Here is a fascinating and illuminating exposition of the journey of a mind, as a young Muslim woman explores and examines Islam, and ultimately decides to leave it altogether. Her exercise of her freedom of conscience in this way has placed her life in perpetual danger, thanks to Islam’s death penalty for apostasy — an outrage to human rights that is greeted only with indifference by the world “human rights community.” “My Journey In and Out of Islam,” by Layla Murad at Desperately Seeking Paradise, December 28, 2013:
My name is Layla Murad. I left Islam in April 2013.
I’ve always been intellectually curious. My story is a long one. A lot of my infatuation with Islam was to do with my inquisitive nature… and of course… the internet.
I was brought up in a practising but liberal Muslim household. My parents are Pakistanis, both hailing from Muhajir families in Karachi. Even the most religious among the Muhajirs are often highly progressive and secular minded when it comes to politics and global affairs. My aunt in Pakistan, for example, who started wearing niqāb after the death of her paralysed daughter, has the same zeal for Farhat Hashmi (a popular female Wahhabi preacher) as she does for the secular, ethno-centric policies of the MQM.
Islam was not an obvious, nor a quietist force in my life. It was just there…I didn’t, nor did anyone else, think too much about it. My parents were the kind of people who would be willing to drop me to a nightclub and pick me up again. Yet, they attributed the good in life to the One God, prayed five times a day, fasted during the month of Ramadan, gave charity. I saw my dad make the Hajj. The Islam that had been passed on to me was the basics: the Five Pillars.
But this approach had always seemed bland. I wanted something more….
Islam is always superior to culture, no matter how much Muslims argue that Islam enriches culture. Islam acted as a deterrent to me immersing myself in my Indian roots. I always admired the Eastern traditions and their rich culture of dance and the arts. In Islam, at a textual level, enjoyment becomes limited. A woman dancing in front of men is forbidden, how can I accept this when I like to be the centre of attention at Asian weddings?!
Maybe I just don’t want to submit, they say.
No, I don’t want to submit to a religion that regards human culture as a shameful.
When someone does try to bring about a liberal interpretation, they are often accused of blasphemy and apostasy. This is not a new thing, and has manifested itself throughout the history of the Islamicate. The punishments for blasphemy, apostasy, fornication are worrying. The fact that many modern Muslims feel that denouncing these Quranic punishments is akin to apostasy itself and would make them look less ‘orthodox’, is even more worrying.
In the end, I came to the conclusion that Islam was just like any other religion, in the sense that it could be explained naturally.
All these interpretations were man-made.
Though science has been one of the main reasons why Muslims tend to leave the religion, my reasons for leaving were based more on a personal exploration of the way Islam is practiced. Indeed, I later learned that the so-called verses on embryology in the Quran and its verses on the ‘seven heavens’ are taken from Galenic and Ptolemaic natural philosophy. Islam’s textual incompatibility with modern science only strengthened my decent (or ascent?) from the religion.
11. A learning experience
Through my experience, I learnt that Islam’s mystical traditions, which are often romanticised, can be as problematic as more literalist interpretations….
There is much, much more. Read it all.