Hazrat NaKhuda (former Muslim)
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I was born to Pakistani parents, and lived in Saudi Arabia until the age of 17. After that I moved back to Pakistan. Here is my quest from a Muslim to an atheist. It was not easy, especially since I had not traveled that much outside the Muslim world. In fact, to date I haven't been in any country whose constitution does not label it self as Islamic. I spent most of my time between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. I have never been to any part of the Western World. So keep in mind that we are talking about a very high degree of childhood brainwashing here. I had done two Hajjs and close to 20 Umrahs by the age of 17. Ask any Muslim and he will tell you that is no ordinary feat. So religion was pretty much there in my life, it was beyond doubt, unquestionable and beyond criticism.
Religion of my forefathers
Just like most Muslim Apologetics I used to often use the term "that is not the real Islam" a lot in debates etc. One fine day it just occurred to me that the real reason why I am a Muslim was because my parents are Muslim. I mean if I had been born in a different country to parents who held different beliefs I could have been a person of a different faith. Was it just that? Am I a Muslim just by chance of birth? I asked myself what if I am wrong? A Hindu or a Christan believes in his/her own faith with equal zeal. What makes me so different? why should I have the audacity to say what I have is the "one true religion". The Qur'an itself cursed the "Kuffar of Mecca" because according to the Qur'an they knew the truth (about Islam) but still they were rejecting the Qur'an because they could not leave the religion of their forefathers. I thought what if I am making the same mistake? What if I am just clinging to the religion of my forefathers.
From that point on I decided that I am going to make up my own mind and read Islamic teachings from an unbiased perspective. The question "Is there a God?" came much later. Initially that question seemed stupid. What might surprise most readers is that for most Muslims "Is there a God?" is a stupid question.
The more I read the more I started rejecting portions of Islamic teachings. I rejected the idea of death for apostates, I rejected Jihad, I rejected Sharia as Law for the state, rejected the idea that Islam is any more true than any other religion. All in all I started throwing stuff out of Islam that just did not make sense. At one stage it just came down to believing in Allah and throwing away almost everything else. The thing that jolted me the most was the conflict between the concepts of "Day of Judgment" and an all knowing all powerful God.
The basic idea about Allah is that he is all knowing and all powerful and there is a divine plan in place. If that is the case then God already knows what I am going to do and he is the one who actually decided that I will do X bad deeds and Y good deeds. So what exactly is the point of the Day of Judgment? As a Computer Programmer I cannot hold my code responsible for crashing or for giving undesired results. I coded it ... it is my fault.
On the flip side, if the Day of Judgment is taken to be true, then we are partially or completely free in deciding what we do. Most Islamic arguments I have come across lean towards partial freedom. Now if I do be judged for the deeds I have done within the partial sphere of freedom that I have then that actually means God isn't actually all powerful and all knowing. God in that case would not know what exactly I would do in that partial sphere of independence. All in all I can actually "surprise" God with my actions in that sphere. I have found this concept very hard to explain in words. I am sorry If I am not making any sense.
This was just one thing out of many that actually drove me away from Islam. Multiple things continuously ate away the faith I had. I started believing in a subset of what Islam was. In reality I was not a Muslim anymore but was too afraid to let go of the label. The label was ingrained in me so forcefully I simply could not think of doing away with it. It came down to just believing in Allah and just letting go of everything else. The above reasoning made me seriously doubt God. The funny thing is, at that moment I didn't really know that not believing is an option. Till the age of 18 I did not know what "atheists" are. I have to admit I was ignorant.
I started reading stuff on evolution. Started debating "moderates" (read 'Muslims who won't get angry when I ask questions').
Fear and Final Peace
At one time I honestly thought I was weird in a way. Does anyone else think the same? Is there something wrong with me? I tried to not think about anything and go back to mosques and start praying and all. It didn't help. I just could not escape it. I remember going to the mosque to pray after a whole year and the moment I started I heard my conscious say "Who the F*** are you kidding?". I was just being hypocrite and I knew it.
After that I never went back to the mosque. After that I never prayed. After that I was an atheist.
- Pakistan's youth giving up Islam? - Deccan Herald article discussing Hazrat NaKhuda's Facebook group
- Being Pakistani and atheist a dangerous combo, but some ready to brave it - Pakistan Today article discussing Hazrat NaKhuda and the PAA (Pakistani Atheists and Agnostics)