- Try not to laugh as his soccer team fans cheer him on for tearing apart televangelists.
They talked about other religions and arguments against evolution and atheism, although later learning that they were incorrect and full of logical fallacies, I took them seriously and used them in my arguments in High School and later on University.
Other websites provided the same kind of apologetics like Islamic Awareness and Harun Yahya providing historical evidence and miraculous claims about the Qur’an; it really strengthened my faith. I still consider to this day that the arguments provided by Islamic Awareness to be historically accurate and interesting, though the conclusions they come up with are weak.
I started frequenting Islam QA to learn about the jurisprudence of Islam and learning Qur’anic verses and ahadith (prophetic sayings and traditions) to arm myself with knowledge about Islam.
One of my favourite speakers was Hamza Andreas Tzortsis who provided philosophical arguments for the religion and being someone who wanted to hear what they believed, I was absolutely captivated. While Hamza had excellent debating skills, I consider his talks to be rhetoric these days and I am able to dismantle his arguments.
The icing on the cake was the scientific and numerical miracles of the Qur’an which provided, to what seemed to me, irrefutable evidence that the Qur’an was the word of God. Further down the post, I will explain why these miracles are just coincidences rather than signs of God.
Salafism to the Extreme
As I gained more interested in my religion, it was time to take it to next step. I wanted to practice Islam as properly as possible. What better way to do it by going back to the first three generations of the Prophet and do what they did. This was Salafism.
Many of the popularizers I listened to before became weak scholar wannabes as I started to watch the likes of Abu Mussab Wajdi Akkari. He was really strict and basically explained essentially that everything was haram (forbidden). His frame of reference was some of the prominent scholars of Saudi Arabia like ibn Uthaymeen (and others). These people knew the Islamic religion thoroughly and I believed that they could not be wrong.
I started growing my beard as it was obligatory in Islam much to my parents detriment who believed that moderation was the way to go. However, the hadith (prophetic tradition) proved otherwise.
“Let your beards grow and trim your moustaches.”
- Bukhari (Book 77, Hadith 110)
I stopped listening to music altogether as that was also haram.
“From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful…”
- Bukhari (Hadith 5590)
I also stopped making jokes as jokes with falsehoods in them were also haram:
"Woe to the one who talks about something to make the people laugh, in which he lies. Woe to him! Woe to him!"
- Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2315
My life became very dry as I wasn’t doing much in terms of forms of entertainment. I just read Islamic material and watched talks by clerics and scholars.
My preachiness reached an all-time high at this point where every discussion I had with anyone was about religion. Some people got so sick of it that they stopped contacting me or mocking me altogether citing that my ideas were just stupid and dumb.
Even my parents didn’t like my strictness and they had their own interpretations of the Qur’an and the Hadith, and pushed me really hard against my strict beliefs.
Islam in Moderation
Eventually, I started to listening to other scholars like Yusuf Al-Qaradawi and started to realize that there was swath of opinions on Islam. Different schools of thoughts and different levels of moderation and extremism. I started to realize that my life of asceticism was not a good way to live.
I started listening to music again and playing games and enjoying entertainment. My life become more lively and I grew respect for the religion. I finally felt comfortable with Islam and my preachiness started to disappear remaining just with my family.
The Transition Out of the Fold
My mental illness and other factors which will be discussed later really started to instill doubts in me. I saw spiritual healers that were ineffective and no matter how I prayed and begged, nothing would happen. People tell me that I shouldn’t give up, but if you went through the amount of suffering I did, I don’t think you wouldn’t be able to handle it either.
At this time, I really wasn’t functional, sleeping 16 hours days and the rest on my laptop. I started falling back on prayers eventually stopping altogether. Although I still watched and read Islamic material, my interest slowly began to fade.
I’m not sure what initiated this change but many doubts and arguments really started to have an effect on me. While these doubts are apparently whisperings of Lucifer, I wasn’t scared anymore to entertain them. I started to widen my breadth of material that I read and the world wasn’t black and white anymore. It was so colourful and there was so many people with different thoughts on life. It wasn’t just about religion, but also about existentialism, nihilism, atheism, scientism and so on.
I always hated how sound evolution was in science. I tried so hard to deny it but no matter what I read, the arguments concerning evolution started to make more and more sense. I eventually conceded and became an ‘evolutionist’ (a term used by the religious). This really contracted the narrative of Islam and it put me further away from the religion.
I lost interest in the religion and kept quiet about it for about a year. My family started to realize that I wasn’t very practicing anymore and they would often get angry at me. My sister was the one who picked up the most signs and saw it coming.
I watched my faith crumble in front of me and it was extremely painful. Something I believed in for so long was just one big falsehood. I had to eventually admit that I no longer believed.
Within a month, I decided that I was no longer a Muslim, my faith was gone and I had no practice left in me. I thought my parents deserved the Truth but I could tell you it was a big mistake indeed.
One day, on a Tuesday, September 30th, 2014, I broke the news out. I left a letter translated into English, French and Arabic on the kitchen table and went to work. I had a full day of studies and work that day and would be coming back home at 10 pm that night. I begged my parents to read the letter carefully and only wait until the night to discuss in a civilized way but that’s not what happened.
At 10 am, my sister calls me in tears simply saying “I saw this coming, but I love you anyways and will always be on your side”. It ended up being a total lie and she never sided with me ever again. My mom allegedly fainted. Within the next hour, my father picked me up from the office forcefully and was sent home to yelling and screaming.
