The Sharing Group Discussion on People Who Left Islam & Then Returned

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ 

Brother Fahed Bizzari asked, on The Sharing Group, on the 16th March 2017, “In this group, do we have any people who converted to Islam and then left it?  I would love to learn more about your journey in and then out of Islam.” 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I did.  I left Islam about a decade after my conversion, for three days. 

Brother Fahed Bizzari: Have you written a blog post on it? 

 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: It is the very first post on my blog, and explains why it is named A Muslim Convert Once More. 

Brother Fahed Bizzari: Okay, read it.  I was hoping to get more details.  What had happened? 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I made the mistake of being involved with Muslims.  I have since corrected that error, and now stay away from them. I focus solely on the doctrine of the religion.  I came to Islam alone. I  fell in love with the theology, and the Prophet (s.a.w.) because I read the sirah.  Do you understand how cheated I feel to realise that the Islam I fell in love with does not exist?  What we have here is tribalistic superstition and bigotry masquerading as Islam.  The ummah is a failure, their values are built on lies and I have no use for their company. 

Brother Fahed Bizzari: Brother Terence, do you think it could have been avoided by lowering your expectations of modern day Muslims much earlier on?  And, if so, moving forward for the new converts to come in the future, how do you think a well-wisher of converts could help to reduce the expectations of new converts and when do you think would be the right time to do that? 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I would advise new converts to stay away from the community first and focus on building a small, stable support network around themselves.  This is applicable to not just converts but any Muslim who is trying to rediscover their place in the Diyn.  Be like the Prophet (s.a.w.) and surround oneself with your own swahabah.  It is important to ensure that this support network comprises people of substance and values.  The heart must be guarded jealously, lest it be tainted.  It is important to shun the limelight and the circles of aggrandisation.  I go to the mosque just before the adzan, I pray, and I leave immediately.  I do not mix with the people, and I do not associate with any who do not benefit me in my religion. 

Brother Fahed Bizzari: That is good advice.  Thanks, Brother Terence. 

Sister Jeannie Graham: Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, this is exactly what I have done - but not as a new convert, but an old convert!  It has helped me to rediscover my place in Islam - you are right.  I have rid myself from unnecessary judgemental baggage. 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Many Muslims are extremely judgemental, and we do our very best to keep those sorts out of this group so that it remains and oasis. 

Brother Mansoor Rizvi: Whenever someone is curious about Islam or very new, I never encourage them to go to their nearby masjid, unless they really insist and want to experience one.  My best experiences were when we got together at each other’s homes or restaurants and had open discussions, no gender segregation, made solid friendships, and in some cases helped people get married - all things that a real Islamic centre should do.  Whenever people abandoned this format for the typical masjid, the results were never good.

 Sister Saira Ahmed: I feel like that now.  I am agnostic.  I am a born Muslim.  May God Show me the right guidance towards the right faith and belief. 

Sister Hazelchocs Love Chocs: I agree with you totally.  I was born a Muslim.  Some Muslims can be really toxic.  I was told by a family member that I do not belong to Muhammad’s (s.a.w.) ummah because I am not married, indirectly telling me I am kafir.  A ridiculous statement.  I refrain from talking or discussing religion when I am with them. 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I am sorry to hear that. 

Brother Fardan Ashrafi: Many awliya’ did not get married.  Ignore such people. 

Sister Hazelchocs Love Chocs: Ignoring.  In my Malay community, it is like a taboo if you are past 30 years of age and not married.  I was still studying at that point of time. 

Brother Anwar Abdul Gany: Tell them that Sayyidatina Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (r.a.) got married to the Prophet (s.a.w.) at age 40.  She was married twice before. 

Sister Hazelchocs Love Chocs: I shall do that.  Thanks, Brother Anwar Abdul Ghany. 

Brother Sulayman Bates: I get so burned out by religion and folks arguing about religion and their petty politics, and all of the sectarian fighting when they go online to abuse one another in the name of their sect. 

Brother Marquis Dawkins: In the mind of most Muslims, I have apostatised already. 

