There is an Arabic expression along the lines of, “aslamat Sāra, lā zād al-Muslimūn wa lā qalat al-nasārā”, which literally means: “Sara has converted (to Islām), neither increasing Muslims nor reducing Christians”. The expression is sometimes said when a person leaves Islām, as an idiomatic “who cares?”. In any case, it is not an entirely sensible expression. Entering or leaving Islām is not a matter to be taken lightly.
However in recent times, where boasting about leaving Islām is construed by pseudo-Islamic mannequins (called ‘think-tank’) as ‘very brave’, even in a society beleaguered by Islamophobia and piled on anti-Islamic rhetoric, maybe there is some space for an aslamat Sāra attitude. So, if that bob of Īmān shakes at the news of pop stars no longer ‘convinced’ by an afterlife, below are seven points to help it settle.
I. Islām does not depend on its adherents, unlike other faiths and systems
Islām is not a reality that needs human validation. It is a reality that transcends above the universe and governs everything within it. In fact, there was a time when a single Muslim was called the ‘community’ all by himself,
“Ibrāhīm was a community (Ummah) in himself…”
The message stood firm against the odds. Ibrāhīm ‘alayhi al-Salām did not see his singleness as an existential threat to the message of Islam as he knew his Lord was preserving it. Islam survived through the 11th century Crusades, the 13th century Mongolian campaigns and the 15th century Spanish inquisition. Numerous political doctrines, religions and strains died out with the demise of their adherents, save unadulterated, Abrahamic monotheism that remarkably survives.
In fact, there will be a time when there will be no Muslim on the face of the earth at all. This will come, as far as the age of the earth goes, moments before its end (the Day of Judgement). But the non-existence of Muslims who believe in the afterlife prior to the Day of Judgement will not stop it from happening. Even without adherents, the universal system of Islām endures.
II. Islām’s ‘Golden Era’ was when its adherents were fewest in number
Having many people on your side cannot be a bad thing, and Islām far from disparages huge numbers. In fact, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhī wa sallam) says:
“Marry the one who is fertile and loving, for I will boast of your great numbers.”
But quality has always been centralised in the few. It was a few who followed Nūh ‘(‘alayhī al-Salām), a few who crossed the river with Tālūt to meet Jālūt’s forces, and a few who were persecuted alongside ‘Īsā the son of Mary (‘alayhimā al-Salām). The Battle of Badr is by agreement the greatest battle of Islām, yet prior to the confrontation, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhī wa sallam), supplicated,
“O Allāh! Bring about what You promised for me. O Allāh! If you destroy this band of adherents to Islām, you will not be worshiped alone upon the earth…”
Here is Abu Bakr al-Siddīq (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu) with Iman weighing more than the Ummah’s masses combined, Abū ‘Ubaydah b. al-Jarrāh (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu), whom ‘Umar later wished that everyone would resemble, and al-Qa’qa’ b. ‘Āmr, whose voice and military contribution were more effective than 1000 men.
In fact, ‘many’ has almost never been mentioned in the Qur’ān except with a form of dispraise. “Many of the People of the Book would love it if they could make you revert to being disbelievers after you have become believers.” “Many of mankind are deviators.” “Surely many people are heedless of Our Signs.” The list goes on.
It was when the ‘Ummah’ comprised of handfuls, not hundreds of millions, when the empires of the east and west bowed and surrendered. It was that small collective who heard the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhī wa sallam) saying to them:
“The best of mankind are my generation, then those that follow them, then those that follow them.”
III. Our happiness when people convert is for them, not for us
Seeing someone ‘take their Shahādah’ is extraordinary. We push and shove to set our eyes on the spectacle. But in many cases, we may never see the brother or sister again. And though seeing someone embrace Islām often increases or reinforces our own Īmān, our happiness is primarily unselfish. It is for them. It is their past slate that is wiped clean, their life that has taken a momentous turn for the better and their hereafter that has been salvaged. It is their ability to see past the centuries of sustained myths and propaganda required to keep them away from the otherwise irresistible Islām in the first place, that we admire about them.