My parents asked me if I was part of the Freemasons, even though some of them are Muslims. I denied it because it wasn’t true. They had all sorts of conspiracies and none of them even approached the truth. I told them that I was a Truth seeker but it wasn’t enough for them. They wanted me to come back.
Many of family wanted to argue with me but I would be armed with so much jargon that they would eventually fear arguing with me, especially my maternal uncle. Their arguments revolved around faith and simply believing without ever considering anything else. My father and I would argue until 5 am in the morning.
Losing my family
The tension between my family and I grew so much that I eventually moved out but it wasn’t enough to distance myself from them. My mom no longer gave me endearments at all and I felt like I was no longer her son.
My father was a very practical man and I still miss him dearly. Him and I would come to peace and my mother would dismantle the peace between us saying that it was ridiculous. My father just wanted me to garden and fish with him and have father-son moments. He was no longer interested in religious arguments as they led to nowhere but my mother wanted them to keep going.
My most painful loss was my sister, she was my best friend. However, she decided to side with my mother for reasons I cannot understand. I was by her side and defended her as much as I could but it was a one way endeavour.
I eventually cut off my parents and haven’t spoken to them in a few years. I wish things could be different but the tension will continue if I stay with them. Because I was afraid to confront my immediate family, I had to cut ties with the extended family as well.
My mental illness was probably a major contributing factor that brought on doubts for me and let me entertain them in terms of religion. Suffering in silence is one of the most painful experiences you can have. It was the first time I have suffered.
This is not a chronology but rather parallel to my experience. From my first symptoms to my remission, I went from extremely religious to an atheist.
My First Symptom
As the night rolled in filling the bedroom with darkness,
lights off, only the glow of the moonlight.
As the ceiling faded into obscurity,
filled it began with insects and nondescript creatures.
Was I going crazy or is this reality? I did not comprehend.
My chest began to contract as I felt someone pull me out of bed.
I did not know what was happening,
but clearly something was wrong.
I heard sounds and seen sights that never before appeared to me,
as my confusion grew.
The feelings I had were so other and so strange,
extreme sadness and lament,
so much so that I no longer wanted to exist.
- Saturday, May 8th, 2010
I had my first seizure.
I could not describe how strange and other it felt and the fear that I experienced. I really didn't know what was happening to me and even worse was the extreme depression. I will never forget that horrific night. I didn't have any thoughts over what happened, maybe it was demonic possession or something of the sorts, but I immediately sought God's help reciting verses from the Qur'an, and nothing happened.
I was lost, confused and helpless, at the time, I was too scared to describe what happen to anyone.
Things grew worse as I started to have more episodes and lost the desire to live or do anything.
The Spiritual Healer
My parents, being sick of my constant complaining and pain, believed that prophetic medicine would be very helpful. As a religious person at the time, I had confidence that I would be cured by these treatments and I could prove these staunch scientists wrong.
One day, I went with my father to the Ottawa Mosque on Scott Street and we went to main office to ask if they knew about a Spiritual Healer who knew prophetic medicine. Some business cards were presented to us.
This man "Sheikh Muhammed Sarmad Al-Khaledi" was advertising his "Qur'anic Clinic". He was a "psychopathologist". I called the number to schedule an appointment and it seemed that his 'clinic' was essentially in the middle of nowhere in this nondescript place near Ridgemont and Heron Park., I still felt optimistic and could taste the cure.
I went to the office and he made pay 250$ for seven sessions with him, much cheaper than any psychological therapist. He started to read Qur'an and he seemed to have visions of what happened in my life. Only about half of what he said matched my life but many of the times he was completely off. My religious beliefs made me ignore what he got wrong as some sort of selective cognitive bias.
Eventually, he made me sit in a chair and he started more recitation of the Qur'an. His recitation instilled fear into me and I started to tremble. After the recitation was over, he apparently felt something and he 'diagnosed' me with the following:
He gave me a series of rituals such as special baths, dowsing myself with olive oils, reading specific parts of the Qur'an and making specific supplications.
My parents were very supportive and helped me practice those rituals and constantly reminded me to do them. My father helped me recite the verses and understand them. They would lie me down and recite over me. I got much support from them because it was what they believed in. The wanted to prove those scientific practitioners wrong and the power of their faith.
I tried so hard to follow what he said but oddly, it made me worse. I wasn't getting any better despite his promise that I would be cured in 21 days. After those 21 days, he said I was bedeviled by one of the 13 daughters of Satan and that it would take even longer. He asked for even more money. He wanted me to recite verses thousands of times, it was honestly ridiculous.
I sometimes wonder if these people have an agenda or they truly believe what they are doing. I don't know for sure.
I was sent to other ones who asked me questions of things that almost every human experiences. Such as having dreams of falling or being chased. Or having hair falling from my skin. Or having wet dreams. Everyone has theses but apparently they were signs of evil.
I eventually gave up on this prophetic medicine and decide to follow another journey.
After my sour experience with the Spiritual Healer who essentially brought on no results, despite the 21 day promise, and my sincere beliefs that I would be cured, I decided to take a different path altogether.
I begged my parents to be seen by a doctor, but I really didn't want them to hear what I was experiencing. Eventually, I met a competent general practitioner who let me speak to him in private without the supervision of my father, as again, they controlled every aspect of my life. He suspected a case of depression and decided to refer me to a psychiatrist.
It was a long agonizing wait, several months, until one afternoon, I got a call from a very dry man; he was going to be my psychiatrist. An appointment was setup within short notice and I saw him. I described to him my symptoms and all he had to say was "wow, that's complicated!".
