Thor Holt of the Write With Courage! podcast invited me on to talk about why apostates got this post censored from the Huffington Post, where it was originally published.
We are joined by Aynaz “Annie” Cyrus, an Iranian never-been-Muslim and activist for ex-Muslims.
Length: 5577 words
Read time: 25 minutes
About a year ago I came across an article on HuffPo that was a compilation of Ex-Muslims stating why they left Islam.
Taking their claims at face value, one thing immediately jumps out.
Most of them left Islam for emotional reasons. NOT rational.
I mean, seriously. You leave a religion because you can’t eat bacon?
Any ‘rational’ reasons for leaving the faith occur after the fact.
And even if they did have quote-unquote rational reasons, many of these were based on misunderstanding the religion.
Still, I don’t interact with Ex-Muslims on any significant level so I never had the opportunity to test my thesis. Until now.
As Destiny would have it, I met a Muslim who was an Ex-Ex-Muslim.
Let’s call her ‘A.’ [Insert the usual schpiel about protecting A’s identity.]
A was an active member of the Council of Ex-Muslims forum and an IRC chatroom for Ex-Muslims for over 3 years.
Eventually, she re-accepted Islam.
She agreed to an email interview which we conducted over several weeks.
In her answers, we will find much of ourselves and our communities.
It is my hope that by telling us about her journey, A will teach us how to deal with Ex-Muslims and doubting Muslims in a way that brings them back into the fold.
Because after all, as much as we hate disbelief we do want the best for all humanity – to die as Muslims and be granted entry into Paradise.
Non-Muslims who are reading this will notice many non-English terms.
I have added explanatory notes to them.
My comments are denoted by “(N:__________)”.
If I have missed any, or you require a clarification, please leave a question in the comments.
I left the interview in its long form so as to preserve the narrative.
Muslims reading this will likely disagree with many of A’s opinions.
I won’t comment on them because correcting errors in understanding is not the point of this article.
Fair warning – you are in for a long read.
N: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? (Your childhood, your background as a Muslim, your community etc.)
A: I grew up in a traditional Pakistani family in London. we have a pretty large Asian community here so I’ve always felt close to Islam and my culture.
N: What was your religious background growing up? Are your family religious?
A: My family members are all practising but to different extents. Dad doesn’t pray regularly (apart from Jumuah, Janazah, Taraweeh etc.) (N: she is referring to Friday mass, funeral prayers, and special night prayers during Ramadan) but knows quite a bit about religion. My mother prays five times a day but is fairly liberal. I also have Imams (N: religious leaders) and niqabis in my family. (N: niqab is the face veil that many Muslim women wear as an act of worship).
I’m pretty close to my cousins. Some are non-hijabis like me; others are hijabis. (N: hijab is the veil that Muslim women are religiously obligated to wear while outside the home). My family and community have kept me in touch with Islam for most of my life.
N: Were you raised to be religious? To what extent?
A: I differentiate between being religious and practising. In the UK if you’re ‘religious’ you’re probably sectarian, arrogant, and have shitty political views. I wouldn’t call these people religious (N – i.e. in the true sense of the word.)
I grew up in a practising environment but nothing was ever forced. My uncle made it clear from an early age that prayer was obligatory on every Muslim – no matter what type of Muslim you are. But religion was never forced e.g. never experienced being pressured into wearing hijab (but I know plenty who were).
N: It’s interesting you make that distinction. I understand what you mean by the first two. What do you mean by ‘political views’?
A: One way or another they tend to be very reactionary and into identity politics.
Salafi Jihadists (SJ) go on about the shedding of Muslim blood, then back group(s) who are responsible for a lot of that bloodshed.
Your typical mainstream religious person will go on about Aafia Siddiqui – the woman imprisoned and tortured by the Americans – but won’t talk about how Muslims (Pakistani security forces) are the ones who handed her over. Nor will they ever talk about the hundreds of Muslim women (are they worth any less than Aafia?) jailed in Pakistan for ‘adultery’ aka rape. Or the ones who are victims of honour killing. Basically, if someone else does it, it’s bad. If we do it, we turn a blind eye.
And generally, the whole idea that the Americans, British, Russians etc. oppress us because we’re Muslim is ridiculous. They’ve done the same to South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. And if they really had a problem with your beard and you praying five times a day, would they be best pals with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)?
