will do”, “You have to go Amritsar”, “He is with you to kill enemy” and “Yes, I am happy”. You would expect a divine being to be more articulate than that, and besides, god experiences happiness? This sounds more like a human’s understanding of what he wants god to be like than what an actual divine being would be like.
At this point, I hope that you have sufficiently enough primary sources to investigate for yourself as to whether Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was actually a prophet from god, as he claimed: do you agree with such an assessment, when you critically think about it, or will you go on accepting inherited beliefs from your parents because you were indoctrinated to accept such a claim?
I will leave you with a last example of how Ahmadis often twist literature to fit their narrative.
In the introduction to Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Mirza Masroor Ahmad mentions the following Hadith to support the idea of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad being a prophet:
When you find the Mahdi, perform bai‘at at his hand. You must go to him, even if you have to reach him across icebound mountains on your knees. He is the Khalifah of Allah, [he is] the Mahdi. (Sunan Ibn-e-Majah, Kitabul-Fitan, Babu Khurujil-Mahdi, Hadith no. 4074)
This is a fairly popular Hadith which circulates Jamaat events. However, let us take a look at this Hadith in its entire form:
“Three will fight one another for your treasure, each one of them the son of a caliph, but none of them will gain it. Then the black banners will come from the east, and they will kill you in an unprecedented manner.” Then he mentioned something that I do not remember, then he said: “When you see them, then pledge your allegiance to them even if you have to crawl over the snow, for that is the caliph of Allah, Mahdi.”
Not only has this Hadith been labelled Da’if (considered to be the weakest and least authentic type of Hadith) but when the Hadith is actually contextualized, we can see that it has nothing to do at all with the narrative that Ahmadis try to push of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad being the prophecized reformer of Islam.
Ahmad made his claims around 120 years ago, and since his death, there have been 5 khalifas, considered to be his divine successors. While they will not approach Ahmad in terms of inconsistencies and foul language, they do have a myriad of opinions which would be considered harmful, especially when such statements have to be unequivocally accepted by Ahmadis since they have been indoctrinated to believe that the khalifas are from god and can do no wrong.
If you or your daughter has the right not to observe pardah (veil) then I too have the right, borne out of the right you have, to expel such noncompliant [people] from the Community. I would be doing so because of the commandment of Allah and for this reason no one should have any complaint (Mirza Masroor Ahmad, pp.28)
I will never know what it is like to be an Ahmadi woman but I would imagine that hearing your world leader talk day in, day out about purdah would get exhausting, if not authoritarian. To then hear that your membership is contingent on whether you wear a veil everywhere would probably instill fear in you, pressuring you into observing purdah whether you want to or not.
Here is what an ex-Ahmadi woman has to say about purdah:
It is almost hypocritical to proudly wave the “Love for All, Hatred for None” banner at Jalsas, all the while inviting the media to show just how accepting and progressive Ahmadis are, when such constraints are put upon women: a woman should never be measured by her choice of clothing.
And before you default to excuses such as “Ahmadiyyat is a membership, and if you do not follow its rules, it is only fair that you are removed”, ask yourself:
- Why are you benchmarking the secular conception of clubs and memberships to a religious, supposedly divinely guided, institution?
- If Ahmadiyyat was really a membership and people are free to leave at will, why do people fear leaving this membership?
- Memberships usually have an exit clause: I could not find any information, or support online, from official sources on how to leave Ahmadiyyat.
- Most importantly, can you think of any membership in which you are automatically enrolled in at birth, without ever asking for your consent, and then indoctrinated to believe that this membership is what will lead you to god’s happiness?
I will leave you with a video that showcases several statements made by the 4th and 5th khalifas about women:
Moving away from the blatant misogyny from the khalifas, let us observe how the khalifas talk about science, a field which is rooted in facts and evidence so as to ensure that there is only truth.
In the following video, Mirza Masroor states that “God made man as a man”
We know this to be incorrect, given that life began as a single-cell species (for those of you unaccustomed with evolution, you can read more online – the Simple Wiki link is a good start). Why does it matter what he said about evolution? Well …
It is dangerous for a person who is believed to be from god to make unscientific and false claims.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of children watching the khalifa, having no option but to believe everything which he says to be truth as they’ve been indoctrinated to do so – they will later learn about evolution at school but have trouble accepting the science because their khalifa said otherwise.