My case was so atypical that he decided to send me to another psychiatrist for a second opinion, who was admittedly less dry, and she was out of words as well. It really didn't go too well.
They agreed to prescribe me a small dose of anti-psychotics and four times the regular dose of Prozac. I had no diagnosis, they were essentially guessing as my symptoms were so atypical that they really couldn't figure something out.
The medication didn't work. However, I did notice something, they had an effect on my mind. I got a bit calmer and my hypnagogic hallucinations were gone, which never bothered me though. It got me thinking, how come the recitations of the Qur'an and this prophetic medicine did nothing, while this modern scientific research was actually doing something to me. Maybe it's not a jinn or the evil eye, maybe it's something physiological.
I later realized that all mental illnesses had a physiological cause and not some magical mystical aspect. People who reported to be cured by prophetic medicine had their symptoms alleviated through a result of faith called the placebo effect. Most of the narratives I've heard describe people with minor ailments, like a case of situational depression that could be talked away. I dare someone to talk me out of my hallucinations or seizures, or convince me that they don't exist.
I've been under the case of these two psychiatrists for over five years now, and honestly it was really agonizing. I tried thirteen different medications before finding anything that worked.
One day, I was describing an aspect of my symptoms where my mood had phases and the psychiatrist had an epiphany. While I was in his office, he immediately called the other psychiatrist begging to have me seen the next day. She saw me and had the same click: I'm bipolar.
I did a few blood and clearance tests and then immediately put on Lithium. They warned me that the medication could take up to a year to take effect, but after a year, my life changed completely. I went from a bedridden person sleeping sixteen hour days to someone who could hold a full-time job and be a full-time student at the same time. I was still suffering from many symptoms that I didn't even know what they were, but I was functioning.
The psychiatrist had two troubles with my illness. The first one was that I had too much insight into how my symptoms worked and how they affected me. I hallucinated yet had no delusions. I knew that everything that I experienced was a product of my mind. The other more unfortunate part, my illness was a prodrome, in other words things were getting worse over time.
I didn't know I was epileptic for a long time. Before I had falls and convulsions, my psychiatrists were both convinced that I had some epileptic activity in my brain, it would explain my non-delusional hallucinations. But they we're right, years after I started falling and convulsing and having strange feelings.
The whole practice was so agonizing and tested my patience to the extreme. So many drugs that didn't work or gave me horrible side effects. Some made me worse and some have had permanent side effects on me that will never go away despite discontinuing the drug.
Today, I'm in remission, I'm 90% functional. Yes, I still have mood swings, hallucinations, anxiety and seizures, but I can live with them. The therapy and medication worked, I can manage my symptoms and live essentially what is a normal life.
Thanks to advances in science specifically biology and chemistry, these 21 little pills saved me from my anguish and most people wouldn't even know that I have something wrong going on in my head. I've opened up to some people and the response is always "I would have never guessed".
My case was so atypical that psychiatrists couldn't fit me into any of the DSM-IV (the Bible for Psychiatry) criteria. They chose instead to do a reverse diagnosis based on the medication I was taking and what they treated. I was eventually diagnosed with a very long title, something I could use to scare people if they attempted to upset me.
Bipolar Schizoaffective Disorder with Cyclothymia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Temporal Lobe Epilepsy.
Some will say that God gave us knowledge to treat ourselves but it seems that we always discover it rather than being born with it. This is a very indirect way of treating anyone. If I was born just 100 years ago, I would have never been treated and just labelled as a lunatic. If God created medicine why has it only advanced only in recent modern times. What was the point of allowing past humans to suffer and us getting the fancy pills?
My worst memory
I will still being treated like a guinea pig then by the psychiatrists and none of the drugs were working let alone having a diagnosis in the first place. This story is just to give an idea how painful illness is and what kind of feelings it can stir up within you.
One night, after I moved out of my parents place, who left me no furniture except a mattress and my desk, I started to feel queezy and odd and took refuge in the bedroom. I didn’t have a light installed in there yet and it was really silent. I sat down in the far corner of the room and the hallucinations started. My feelings were so other that I could not describe them in any language that I know.
I felt extreme depression and spent hours with crying spells and wanting to kill myself. No one was there to protect me, not even God who’s supposed to be my side at all times. But it was silence and loneliness. Pain and misery.
This was another one of my seizures that I thought was just a bipolar episode.
Once things subsided I immediately called the Distress Center for some consolation. No friend would respond and I would never seek the help of my judgmental parents who yelled at me during my seizures.
I am still haunted by this memory and the corner I sat is now filled with a bed-side stand and other stuff so that I can’t go there anymore. I still find it painful to go to the bedroom simply because of that memory.
I don’t want anyone to suffer like I did but the narrative is that God created a world where this could happen to wretched and flawed creatures like me.
My First Doubt
I can't exactly recall the spark that lit my skepticism and doubts about Islam but I know, no doubt, it was about the cruelty and sadisticness of God. Why does God punish people so much for things they don't deserve. Why did I suffer? I eventually realized that there must be a better Truth than this. One without God.
Evil and Suffering
Many in the first-world have not experienced true suffering. Good health, great income and an aspiring education. Suffering is abstract to them, something that is somewhat painful but just a test from God. To pass the test, one must be patient and steadfast, but is it really that easy?
Think of the millions who die from heart disease and cancer. Some people are overtaken by such anguish that they end their own lives, to put an end to their suffering. It is so insipid that an omnibenevolent God would allow such things to happen. The final blow is God will punish those who fail the test of bearing such pain. Do you think you could handle being desecrated and tortured?