Another example is the Uighur Muslims in China. The restrictions on fasting etc. have nothing to do with their faith and everything to do with their race. Other Muslims in China like the Hui don’t face as many restrictions but the “One Ummah” (N: Ummah refers to the global Muslim community) crew would like you to believe it’s all about religion. Same goes for Palestinians – very little admiration for Christian, or even atheist, Palestinians who fight the occupation.
Don’t even get me started on their economic views. There is very little difference between them and secular liberals in the West when it comes to capitalism. Pathetic.
N: How would you classify your political views? Did your political views lead you to identify with any specific group or ideology of Muslims?
A: My political views are pretty mixed. Some of my family are fans of Saddam and Ghaddafi. Others are Ikhwani (N: Muslim Brotherhood). That, and my own experiences ranging from being SJ to turning agnostic shaped my views.
I know a lot of Muslims who think in in terms of a secular-vs-Islamic binary. The latter referring not to a government made up of orthodox Muslims but Muslims with reactionary views i.e. ‘Islamists’. ‘Islamists’ are good at telling you what they oppose but are rubbish at telling you what they are for. They make better opposition than they do rulers.
The exception being Erdogan, even though his economic policies have been a mixed bag – liberalisation, which I’m against, benefited the people and will for a limited time. However, his reaction to mining disasters and labour laws was pretty crap.
I don’t believe the state should be separated from religion. I think religion should play a limited positive role where applicable. Want to put up billboards encouraging recycling or looking after the environment with a hadith quoted? Great. Want to compare women to lollipops? Enjoy your cell.
This is why I’m a big fan of the FLN (the National Liberation Front) in Algeria (pre 90s*) they weren’t ‘Islamist’ but Islam played a central role in their resistance to the French. They’re not secular like Ben Ali who banned the hijab, nor are they like the Saudis or Iranians enforcing hijab. Ironically Ben Ali now lives in KSA, land of the niqabis – a hypocrite, as are the ones sheltering him. Anyway, back to Algeria and my views. So, it’s a state where your religious freedoms aren’t restricted but you aren’t allowed to curb anyone’s freedom using religious rhetoric. Islam is the state religion and anything deemed blasphemous is banned but you don’t have beardos yelling takbir (N: ‘Allahu Akbar’) in parliament. But the ruling party is made up of those who identify as being orthodox (not necessarily practising) Muslims – without any restrictions on non-Muslims wanting to hold government positions. After all, what does one’s aqeedah (N: creed) have to do with how good or bad they govern?
* I thought I’d make that clear as I’m sure someone will mention the civil war, mass torture, and corruption.
N: So you’re a mix of Socialism, Secularism, political Islam, and SJ (the Jihadi part, not the Salafi part). Does that sound about right?
A: I wouldn’t say a mix but being exposed to all of them I know their pros and cons, and why people support a particular -ism. Have they all had an influence on me? Yes, definitely.
N: Did you face any ‘oppression’ as a woman born and raised in an Indo-Pak community?
A: Not really. I was given more freedom than most Asian girls. Many have to stop playing sports when they reach a certain age – usually puberty – but my parents were okay with me continuing. I basically grew up a tomboy. Watching football and boxing with my dad, fixing cars on the weekend etc.
N: Ok so now we’ve got an idea of your upbringing, tell us about how you ended up becoming agnostic.
A: It wasn’t something that happened all of a sudden; it was gradual. That’s why I’m sometimes harsh towards other Muslims. I see them heading down the path I was on over a decade ago and it leads to SJ or leaving Islam. Sometimes both.
Being the person I am I tend to see things from a political perspective. Whenever a year or a date is mentioned I remember it by the political events of that time. Not by birthdays, anniversaries or holidays. 9/11 happened the week I started high school so you can blame it on that.
So, in the summer of 2006, I had just finished my GCSEs and was enjoying my summer holiday, the war between Hezbollah and Israel kicks off. This is the first time that an Arab power, since 1973, has given Israel a bloody nose; not an outright victory but enough to scare their pants off. I’ve always been into politics but this was something else. Seeing Galloway give sky news a good spanking, and the fiery speeches by Hassan Nasrallah left me feeling more revolutionary than ever before. I attended an anti-Israel/pro-Palestine march carrying a Hezbollah flag and ignored the cops who told me to put it away (the EU consider them to be a ‘terrorist’ organization).
Over the course of the next two years, my politics became more radical and I became more religious. By 2008 the war in Iraq has taken an ugly turn for the Americans. At this point, I’m basically a full-blown SJ. Uploading propaganda videos, favouring their nasheeds (religious music) etc.