We love it when people become Muslim not just because we desire to see in them what we failed to see in ourselves, but because one more person has saved themselves from hell and absolved us from their complaints on the Day of Resurrection. In fact, materialistically, there is little in it for us but a duty to give long lessons in Ghusl and Wudū’, along with a thought of that ‘student’ one day replacing us for our inadequacies, as Allāh says:
“If you turn away, He will replace you with a people other than yourselves and they will not be like you.”
Seeing someone leave only hurts for precisely the opposite; that they failed at a hurdle, sold themselves short and flushed a long life down the drain; that they gave precedence to transient gratification over long-term success. It reminds us of the statement of Hudhayfah b. al-Yamān:
“The thing I fear most for this Ummah is that they give preference to what they see over what they know; and are thus misguided without realising.”
IV. Challenges garble out the worst Muslims
Exams separate the best students from the worst. Difficulties bring out the real nature of people, those who can weather the storm and those who crack under the strain. The idea that leaving Islām is a ‘very brave’ thing to do is simply farcical. British Muslims face more than a thousand hate crimes a year, are lambasted by some 500 posts a day and are three times less likely to be considered for a job.
Most challenges and difficulties in the world today are faced by Muslims. Muslim vilification has become the international media’s staple diet and the fad of new-age populists. ‘Very brave’ is to be a self-assured Muslim, not someone who acquiesces and attempts to join the ranks of the “dominant” race or class.
The Quraysh of Makkah thought they had outsmarted the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhī wa sallam) when, in the Tready of Hudaybiyah, they stipulated that Makkah-bound leavers from Madīnah will not be sent back to the Prophet. They forgot that when weathering a challenge, a leaver is precisely who you could do without. On another occasion, in the Battle of Uhud, a contingent of soldiers led by the hypocrite Abdullāh b. Ubay b. Salūl left the Prophet and the companions, heading home. Later, during the campaign of Tabūk, the hypocrites stayed behind altogether. But rather than outlining the vulnerability of what became a much smaller contingent of Muslims headed into the depths of Roman lands, Allāh said:
“If they had gone out among you, they would have added nothing to you but confusion.”
They say “sometimes more is less”. The very word ‘Fitnah – yuftan’ comes from applying heat to an ore to bring out a base metal, removing impurities and purifying the precious metal. Like when Allāh says,
“Do people imagine that they will be left to say, ‘We have Īmān,’ and will not be tested (yuftanūn)?”
It is this heat which particularly knocks off those Muslims sitting on the fence, very ready to blame their ineptitude on their dwindling religiosity, neither addressing the real causes of their failures nor ending up winning anything in the hereafter.
“Among the people there is one who worships Allāh right on the edge. If good befalls him, he is content with it, but if a trial befalls him, he reverts to his former ways, losing both this world and the Next World. That is indeed sheer loss.”
Leavers of Islām should know full well that they leave behind nothing but a purer base, a surer assembly, and a firmer, better bonded core, ready to weather whatever dreary day or turn of fortune awaits ahead.
V. Being Muslim is not supposed to be a walk in the park
Altruism, charity, nurturing children properly, checking on your neighbour, resisting temptations, speaking out against wrong—the list goes on—is what a Muslim is first, and is hard work second. Islām is neither a fashion, mere identity, nor a material possession that assents to any of our ways and desires. It was sent to guide to what we know, and to what the distortions of an era have made us forget.
Some leave Islām after feeling they bit off more than they can chew. But what is better, to find a truth you voluntarily chose to follow difficult, or to capitulate to the very lusts that you left behind? Every Muslim finds one thing or another difficult, but why do some assume that Allāh’s greatest commodity, Paradise, is cheap and easy to attain?
A champion does not enter a ring intending to throw in the towel but insists on getting up after every knockout. Allāh says:
“O Mankind! You are toiling laboriously towards your Lord, but meet Him you will!”