Evil is another way to cause suffering. Think of Hitler or Stalin who tortured and killed millions of innocent people just because they didn't follow their ways. Why did God create these human beings and let them act like that. Is God that sadistic?
God has allowed violence to happen, when peaceful negotiation between the nations could have absolved anyone of fights. Why has God given us knowledge to torture, shoot, cut and hurt others? Why has God created some psychopaths whom He knew would have a thirst for killing? This is clearly not the product of an All-Loving God, but rather flawed mechanisms in human beings.
Look at the animal kingdom, these wretched creatures that don't even have the concept of understanding. Preys and predators as a means to feed them when God could have nurtured them in painless ways. Millions of pets every year have to be put down because of their suffering from disease. Rarely do they die peacefully.
In Dialogues concerning Natural Religion from the 18th century, David Hume reformulates one of the most famous quotes by Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher.
“Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil? Then why call him God?”
- Epicurean Paradox, Epicurus through David Hume
According to Abrahamic faiths, God is All-Good, All-Able and All-Knowing. The presence of Evil and Suffering contradicts this thoroughly. If God knows about Evil and He is All-Good, why would He not prevent it with His power and might? Just why? Why would a God like this test his creation in something that He knows that they will fail in? Not everyone can handle the pain of cancer or the prospect of having a loved one die of something unpreventable. Why did God even create these diseases himself in the first place?
When the actor and writer Stephen Fry was asked about meeting God, he had this to say:
"I will basically say, what is known as the Odyssey, I'd say bone cancer in children? What's that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It's not right. It's utterly utterly [sic] evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain? That's why I'd say… I wouldn't want to get in [to heaven] on his terms. They're wrong. Now if I died and it was Pluto, Hades and if it was the twelve Greek Gods, then I would have more truck with it because the Greeks were, they [sic] didn't pretend not to be human; in their appetites, and in their capriciousness, and in their unreasonableness. They didn't present themselves as being All-Seeing, All-Wise, All-Kind or Beneficent. Because the God who created this Universe, if it was created by God, is quite clearly a maniac. Utter maniac. Totally selfish. We have to spend our lives on our knees thanking Him? What kind of God would do that? Yes, the world is very splendid but it also has in it insects, who's whole life cycle, is to burrow into the eyes of children and make them blind; that eat outwards from the eyes. Why? Why did you do that to us? You could have easily made a creation in which that didn't exist. It is simply not acceptable. So, you know, atheism is not just about not believing there is God, but on the assumption if there is one, what kind of God is He? It is perfectly apparent He is monstrous, utterly monstrous and deserves no respect whatsoever. The moment you banish Him, your life becomes simpler, purer, cleaner, more worth living in my opinion."
- Stephen Fry, The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne
My childhood was absolutely amazing and dream-like, no pain, no suffering and had all that I wanted. However, when my mental illness came into my life, I realized how painful suffering was. Why do I have to go through such anguish and pain? In the last parts of my religious career, I was angry at God. I was pointing the finger to sky and cursing God. I'm not the only one suffering from this and I'm not alone. Why would I want this to happen to somebody else?
Why did I deserve this? Why does God have the need to punish me and knowing that I would fail. Look, I don't believe in God anymore. If He really was so beneficent He would at least have given me means to be cured. Instead, I had to rely on flawed humans and science to get better. Assuming I did something bad, why would haven't He given me another sign rather than make us all suffer. I'm not a psychopath or narcissistic, but despite not harming anyone, I still got punished.
My only question to all of this is Why? How can God let such thing happen when he could have prevented it. Why not pick other criteria which would put us in heaven, such as our piety, how we treat others. our selflessness and not worshiping Him or belonging to a certain religion?
Look at all the Nobel Peace Prize winners, many of them not Muslims. These people will be sent to Hell punished forever and ever. Some claim that they will be rewarded in this life but how is it fair that the Samaritan gets Hell and the Muslim who did nothing but pray and fast gets Paradise? I don't understand this at all especially if God supposedly favours peace and justice.
Mahatma Gandhi established India’s independence through activism and nonviolent disobedience and inspired freedom and civil rights movements around the world. He became known as the Father of the Nation as he fought imperialism without the use of weapons or war.
The philanthropist Nelson Mandela fought institutionalized racism and instilling racial reconciliation. He instilled peace and justice serving the African National Congress as president as an anti-apartheid revolutionary.
As one of the UN Secretary-Generals between 1997-2006, Kofi Annan fought for human rights and was known for saying "Human rights are what make us human. They are the principles by which we create the sacred home for human dignity”. He saved an election, rigged and manipulated, in Kenya and prevented oppression.
Do these people sound like they deserve an eternal punishment to be scalded by boiling water and having their insides torn apart? I’ll argue that these people did way more than the Muslim who read Qur’an all-day and spent his night praying benefiting no one except himself.
This was the first doubt I ever had about the existence of God and it let me onto a path of destruction: the erasing of my faith. When I finally entertained this doubt, that I ruminated on for so long, finally I could think about it and challenge it. When the whole question of suffering came into place, I went from blindly religious to a skeptic within days.
