Apostacy in Islam: Why people don’t come out as nonbelievers.

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

Generally speaking, I think that most Muslims feel like non-Muslims do not know any better. They feel that most of them just haven’t learned about Islam, therefore, they did not see the “light”. They believe that their fate is left up to “god” in the afterlife and that they will be sent to hell for eternity. For the most part, they let non-Muslims live their lives and do what they want without bothering them (unless it affects Muslims).
When it comes to apostasy, it is a different story and a very big deal in Islam. Even though the Quran is very vague as to what the punishment should be for apostates, the Hadith (Mohammad’s teachings) is very clear that they should be killed.

Narrated ‘Abdullah:

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.’

Although many Muslims in the Middle East might agree with this sentence, I don’t think that any of them would would carry it out themselves. However, if the country is ruled by Sharia law, apostates who come out publicly might be tried in court and sentenced to life in prison or death. In most cases, apostates will just keep their thoughts to themselves to avoid any problems. If their family finds out, they would keep it a secret from everyone else because something like that would cause great shame to their reputation. It is one of the biggest “crimes” anyone can commit in Islam.
Muslims in western countries might look at it differently. Since they already live with many people with different views, they would probably be more tolerant towards people who have their own beliefs (or dis-beliefs). However, if the apostates are from their own family, they would probably make them feel like outcasts, avoid any interactions with them and even disown them. Of course all this depends on how liberal or conservative the families are on the topic. Some consequences might be worse than others.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.



  1. Maybe, possibly, I don’t know…………………just a thought.

    I noticed, per your blog that a kafir, the Kufar, are apparently both “non-believing” and “non-Muslim” Per the Quranic definition they are people who know the truth but cover it up, purposely or unknowingly regardless of believe.

    I noticed you use the example per the Hadith, which I 100% reject (and which makes others believe that I am a disbeliever which is very far from the Truth). Within the “religion” of islam which I reject, there are the Hadiths, but if one followed only the Quran there would not be such actions.

    First, consider that in the Quran there is “No compulsion” in Deen, however in hadith we have a blatant disregard for God’s word. Any one that holds up a lie in comparison to the Quran, automatically has voided their understanding of the Quran as God’s word.

    Second, Consider your second definition. How does one “Use” to believe? Believe does not enter and leave. Maybe that person just doesn’t believe like everyone else and then comes out to say it, like I did with my Christian family and “muslim” (by bs culture) friends.

    I am drawn to your page, not as an Atheist, but as a believer in God with a hatred for religion that lights a fire in my soul. I think they are all institutions that are bad, which means that they hold grains of truth, but misrepresent it so greatly that they get power and prestige from people’s worries.

    I do not follow anything but God’s words and I am outgoing as far as the teaching and the exposing of lies.

    would you be an atheist today if people did not lie about God?

    Maybe it is not that you hate the idea of God, maybe it is that you have been lied to for so long that you doubt so greatly that the Truth is still there somewhere.

    I too have had this problem.

    reach me if you would like to discuss. I am all over the place.


    Yes, I have had this dialogue much before and I will not be offended and do not seek anything at all from the exchange, but I know many like you who turn to resentment for culture BS while disregarding any shred of Truth that may be present in lies.

    1. Wow, I haven’t checked this site in a while because I didn’t think too many people would actually read it. But your comment is encouraging me to keep going.

      If you read the first couple sentences, you can see this blog post is not my writing. But I generally agree with your commentary.

      I know there is no compulsion in the Qur’an, but at the same time, if you look at Muhammad’s history the verses got more bloodthirsty and idiotic over time, as his power grew. I think it’s possible that Muhammad started out divinely inspired to bring a message of hope and change to his people, but over time, his power got the best of him and he let his ego take over and made everything all about him. You can see similar behavior patterns in many starters of religion, all the way up to today.

      1. I hate how the comments work on wordpress. I just lost a long response!

  2. […] Apostacy in Islam: Why people don’t come out as nonbelievers. (truthinessoffaith.wordpress.com) […]

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