There is countless evidence to indicate that homeopathy is nothing more than pseudoscience. The World Health Organization (WHO) has actually said that it does not support the use of homeopathy as treatment against diseases such as HIV, influenza, and malaria.
This goes back to my original point: when a person is believed to be from god, they cannot afford to lead people on unscientific beliefs. Do you truly think god would tell his khalifas to encourage homeopathy when god should know that it is ineffective? And if god is not telling these khalifas to do so, what is motivating them? This seems to indicate more mysticism than divinity.
While there is so much more to say about the khalifas (including the hereditary nature of the caliphate system, the fact that people knew that Masroor would be the khalifa prior to the election, and the 4th khalifa claiming 40 million Ahmadi converts in 2001, which could also be seen on the official Ahmadiyya website stating that Ahmadis numbered 200 million members at some point), I wanted to draw focus to the antisemitism present in Ahmadiyyat.
In his 1991 sermon, Mirza Tahir Ahmad talks about the “Long Drawn Plan of Jewish Domination”, citing works such as Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and Waters Flowing Eastward as credible evidence that the Jewish want to achieve global domination, despite both of those texts having been proven to be fabricated antisemitic rhetoric.
Mirza Tahir Ahmad says things such as:
The plan expresses the hope that following these achievements and realizing the goal of establishing the United Nations, the Jews would then acquire control of the United Nations and exercise, through it, their dominion over the whole world.
The contemporary world situation is rooted in the plan that was founded around the year 1897, at least apparently, because it was then that the efforts directed towards the establishment of the state of Israel were started.
From the alislam Quran commentary (which was edited by Mirza Tahir Ahmad), we also see:
“Ignominy and humiliation have dogged the footsteps of the ill-fated Jewish people throughout the ages. Their return to Palestine and the establishment of the State of Israel seems to only be a temporary phase”
My father’s family consists of numerous people who are sincere believers in such antisemitic canard, no doubt influenced by their khalifa holding such beliefs.
Let it be clear that there is no objective and clear evidence of such plans ever existing in the first place. It is easy to rest in a bubble and simply consume content which feeds your bias, but when there is a lack of objective studies into ideas such as Jewish people wanting to take over the world, this is probably a good indication that your belief is nothing more than a conspiracy theory founded in antisemitism.
As my friend Reason on Faith eloquently puts it,
Just as Jewish people dominate in the sciences, this small community has an indisputably strong influence with both political parties in the United States—the most powerful country in the world. There is nothing wrong with asking why and how this came to be. To analyze such an impressive feat of influence is not bigotry nor is it anti-semitic. Doubling down on long since discredited conspiracy theories, however, is what is actually noteworthy.
Conversation With My Father
O you who have believed, do not take your [family] as allies if they have preferred disbelief over belief. And whoever does so among you – then it is those who are the wrongdoers (9:23)
My father is a firm believer that everything which has happened to us is due to the grace of Nizam-e-Jamaat (the overall organization of the Ahmadiyya community). He believes, as all Ahmadis do, that this is a divine institution which has been sent and is regulated by god, and that its true followers will lead the path to salvation for the rest of the world.
As Mirza Tahir Ahmad says: “The day of Islam’s propagation and victory and the dominance of Ahmadiyyat will come. This is indeed that final destiny which will definitely take over and that indeed will be the New World Order”.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, that my father is wary of anyone who criticizes this divine scheme. I distinctly remember him telling me (paraphrased):
Every individual who has ever criticized the Nizam-e-Jamaat, may they have complained about the governance or the administration or the execution, has ultimately failed in life. Allah does not shower his blessings on those who speak ill of Ahmadiyyat.
My father at the time would have obviously not known that his own son would end up leaving Islam and become a vocal ex-Muslim, critiquing Islam and Ahmaddiyat while reaching an international audience.
I wonder if my father still holds onto his belief that anyone who criticizes the Jamaat will ultimately be doomed in this life and the hereafter, and if so, does he believe that I am now destined for failure?