Brother Fardan Ashrafi: Brother Marquis Dawkins, people even label Prophet (s.a.w.) and did mockery.  We have to ignore such inhumanity. 

Brother Timothy Saunders: I leave every day and wake up the next morning back at square one. 

Sister Skye Thompson: I converted in 2009 and left the same year.  The amount of racism I faced and still face from Muslims as a black women is crazy.  I am unsure of my current feelings on Islam. 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Whether you choose to be Muslim or not, here, we accept you as one of our own. 

Sister Saira Ahmed: See the religion without the people.  I dislike the people.  So when the religion itself talks about how we have to love our Muslim brothers and sisters, it pushes me away from it more.  Are supposed to just be biased towards a bunch a idiots just because they believe in Muhammad (s.a.w.)? 

Brother Fahed Bizzari: Sister Skye Thompson, if possible, I would really like to capture your story and share it with Muslims with the hope of reforming them through case studies.  Of course, I will keep your identity anonymous.  All I need is an hour of your time to interview you over a call.  What do you think? 

Sister Saira Malik: There are all types of people in every society race religion.  You are going to get good folks and not so good folks.  It is unfortunate you never came across any good people who actually practice Islam.  Islam is a religion of peace and encourages tolerance.  Islam asks you to love all of mankind, not just your Muslim brothers and sisters.  The day Muslims understand this and come out and say this we might see the beginning of peace. 

Sister Skye Thompson: It seems like most Muslims I met in person are racist but I grew up around Jews, Whites, Catholics.  I never experienced racism until I became Muslim and met Muslims in person. 

Sister Skye Thompson: And sure, Brother Fahed Bizzari.  Just message me 

Brother Fahed Bizzari: Thanks, Sister Skye!  Give me a few days to get back to you! 

Brother Llewellynn Hamza: Some of the worst people I ever met were born and convert Muslims, and yet some of the best people I know are born and convert Muslims.  There are idiots everywhere and in every group.  I came close to leaving once but met to many wonderful people.  I truly believe in Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).  My early years as a Muslim were wonderful.  I still think about that first month after I converted and all the special things that happened in those times.  So I know I could never leave. 

Sister Surur Arain: Agreed.  There are horrible people in every group.  We have an expectation that Muslims will conduct themselves better but they do not necessarily adhere.  Throw in the mix of skewed interpretations of the text and you have something lethal.  Let us work together to create change - this group is a good place as it is accepting and non-judgemental though I do not agree with everything. 

Brother Llewellynn Hamza: I agree.  I was in this group 2nd week after I converted in 2013.  I met Brother Terence from interfaith group I was sent to and he showed me this place.  It was a blessing on so many levels.  My ummah is in my heart. 

Sister Caroline Róisín Gorman: I have been in and out for about six years.  I have had too many bad experiences, especially when living or working with Muslims.  I kept thinking of the biblical reference to a false prophet. 

Brother Timothy Saunders: The Bible: 

Matthew 7:15-20

15 Be on your guard against false prophets, men who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but are ravenous wolves within.  16 You will know them by the fruit they yield.  Can grapes be plucked from briers, or figs from thistles?  17 So, indeed, any sound tree will bear good fruit, while any tree that is withered will bear fruit that is worthless; 18 that worthless fruit should come from a sound tree, or good fruit from a withered tree, is impossible.  19 Any tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire.  20 I say therefore, it is by their fruit that you will know them. 

15 Προσέχετε ἀπὸ τῶν ψευδοπροφητῶν, οἵτινες ἔρχονται πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐν ἐνδύμασιν προβάτων, ἔσωθεν δέ εἰσιν λύκοι ἅρπαγες.  16 ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιγνώσεσθε αὐτούς. μήτι συλλέγουσιν ἀπὸ ἀκανθῶν σταφυλὰς ἢ ἀπὸ τριβόλων σῦκα; 17 οὕτως πᾶν δένδρον ἀγαθὸν καρποὺς καλοὺς ποιεῖ, τὸ δὲ σαπρὸν δένδρον καρποὺς πονηροὺς ποιεῖ: 18 οὐ δύναται δένδρον ἀγαθὸν καρποὺς πονηροὺς ποιεῖν οὐδὲ δένδρον σαπρὸν καρποὺς καλοὺς ποιεῖν 19 πᾶν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται.  20 ἄρα γε ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιγνώσεσθε αὐτούς. 