Not long after, I found myself takfir-ing (N: anathematizing) Shias, Hezbollah – a group I once loved – and generally any Muslim that I didn’t feel was politically active enough (I felt like they were traitors). Missing Fajr (N: dawn prayers) but discussing the ramifications of sanctions on Iraq became quite common. At this point, I realised that, for me, religion was secondary – a justification for something if necessary. Politics was the key. I would say things like “I don’t believe in angels but I support so-and-so SJ group”. I was no longer praying daily either.
When I realised what I had become, the little iman (N: faith) I had vanished. I was still very much a Muslim, culturally speaking. I still referred to the Prophet saws as ‘the Prophet’ but belief in Allah was non-existent. I was agnostic.
N: Growing up in an Indo-Pak community, with religiously-learned people in your family, I’m sure you would have had proper religious instruction as a child. Why did you go to such an extreme in your political views? Or do you not consider those views extreme in the first place?
A: Some of my family members fought the Soviets but we never really discuss it in our family. We talk about politics a lot but not that war and its affect on our family. I thought it cool to tell SJ how some of my family fought the Soviets but I never knew how much they hated modern day SJ.
I went to an extreme all on my own. Had I discussed it with family I probably wouldn’t have gone so far..
I remember asking one of them what he thought of groups like Al Qaeda around 2012 – whilst I was agnostic. I was surprised to hear him chastise them for distorting Islam and causing havoc. Only then did I realise “hey, maybe the religious folk who criticise them aren’t simply palace scholars”. However, by that point, I was too far gone. I was also around this time I gained an appreciation for Nasserism, Baathism, and other left wing groups in the Muslim World. They were secular but not liberal, and certainly not pawns of the West.
When I eventually returned to Islam I saw the negatives of the -isms I mentioned and how some of the criticism from orthodox Muslims is valid. I finally came to the realisation that traditional orthodoxy is the only way forward.
So to sum up, I went to an extreme on my own. Had I discussed it with family, specifically my those who were not only religious but well-versed in politics, I probably wouldn’t have gone so far in my views. Instead I went with assumptions, generalisations, and basically, let myself be brainwashed.
N: Tell about your time as an agnostic. What was your life like? Did you seek out other Ex-Muslims?
A: Life was more or less the same, didn’t actively go out to sin but it did increase. I began smoking pot as a Muslim but now had nothing to feel guilty about so I smoked it almost daily. I was at university at the time so when I wasn’t studying I was getting high in my bedroom. I was a member of an ex-Muslim forum. I joined as a questioning Muslim, left the forum, then returned as an agnostic.
I often found myself arguing with people on there. Ironically some had never been Muslim and even if they had, either never grew up amongst Muslims or weren’t very practising. What a lot of the younger ones had in common was s****y parents and their behaviour was attributed to the religion. Even now I think, “if I had parents like that I would hate religion too”. It’s here I got to know some of the most amazing people I have ever met.
N: Which ex-Muslim forum was this? Can you elaborate on why you call them ‘amazing people’? How amazing can they be? They are Ex-Muslims, after all.
A: Council of Ex-Muslims also known as CEMB. They’re amazing people because they were there for me when I needed someone the most. Endless hours of humour and discussion. Being able to rant to someone to let anger and frustration out. Someone was always there to listen. Even when I returned to Islam I kept logging in for around a year and I wasn’t treated any differently. They treated me better as a Muslim than many Muslims I knew treated me when I told them I was having doubts. That says it all really.
If being a theist, specifically an orthodox, religiously observant Muslim, automatically made you an amazing person and being atheist and/or ex-Muslim made you a bad person then surely KSA would be a more just and tolerant society than, say, Sweden? What I’m trying to say is, you worshipping one God, a thousand, a cow, an idol or nothing, has no bearing on how good or bad of a human you are. It could be a factor in your beliefs on what society should look like but it’s not guaranteed.
An ex-Muslim, like any atheist or agnostic, hasn’t transgressed against any person simply for their lack of belief. They may have transgressed against God but that’s up to God to decide, not man. And if you do believe they have transgressed against God and do believe God will hold them accountable then I don’t see why you would have any issue agreeing with what I said earlier – it has no link to how good or bad they are as a person.