This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion (5:3)
Islam is a religion which has been around for 1,400 years, currently numbering a 1.8 billion following (which is roughly 25% of the world’s population). Countless scholars have spent years of their lives studying Islam, may it be in favour of it or against it.
Within the small real estate I have available on this article, I don’t intend in any way to debunk every single claim of Islam. However, I do hope to shed light on some of its lesser-known (or more likely simply ignored) positions and stances so that you can be honest with yourself and decide whether you want to continuously follow this religion with your current lack of knowledge, or whether you will find it in yourself to take the first step in the journey of challenging your indoctrination and finding the truth which matters to you.
What is True Islam?
From average Muslims to renowned historical scholars and exegetes, almost everyone seems to have misinterpreted the [Quran] in one way or another. How could this happen? If any other book was this widely misunderstood or misinterpreted, what would you think of the author? You might think he is either exceedingly inarticulate or incompetent (Ali Rizvi).
I quoted a verse in the Quran which states that Allah has “perfected for you your religion”. I have a very simple rhetorical question to ask:
Can you identify which sect of Islam is practicing its true, perfect teachings?
The answer, obviously, is whichever sect you belong to. Now, there are numerous sects of Islam, each one believing that they have a monopoly on the correct interpretation of Islam:
This is not unique to Islam: Judaism, Christianity, and other major world religions are susceptible to the same fallacy, whereby an initial individual body of work (e.g. Torah, Bible) has led to multiple segments in their followings, each with their own features.
Ali Rizvi puts it perfectly:
The obvious issue here is, there is never any consensus on who the “real” Muslims are. To a moderate Muslim in the West, the Islamic State aren’t true Muslims. To the Islamic State, Shias aren’t true Muslims. To both the Shias and the Sunnis, Ahmadis—a sect that believes a prophet or messiah actually came after Muhammad—aren’t true Muslims. And to the Ahmadis, the Islamic State aren’t true Muslim.
A very hot topic since 9/11 has been around the associations between terrorism rooted in the Middle East and Islam.
Most Muslims would immediately claim that groups such as ISIS are not true Muslims – they will say that those are simply bad people who are doing horrible acts which have absolutely nothing to do with Islam, the religion of peace.
Consider that the leader of ISIS has a PhD in Islamic Studies and is more learned than the majority of Imams who deliver your Friday sermons. Consider that Islam was heavily rooted in warfare during its expansion. Consider that the Quran contains verses such as “And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter… and fight them until fitnah is no more, and religion is for Allah” (2:191) and “When the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war” (9:5).
To claim that ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups have nothing to do with Islam is ignorance at best. Any person who has read through the Quran should not be surprised that a group such as ISIS exists in the first place to begin with – the verses of the Quran are ripe with violence, terror, domination, and control.
Of course, the immediate retort is that these verses are out of context (more on this later). Why is it that these countless verses of violence are always out of context, but verses where it talks about charity don’t require any additional context to comprehend? This excuse sets ground for cherry-picking, whereby any group can select any partition of the book they choose to follow. And within this framework, it is equally as valid to kill people in the name of Allah as it is to donate charity to the poor in the name of Allah.
I am not saying that it is right to kill people, but there is no objective criteria to determining the validity of someone’s interpretation of Islam, resulting in parity in which all interpretations are valid, regardless of their innate morality, and that in itself is what is problematic.
Quoting Ali Rizvi again:
The fear of simply calling a spade a spade is seemingly ubiquitous, and almost exclusively happens with the case of religion. Consider for a moment how strange this is: a man yells Allahu Akbar and commits a terrible action, like a beheading. He claims his act was justified in the eyes of God. You go online and look up all of the passages he is quoting, as well as related ones. The words match his actions exactly. He has even articulated his intentions clearly and told everyone why he did it. But everywhere you turn, people are saying, no, it’s got to be something else. Even if you show them the exact words the man quoted, they find a way to tell you it’s unrelated. Some may even call you a racist or bigot simply for bringing the issue up.
I imagine this section to be fairly upsetting to my Muslim family, although I would pen this down to their lack of knowledge of the Quran more than anything else: as I stated above, it should come as no surprise how a literal interpretation of the Quran (which is a valid way of interpreting a text, given we interpret all other texts literally) can lead to Islamic terrorism.