This was a very charged topic but I'd like to end it on a dark humorous note. The comedian George Carlin has described the problem of evil in his performance You are all diseased like this:
"But I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look around, the more you realize, something is fucked up. Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong in the résumé of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of shit you'd except from an office temped with a bad attitude. And just between you and me, in any decently run universe, this guy would have been on His all powerful ass a long time ago…"
- George Carlin, You are all diseased
Reading about Hell in Qur'an generates such fear that one starts to think that God is a cosmic dictator. It's not about wanting to be sinless and pious, but rather having to. Even to this day, after becoming a non-believer, some ruminants of the fear of hell still reside in me.
While Christians and Jews have very vague descriptions of Hell, nothing compares to what the Qur'an has to offer:
"Boiling fluid will be poured down on their heads; which will melt what's in their bellies, and skins. For them will be hooked rods of iron. Whenever, in their anguish, they try to escape from Hell, they shall be dragged back. A Fire which will encompass them like the walls and roof of a tent, will hem them in: they will cry out for help but will be granted scorching water like melted brass, that will scald their faces. Dragged through scalding fetid fluid and burnt in the Fire. As often as their skins are roasted We shall exchange them for fresh skins, so they may taste the punishment. No food except pus. The tree of Zaqqum will be the food of the sinners. Like molten brass it will boil in their insides. Like the boiling of scalding water. (It will be said) ‘Seize him and drag him into the midst of the Blazing Fire! Then pour over his head the torment of Boiling Water.’ They will be given boiling water to drink so that it tears their bowels to pieces. Never will it be eased off them nor will they be reprieved. Never will they get out. Hell for all eternity."
- Qur'an (Verses 22:19-22, 18:29, 40:72, 4:56, 69:36, 44:43-48, 47:15, 3:88, 5:37 and 4:169) (Pickthall)
Try picturing yourself in such a vivid anguish just because you belonged to the wrong religion, by accident of being born in the wrong non-Muslim country. Imagine the screams, the heat and the immense pain. Think of those who have went to war and seen just a iota of this end up with PTSD. Imagine what your mind will be filled with after knowing that you will in there for eternity. How cruel and excessive!
I sometimes wonder why would a God that is apparently so loving, merciful and just would allow this happen. Sure Paradise exists and it is splendid but how is it fair to receive eternal punishment for a temporary mistake? Islam doesn't even guarantee that your sins will be forgiven. If you're born to the wrong parents, say Christian, well good luck. The dichotomy just couldn't fit in my head when I started looking at Islam more critically.
I think Carlin had summarized this point so well:
"Religion has actually convinced people, that there is an invisible man, living in the sky, who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten things He does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things He has a special place full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish where He will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever till the end of time. But He loves you!"
- George Carlin, You are all diseased
Imagine your best friend, who happens to be of the wrong religion, and he got so sick of your proselytizing that he didn't want to hear any of it anymore. He or she's going to Hellfire, and be tortured. While they say God will erase the memories in your head of them when your enter Paradise, assuming you make the cut, losing a friend over religion still sounds very painful. Many of your loved ones will go to Hell according to Islam even your family friends who's are Muslim, but just happen to drink alcohol, are also going there.
This incredibly 'merciful' God is so sadistic that he wants to fill hell according to the Qur'an:
"If We had so willed, We could certainly have brought every soul its true guidance: but the Word from Me will come true, "I will fill Hell with Jinns and men all together."
- Qur’an (32:13) (Yusuf Ali)
Those might as well been the words of Satan. Even Jinns don’t get a break!
But it gets worse, God really doesn’t want the disbelievers to believe:
“Indeed, those who disbelieve - it is all the same for them whether you warn them or do not warn them - they will not believe. Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing, and over their vision is a veil. And for them is a great punishment.”
- Qur’an (2:6-7) (Sahih International)
This is like blindfolding a blind person. Apparently, God already knows their nature so they will go to Hell anyways, but just in case, their hearts will be sealed so they never ever have a chance. What a merciful God this is!
Of course, God really made sure that Hell would be a vast place so that it could be filled with as many disbelievers and sinners as possible with this chilling metaphor, incredibly poetic:
"On the Day We will say to Hell, ‘Have you been filled?’ and it will say, 'Are there some more?'"
- Qur’an (50:30) (Sahih International)
Honestly, these verses are only a glimpse to vivid descriptions of Hell in the Qur'an. Despite being so terrifying, Muslims still sin drinking alcohol, gambling and using narcotics every day, and they are assuming that God will forgive them despite their intentions. The truth is, God's tactic of scaring people from Hell doesn't seem so effective.
I started to realize that God not only created suffering in this life, but in the eternal afterlife too. He really is an insane monster who has a huge desire to torture His own creatures that He supposedly loves so much.
Even people who took part in Islam's growth and let it prosper more among the prophet's followers were not saved from such torment. The polytheist and pagan Abu-Talib, the one who took care of the Prophet when he lost both his parents to death. It was said this about him in the prophetic tradition:
Narrated Al-Musaiyab: "When Abu Talib was on his death bed, Allah's Messenger came to him and found with him, Abu Jahl and `Abdullah bin Abi Umaiya bin Al-Mughira. Allah's Messenger said, "O uncle! Say: None has the right to be worshipped except Allah, a sentence with which I will defend you before Allah." On that Abu Jahl and `Abdullah bin Abi Umaiya said to Abu Talib, "Will you now leave the religion of `Abdul Muttalib?" Allah's Messenger kept on inviting him to say that sentence while the other two kept on repeating their sentence before him till Abu Talib said as the last thing he said to them, "I am on the religion of `Abdul Muttalib," and refused to say: None has the right to be worshipped except Allah. On that Allah's Messenger said, "By Allah, I will keep on asking Allah's forgiveness for you unless I am forbidden (by Allah) to do so." So Allah revealed:-- 'It is not fitting for the Prophet and those who believe that they should invoke (Allah) for forgiveness for pagans.' (Qur'an 9:113) And then Allah revealed especially about Abu Talib:--'Verily! You (O, Muhammad) guide not whom you like, but Allah guides whom He will. (Quran 28:56)'"
- Sahih Al-Bukhari (Book 60, Hadith 295)
Apparently the Prophet had great love for his relative and took care of him in times of poverty, and despite of all of this, the Prophet receives the news that he will not be guided. Instead he gets insane punishments from such a 'merciful' God:
Narrated Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri: "That he heard the Prophet when somebody mentioned his uncle (i.e. Abu Talib), saying, 'Perhaps my intercession will be helpful to him on the Day of Resurrection so that he may be put in a shallow fire reaching only up to his ankles. His brain will boil from it.'"