N: Have you been on Reddit’s ex-Muslim forum, r/exMuslim? There are some really horrible people there. I mean, some really vile c***s. I could tell you some stories. One of them had sex on with her boyfriend with an open Quran positioned under their genitals, smeared ejaculate and vaginal fluid all over it, took pictures of the defiled Quran and posted it on r/exMuslim with an accompanying story. So, obviously, they’re not all harmless. Many of them hate Islam and Muslims and want to do everything in their power to harm us for the ‘injustice’ of being born into a Muslim family. That involves them waging a propaganda war against Islam and Muslims, making up all sorts of lies about the religion or claiming that their spurious understanding of Islam is somehow representative of the faith. I’m sure there are Ex-Muslims of that sort on CEMB too. You know, the vile c*** type. What do you make of that?
A: Some of the people who set up CEMB were ex-members of FFI (Faith Freedom International) and basically hated Ali Sina and his ilk. I don’t like CEMB or the people who run it, they’re too neo-liberal for me, but I know they won’t tolerate that s*** on the forum. I left the forum because I always found myself arguing with the same people over politics. I never said all ex-Muslims were harmless. I agree that many hate Islam and Muslims – they should be called out on that, not attacked for leaving Islam.
I did meet vile ex-Muslims on CEMB. I could tell they had vile views before I ever got to know them. You see, I developed a litmus test (an idea that another ex-Muslim gave me). It was basically this; Israel or Palestine? I won’t go into too much detail and I don’t want to make it appear simplistic but if they held a low opinion of Palestinians and defended the crimes of the occupier they’re likely to be vile people. But hey, guess what? I’ve met Muslims who also defend Israel so…Again, not based on religion or lack of.
Interestingly, many of the best ex-Muslims I met were Arab and many of the worst were Indian/Pakistani. Inferiority complex to whites and racism to Arabs (hence support for Israel) was common amongst Desi/Paki ex-Muslims.
N: Some of these ex-Muslims might be skeptical that you are who you say you are. While maintaining your anonymity, can you give us some details about your time on the forum that prove you were an active member? Maybe screen-names of some members, or memorable threads?
A: Yes, some were skeptical that I was a Muslim again. But it wouldn’t even make up 5% of the times I’ve had Muslims say I’m not a Muslim for one reason or another so it’s not an issue. I won’t answer the second part.
N: How did your family and friends react to your leaving Islam? Did you tell them or hide it from them?
A: I never told anyone in my family. The closest I got was telling my cousin brother that I’m having doubts. I also told my husband, at the time my fiance, that I’m neither orthodox nor practising. I told friends online (who vastly outnumbered those IRL) and a few people I knew IRL (In Real Life). The ones online reacted quite badly and suddenly broke off contact without saying much. Two women I knew blackmailed me about it – they threatened to send screenshots to my family.
N: Did you fear for your life? Is that why you didn’t come out openly? Or is it that you were chickens*** and didn’t want to deal with the real-life consequences?
A: I don’t think my parents would’ve killed me. Disowned, perhaps. So I’d say the latter and not the former. However, while I was active on the forum someone claimed they knew who I was and which university I went to, and did threaten to kill me.
N: So, for over a year you were living the life of a munafiq (outwardly Muslim, inwardly kaafir/disbeliever). How was your emotional state during that time?
A: It was more than a year; probably closer to three, actually. I think what’s important remember is that despite not being a Muslim, I was more likely to call Israel a Cancer and call out bulls*** politics towards Muslims than most Muslims in the West would. Emotionally I was all over the place. A shallow happy at best – I didn’t like talking about serious life issues as that would depress me further – and suicidal at worst. Acknowledging that I wouldn’t see my brother, who I lost when I was really young, in another life was probably one of the hardest things to accept.
N: Ok, it’s fascinating you mention your brother that way. It sounds like deep down you still had this concept of Heaven and Hell, and had resigned yourself to your fate. Can you elaborate on that?
A: Justice is a biggie for me. If there’s no justice in this life then there must be in the next life. Realising that this might not actually be true was really depressing. My brother passed away when I was really young, so the idea of seeing him again was always a nice thought. But then accepting that it won’t happen to me (as an agnostic), coupled with depression, meant I had an existential crisis that went on for quite a while.
N: How did you deal with this existential crisis? Or, was it not dealt with?
A: It was dealt with on a superficial level by burying my head in the sand. Not thinking about life, our purpose, morality etc. Every now and again it’d crop up and I’d feel like s*** because I wanted answers and couldn’t find any.
I basically thought “yes, there’s probably a Supreme Being but I don’t care what He wants from us, and He hasn’t made it clear so YOLO” but (and this is where I think ex-Muslims split into two categories) we should do our utmost to help the oppressed and call for justice. Ex-Muslims and generally leftists who call for this are referred to as the “regressive left” by the other side; neo-liberals with a Western supremacist narrative.
