apostasy in Islam

A born Muslim who does not want to follow any religion

Salaam. I'm in a state where I'm a born Muslim, but thinks that I don't want to commit to Islam or a certain religion. What do you call this? And what should I do? I feel wrong, but somehow it is liberating to imagine if I were to bound by no religion. Does only believing the existence of God suffice?

I understand the desire to want to be part of a “larger” truth instead of restricting yourself to one religion. Unfortunately this does not work for the simple reason that God does not approve of it. As a Muslim, you have inherited the legacy of Islam and God accepts no religion other than Islam from you. The Quran says:

Whoever [among the Muslims] seeks other than Islam as a religion, it will not be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers.

How will God guide a people who disbelieved after having believed, and had witnessed that the Messenger is true, and the clear proofs had come to them? God does not guide the unjust people.

Those—their penalty is that upon them falls the curse of God, and of the angels, and of all mankind.

Remaining in it eternally, without their punishment being eased from them, and without being reprieved.

The Quran, verses 3:85-88.

From God’s perspective Islam is a truth that no Muslim has a right to deny. Breaking away from Islam means breaking away from the truth, and this is a sin that God does not forgive.

There is no higher moral law in our universe to justify your leaving Islam for the sake of believing in God without religion. If you believe in God, you must be willing to seek Him out and seek out His revelations and sincerely ask Him for guidance. You cannot just say that you believe in God and expect this to suffice you. God has plans for you and makes demands on you. You either humbly submit to this or you arrogantly think that you are above God’s wishes.

For more on understanding God’s perspective, please see my essay A Quranic Phenomenology of Atheism. I know that you do not wish to be an atheist, but the topics discussed in there are relevant.

How does one leave Islam?

In order to convert, there is the shahada, but what if some has left Islam, how do you leave Islam? I am not thinking to leave Islam but I was just wondering how can someone go about leaving Islam? Is there something you say?

There is no specific ritual for leaving Islam. Uttering anything that implies disbelief in God, the Hereafter, the angels, the Scriptures or the Prophets would imply leaving Islam if the person utters it solemnly, that is if the person really expresses disbelief in their heart.

Can you remain in contact with a relative who left Islam?

Salaam. my aunt left Islam. She says bad things about Islam and sometimes wants to challenge me academically but I don't have adequate knowledge so I ended up more doubtful. As my aunt she cares about me and she's nice to me. I had a lot of issues with my computer back then went I was writing my thesis and she bought me battery abroad when I couldn't find the model here. And when my salary wasn't out she bought me clothes. And now she gave me money. //1

She has helped me financially when I needed it the most. But I’m wondering can we accept gifts or money from people who leaves Islam? I didn’t give back her stuff or say no thank you partially because it’s very disrespectful in my culture and to not cause issues in the family as the family ties are strong here. But also because I needed at those times. I had to write my thesis etc . Should I give sadaqa the money and the gifts? //2

She has helped me financially when I needed it the most. But I’m wondering can we accept gifts or money from people who leaves Islam? I didn’t give back her stuff or say no thank you partially because it’s very disrespectful in my culture and to not cause issues in the family as the family ties are strong here. But also because I needed at those times. I had to write my thesis etc . Should I give sadaqa the money and the gifts? //2

Islam forbids entering into a relationship of wilāya with such a person, but it does not forbid maintaining a polite relationship with them or accepting help and gifts from them. To clarify this, here are the relevant verses from the Quran:

O you who believe! Do not ally yourselves (wilāya) with your parents and your siblings if they prefer disbelief to belief. Whoever of you allies himself with them—these are the wrongdoers. (Verse 9:23)

We have advised the human being to be good to his parents. But if they urge you to associate with Me something you have no knowledge of, do not obey them. To Me is your return; and I will inform you of what you used to do. (Verse 29:8)

1. O you who believe! Do not take My enemies and your enemies for supporters (wilāya), offering them affection, when they have disbelieved in what has come to you of the Truth. They have expelled the Messenger, and you, because you believed in God, your Lord. If you have mobilized to strive for My cause, seeking My approval, how can you secretly love them? I know what you conceal and what you reveal. Whoever among you does that has strayed from the right way.2. Whenever they encounter you, they treat you as enemies, and they stretch their hands and tongues against you with malice. They wish that you would disbelieve… 8. As for those who have not fought against you for your religion, nor expelled you from your homes, God does not prohibit you from dealing with them kindly and equitably. God loves the equitable.9. But God prohibits you from befriending (wilāya) those who fought against you over your religion, and expelled you from your homes, and aided in your expulsion. Whoever takes them for friends—these are the wrongdoers. (Verses 60:1-2 and 8-9)