- Sahih Al-Bukhari (Book 63, Hadith 111)
Muhammad will have to intercede (i.e. negotiate with God) so that his relative will only have this 'light' punishment. For verily, what a light punishment it is!
Say you had a child, or even a friend, who didn't follow your rules or even failed to acknowledge your existance, maybe you'd get angry at them, but would it be so great that you'd want them killed? Even further, would you torture them? Would you want to pour boiling molten brass down their throats for eternity? Even the worst psychopaths on earth wouldn’t want this and you're likely a normal human being. God, the Most Merciful, more merciful than any mother on the planet, wants to subject this to His creation.
What bothers me even more is many of these verses mention God's will. Why is God not willing to guide of All-of-Mankind if he cares so much for His creatures? Why not predispose them to perform good deeds so they can be under the pure guidance of God. However, God's Will and Divine plan is different. Some will use the free-well and predestination paradox to explain this but I will discuss this later.
I found this abhorrent beyond words and further lead to realize that God's not worth worshiping, if He even exists in the first place.
Many theists have come up with attempts to justify all this evil through theodicies. Essentially excuses for God to have allowed such things. God is not to blame, it our fault, or maybe He has something greater, a grander scheme of things that would explain all this pain and agony.
I don’t understand why theologians spend so much time defending God rather than admitting that He is evil. It’s not even about resolving contradictions but simply explaining away why Evil exists.
The Greater Good Argument
This is the most common argument to explain why suffering exists in the world. Apparently, our feeble minds could not possibly understand the grand scheme that God has prepared for us. Instead, we are left to suffer with no hope in sight praying that God will eventually absolve us of our pain.
My favourite defense is the following allegory: “A young child has a teeth cavity and is sent to the dentist. The dentist appears to be evil by giving needle injections and drilling through teeth which are both painful. The child does not understand why this is happening to him, but it’s for a greater good, to alleviate him from his cavity”. However, my question is, why did the cavity come in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been better to not have the child subject to a cavity? Harm was created in order to inflict more pain, for the ‘greater good’.
Where’s the greater good of inflicting poor children in Africa with cancer? Where’s the greater good of having innocent people tortured in prison? Where’s the greater good in dictators who destroy and torture millions of people?
God makes us suffer so that we pray more and communicate with him more. But why does it have to be through suffering? Why not have a plan where this person is given encouragement by others to pray more and follow God’s path better, isn’t that more peaceful and better?
It’s out fault because of our free will.
This is the free will and predetermination paradox. If God knew about the horrible acts that we will be doing and punish us for them, why did He allow them to happen in the first place? We can still have free will if we don’t have the inclination to do bad things. In fact, even now we don’t have complete free will due to our limitations as human beings. I don’t have the free will to fly…
It is inconceivable that a God that knows everything and wants peace and justice in this world to let such things happen. Why be punished for something that a freedom that God gave us, namely free will?
I’ve met Muslims that have doubts because of this paradox but they think that they are whisperings of Satan and brought their thoughts too far. I wasn’t afraid to entertain this doubt anymore and realized how ridiculous it was.
My Faith Crumbling Down
As my pain from suffering from my illness and my doubts concerning the Mercifulness of God grew, I started to get angry. Lifted was the fear of doubts coming from 'the whisperings' of Satan and I started to take a deeper and more critical look into my religion, not into anything new, but from what I already known.
At the time, I will really ill and unmedicated, hiding in my bedroom and either sleeping or on my computer. I would spend hours upon hours reading primary sources and various websites gaining a greater understanding of my religion. The more I looked into it, with a skeptic mind, the less it made sense.
As one ex-priest described it, it's like being really close to a mountain, you just see rocks and a small part of it. As you distance yourself away from it, the mountain comes into view and you gain a true prescriptive of it, how big it is and what it truly is.
This happened so fast, for many people this process takes years, within one month I went from staunch believer to apostate. It was a wild and emotional ride, especially realizing that 24 years of my life was on big giant lie and missing so much on the better parts of life just because God made them forbidden for arbitrary reasons.
I don't remember the order in which these doubts came but this is just a jumbled and rambled mess of what my thoughts went through, just as disorganized as my thoughts. This is just a tiny glimpse of how many doubts I had as there are much more, this is just a taster.
Igtheism and the God of Paradox
Many atheists have such a hard time understanding the concept of God in theistic religions; it’s because God is inconceivable.