Anyway after years of depression and feeling suicidal I thought “let me split Islam into three categories and see what’s what – a) what I agree with, b) what I’m not too sure but isn’t a dealbreaker, and c) what I disagree with.”
It turned out what I disagreed with wasn’t Islam, i.e. the Quran, but interpretations. I didn’t become a Quranist (N: a heterodox sect) but I didn’t consider hadith (N: Prophetic traditions) as ‘divine’ regardless of how sahih (N: authentic) they are (unfortunately too many Muslims do this even though they say they don’t) but that’s how I began practising again.
I still had doubts and questions like “would an all knowing God who’s created everything including all the stars and planets really bother about what hand we wipe our a** with?” It took a while to get over questions like that.
N: Tell us about the circumstances leading up to your becoming a Muslim again? What happened to trigger your “conversion”?
A: I attempted suicide. A culmination of factors drove me to it and I saw no other way out. I somehow survived – everyone, including the doctors treating me, thought I was a goner. When I came home I found the kafan (N: burial shroud) my family were going to wrap me in (had I not woken up from my coma when I did they would have turned off life support shortly). That freaked me out at first but then made me think about how lucky I was to survive.
I was still quite depressed because of the injuries I had suffered due to my suicide attempt but I wasn’t suicidal. I wanted to find something in life; something to put my heart at ease. I knew a Sufi Muslim who would often visit the ex-Muslim chat-room. He recommended I read some literature. I then began speaking to people who had suffered from “Salafi Burnout” (N: a phenomenon where religious extremists burn out and either become non-observant or leave the faith; it is not exclusive to Salafis) and politically active Muslims who like the Salafis had taken the spiritualism out of Islam and realised the importance of spirituality.
A few days later I prayed namaz (N: the formal, ritual prayer of Muslims) willingly for the first time in years but I felt nothing. I remember standing there reading Surat Al-Fatihah (N: the opening chapter of the Quran) and in my mind thinking “LOL! What am I doing? Who’s listening?” But I persisted with it. Day after day, two prayers became three, if anything the routine – which I’d known my whole life – was making me feel comfortable.
I then began opening the Quran and reading chapters from it. At the same time, a SJ I knew was giving me dawah – the type I needed. “How can God be Just and Merciful at the same time?” is a question many ask. “If he’s so merciful then why does he send people to hell?” All these questions were lingering in my mind and he explained it well – better than most of the dawah out there and Peace TV videos. *pukes*
A couple of weeks later I felt like my prayers were worth something and I felt comfortable saying “there is a God, I call him Allah, and He sent us a Messenger called Muhammed*, peace and blessings be upon him.”
*I guess this is what made it easier for me to return to Islam. For me, it was never about Sharia law, punishments, character assassination etc., but for many it sadly is.
N: There was a hashtag about a year ago, #exmuslimbecause. Going through a collection of Ex-Muslims’ reasons for leaving Islam it is immediately obvious that the majority left Islam for emotional reasons rather than rational. Your own story is another data point that supports this thesis. Based on your interactions with Ex-Muslims, is this a correct assessment? Feel free to elaborate.
A: Well, first of all, faith by its very nature is not rational. It’s not something you can explain. You can’t prove God exists using a book, ‘science’ or anything else. I made the mistake of believing I could and saw many others think the same – only to get refuted time and time again because of Peace-TV-type idiocy.
I remember the hashtag quite well. One of the most cringe-worthy ones was something along the lines of “#exmuslimbecause I don’t want to feel guilty for listening to music”. This type of thinking is a symptom of a much wider issue and sadly Muslims are to blame for most, if not some of it.
Too many Muslims – orthodox ones at that – knowingly or unknowingly link piety and faith with outward religiosity. So, when you dumb down your religion to nothing more than rituals, either abstaining from something (in this case music) or equating the concept of hijab to a piece of cloth on your head (or even a lollipop wrapper!), and link these to faith, don’t be surprised if someone says “I have no faith because I don’t want to wear hijab” or “I have no faith because I want to listen to music”.
Don’t get me wrong, I accept music is haram (N: impermissible) and hijab is fard (N: obligatory) according to orthodox Islam – but are either a good measurement of piety and faith in Allah?
Most of the ex-Muslims I’ve stayed in contact with left Islam for philosophical/theological reasons. Most don’t even identify as ‘ex-Muslim’ anymore. It’s partly the reason why we’re still in contact, they’re basically not the neo-atheist type.
I met many who had grown up with s****y family and sadly that can be attributed to their family’s religious views. KSA has a massive atheist community; in the closet obviously. I asked a secular Lebanese Sunni friend about it once and he said, “If you grew up in KSA wouldn’t you hate religion too?” That made me think deeply about it. Basically, KSA is exactly what I described above – what I like to call “seeking a fatwa (N: an Islamic scholar’s answer to a religious question) for reading Quran without wudu (N: ritual ablution) on an iPad” Islam.
N: What advice would you give to the Muslim community on how to deal with ex-Muslims and Muslims who have doubts about their faith?
A: To Muslims who don’t believe someone should be killed because of their faith, I’d advise not to push them away or judge them. You’ll find that if you have any disagreements outside of religion it’s going to be political or cultural, and I can bet you’ll find someone who identifies as a Muslim saying the same crap – Maajid Nawaz and Tarek Fatah being examples. Basically, don’t oppose them for being ex-Muslims but by all means, and please, oppose them for any s****y bourgeois liberal politics.
I have nothing to say to Muslims who believe ex-Muslims should be killed.
As for Muslims who are having doubts, leave the politics and science to a side. Leave fiqh (law) and hudood (capital punishment) to a side as well. Just concentrate on your relationship with Allah and you’ll see things will work out. You’ll probably reach a stage like me and think “yeah, I think evolution is true but Allah knows best” or “I don’t care because it doesn’t affect my faith”.
N: Just to clarify, when you say ‘…believe ex-Muslims should be killed’, are you referring to Shariah penal code for Ex-Muslims? I.e. that in an Islamic state ruled in accordance with the Shari’ah, they should be tried in a court, given the opportunity to repent, and executed if they refuse. What’s wrong with that?
A: I don’t believe it’s part of sharia. I’m no expert on these issues but I remember reading that the former chief justice of Pakistan wrote that apostasy is mentioned in the Quran over twenty times, and a punishment isn’t even mentioned once. I don’t think Allah forgot to mention it, I think it’s not mentioned because there’s no worldly punishment for it. I’d post some ayahs that I think back my argument but a) I’m no expert b) I haven’t read the tafsir and c) I could be taking them out of context. But I know that there are fatwas from past and present which say there’s no worldly punishment for it, including from the former head of Al Azhar.
This is from a website: “To Shaykh Tantawi, a Muslim who renounced his faith or turned apostate should be left alone as long as he does not pose a threat or belittle Islam. If the Muslims were forced to take action against the apostate, he said it should NOT be because he or she had given up the faith but because he or she had turned out to be an enemy or a threat to Islam.”
If it’s good enough for the former head of Al Azhar and the former chief justice of Pakistan then it’s good enough for me. 😛
N: What advice would you give Ex-Muslims who are ‘on the fence’, so to speak? I.e. they are thinking about coming back to Islam but are held back for one reason or another.
A: First of all, stay safe. Sadly, too many receive death threats. Most are just internet trolls but I know there have been cases of people fearing for their lives, either because of family or some vigilante. And bear in mind that ex-Muslims can be victims of Islamophobic attacks too (unless they tattoo ex-Muslim to their forehead). Anyway, I’d ask them to think about what they disagree with – is it the idea of a God? Or the notion of a fat man with a massive beard eating halwa (sweets) whilst hitting his wife with miswak (a wooden toothbrush)? If it’s the latter then it’s probably people you have a problem with, not religion. And you’re not alone, I hate most religious people I meet.
N: Final question. You mentioned at the beginning of our interview how traditional orthodoxy is the way to go. I assume you are referring to the 1400-year-old Sunni tradition of theology, law, and spirituality – what is generally understood as ‘mainstream Islam’. Can you elaborate on why you believe that is the case?
A: Yes, that’s what I meant. I have my disagreements with some of it but generally, it’s the way to go. Muslims have tried revolution, rebellion, and other ideologies. All have failed. It’s time to go back to what we know works. And from a theological perspective, it offers flexibility with orthodoxy – opinions from different cultures and different times in the past 1400 years. I would add that considering the norm today is a capitalist economy where riba (usury) is everywhere and workers are treated like s***, there needs to be an extra emphasis on having an economy that gives justice to the poor like socialism does.
N: A, thank you for your time and effort in answering these questions.
If you made it to the end, congratulations.
Do me a favor and share this article with everyone you know.