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Why are young Muslims leaving Islam?

The Apostates is a sociological study of social situation of non-activist ex-Muslims of Britain and Canada conducted by Simon Cottee, an academic, senior lecturer in Criminology at the University of Kent. The book focuses on what the ex-Muslims say about themselves and their experiences of leaving Islam.


Islam is the fastest growing religion. One of the reasons is conversion. Muslims express joy whenever we witness someone embracing Islam regardless of whether the person is an influential personality or a commoner. It indirectly serves as an evidence of Islam’s truthfulness along with its persuasive power and transformational impact on the individual. However, there is a flip side to this phenomenon. It appears like there are many young Muslims who are leaving Islam for atheism. The enemies of Islam and Muslims rejoice at this by claiming that the increase of Muslims by conversion is nullified by those who leave (Apostate).

The question however does rise why do these Muslims leave Islam? And why do they then proudly identify themselves as ex-Muslims? When a Christian leaves Christianity for atheism he will just identify himself as an atheist not as an ex-Christian. We don’t see any ex-Christian organizations. However, we have many ex-Muslim organizations around the world. We do find some ex-Muslims who spend their rest of the life just by bashing Islam and Muslims with their ex-Muslim label. This label is projected to create an image of a knowledgeable person. We might have come across these individuals online with their silly memes and superficial lies about Islam and Muslims. These ex-Muslims are unable to leave Islam entirely, they still stick to it, their thoughts, speech and actions are still around Islam, albeit antagonistically. It is really a pathetic situation. Neither have they completely left nor are staying.

All that said, you would find such people part of one of the most lucrative industries, the Islamophobia industry. At the highest level, they earn fame, money and western citizenship by writing books, earning sponsorships, by giving presentations in various Islamophobic platforms and campaigns by turning themselves into a public intellectual over a night. At the lowest level, they are proud ‘rational progressives’ who criticize the ‘barbaric backward’ Islam which is the last religion standing as a ‘remnant’ from the past.

So, why do these Muslims leave Islam? Is it only for fame, money, western citizenship and care free life style? Or is there more to it? Maybe those who leave Islam to invite others towards the ‘beauty’ of Liberal-Secular-Atheism and to save Muslims from the ‘barbarity’ of Islam do it for money and fame, what about the non-activist non-preaching Murthadhs?

Do the activists Apostates become activists later or were they some kind of preachers and activists from the beginning?

We can derive answers to few of the above questions from the book ‘The Apostates’.

The Apostates is a sociological study of social situation of non-activist ex-Muslims of Britain and Canada conducted by Simon Cottee, an academic, senior lecturer in Criminology at the University of Kent. The book focuses on what the ex-Muslims say about themselves and their experiences of leaving Islam.

The author sets out to find answers to three questions. There is no such question as “๐˜ž๐˜ฉ๐˜บ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ท๐˜ฆ ๐˜๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ฎ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ข๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ”. However, the author mentions that “๐˜ช๐˜ง ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฌ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ ‘๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜บ’, ๐˜ข๐˜ด๐˜ฌ ‘๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ'”. And we have the question:

How does one leave Islam and become an Apostate?

The author has classified their apostasy life into three phases:

  1. Pre-Murthadh phase (pre-apostasy)
  2. Murthadh phase (apostasy)
  3. Post-Murthadh phase (post-apostasy)

To know why they leave Islam, we only need to consider the Pre-murthadh phase and some parts of the murthadh phase. According to the study, they leave Islam due to two reasons 1) Doubts and 2) Emotions (not necessarily Desires always). Emotions could be the primary reason. The author hints the same.

The three types of categories of doubts namely are Epistemological, Moral & Instrumental.

Does God exist? Why do we have evil in the world then? Where is the evidence for the existence of God? Having doubts on the authenticity of Qur’an when one faces scientific question on Creation and Evolution. Questions on Free will and Predestination like why should we attend the test of life? etc., could be considered as epistemological doubts.

Why do non-Muslims go to hell? When they simply are born into a family that follows another faith, it is not really their fault. Why should women cover? Why are women not allowed to have four husbands simultaneously? Why did the Prophet (SAW) have multiple wives? Some deem Islam to be false because according to them Islamic values contradict with liberal values. These are some oft-mentioned Moral doubts.

Questions like, Why not just being a good person is enough? “Islam is not true because it is irrelevant and futile in this day and age.” etc., can be termed as instrumental doubts.

Pathway to doubts

Sudden Exposure (like a sucker punch) to various ideas is the primary factor that leads to forming doubts, then the incapability to properly seek answers to the questions/doubts pushes them away even further away, but there are other indirect factors too and everything is interconnected.

1. Personal experiences

Stress, emotional suffering, trauma, ego, cognitive dissonance etc that arise due to going against the commands of Islam, leads one away from Islam.

Example: Illicit Sexual relationships or being gay causes guilt, emotional suffering, cognitive dissonance as it is Haram. Instead of seeking proper solutions for those issues they leave Islam altogether to lead a life without any moral restrictions. (Two individuals mentioned these as reasons too)

2. Exposure

Sudden exposure to various cultural views, other worldviews or ideas like evolution that challenges ones current views and thoughts go on to become the primary reasons for the doubts. Inability to answer questions from others or from themselves that arise as a result of interaction with new spaces could cause them to further themselves from Islam at some point.

3. Spiritual Alienation

Feeling abandoned by people and disconnected from God is another reason. Though it could be seen as a consequence of the above two experiences, it later emerges as a strong reason that pushes one away from Islam.

4. Political events

Geo-political events like 9/11 which resulted in policies that were Islamophobic, anti-Muslim discrimination, abuse, inferiority complex etc., also serve as a cause.

5. Probing doubts

Attempts to rectify doubts in an unsystematic manner with no guidance just via Internet in-turn causes more doubts. The dissatisfaction over the received answers from some local imams, parents, etc., exacerbates and solidifies the doubts.

At-last, when one resorts to websites and sources that are not answering their Islamic doubts but rather are simply reintroducing them to view the world in a manner which does not take into consideration the role of religion and Islam in the making of the world. These doubts now only intellectually convince themselves to leave Islam.

Many of the participants mentioned that they leave Islam especially during the month of Ramadan. The month of Ramadan shows us our existential weakness and dependence, that we are always depended on God and other creations for our survival. Those who have doubts should question how willing are they to subordinate what people around them are saying as certainties be it about evolution or scientific certainties or moral certainties or political certainties this shows their lack of humility towards God. One should submit their Ego to God’s authority and to follow his commands. Thus, our lack of understanding of our responsibility and careless usage of the personal autonomy seems to be the primary reason to leave Islam.

The above mentioned reasons are only from the ‘Apostates’ book.

Few important things to be noted

1) Those who are leaving Islam have accepted the dominant frameworks as the correct standard and when Islam does not comply with it, they came to the conclusion that Islam is not true, but miserably failed to critically question the truthfulness of the dominant framework.

2) Likewise, Scientism is considered as the correct epistemological framework and when it has not been able to provide ‘scientific’ evidence for God people tend to conclude that there is no God.

3) Few have openly mentioned that they wanted a freer lifestyle (Personal Autonomy). Few others have mentioned that they would not believe even if they know that Islam is the Truth. Yet one or two wanted to believe in Islam and wanted Islam to be true, however they did not know how to escape from the shackles of the reigning ideologies. Unfortunately people donโ€™t realize that these shackles have no foundation.

Finally, they could not go against the tide. The so-called rationality, critical thinking etc., could only be applied on Islam not on the dominant secular-liberal ideologies because they had been fed that from their very childhood through Schools, Colleges, also via movies, music, news media, social media etc.

We as Muslims know that Islam is the Truth and hence we know that the dominant framework which in many aspects contradict with Islam is false, however, this will not be a sufficient reason for those Muslims who have doubts, because they are questioning the very premise that “Islam is the Truth”.

Atheism as a Movement

One can say that almost the entire world agreed upon some of the fundamental social-moral values some centuries ago. There was no hostility towards Islam and Muslim communities. Muslims might have transgressed the Islamic rulings; however, they would not have claimed it to be their freedom of expression or quotes like ‘my body, my choice’. Few may have left Islam; however, there were no ex-Muslim organizations and movements like today. Atheism was always there however there has never been a pseudo religious movement like New Atheism. Secular-Liberal-Democracy has made these individual random temporary trends into organized Socio-Political movements.


We need to teach and learn Islam, as a coherent holistic system, encompassing socio-politics, international relations, Individual, Spiritual and Family values, bestowed by God to achieve success in this life and hereafter. Along with the metaphysical, epistemological and moral foundations to the above values derived from Islam’s theology and by studying Islamic history. Later, if needed, we can systematically teach various dominant ideologies like Scientism, Liberalism, Feminism, Secularism, Democracy and so on along with its shortcomings and internal contradictions, as we have witnessed it in the recent decades. This would engrave the truthfulness of Islam and falsity of other ideologies upon the hearts of Muslims.

If someone is suffering with these doubts, we should educate them to question the dominant metaphysical, epistemological and moral frameworks that acted as a source of their doubts instead of addressing the individual disconnected instances and questions.

“๐˜๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ, ๐˜ˆ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ฉ ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ช๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฆ๐˜น๐˜ข๐˜ฎ๐˜ฑ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ – ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ข ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ฒ๐˜ถ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ด๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ than ๐˜ช๐˜ต. ๐˜ˆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ท๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฆ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฌ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ณ๐˜ถ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ ๐˜ง๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ช๐˜ณ ๐˜“๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ฅ. ๐˜‰๐˜ถ๐˜ต ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฆ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ, ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜บ ๐˜ด๐˜ข๐˜บ, “๐˜ž๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ฅ ๐˜ˆ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ฉ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฃ๐˜บ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฆ๐˜น๐˜ข๐˜ฎ๐˜ฑ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ?” ๐˜๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ด ๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜บ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฃ๐˜บ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜จ๐˜ถ๐˜ช๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜บ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฃ๐˜บ. ๐˜ˆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ด ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ฆ๐˜น๐˜ค๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ง๐˜ช๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ฐ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต” ๐˜˜๐˜ถ๐˜ณ’๐˜ข๐˜ฏ 02 26

There is Hope

Many ex-Muslims who leave Islam at the early 20s return to Islam in the late 20s. They leave Islam assuming that man-made ideas like Marxism, Communism, Liberalism, and Democracy provide better life and morality only to practically experience and realize, later, the vacuousness and severe shortcomings it carries with itself. Others who believe in atheism due to philosophy are naturally pushed to Nihilism as they continue their search, and return to Islam. However, those who fall into naรฏve New Atheism due to scientism could become dogmatic psuedo religious atheist, making it very hard to return, although ideologically new atheism is the weakest of all the above mentioned. I have encountered, personally and online, many youngsters returning to Islam once they mature intellectually and emotionally.

“…๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ (Allah) ๐˜จ๐˜ถ๐˜ช๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ ๐˜๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ด…” (๐˜˜๐˜ถ๐˜ณ’๐˜ข๐˜ฏ 35:08)

The Author has completed BE and is working as a software engineer. He has translated a book from English to Tamil titled “Sharjeel Imam pesiyadhu enna?”. The author occasionally translates and writes articles on topics concerning to Muslims and Islam which are published on Meipporul.in.