15 Attendite a falsis prophetis, qui veniunt ad vos in vestimentis ovium, intrinsecus autem sunt lupi rapaces: 16 a fructibus eorum cognoscetis eos.  Numquid colligunt de spinis uvas, aut de tribulis ficus?  17 Sic omnis arbor bona fructus bonos facit: mala autem arbor malos fructus facit.  18 Non potest arbor bona malos fructus facere: neque arbor mala bonos fructus facere.  19 Omnis arbor, quæ non facit fructum bonum, excidetur, et in ignem mittetur.  20 Igitur ex fructibus eorum cognoscetis eos.

 Brother Nicolas Keke Adjignon: Oh, so I am not the only one. 

Brother Anwar Abdul Gany: What I love about this group is the openness in choosing what you like in the garden.  In responding to Brother Fahed’s post, one of the fundamental errors made is to mistake Imams or other Muslims for leaders or “knowledgeable persons” and hence follow either blindly or under subdued duress.  This approach creates anxiety and brings about deep seated questions within an individual.  Hence rather than allowing oneself to have either a cultural or individual ideology shoved down ones throat - the best thing to do is for you to select what flowers you love in the garden and enjoy the goodness that comes with it. 

Brother Sea Lion: For the people that left Islam, did you join another religion? 

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: No.  I actually never stopped performing my swalah. 

Brother Muhammad Tsany Qudsi: Brother Terence Nunis, you're just leaving, “Their Version of Islam” it does not count. 

Brother Ibrahim Underwood: I almost did after I left my first wife, technically probably did, though I never stopped believing in tawhid even though my behaviour did not match with that, perhaps my sole saving grace from back then. 

And then again after our first pregnancy miscarried, and we lost ibn Ibrahim.  I actually cursed the Rabb, asking why did miscreants and scoundrels get children but we did not, to my everlasting shame.  In truth he was too beautiful for this earth, and I too selfish to grasp that. 

Sister Zana Johnson: Yes, I went back to my Unitarian church but only for a minute.  Allah (s.w.t.) Keeps Calling me back home. 

Brother Nicolas Keke Adjignon: These are the main arguments I heard, read or considered: Ahadits that go seriously out of hand regarding cruelty or implying disgusting practices like the rape of female prisoners of war; traditional Islam’s stance on offensive jihad - I can tell that recent events in Indonesia made more than one run away or seriously shake their faith; Constant cultural expectations or bullying if you have the bad taste of not being denying your own culture and become a caricature Arab, Pakistani, Turk, or something else; being bullied for not using my right hand; and Qur’an verses that can be interpreted in a disastrous way and no one actually has the authority to tell you “stop that” if you do not want to.  I also heard about this ‘Uzayr (r.a.) the Jews are supposed to worship as Son of God, and then there are actual events with ISIS. And then there is the cultural alienation of not feeling I belong anywhere anymore and not handling it. 

Brother Rafiq Tan: I have believed in tawhid from way back, at least by 15 years of age, as far as I can remember.  I started pondering on God and His Existence since I was a teenager.  I embraced the faith officially in 1987, and though I have never left Islam since, there were challenges. 

In my journey of life to date, I find the effort to validate my faith via an identification with an ummah, in general, an elusive thing simply because our ummah pretends to be homogenous.  There are many different levels of expressions of faith within our general community.  If I were to validate my faith in terms of the global Muslim community, I would have left Islam a long time ago.

