Why I am “Still” a Muslim ?

And why it is extremely hard to leave Islam …

Issam Madkouk / Getty Images — Muslims praying during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca

The 23rd of May was the last day of the Arabic month of “Ramadan”. In that month I “fasted” from dawn to sunset for 30 consecutive days, and yes, not even water is allowed !

Islam is a tough religion to follow and sometimes you ask yourself…

“This is very hard, why am I doing that ? why am I still a Muslim ?”

Whenever I ask this question I found myself sticking hard to Islam which made me so curious to find out why …

I am a very critical, skeptical, and analytical person, for me “nothing goes without questioning”, If I wasn’t born in Egypt probably I would have been an atheist by now. At the moment I live in a western country so there is zero peer-pressure on me and I can just do whatever I want without any consequences. What makes someone like me find it very hard to consider leaving Islam!

In this story, I will go through my thought process in a quest to find the answer

The beginnings

Most people are born and raised on a specific religion and they usually stick to it. However, this was not my case

As a skeptical boy at the age of 16, I started questioning why should I follow Islam and not any other religion, that motivated me to read the books of other religions while also getting more knowledgeable about Islam itself, which at the end, lead me to the conclusion that Islam is the best option. Islam compared to other religions seemed stronger and more comprehensive (Knowing Arabic helped here and maybe got me biased as well). In Islam, it is mandatory to believe in Jesus, Moses, and all previous Abrahamic religions, so it is like take one and get two for free

Since then, I had many ups and downs with Islam and now I am just an average practicing Muslim who barley does the basics

Islam in 1 minute

Islam is a religion, a system, and a way of life that is adhered to by 1.8 billion people from all over the world and growing rapidly. 50 countries are Muslim-majority countries mainly located in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Muslims speak more than 38 languages and have different ethnicities, cultures, and traditions.

The word “Islam” means “submission” in Arabic. Muslims believe there is only one God who created this world and prophet Muhammad is his messenger, they also believe that Islam is the final message from God to everyone, a final message which combines and supersedes all previous messages and religions. Muslims also believe in the afterlife in which people will be held accountable for all the shit they have done on earth. The book of Islam is called the Quran with only one version written in Arabic and translated to many other languages, the Quran is the core of Islam.

The basic pillars (minimal commitment) of Islam are

Source: Wikipedia

My thought process

In the next sections, I will go through my thought process and analysis of Islam, what do I gain or lose by leaving Islam, challenges, mysteries, and observations. Finally, I will answer the main question: “Why I am still a Muslim”

Islam is Hard !

Being a Muslim is very hard these days, especially if you live in a western country. Islam has a lot of restrictions and rules as well as daily commitments like prayers. Besides, you might also get discriminated against for being a Muslim

But is being “hard” a good enough reason — for me — to leave Islam ?

Actually not, most of the hard things we do in life are the most rewarding, think of “Diet”, “Learning a new language” or “Going to the gym” ! I have always been a proponent of the saying “no pain = no gain”

Islam is an extremely advanced religion

Some people think of Islam as primitive teachings from 1400+ years ago, however, in this section, you will be surprised by how advanced, forward-thinking and supernatural the book of Islam — the Quran — is, this is actually one of the things which makes Muslims have so much conviction in their religion

Meet “The Quran”

Below I am providing direct examples from the Quran about different topics

Islam encourages thinking and questioning: check here, here, here, here and here

Respects science and motivates knowledge-seeking: check here, here, here and here

Scientific and futuristic signs

The Quran, more than a thousand years ago, explained many recent scientific explorations we take now for granted, I will provide many examples below in addition to links to scientific articles

High altitudes & space exploration: check here, here and here

Expansion of the universe: check here, and here

Deep ocean waves: check here, and here

Details about embryology: check here, here and here

Mountain roots & earth movement: check here, here and here

Protective characteristics of the Sky: check here, and here

Complex animal societies: check here, here and here

This is just a small sample of many other similar verses, all of which are showing clear scientific signs, I personally believe there might be other signs that are yet to be discovered

Now suppose we assume that this book was written by a human being, why on earth would the writer talk about these advanced topics and how would it be that accurate in the 7th century !

Quran 41:53 in Arabic

“Soon will We show them our Signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. Is it not enough that thy Lord doth witness all things?” — Quran 41:53
(English translation by YUSUF ALI)

It makes me a better person

Earlier I referred to Islam as a “system” which offers a life-guidance system that you can follow and live by, indeed Islam is a very practical and complex system which touches all aspects of your life, below I will show how Islam affects one’s behavior in many different ways

Important Note: It is almost impossible to cover and apply all Islamic teachings, I personally struggle to cover everything I write in this story and I am always affected by my culture and personality

Good Manners

The prophet of Islam once said: “I was sent to perfect good character.”

We currently live in a world full of selfishness, individualism, and materialism. Islam, being a system that doesn’t change by time, and not controlled by evil individuals or systems, is still reminding us of how we can create a better world by adopting values and good manners

Like any other religion, Islam asks people not to kill, to steal, to lie and so forth, but what is special is how far Islam goes to promote good manners when dealing with other people, below is a short sample from the Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s teachings “Sunnah/Hadith”.

“The strong man is not one who is good at wrestling, but the strong man is one who controls himself in a fit of rage.” — Prophet Muhammad’s teaching

More from prophet Muhammad’s teaching: check here, here and here

“Hold to forgiveness; command what is right; But turn away from the ignorant.” — Quran

More from the Quran: check here, here, here and here

Health

Islam commands people to wake up early, eat less, do prayers (physical + mindfulness) and clean their body 5 times a day. Islam wants you to be grateful and to do daily gratitude sessions, also to be strong and avoid harmful stuff like alcohol and smoking

Environment

Islam is against over consumption in general, there are multiple chapters in the Quran which has “animal names” as a title and there is also a clear verse stating that the earth is spoiled by Humans’ deeds

The prophet of Islam had many teachings about how to deal with animals and the environment, find some below

“A woman got into Hell-Fire because of a cat whom she had tied, and thus it could not eat, and she did not let it free so that it could devour the vermin of the earth, until it died”. — Prophet Muhammad’s teaching

Also check here: here

Against Racism

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). “ — Quran

Quran: the verse above but in Arabic

“O people, your Lord is One, and your father is one: all of you are from Adam, and Adam was from the ground. The noblest of you in Allah’s sight is the most godfearing: Arab has no merit over non-Arab other than godfearingness. Have I given the message? — O Allah, be my witness. — At this, they said yes.” — Prophet Muhammad’s Farewell Sermon — 632 AD

“Verily Allah does not look to your faces and your wealth but He looks to your heart and to your deeds.” — Prophet Muhammad’s teaching

Patience

Check here and here

Motivation: Learning & leaving something behind

“When a man dies, his deeds come to an end, except for three: A continuous charity, knowledge by which people derive benefit, pious son who prays for him.” — Prophet Muhammad’s teaching

Also check here, here and here

Charity & helping those in need

“And they give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive,[Saying], “We feed you only for the countenance of Allah . We wish not from you reward or gratitude.” — Quran

Also check here

What do I gain by leaving Islam

Maybe losing some restrictions and commitments like: “praying every day 5 times”, “fasting for a whole month”, other restrictions such as not eating pork, not drinking …etc

Ok, let’s think about the commitments first, are they useless ? are there any benefits in them ?

Prayer: thinking about it, the Muslim prayer is a mix of a meditation-like experience and an exercise that you do 5 times a day, so I can’t say it is useless

Fasting: though this is one of the hardest things in Islam, one can easily learn about the many physical benefits of it, and in addition to the physical aspect, it also teaches you self-control and empathy. Fasting is indeed a trend these days in the west

Drinking & Pork: Islam is totally against pork and alcohol, when I was young I couldn’t understand why, however, over time, it became clear to me that both are more harm than good. Alcohol is extremely harmful to overall health and is a major cause of death in many countries either due to liver illness or car accidents. I lived in the UK for some time and I will never forget the scene of a drunk couple pushing each other on running cars, at such moments you understand that you are being protected by such hard restrictions. As for pork, there are also many disadvantages of consuming it compared to all other types of meat

Finally, as for discrimination, being Muslim or non-Muslim won’t make much difference, racist people these days have many other reasons to hate and discriminate

What do I lose by leaving Islam

Thinking about this point was very revealing to me, I found that I am benefiting from Islam in many different ways

Not feeling alone: Islam — like any other religion — gives you a feeling of support and acceptance, you believe that things do not happen randomly, you can talk to and ask for help from an ultimate source of power, this feeling — even without a tangible change in your life — is a big source of acceptance and mental stability

The system: Islam offers a life-guidance system that you can follow and live by, it pushes you to think, be healthy, be disciplined and to have good manners

For example, Islam requires you to do a long washing routine 5 times a day — before prayer, this came very handy during the Coronavirus

Answers to tough questions: by leaving Islam you lose all answers to most of the tough questions we people have, like “why I am here”, “who created the universe”, “what should I do with my life”, “what happens next” and “why life is not fair”. You might not like the answers you will get, but at least you will get answers that make sense together

By leaving Islam I will need to find alternate answers to all the above questions. So far, non-Islamic answers are not as solid — together — as in Islam, and sometimes they just don’t make any sense

The cause: with Islam comes default causes and call-to-actions, you are asked to care for and support other people, help the weak and feed the poor, fight injustice, and to bring a good family and leave something behind

The Answer

So, “Why I am still a Muslim” ?

As a believer, I fear, admire and love the creator of the universe, I know I will die someday and I expect to be questioned about my deeds and my faith and I would like to be ready for the day of judgement, and the life after it …

Aside from belief, you might have probably noticed by now that I am personally benefiting from having Islam as a system for my life, Islam guides me, helps me feel stable, helps me understand life and accept it as it is, you get the feeling that you are not alone …

Islam helps me be a better person, helps me stay “human” while living in today’s tough, materialistic, hyper-competitive life. The values of Islam — If adopted — would make the world a better place

I am not able to prove that Islam is not the truth. How will I refute those great advanced Quranic verses, how should I ignore those beautiful teachings and that detailed coherent complex system ? There are many things I still don’t understand and sometimes don’t agree with, but at the end, the whole thing is just very challenging, and as time goes, it makes you less arrogant, more curious, and more convicted

Letting go of Islam would leave a huge gap in my life that nothing else would fill — in my opinion, I won’t be happy and I won’t gain much in return

Why I wrote this story ?

Since 9/11 many people around the world have been exposed to a distorted version of Islam, I have also met many people who have a very shallow understanding of it. I wrote this article to share my own experience and knowledge with the hope of increasing understanding and respect between people, cultures, and religions. People like shortcuts, I hope my story would serve as a quick capsule for you to understand Islam before you judge it

I would like to dedicate this story to Professor Jeffrey Lang

One final thing

I am not an expert in Islam, I am not a preacher, and I have many other things to do in life, so please, don’t ask me questions about Islam, instead ask the experts who do that for living

“Don’t ask me those questions … ask China !”

Freelance Consultant — Data & Product. Writing about Data, Entrepreneurship and Life. https://karim.ouda.net

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