If you live in a Muslim-majority country, or you’re in a position where your Muslim relatives have a lot of influence on you, don’t even think about defining yourself as something other than a Muslim. To explain, I will refer to a post in a fantastic blog that I stumbled upon recently. It’s by Sarah A., a former Muslim. Original post HERE.
One of the readers requested that I write about how Muslims feel about non-believers and how they are treated. We always hear about people who converted to Islam, but do not hear as much about the ones who left Islam (except for some extreme cases). This subject really varies and it depends on if we are talking about conservative Muslim countries or secular countries. Many people living in the U.S. and other western countries are a lot more open minded because they see so many diverse views and ideas. However, Muslims living in the middle east might see it as a big problem. I will write about my views in both cases, since I lived in the Middle East as well as the United States.
First off, let’s talk about the difference between a non-Muslim unbeliever and an apostate.
- A non-Muslim unbeliever (kafir) is someone who does not believe in Islam (typically referring to Christians & Jews).
- An apostate (murtad) is someone who used to be Muslim then decided to leave Islam.
I fall into the second category. I was born into Islam, lived as a “Muslim” until my mid-20′s, then decided that religion wasn’t for me.
What Muslims think of Non-Believers
Allah’s Apostle said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”
Sahih Bukhari Volume 9, Book 83, Number 17
Narrated Ikrima: Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn ‘Abbas, who said, “Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, ‘Don’t punish (anybody) with Allah’s Punishment.’ No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.’ ”Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 260
Why I Didn’t Come Out Publicly as an Atheist
When I first decided that I really did not believe in religion, I did a lot of thinking. I had to decide if I was going to keep it to myself or tell my family. My parents are moderate Muslims that believe the Quran is the word of god, but since they are not extremists, I don’t think they would try to enforce any punishment on me. However, they would definitely disown me and never speak to me again.
I had two options:
- I can deal with the fact that I will never have contact with my family again. This is something that my parents will never get over. It is not as simple as having a difference of opinion. It is something that they absolutely truly believe. Even after they disown me, they would be so depressed because, in their mind, I am going to be punished in “hell” for all of eternity…. They would also feel like they did something wrong in raising me and that it was their fault. My parents would just be miserable and extremely hurt.
- I can hide it from them to save the relationship with my family. I love my parents very much and we have a really good relationship. Since they do not live with me (and they are not in the U.S. most of the year), I can live my life without them bothering me too much. My husband knows my views on religion and supports me completely. If we just keep it a secret, it would help keep the peace and avoid any problems.
Needless to say, I decided to go with the second option. After all, I believe that this is the only life we get, and I do not want to spend it fighting with my family. I realize that my situation is a little easier than most and I think that it is sad that people around the world are being punished just for thinking for themselves.