The term wilāya has no exact equivalent in English. It means to make someone your friend, patron and protector. It involves physical and emotional dependence and submission toward the person for your social status, safety and protection. God forbids us from entering into such a relationship with someone who dislikes our religion and hopes to one day make us disbelievers like themselves. Your aunt appears to fit this description, therefore the Quran’s guidance on this matter is to not make them your patron and protector. But you can still maintain polite relations with them and accept their help and gifts. What is forbidden is becoming dependent on them and submitting to them, everything else is left to your own discretion.

The Quran guarantees religious freedom, so why don’t Muslim scholars believe in it?

I would be very thankful if you could answer me on my following question. In Quran is written: "There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing."

But also on other places is talked about punishing or killing people who do things like for example: stopping being Muslim, having sex before marriage, being gay and so on. With punishing I mean punishing on this world, and not when we die. If we have freedom to be Muslims or not, why there is no freedom of doing some things that are against religion but don't hurt other people. I am really confused and i hope you can clear this topic for me. Thank you in advance.

Regarding the issue of religious freedom, you are right that the Quran guarantees it. The scholars, however, had to also reconcile various hadith narrations in which the Prophet Muhammad PBUH is mentioned as putting limitations on religious freedom. Another case is that of Abu Bakr in the Riddah wars; when some Arabian tribes wanted to leave Islam and stop paying the zakat, Abu Bakr did not let them but fought them until they were one again part of the Islamic state.

Out of these historical anecdotes, the scholars tried to come up with an interpretation of the religious freedom mentioned in the Quran. The interpretation they came up with was that Islam should not be forced on others, but that a Muslim should not be allowed to leave Islam. From their position of power and authority, it seemed only natural that this should be the case. Islam is God’s chosen religion, so people should be prevented from leaving it for their own good if not for anyone else’s.

That way of thinking went unchallenged until the last century or so. The new reality that Muslims found themselves in (being in a position of weakness rather than strength) forced the scholars to re-examine their interpretation of the idea of religious freedom. In the 20th century there was also a new movement to take the Quran more seriously than before. In the past, the Quran was treated as just a piece of historical evidence that stood side-by-side with hadith. In the 20th century, various new thinkers (Mustafa Mahmud, Muhammad al-Ghazali, Sayyid Qutb, Said Nursi, Ahmad Moftizadeh) arose who rejected this way of thinking and considered the Quran’s teachings superior and more authoritative than hadith. And with this came a new interpretation of various issues within Islam.

Out of this atmosphere came people like Mahmud Shaltut (Grand Imam of Al-Azhar from 1958 to 1963) ruled that apostates are only punished if they try to fight the Muslims and plot against them, that mere apostasy is not punishable, and more recently Ali Gomaa (Grand Mufti of Egypt from 2003–2013), who also says that apostasy is not punishable in Islam unless the apostates try to make other Muslims leave Islam. While this is not perfect religious freedom and not perfect freedom of speech, it is an important step in the right direction. Many clerics have yet to update their thinking on this matter, but that might happen within the next 50 years.

Regarding the death penalty for things like adultery and homosexual sex, this too, like the issue of apostasy, went unchallenged until the 20th century. The Egyptian scholar Muhammad Abu Zahra, one of the greatest scholars of Islamic law in the 20th century, rejected execution of adulterers saying that the historical evidence could be interpreted in a different way. Abu Zahra is not a liberal modernist, he was one of the religious scholars (ulema), and his opinion is highly significant.

Ideally, there should be a constitutional law that all Muslims and non-Muslims follow (as in Malaysia, although the Malaysian system has serious issues). Islamic law would be something that all Muslims willingly choose to live under, and anyone who wants to leave Islam should have the right to do so, so that they stop being subject to Islamic law and will only be subject to constitutional law that Muslims and non-Muslims agree upon.

In summary, the things you mentioned (killing apostates, adulterers and homosexuals) are all issues that have already been solved by respected scholars. What remains is for the rest of the scholars and preachers to catch up.