We boast about ‘keeping our noses in the grindstone’, ‘blood, sweat and tears’ and ‘burning the candle at both ends’ to save for a package holiday that could turn out boring and stressful. Why then do we think we can pioneer Islām, around our own tastes and fashions when it is our deliverer to eternal bliss and ultimate enjoyment?
VI. The majority of leavers do not leave Islām on ideological grounds
History and the contemporary have shown that there are no ideologies that can rationally compete with Islām. Islamophobes will happily jibe, mock and defame, but come a civilised debate and what a pity.
As such, the majority of leavers, observably leave due to some sort of bad experience either unrelated to the ideological framework of Islām, or fail to rationalise an Islamic teaching with a different ideology, a cultural norm, practice or premeditated craving of their own, many a time carnal. Those will validate what they long craved by ‘reforming’ Islām to follow suit or raise doubts about the religion itself. Let us get real, was it 15-billion-year-old observable evidence that made that leaver question the Qur’ān’s account of creation, or a new boyfriend?
The Shaytān knew it was Allāh’s order he disobeyed but wanted to validate a premeditated superiority complex, paying attention to what he thought validated that complex, “I am better than him, You (Allāh) made me from fire, and made him from clay.” But he (conveniently) paid no attention to the fact the order to prostrate came from Allāh himself. His intellectual gaffs were because he had no ideological leg to stand on. The reason he left was because his continued arrogance blighted his ability to be true to his fault of refusing to prostrate in the first place.
It is useful to remember this hierarchy of disagreement when considering the bulk of the attacks levelled against Islām’s foundations.
VII. Being a Muslim is not a favour to anyone but yourself
Imagine if I were to give you a pen. The following week I call asking for your help towing my car, “because I gave you a pen”, then I text you needing help with my shopping “because I gave you a pen”. Soon, I will find my pen in an envelope with a note reading “with thanks.” Imagine then if the receiver—you—was instead the person demanding favours and gratitude. It is madness. Imagine then if the gift was far better than a pen—Islām itself.
Some Bedouins embraced Islām near the 10th year of the Hijrah, long after the severe persecution of Makkah, the Hijrah, the Battle of Badr, Uhud, the startling Battle of the Trench and the testing pledge to avenge the blood of ‘Uthman rady Allahu ‘anhu they took with the Prophet under the tree (al Ridwan). Despite those latter Bedouins taking part in nothing of this, they felt that their Islām deserved the appreciation of the Messenger (sall Allāhu ‘alayhī wa sallam), forgetting that it is them that ought to have shown gratitude to Allāh for His inimitable gift that came to them on a silver platter in far more comfortable days:
“They think they have done you a favour by becoming Muslims! Say: ‘Do not consider your Islām a favour to me. No indeed! It is Allāh who has favoured you by guiding you to Īmān, if you are telling the truth.’”
Likewise, leavers should know that nobody felt that your Islām was disruptive, ground-breaking or a monumental rift in a Da’wah that is divinely preserved and administered by men and women who struggle against desires and weaknesses, for your departure to be disruptive.
A person’s Islām does not benefit Allāh for their departure to harm Him. Likewise nothing that Allāh obligated upon us benefits Allāh in the slightest. He was the Almighty, the Wise, the All-Powerful before everything in existence and our obedience did not increase Him in any of this.
Any individual obligation is likewise an obligation on the rest of society. Just as Allāh commanded you not to steal and to lower your gaze, He likewise commanded millions of others. So who ends up benefiting? You yourself. You, being the beneficiary—whether you realise it or not—of what is Halāl and what is Harām is enough a payment. So Allāh, through His rulings gave you and then rewarded you on top of what He gave.
When the messengers called their people to Allāh’s worship, did their people generally accept or reject their call? They rejected it. Almost all the prophets we have been informed about, however, told their people: “I do not ask you for it any payment. My payment is only from the Lord of the worlds.” This is despite knowing well that their people were less than willing to pay for something they rejected to begin with! It is as if the prophets are telling them, ‘Since I am calling you to what is entirely your benefit, I would otherwise instinctively deserve to be paid for it, but the magnitude of that benefit I am bringing you is so great that none, save Allāh, can pay for it.’
Islām is an inimitable privilege and blessing, and supreme way of life and salvation that attracts for every leaver, thousands of entrants. What is ‘supreme’, stays so, even if a person is as deprived and naïve as to throw it away for whatever petty return. Likewise, what is already supreme cannot be made better by its followers. It is entirely a privilege to them that they should fear losing, the same way as they would fear to be thrown into fire.
“Our Lord, do not make our hearts swerve aside after You have guided us. And give us mercy from You. You are the Ever-Giving.”
 Qur’an 16:120
 Sunan an-Nasa’I on the authority of Ma’qil bin Yasar
 Jami` at-Tirmidhi on the authority of ibn ‘Abbas
 Bayhaqi, Mawquf on ‘Umar rady Allāhu ‘anhu
 Ibn al-Atheer – Asad al-Ghaabah
 Qur’an 2:109
 Qur’an 5:49
 Qur’an 10:92
 Muslim on the authority on Abdullah ibn Mas’oud rady Allāhu ‘anhu
 Qur’an 47:38
 Recorded in Hilyat al-Awliyā’, Abū Nu’aym al-Asbahānī0
 Qur’an 47:47
 Qur’an 29:2
 Qur’an 22:11
 Qur’an 84:6
 Meaning to get little sleep
 Qur’an 49:17
 See chapter 26
 Reflections based on Sheikh al-Sha’rawi’s Tafsir of al-Hujuraat
 Qur’an 3:8
Additionally, going back to my two examples, how humiliating is it that people who apparently are hoping, praying and working for ‘ideal Islamic conditions’ find themselves resorting to the filthy entertainment of the Bollywood idol worshippers and of rock bands like Queen, to prove themselves to non-practising Muslims as well as to non-Muslims. It’s so wrong to give these people any sort of importance let alone raising their status on blessed days like our weddings and Eids.
I’ve revisited this article due to Dr. Salman Butt’s helpful timeline of 1440 Hijri. I think that the spirit and strength of character portrayed in this article is a stark contrast to the defeated and desperate sounding attitude that many of us seem to have developed in our attempt to be relevant and to reach the masses of Muslims as well as non-Muslims. There’s no talk of pandering to the people here.
Also, if we can’t recognise who we used to be (possibly due to the all the ‘pandering’ we’ve been doing over the years) then shouldn’t alarm bells be ringing, to at least make us stop and take stock of where we are heading? This humiliated attitude of trying to always prove ourselves and to prove that practising Islam can be fun and we are ‘normal’ like everyone else, is making us do actions that we wouldn’t have even dreamed of a decade ago. For example, a sister and daa’iyah said to me (after holding a wedding party for sisters at her house involving the playing of the darbuka, singing Bollywood songs as well as dancing to them) something along the lines of, “We just want our friends and family (Muslims) to see that in Islam we can have fun.” Also, while I’m giving examples, I would like to complain about the music at the Eid in the Park festivals that we have. The people who go to these go with the knowledge that they are ‘Islamic’ Funfairs so they aren’t expecting loud music and most likely wouldn’t care if it was there or not. The rides for small children don’t have any and they still manage to have a great time. Consequently, are ‘We will rock you/Another one bites the dust/Muslim Bellal’ remixes really necessary? If they really have to then couldn’t the organisers just play some ‘haunted house’ type sounds instead?
As people who want to take stock of our actions, we can listen to the advice of sincere friends as well as the insights of the religiously committed. Also, as some scholars have advised, we can also find out about our ‘faults and shortcomings from the lips of [our] enemies, because the eye of one who is resentful will always notice bad things about [us]. A man may benefit more from an enemy who wants to cause trouble and mentions his faults than from a friend who wants to flatter him by praising him and concealing his faults’. I can see that some of our respected imams and ustaadhs are trying to keep watch over these developments but I fear that their voices are being drowned out by all the beats.