Brother Michael Nguyen: I have done a mock shahadah, performed wudhu and swalah, and been to the masjid to perform Friday prayers.  I guess you could say I dabbled in Islam, although I never formally converted.  I was more fascinated exploring the culture of the Ottoman Empire and Andalusian Spain, and how Islam shaped people in those times.  Islam is very different today from the scholars like Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali (r.a.) and Shaykh Abu Naswr Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Farabi (r.a.) and Shaykh Abu ‘Ali al-Husayn ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Sina (r.a.), Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Muhammad ar-Rumi (q.s.), and whatnot.  Many da’wah videos are Wahhabi inspired and tall about everything being haram and shirk, this is where the divide happens with me and any idea of converting. 

I like the idea of a devout Muslim who loves God and prays, and I respect that, there is something special about devotion.  For me though, I approach everything from a rational intellectual and analytical standpoint, and I need to have questions answered.  I unfortunately did not have my questions answered in the masjid and so I had to go searching myself what I was looking for.  The answers I was given were arguments for intelligent design and they did not sit well with me.  I find the idea of a personal relationship with God much more appealing to me, through development of the self and taming of the ego, listening to inspirational sermons, reading scholarly texts, group prayers and practising techniques and utilising metaphysical imagery as well as use of music and sound to inspire spirituality. 

Sister Colleen Dunn: I converted in 2011 while living abroad and practiced for 2 years faithfully.  When I converted, I was already married with a child.  We married when we were both practicing Catholics in 2002, and our son was adopted in 2005.  When I moved back to the US in 2013, I found the practice substantially more challenging.  My Arabic still was horrible, such that I had no idea what I was mumbling to myself during swalah.  I got irritated every time I saw pork on restaurant menus.  It bothered me that everyone around me was eating with no regard to dietary laws, including my entire family, except me.  Eventually, I could not deal with it anymore.  I got no joy from it, no comfort from the prayers, only isolation at a time I was trying to repatriate.  I gave up. 

For a while there was an ebb and flow. I would come back for a while when there was a sense of community, but then that would fade and I would follow my family’s example.  Eventually, I thought that God Made us diverse for a reason.  Religious practices are tools.  If practicing a religion is making us frustrated rather than bringing us closer to Him, then we need to change the methods. 

I am not sure how I would label myself now though.  I still respect the shuyukh and other religious leaders I have met along the way.  I have no animosity towards anyone.  Muslims did not chase me away, it was my own response to my environment and living situation. 

Sister Abigail Ruth Pereira: Do you still consider yourself Muslim nowadays? 

Sister Colleen Dunn: Honestly, I do not know how to self-label anymore.  I do not really practice, but in a sense beliefs are still there.  I still measure beliefs and ideology according to Qur’an.  Most of what I adhere to is fairly universal though. 

Sister Yindra Sierra: Every day, I ask myself if this is it?  This is what I want to be for the rest of my life?  My Muslim friends, real life friends that I cherish with all my live, are what I imagined Islam.  I thought I would be around people like them.  I found Islam, and the concept of Islam and whatever little knowledge I have about Islam, fascinating.  I believe in One God and though I struggle with wudhu’, I love praying, that is my time to talk to God.  But I do not do it out of compulsion.  I do it “when I feel it”. 

I found that while some Muslims are humble and love others for the sake of Allah (s.w.t.), they lack knowledge, empathy, and common sense.  I have more faith stimulating conversation with my Christian friends than with my Muslim “sisters”.  So less than a year in, I have not left because I cannot imagine life without my prayers and moral guidance.  I enjoy going to my masjid adult-learning events.  Other than that, I really prefer to stay away from Muslims. 

Ramadhan is coming soon and I am freaking out.  My Muslim “sisters” cannot understand why.  I guess it is very “easy and spiritual” when you get to stay home and sleep all day, but when you have to drive almost 100 miles a day in the Dallas heat and give presentations, lead meetings, bring lunch to the offices, without food or water for the first time, you would think other Muslims would empathise. 

Sister Zana Johnson: I hear that! 

Sister Yindra Sierra: Also, while I do believe that Islam gave rights to women back when they did not have them, it has failed to give us rights au pair with modern Western rights.  I have no intention of forgoing my rights as a woman, and I feel that this might be the one issue that might bring me even further from the Muslim community.  I will not be oppressed or bullied into anything, and therefor I highly doubt I will ever marry a Muslim.



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