The paradox was very well put together by a YouTuber called DarkMatter2525 in his God of the Paradox video:
“The Supernatural, it’s nothing, we made it up. It explains away all problems … How can a timeless being make a decision when every decision require at least two different temporal states? Because He’s supernatural! How can a spaceless being by distinguishable from other identities without distance to separate them? Supernatural! How can a spaceless being retain the countless gigabytes of information to know everything? Supernatural! And how can he be immune to causality and complexity? The supernatural is not bound to any form of reality which with anyone will ever be familiar. It can be created, destroyed or eternal. It has never been sampled or measured in any way, shape or form. It’s existence is entirely unverifiable. Therefore, any characteristics of it are eligible to invented by anyone on the spot. Any or all problems with the concept of God or any assertion really can immediately be cured by attributing them to the supernatural. This can completely nullify any and all arguments, forever.”
- DarkMatter2525, God of the Paradox
These are valid questions that philosophers and theologians have been debating for centuries as they really do not make any sense to anyone with some rationality or logical thinking.
I also have a few of my own:
How can there be predetermination (i.e. God’s plan) and free will at the same time? They are a direct contradiction of each other.
How can God be on a Throne when He is spaceless and timeless?
How can God be above the Seven Heavens when He is spaceless and timeless?
The idea that there is no coherent concept of God, that belief in that is called Igtheism. The answer to ‘does God exist’ is not false, but ‘not even false’
Religion is so good at making exaggerated claims and false promises. The Prophet has said:
Narrated from Abu Hurayrah that he heard the Messenger of Allah say concerning the black seed: “In it there is healing for every disease, except as-saam.” Ibn Shihaab said: As-saam is death.
- Al-Bukhaari (5688) and Muslim (2215)
This sounds like something that could really benefit the medical community. But perhaps there is a conspiracy to prove that Islam is wrong and would rather have millions of people die from unpreventable diseases. The medical industry could make so much money by selling patented black seed oil to cure all the diseases. Almost everyone in the world is sick from something and there are billions of people on the Earth. Even if it was sold for one dollar, imagine the profits that it would bring!
Religions often claim that a complex disease has a simple cure whether it’s prayer or a certain plant or food. However, the reality is that no such thing exists.
I’ve had eaten the black seed in various forms like cumin powder throughout my life and it did nothing at all. It was rather modern medicine that provided me with proper treatment for my ailment.
I challenge any Muslim to feed a terminal cancer patient with the black seed and have them escape death. I can’t believe that even Saudi Arabia practices modern medicine when they know this secret and instead gets drugs from Switzerland to treat the sick. It is because the black seed does actually nothing.
The Philosophical arguments were made in ancient Greek times but only regained popularity again when William Lane Craig re-introduced them in his book “Reasonable Faith”. Hamza Andreas Tzortsis, from iERA, ended up copying his arguments verbatim and giving them an Islamic twist.
I won’t go through all the arguments but I’ll pick the two most popular ones that most Muslims use. These arguments are still gaining popularity and they can be difficult to understand by some laymen Muslims.
Kalam Cosmological Argument
The arguments starts with the following sound premise: “Everything that begins to exist has a cause”. You trace that back through regression until you reach the beginning of the Universe. It is assumed that the singularity that caused the Universe is not the initial cause, but rather it was caused by something. The huge leap of Faith is that the initial cause is God. I agree that the initial cause must be eternal because it did not begin to exist, otherwise we’d have an infinite regression problem.
I do agree that the cause must be powerful, must be eternal and so forth. But why must this cause be All-Knowing, All-Seeing, Personal and Omnibenificent? Why can’t the initial cause be the singularity that exploded 13.8 million of years ago. Isn’t it simpler to assume that this singularity is the uncaused eternal thing? Assuming the singularity was caused, why not a powerful eternal quantum fluctuation?
Argument by Design (i.e. Teleological Argument)
This is a very tempting argument because our universe is so unlikely. Even changing one constant by a tiny amount will result in a totally different universe. This is agreed upon.
However, does this result in believing that the Universe was designed? It’s a giant leap of faith. The constants could have simply been a coincidence. Just because we exist doesn’t mean anything special. We think the Universe was designed for us but it is the other way around, we adapted to the Universe.
We humans have a tendency to project ourselves into the world around us. Everything has apparent design but that doesn’t mean it was designed. Everything around us emerged through nature rather than a artist designing every tree.
The universe may be complex but it is not complicated. We are simply just one of the many building blocks that formed naturally through the fusion of atoms, the formation of the Universe and evolution. Gradual, slow changes that happened over billions of years. The gives plenty of time for coincidences to happen.
I’ll have to admit that this supposed miracle really strengthened my faith in Islam though I’ve never actually verified myself. The concept is that some words are repeated a certain number of times and it cannot be possible that these repetitions are a coincidence, it must be divine.
Here are some examples of the claims:
The phrase “Bismilliah” (In the name of God) is repeated 114 times in the Qur’an, the same as the amount of chapters, even though Sura At-Tawbah (Chapter of Forgiveness) doesn’t start with it.
Seven Heavens is mentioned 7 times, and the Creation of the Heaven is also mentioned 7 times.
The word ‘day’ is mentioned 365 times, and the words days in dual and plural form are mentioned 7 times, and the word month is mentioned 12 times.
Muslims have found many more coincidences in the Qur’an and can be listed ad infinitum.
However, what is not mentioned is that the word count is selective (i.e. only certain instances of the words are selected) and that these kinds of coincidences can be found in other books too.
Let’s take a look at Moby Dick, written by Herman Melville also has similar coincidences:
The words iron and metal appear 95 times. The atomic number, weight and isotopes also add up to 95.
The world planet appears 3 times. The planet Earth is the 3rd planet from the sun.
