Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Why Some Converts Have Left Islam

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

At many Muslim sites, they always talk about why people came to Islam.  But does anybody wonder what makes people leave?  Unofficially, at least 40% of converts eventually stop practicing and leave the religion within the first five years.  Most of them do not make it official but by their lifestyle choices, they have ceased to be Muslims.  We even know converts who consider themselves Muslim but believe that many of the Arkan ul-Islam are unnecessary superstitions.  More people convert to Islam because of marriage than because they have found the religion through other means.  Convert management is an area that the Muslims lag far behind the Christians.

It is the responsibility of the ummah to take responsibility to educate them in the faith in the proper manner.  Unfortunately, those who have knowledge do not have the proper manners to pass the knowledge.  And many more Muslims do not know enough of Islam to talk about it or even be a good, inspiring example.  There should be a balanced study on why people leave Islam.  The percentage of recidivism is a good indicator of the strength of the ummah.  In the end, we are Chosen.  The Pen is Lifted and we are Judged by our intentions and not actions.  The God I know Finds reasons to save us since we are Created out of love.  Not to condemn us.

One of the very first apostasy cases I handled was a Eurasian.  She attended classes and after about a year, she converted despite overwhelming objection from her family.  He had a very difficult time and it affected her a lot.  Her ex-spouse also had an issue since he was against any attempt for her to introduce their daughter to Islam.  As a result of the conversion, she was not on speaking terms with her family.  Coming from a large close-knit family, this was a huge blow.  This coupled with her relatively recent divorce after more than a decade of marriage left her very lonely and vulnerable.

Around this time, she met a former schoolmate.  He pursued relentlessly.  It turned out had had a crush on her since they were in secondary school.  They were married after about a year after in a small ceremony.  But despite his talk about being a good Muslim, he was very much a cultural chauvinist.  His race and culture was his religion.

They experienced marital problems soon after.  Her spouse claimed to be descended from Malay royalty and grew up spoilt.  He had never had a steady job in his life.  But he had expensive taste.  Every few weeks, they would go up to Malaysia to visit the rich Malaysian royals.  Coming from a different and liberal cultural background, she was never the kind to bow before anyone.  According to him, she embarrassed him in front of his relatives by not being the subservient wife.

On the other hand, she was from a very liberated background, a social butterfly with very spiritual leanings but none of the knowledge of the firmer disciplines of the religion.  She wanted to play with spirituality but had less patience for the mundane aspects of shari’ah.  No one taught her to develop a relationship with Allah (s.w.t.).

There were many other flashpoints; about character, about religious issues, about culture.  Mainly, it was about money.  She had a high-paying job and was once married to a businessman.  He never had money.  Another point of contention was the daughter from the previous marriage.  He wanted her daughter to convert to Islam.  She wanted the girl to make an informed decision when she reached maturity.  He was also against the daughter spending time with her biological father and wanted her to acknowledge him as the father.  He spoke disparagingly of the girl’s father with the girl.  In one instance, he threatened to kill the daughter and himself in a moment of extreme drama.

The final straw was when she found certain paraphernalia under her bed and started experiencing strange phenomena.  We had gone down on an earlier occasion to deal with these spiritual disturbances but they kept coming back.  And then one day, I got a call from her.  For some reason, she decided to check under the bed and open the one suitcase he never allowed her to touch.  In it, she found powdered bones, pieces of paper with Arabic letters that did not form words and a grave marker.  She found his bank book and learned that since before they got married, he had spent significant amounts seeing some bomoh in Malaysia despite the fact that he hardly contributed to the household expenses.  It is unfortunate that as part of my education in Islam, I have learned that this region has some of the foremost practitioners of sihr.  Unfortunately, she was utterly convinced that the entire conversion was because she was bewitched and her faith was a lie.  She left Islam soon after the divorce was finalised.

My first apostasy case was way back in 2002.  I was the witness for her conversion.  She was a young lady of mixed parentage.  I remember that she was very pretty when I first saw her and there was nur around her.  At that time, I was still not aware how important the witness for a conversion is.  And that has been a regret of mine.  It was a very touching conversion and she cried when she said the shahadah.

In this case, she had studied Islam on her own and decided to convert despite the violent objections of her family.  Her father was in senior management.  He threatened to take legal action and disown her and he most certainly had the means.  It was a difficult situation and a complicated case.  Soon after she converted, she was taken in by a Malay family who sort of adopted her.  Her parents did disown her.  Unfortunately, I did not manage to keep in contact with her because soon after she was uncontactable.  The Malay family convinced her that since she was a mu’allaf, the best thing for her was to get married and so she married their son.  The entire family, including the girl, moved to Malaysia.  We could not find her and her family could not find her despite engaging private investigators.

Almost a year later, she was back in the same conversion room.  This time with her father and the family lawyer.  She was very quiet.  She did not look so pretty anymore and the nur was gone.  She wanted to renounce Islam and her father threatened to sue everybody involved.  The entire story came out and it was not a nice one.  It was a tale of marital abuse, an alcoholic spouse and a family that did not know enough about Islam to teach her.  She was a practicing Muslim at first but the spouse was not.  The story that came out was one of spousal rape and abuse in a foreign country far away from home, family and friends.  The divorce proceedings were equally swift.

I believe that she converted too young.  She was barely out of her teens before she made this decision.  In any case, the die was cast.  Thereafter, she was attached to the wrong people.  They were her ex-neighbours.  I believe that they were sincere enough except for the son.  Unfortunately, they lacked knowledge of how to deal with converts and the issues that arise.  They did not even know their religion.  Like many born-Muslims of the older generation, they held on to the belief that the best way for a convert to integrate within the Ummah is to get married.  At such a young age, this complicated the issue with marital woes since both were not mature enough to cope with the situation.  It could not be done in Singapore so they moved to Malaysia.

Looking at it from the girl’s family’s point of view, it was bad enough that she converted.  But the decision to take her away to Malaysia sounded the death knell for a potential reconciliation with her family as long as she was a Muslim.  The idea is to rebuild the social network, not replace it entirely.  There is a sense of regret here since I believe that if we managed to keep in touch with all of them, perhaps she might still be a Muslim.


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