I just want to leave you with a last food for thought:
Your son who drinks on the weekend, takes drugs, has premarital sex, does not pray, and does not read the Quran is still Muslim, but the guys who kill and do everything else in the name of Allah, while following the Quran’s numerous violent instructions literally with the hope of realizing the following verse: “So let those fight in the cause of Allah who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter. And he who fights in the cause of Allah and is killed or achieves victory – We will bestow upon him a great reward” (4:74) are considered non-Muslims.
As Veedu says:
The Holy Quran
Whatever benefit comes to you, it is from Allah, and whatever misfortune befalls you, it is from yourself (4:79)
As I mentioned above, I have previously written extensively about the Quran, covering its numerous problematic verses ranging from Allah’s obsession with destroying disbelievers to Allah’s incorrect understanding of history to the unscientific claims to the blatant misogyny. You can read more here: Is the Quran from God? An Assessment of the Divinity in the Quran.
When I initially brought up these verses with my father, his immediate reaction was: “You’re taking them out of context!”, without really paying attention to the numerous inconsistencies. Instead of critically assessing the points which I had proposed (the way he’d do with anything not involving Islam), he defaulted to his inherited beliefs in self-defense: there is no way the Quran could be wrong.
Let’s play a little game: read through my analysis of the Quran and count a point for every time in which you resort to one of the following excuses (taken from Ali Rizvi). You win if you get 35 points since I count 35 verses cited in my article.
- Misinterpretation: If the translation was correct, it was being “misinterpreted”—but there was no explanation as to what the correct interpretation was.
- Out of Context: If the interpretation was plausible, it was “specific to that time” or simply “out of context”—again, with no explanation as to the correct context.
- Metaphorical: If it was all-out false or wrong, it was because it was “metaphor,” and I was “taking it too literally”; indeed, it seemed as if the more questions I asked, the more “metaphorical” the Quran got—anything in the text that had been proven false over the centuries was deemed a “metaphor.”
- Not True Muslims: If I pointed out that many of the Saudis, Egyptians, and other Arabic-speaking nations also interpreted the book in the way I was describing, I was promptly reminded that the Saudis had been bought by America and Israel a long time ago, and remember, those Egyptians even had a treaty with the Jews.
Of course, there is nothing that I can say to change your mind about the Quran if you have to resort to such excuses for every single problematic verse: I am in no position to absolutely claim that those verses were not metaphorical all along.
However, I am a rational and logical person, and I can only give the Quran so much benefit of the doubt before realizing that no divine being would reveal a book which hinges so heavily on nuanced interpretation, and that its verses which literally talk about killing people (2:191) actually mean to love people, and its verses about eternal hell (72:23) are actually about eternal heaven, and its verses about big breasted virgins in heaven (78:33) are actually about the grandeur of god’s love: no one would stand for such folly in the secular world.
To close off this section, here is an interesting skit on how people react to the various good verses, as well as the problematic ones, from the Quran:
Faith, in contrast, begins with a definitive conclusion believed to be correct—such as “Jesus is the son of God” or “Muhammad is Allah’s messenger”—and then works backward, cherry picking pieces of evidence (or perceived evidence) in an attempt to support it. This preconceived conclusion is most often accepted on the authority of men who died over a thousand years ago, or the books they left behind. In essence, science poses questions before attempting to provide answers, whereas faith provides answers that it deems unquestionable (Ali Rizvi).
I speak to some of the concerns which I had about Muhammad’s treatment in the Quran in my article, including how god permits him unlimited wives, god threatens his wives directly, god has to step in to tell Muhammad’s guests to leave his house, and how god tells Muhammad that he can have sex with his female slaves (war captives).
I also talk about his marriage with Zaynab, who was his adopted son’s ex-wife, as well as his marriage with Safiyya, a young 18 year old girl with whom he had sex on the same day that he killed her father and husband.
Does Muhammad really stand the test of time as a role model for eternity?
When taking a deeper look at his actions, we see Muhammad engaging in acts of religious intolerance which no one should ever exert, least of all a man who claims to be from god. When Muhammad returned to Mecca from Medina, his first priority was to destroy the idols in Mecca. Regardless of what you think of idols or someone else’s religion, you would think that a prophet of god would take a kinder and more compassionate approach to reclaiming the Kaaba instead of resorting to such violent extremes.
Muhammad has also stoned adulterers to death, which is often attributed to him simply following the Jewish law. It’s in situations like these where it brings to question: why did god wait for people to be stoned to death before revealing that flogging is the right punishment for adultery (which in itself is problematic)? Why didn’t Muhammad see something wrong with stoning people and tell god that he won’t follow such a barbaric practice?
The thing is, it’s easy for you to sit there in the comfort of your life and believe that Muhammad is the most perfect human being to have ever graced the Earth when you are not being stoned to death by him.
Moving away from his actions, let us look at some of Muhammad’s lesser known sayings, yet still Sahih (authentic) Hadiths. I will reference a few of them below, which I hope will encourage you to study Hadiths in more detail – it should become clear to you pretty quickly how Muhammad does not sound like someone who’s had divine guidance:
- Muhammad says that the features of a child are contingent on whether the man or the woman ejaculates first (Sahih al Bukhari 3329)
- Muhammad says that a newborn child will be male if the man’s discharge prevails over the woman’s, and that the child will be female if the woman’s discharge prevails over the man’s (Sahih Muslim 315)
- Muhammad says that a nation with a women as a ruler will never succeed (Sahih al-Bukhari 7099)
- Muhammad says that angels will curse a wife who refuses to sleep with her husband (Sahih al-Bukhari 3237)
- Muhammad says that a woman cannot voluntarily fast (Nawafil) without the permission of her husband (Sahih al-Bukhari 5195)
- Muhammad says that the 7 deadly sins of Islam include practicing sorcery, running away from the battlefield, and using interest (Sahih al-Bukhari 2766)
- Muhammad says that keeping a pet dog will deduct two Qirat from your good deeds per day (Sahih al-Bukhari 5480). Qirat is a measurement of your deeds in Islam.
- Muhammad says that Allah loves sneezing but dislikes yawning. Also, yawning is actually from Satan (Sahih al-Bukhari 6226)
- Muhammad says not to beat your wife like how you beat your slave because you might want to have sex with her later (Sahih al-Bukhari 4942)
- Muhammad says to cut off the hand of the thief who steals an egg or rope (Sahih al-Bukhari 6799)
- Muhammad says that he has been ordered to fight until everyone believes in Allah (Sahih al-Bukhari 392)
- Muhammad says that he will expel the Jews and Christians from Arabia (Sahih Muslim 1767)
- Muhammad says that children cry because Satan pricks them (Sahih Muslim 2367)
- Muhammad says that angels do not enter homes with pictures (Sahih al-Bukhari 5957)
You can read countless more Hadiths here, to get a better sense of what type of person Muhammad really was based off his attributed sayings.
Now, you might say that Muhammad has great Hadiths such as “Love for one’s Homeland is part of your Faith” which counter the more questionable ones. Did you know that that Hadith was actually fabricated?
What does it say about Muhammad that we can accurately pinpoint him perpetuating the violent verses in the Quran, talking about how he’ll drive the Jews and Christians away from Arabia, but we have trouble attributing pacifist quotes to him?
Does Muhammad sound like a prophet of god to you? Do his sayings and actions reflect the standard which we’d expect from an eternal role model?
Day in, day out, you pray for Muhammad in heaven. It is actually required of you to say “peace and blessings upon him” every time his name is mentioned, and he also plays a big role in the Salat, where 1.8 billion Muslims recite at minimum 11 times daily:
My God, honor Muhammad and Muhammad’s family as you honored Abraham and Abraham’s family; surely, you are praiseworthy, the Great.
My God, bless Muhammad and Muhammad’s family as you blessed Abraham and Abraham’s family; surely, you are praiseworthy, the Great.
Women In Islam
Indeed, those who do not believe in the Hereafter name the angels female names (53:27)
If I had to give one reason for why I have left Islam and have absolutely no doubt that it’s man-made (and by that, I mean it in the most literal sense that it was by males), it has to do with the treatment of women in Islam.
As with the previous sections, I will defer to the analysis which I had done about women in the Quran in my article, where I talk about the asymmetric treatment of women, including how men are given permission to beat them, two female witnesses are required for one male witness since women can err in memory, women receive half the inheritance as men, and that angels could not possibly be women.
When you consider that the Quran never talks to women directly, despite have multiple verses talking to men directly (e.g. 2:187, 2:221, 2:223, 4:3, 4:22, 4:34, 4:43), this should be cause for concern.
What divine being would create man and woman, and choose to speak directly to one half of the population, and instead defer to the men to communicate to women? Isn’t the Quran supposed to be the one truly infallible word of god? You would think a divine being to treat his creations equally instead of playing favourites.
One of the verses which I cite in my article is:
Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters), until they believe: A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allures you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe (2:221)
This is just one of the cases in which Allah talks directly to men, telling them whom they can marry, but also tells men whom their daughters can marry.
Couldn’t Allah just talk directly to women? Are they not deserving of being addressed?
Here’s a lengthy, but noteworthy, Sahih Hadith in which Muhammad discusses the deficiency of a woman in her faith and her intelligence:
Once Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) of `Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, “O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women).” They asked, “Why is it so, O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) ?” He replied, “You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.” The women asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?” He said, “Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?” They replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?” The women replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her religion.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 304)
The following anecdotes are largely my personal observations, but I do believe they tap into just how much force and constraint Islam imposes on women:
- I’ve recounted this story before but this was probably one of the first times when I simply could not agree with religion, despite still being a firm believer at the time. I was at a mosque event when a woman had just finished reciting a poem, and the Imam said that from that day onward, we are not to hear women speak at any events containing a male audience. Women were now only allowed to give speeches or sing poems to each other. When I asked the Imam about this ruling, he told me that men can be attracted to women’s voices, and since mosque events are meant for spiritual rejuvenation, we cannot allow men to be distracted. Of course, this concept of attraction did not apply to the women: they were broadcasted audio and video from the men’s side but there was no fear that a woman could be attracted to a man’s figure or voice. As should be obvious to any reader, attraction goes both ways: a man is just as easily attracted to a woman as the other way around. Humans are sexual beings and it is part of our DNA to be attracted. While this would have been a perfect opportunity for Islam to educate and teach consent and restraint (i.e. solving the root cause), it instead defaults to just keeping women away from men (i.e. solving the symptom).
- I had brought up the verse about the Quran requesting two women witnesses for one male witness (2:282) in a discussion, and was curious to see what my aunt and female cousin thought. While I was hoping to engage in a constructive conversation, it quickly derailed to both of them internalizing such an order, citing that “men have better memory than women”, and that “men and women are built differently to achieve different purposes”, and that “women are more emotional – once you get married, you’ll understand. These things don’t make sense to you because you’re young”. It’s one thing to see men being sexist but it’s another to see women internalize misogyny to this degree – I obviously can’t fault them since they were indoctrinated to believe that women are indeed different than men (in all ways which are convenient for that power dynamic to exist in the first place). I asked my aunt to give me a set of peer-reviewed research papers indicating clearly that women innately contain less mental capabilities than men but she has yet to follow-up. In the meantime, the rest of you can consult contemporary research which shows that women actually have better memories than men.
- I was playing with my 5 year old niece, and at some point, her top was raised up and a bit of her stomach showed. She quickly became upset and said “I must keep purdah!” and dragged her top down. I felt so bad to see that a child this young and innocent was already trained to be ashamed of her body and to think that she should always be covered up fully. I expect that her parents will continue to dress her this way as she gets older, and eventually she’ll be an adult who firmly believes that Allah will punish her if she does not wear the hijab. It’s in times like these that I sincerely do believe that the world would have been better if Islam had never existed: it’s now a religion which has permeated the lives of billions of women who will grow up suffering under its rulings, whether they are aware that they are actually being negatively impacted, or whether they have simply internalized it like my aunt and cousin to think it’s natural.
Moving away from my personal stories, a last point I’d like to touch on is that, for all the obsession in the Quran with whom you can have sex with (23:6) and with whom you cannot have sex with (17:32) and when you can have sex with them (2:187) and when you cannot have sex with them (2:222), it fails to mention rape. I will quote another excerpt from Ali Rizvi’s book:
Rape doesn’t exist in the Quran.
The concept of sex without consent isn’t even acknowledged as an entity. There isn’t even a word for “rape.” The word used for a sex crime is zinaa, defined as “unlawful sexual intercourse.” According to the Quran, there are only two types of unlawful sexual intercourse:
- fornication (premarital sex)
- adultery (extramarital sex)
Consent is simply not a factor.
This only makes sense in a book written from the point of view of men. The concept of consent was much more important to women, for obvious reasons, and sex crimes violating consent—that is, rape—are simply not acknowledged.
Back then, the male point of view was primarily concerned with establishing lineage and paternity. Men wanted to ensure that their children were indeed their own, and their heirs were genuine. Consent doesn’t interfere with this. But fornication and adultery do. This is also one of the main reasons men are allowed to have up to four wives (verse 4:3), while women can only have one husband.
This is really one of the most glaring points of the Quran: a true divine being would know that matters such as consent far outweigh fornication and adultery, which are sexual acts performed between two consenting adults. Instead of educating men that women are people and deserving of respect and fair treatment, Islam focuses on describing a punishment of 100 lashes (24:3) for those involved in consensual sex.
Does the omission of rape seem like an intentional choice from the god who was brilliant enough to conjure the big bang 14 billion years ago and engineered a species so complex that it contains 86 billion neurons?
Or does this mirror the way a male trader in 7th century Arabia would have seen the world?
I’ll end off this section with a skit as well. I hope you can appreciate how ridiculous the wife-beating verse (4:34) combined with the hedging of using a feather/toothbrush sounds:
Have I Misunderstood Islam?
Let not the believers take the disbelievers for friends, rather than the believers — for whoso does that belongs not to God in anything — unless you have a fear of [the disbelievers]. God warns you that You beware of Him, and unto God is the homecoming (3:28)
At this point, you must all be thinking: how could I possibly reject Islam?
The signs are so clear: there is absolutely no doubt that Islam is from god, and that Muhammad is his prophet.
You will probably want to diagnose me, figure out where I went wrong: was it the friends which I had? Was it because I spent too much time on the internet? Was it because I did not go to the mosque enough? Was it because I did not listen to Friday sermons?
Let’s briefly discuss a hypothetical situation: I undergo the exact same journey and research, and think critically about Islam to the exact same extent which I have actually done, but instead of rejecting my faith, I tell you all that I want to become a missionary who dedicates his life to Islam.
Would any of you raise a concern? Would any of you question my motive? Would any of you believe that I have not done enough to make such a decision? Of course not – on the contrary, you’d say Mashallah: how blessed am I to undertake such a decision after such a rigorous journey.
So why is it that when I reach a conclusion which does not align with your expectations, my journey is suddenly not sufficient?
This is a classic case of confirmation bias: you would only favour this information if it confirmed your preexisting notions, but anything which conflicts with your worldview has to be wrong.
I want you all to be honest with yourselves: have you ever critically thought about your beliefs?
Day in, day out, we take all other decisions seriously in our lives: we carefully consider whom we marry, which job to take, which city to live in, how we raise our children etc.
So why is religion the exception? Why is that we do not ask ourselves: “is this all true? or am I simply following what my parents taught me?”
How many of you can tell me that you have read through the entire Quran’s translation, especially if done during a dedicated period of time (e.g. Ramadhan)? Because that is exactly what I did, and that is exactly what led me to this conclusion.
I would love to know how you came across the countless verses describing hell in excruciating detail, the countless verses describing how god punishes disbelievers, the countless verses describing the big-breasted virgin Houris awaiting the believing men in heaven, and the countless repetitive narratives of the prophets plagiarized from the old Testament, and thought to yourself: “this is most definitely a book which only god could author”.
You read through the misogyny, the unscientific claims, the inaccurate history, the questionable morality, and you still have firm faith that the Quran is definitely from god.
I have spoken to multiple cousins and not a single one of them had read through the entire Quran. I actually had one cousin tell me: “The Quran is quite repetitive and I can’t read it for too long at a time”.
As Ali Rizvi says:
“An increasing number of Muslims today—especially in the West—know very little about their scripture or religion as it is.”
I was having a discussion online with someone who stated that misconceptions lead to rejection of faith. This was my response to him:
I’ll repeat this idea here: you were all children when you had “accepted” Islam. I am confident that I, as a 23 year old adult today, can think more critically than you could when you were 7 years old and believed Islam to be from god.
As I explained in the Introduction, indoctrination is when beliefs are taught such that they are not questioned. As children, we had no choice but to accept what our parents said because we trusted them. These beliefs soon change from ideas to truths, eventually preventing you from ever seeing otherwise.
The only way in which someone can go through such a revolutionary journey as mine is when the friction between your personal values and that of the religion becomes too apparent. You can read about some of my personal catalysts in my story. The biggest motivation for me to research Islam was actually my brother’s Nikah (religious wedding), since I knew that my family expected me to follow in his footsteps in marrying a Muslim girl and raising a Muslim family. I had realized that I knew very little about my religion and decided to learn more to not only become more knowledgeable but also more pious. Ironically, the more I learned about my faith, the further it distanced me away from it.
When I spoke to my parents about my journey and my decision, they had absolutely nothing to say in defense to all the issues and problems which I raised about Islam.
One of them actually told me that they felt uneasy with how much they agreed with me, while the other had to admit that they couldn’t answer my questions but they knew that I was wrong.
If you’re interested, this is the list of ~150 questions and concerns which I had about Islam and Ahmadiyyat: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lN0yizQO7W0OWnop1OiPiKy-5ZojxjGUYVHewdSG9eE/edit?usp=sharing
I was raised to think you could never truly understand the Quran without knowing the Arabic language inside out. This only applied, of course, if you didn’t agree with all of it. The moment you did, your Arabic—no matter how rudimentary—was deemed fine (Ali Rizvi)
A last point which I’d like to touch on in this section is: why are people expected to be experts in Islam and Arabic when they choose to leave their religion, but there is literally no barrier to entry for someone who wants to become Muslim?
It’s counter-intuitive: disbelieving requires no assumptions, while believing actually asks of you to suspend rationality in which you choose to place faith in the invisible.
So why are so many questions being asked of me, but no one dares asks a question to, for example, all those who converted into Islam for the sake of marriage (and there are a lot of such people in my family)?
Once again, this is just confirmation bias: as humans, you favour information which aligns with your viewpoint.
At the very least, I hope this illuminates your cognitive biases and you can realize that all of this has little to do with faith but more to do with how your brain was trained to think.
As always, Veedu has an excellent humourous video about the dichotomy between those who leave Islam and those who join it:
They say there’s a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow. And we’re all walking on that rainbow to get to that pot of gold. To be sure, we’re never going to reach it. But look at what we’re doing—we’re walking on the rainbow. What could be more amazing than that?
Today, we know, thanks to science, that every rainbow is a circle. It never ends. And that’s okay with me. I don’t want it to (Ali Rizvi).
So what now?
I imagine many of you will feel upset, sad, disappointed, hurt.
I imagine some of you may not want to associate yourselves, or your families, with me anymore.
It is your right to believe what you will of me, and I will respect that.
If it means anything, I am the exact same person I always was.
A lot of you had the opportunity to spend some time with me when you attended my brother’s wedding over the summer. I had already rejected Islam at that point, and I would have hoped that we still had pleasant interactions. And I hope that we can still have pleasant interactions in the future.
At the end of the day, I know that I am a good person, and I know that I will do good things in this world: the paths we take to achieve such ends, whether it involves belief or disbelief, is trivial in comparison to the impact which we have on others, because that is what truly matters.
I also want to use this space to to thank my parents for listening to me, for supporting me, and for accepting me for who I am.
I know that I am extremely fortunate to have such open-minded parents and I am truly grateful for that.
To my extended family, if any of you have read through this article and found that it has confirmed some of the questions/concerns/doubts which you had about Islam or Ahmadiyyat, I am more than happy to talk you through it. You can send me a message on my Contact page, which feeds directly to my personal email.
I want to end off this message with a brilliant speech from Mahershala Ali, who is actually an Oscar-winning Ahmadi Muslim. In his speech, he talks about how he accepted Islam while his mother was an ordain minister, and what this difference signifies to him:
But I tell you now, we put things to the side and I’m able to see her, she’s able to see me, we love each other and the love has grown, and that stuff is minutia, it’s not that important.