The words day, night and world multiply to 24, the number of hours in a day.
Steel is composed of Iron and Carbon. The word steel appears 32 times. The atomic number of iron is 26 and carbon 6, if you add them up you get 32.
These numerical coincidences appear in any lengthy text, it’s just a matter of being selective and finding matches with reality.
Even Muslim scholars are not impressed with these ‘miracles’:
“I think I have now wasted enough space and time to demonstrate the absurdity of these claims that there is some special significance underlying the number of times these words occur in the Quran. In the first place, there is no rule or principle for determining which word or concept must always occur a special number of times. Secondly, the criteria for selecting which occurrences of a word should be counted are highly subjective, dubious and always open to challenge. Most importantly, we gain no increased knowledge about, or insight into, any teaching of Islam from knowing the number of occurrences.“
- Dr. Zahid Aziz.
For the really curious, you can verify the claims by visiting corpus.quran.com and do the word counts yourself. You will see that they do not match any of the claims made by the ones who spread them.
As a Muslim, I never really questioned these claims however as my faith collapsed I became more curious about what kept me in the fold of Islam. When I came to the conclusion that these were fabrication, another part of my faith was taken away from me.
In the 1980's the concept that the Qur’an contained foreknowledge of scientific facts became very popular, despite older exegites having totally different interpretations of these verses.
One of the most famous ones is the one about embryology:
We created man from an extract of clay. Then We made him as a drop in a place of settlement, firmly fixed. Then We made the drop into an alaqah (leech, suspended thing, and blood clot), then We made the alaqah into a mudghah (chewed substance)...and We made [from] the lump, bones, and We covered the bones with flesh; then We developed him into another creation. So blessed is Allah, the best of creators”
- Quran, (23:12-14)
Keith Moore apparently converted to Islam after reading this verse despite still being a Christian today. Muslims love to spread this kind of falsehood as chain messages.
However, P.Z. Myers completely debunked this claim, mainly that the bones and flesh form in separate stages while in truth they form at the same time. Some apologists went so far as to claim that the word then ‘thumma’ (and then) also means simultaneously. It was really a stretch but how do we know which ‘thumma’ means then or simultaneously in that verse.
Ironically, the stages mentioned are the same ones mentioned by Hippocrates and Galen before the second century, I wonder where the knowledge was taken from.. Take a look here. WikiIslam summarizes the point like this:
“"let us divide the creation of the foetus overall into four periods of time.
The first is that in which. as is seen both in abortions and in dissection, the form of the semen prevails [Arabic nutfah]. At this time, Hippocrates too, the all-marvelous, does not yet call the conformation of the animal a foetus; as we heard just now in the case of semen voided in the sixth day, he still calls it semen. But when it has been filled with blood [Arabic alaqa], and heart, brain and liver are still unarticulated and unshaped yet have by now a certain solidarity and considerable size,
this is the second period; the substance of the foetus has the form of flesh and no longer the form of semen. Accordingly you would find that Hippocrates too no longer calls such a form semen but, as was said, foetus.
The third period follows on this, when, as was said, it is possible to see the three ruling parts clearly and a kind of outline, a silhouette, as it were, of all the other parts [Arabic mudghah]. You will see the conformation of the three ruling parts more clearly, that of the parts of the stomach more dimly, and much more still, that of the limbs. Later on they form "twigs", as Hippocrates expressed it, indicating by the term their similarity to branches.
The fourth and final period is at the stage when all the parts in the limbs have been differentiated; and at this part Hippocrates the marvelous no longer calls the foetus an embryo only, but already a child, too when he says that it jerks and moves as an animal now fully formed."
"... The time has come for nature to articulate the organs precisely and to bring all the parts to completion. Thus it caused flesh to grow on and around all the bones, and at the same time ... it made at the ends of the bones ligaments that bind them to each other, and along their entire length it placed around them on all sides thin membranes, called periosteal, on which it caused flesh to grow."“
- Galen - WikiIslam - History of Embryology
However, there are also many unscientific claims in the Qur’an as well:
It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor doth the night outstrip the day. They float each in an orbit.
This totally ignores the fact that some places have months of day or night like in Antarctica.
There is a common theme among Muslims when sharing these stories. Allegedly, some western scientist discovers that the Qur’an contains a scientific verse and it is impossible for a 7th century man to know this, therefore converting to Islam. However, these authors end up making official statements that they remain in their present religion and even NASA has to debunk their claims.
Muhammad also seemed to have a really poor knowledge of time zones.
“From Abu Hurayrah, that the Prophet said: “The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him?’””
- Bukhari (1145)
Sounds like a very merciful God working here. Except there is one problem, there is always one place on the Earth where it is the last third of the night. So is God always descended, doesn’t that contradict that he is on his throne? Did he descend the moment the Earth was created as the verb used is in present tense?
Some scholars have done some incredible mental gymnastics to debunk what I said:
“The correct view is that He descends and that He does not vacate the Throne.”
- Ibn Taymiyah
Such claims can be found in other major texts as well from the early 1900s, like again, Moby Dick, where at the time, no one could have no way to know this incredibly deep knowledge:
- The quote ‘go gaze upon the iron’ means that Iron formed in space.
- Just as the Qur’an says, everything was created from water, in Moby Dick it is also said ‘that all the creatures of the land, are of their kind in the sea’
Christians also find these miracles and predictions in their books with Equidistant Letter Sequence. Look at this amazing miracle about Space Shuttle Columbia where even the shape of a shuttle appears in the old testament: