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Afzal Upal explains why he wrote his book, “Moderate-Fundamentalist”

Afzal Upal has totally came out and explained the truth about Ahmadiyya.  For other essays see here:

Afzal Upal’s most recent work on Ahmadiyya, “MODERATE FUNDAMENTALISTS” Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in the Lens of Cognitive Science of Religion

You are welcome to read the new book by M. Afzal Upal

Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in the Lens of Cognitive Science of Religion

In the mid 1950s, a British taxi driver named George King claimed that Budha, Jesus, and Lao Tzu had been alien “cosmic masters” who had come to earth to teach mankind the right way to live. Sun Myung Moon claimed that Korean people are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. Joseph Smith claimed that some lost tribes of Israel had moved to Americas hundreds of years ago. All three people successfully founded new religious movements that have survived to this day. How and why do some people come up with such seemingly strange and bizarre ideas and why do others come to place their faith in these ideas? The first part of this book develops a multidisciplinary theoretical framework drawn from cognitive science of religion and social psychology to answer these critically important questions. The second part of the book illustrates how this theoretical framework can be used to understand the origin and evolution of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at founded by an Indian Muslim in 1889. The book breaks new ground by studying the influence that religious beliefs of 19th century reformist Indian Muslims, in particular, founders of the Ahl-e-Hadith movement, had on the beliefs of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at. Using the theoretical framework developed in part I, the book also explains why many north Indian Sunni Muslims found Ahmad’s ideas to be irresistible and why the movement split into two a few years Ahmad’s death. The book will interest those who want to understand cults as well as those who want to understand reformist Islamic movements.

The Ahmadis: The Jihad against Free Speech by Robert Spencer

This entire entry was taken from here:

The data

“The Western leaders make me laugh by maintaining that they cannot put restrictions on newspapers and freedom of expression,” stated the Ahmadi “caliph,” Hadrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, in London on February 10, 2006. This crackpot demonstrated how the smallcaliphate-dreaming Ahmadi cult has joined other Muslims in demanding Islamic censorship — another fact that belies the Ahmadis’ fraudulently cultivated “moderate” reputation.

Ahmad spoke during a series of February-March 2006 London addresses following global Muslim outrage after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in December 2005 published “foul caricatures” of Islam’s prophet Muhammad. Later compiled in an online book, the speeches documented how he found bewildering the defenses of the cartoons in Denmark and beyond as free speech, given Holocaust-denial prohibitions in Western countries like Denmark. The “vulgar expression about any sacred person of any religion does not constitute freedom in any way at all,” he stated.

In a March 29, 2008 London address contained in another online compendium of Ahmad’s statements, he reproached Western societies for “immoral acts” such as the Jyllands-Posten cartoons. These cartoons “ridicule founders of religions and prophets and make mockery of their teachings and scriptures.” Earlier in February, he had condemned the West for “swiftly abandoning religion” and said it was “demolishing moral values in every field in the name of freedom.” This “mischief is let loose that makes the filth of their minds and remoteness from God evident, and demonstrates their prejudice and malice against Islam.”

“Everything has a limit and some code of conduct,” including journalism, Ahmad concluded, as he called for suppressing such criticism of Islam, in line with similar calls from the Organization of the Islamic Conference, now known as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). He approved the fact that the 57-member state (including “Palestine”) OIC, pursuant to a decades-long international censorship campaign, “has said that the Western countries will be pressured to apologize as well as to legislate against offending Prophets of God.” Given Muslim rioting worldwide in response to Denmark’s free speech, he presented himself as a protector of law and order, warning that if Islam’s critics “do not abstain, then world peace could not be guaranteed.” Similarly, a Danish Ahmadi wrote in a February 2006 edition of a local newspaper that the cartoons were “simply a dirty and childish act,” such that “to stem disorder it is required to apply” Denmark’s anti-defamation law.

Ahmad returned to his Islamic inquisition in 2012, following more international Muslim anger in response to the online American video Innocence of Muslims, as well as cartoons mocking Muhammad in France’s Charlie Hebdo satire magazine. Another online book collection of his speeches contained an introduction that condemned an “international conspiracy against Islam and its Holy Founder.” This involved “vulgar language, obscene descriptions, distortion of the teachings of Islam and the noble character of the Holy Prophet Muhammad” and “negative propaganda, blasphemous criticism.”

In a September 21, 2012 sermon in a Surrey, England, Ahmadi mosque, Ahmad once again subordinated critical discussion to Islamic law’s (sharia) blasphemy prohibitions. “Laws made by God are flawless. Do not consider, therefore, your man-made laws to be perfect,” he stated with unquestioning fidelity to Islamic orthodoxy. By contrast, the “law regarding freedom of speech is not a Divine scripture.”

Correspondingly, Ahmad called for legal action. “While a law for freedom of speech exists, neither in any country nor in the UN Charter do we find a law that states that no person will be allowed the freedom to hurt the religious sentiments of others or insult the holy personages of other religions.” “It is necessary for world peace that this is made a part of the UN peace charter,” otherwise there would result a “lava of hatred to erupt and the gulf between countries and religions to increasingly widen.”

During his first visit to the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, on December 3-4, 2012, he likewise advocated “policies that establish and protect mutual respect.” Thus “hurting the sentiments of others or causing them any type of harm should be outlawed.” This reflected that “Islam teaches that only those who use their tongues [emphasis added] and hands to spread injustice and hatred deserve to be punished.”

Ahmad in his Surrey address appealed to Muslims worldwide to support this legal campaign, as Muslims “could bring about a revolution in the world” with “laws pertaining to respecting religious sentiments within countries.” Governments in Muslim-majority countries should tell the “world that according to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, playing with the religious sentiments of others or to try to dishonor the prophets of God is a major crime and major sin.” In tandem, “all of the Muslim lawyers of the world should join together and form a petition” advocating blasphemy punishments.

Global Muslim solidarity, while appealing to Ahmad in his Surrey remarks, had ominous implications for non-Muslims:

Muslims are the second greatest power of the world in terms of population and religion. Were they to abide by the commandments of Allah the Almighty they could become the greatest force in every sense. In such an instance, the anti-Islamic forces would never even dare contemplating or perpetrating such heart-rending acts.

Ahmad stressed that opposition to criticism of Islam should remain nonviolent, for “[i]t is completely contrary to the teachings of Islam to attack innocent people.” Earlier during his October 22, 2008 House of Commons address he had argued that “hatred spurs certain extremist Muslims into committing ‘un-Islamic’ deeds,” violence which serves as precisely his justification for censorship. “If our Muslim leaders had made robust efforts then the public would not react inappropriately, as is currently occurring in Pakistan and in other countries,” he stated in Surrey.

Yet contradictorily, Ahmad presented blasphemy’s effect upon Muslims in decidedly zealous, militant tones. A Muslim “is prepared to give up his or her life and be slain for the respect and honor of the Prophet.” Accordingly, Muslims “prostrate before God the Exalted and pray that may He take revenge from these wrongdoers. May they become a sign of admonishment that will remain a lesson until the end of time.”

Following their caliph, American Ahmadi leaders have promoted various stratagems to repress verbal attacks upon Islam, even in a land whose free speech protections are among the most robust in the world. Qasim Rashid has presented to this author and others the absurd legal analysis that long-overturned United States Supreme Court decisions (e.g. Schenk v. United States) could prohibit expression such as Terry Jones’ 2011 Quran burning. Like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Harris Zafar, meanwhile, has attempted to shame Islam-critical “enemies of peace.” Zafar laments the fact that some people “claim that an individual’s privilege to say whatever they want is more important than the higher principle of uniting people.”

University of California-Los Angeles law professor Amjad Mahmood Khan also appeared to follow Clinton’s playbook during a 2015 address, while questionably asserting that Islamic doctrine favored free speech. “Differences of opinion are a blessing among my people,” the Ahmadi spokesman Khan cited Muhammad saying. When facing verbal attacks in seventh-century Arabia, he “bore this vile speech with patience and forbearance and he never sanctioned violence or prosecution for objectionable speech,” a claim that might surprise various dead poets in Islamic canons.

Nonetheless, the “Quran repeatedly discourages unseemly speech intended to sow discord,” Khan warned. Therefore

speech that is solely intended to ridicule the prophet and hurt the sentiments of over 1.5 billion Muslims must be exercised with caution and restraint. Of course the speech is unrestricted, not in the same way as it is in the Islamic world, here with our First Amendment, and as a lawyer I swear to protect those vital constitutional safeguards. But there still is a moral duty to condemn speech designed to hurt religious personages.

Past statements by Khan and other Ahmadi leaders undercut the liberal message of the February 26, 2016 launch at Washington, DC’s Rayburn House Office Building of the Ahmadi True Islam online public relations campaign. While addressing the audience, he lamented survey data showing American Muslim support for blasphemy restrictions. Contrasting with Rashid’s quoted online support for True Islam, Ahmadi representatives Amjad Chaudhry and Bashir Shams rejected before this author Rashid’s censorship views, with the latter saying “we believe in writing.”

Nevertheless, Ahmadi speech has often been merely another means of silencing critics such as the late (d. 2010) German scholar of Islam Hiltrud Schröter, author of a 2002 book on the Ahmadis. She discussed how the German Ahmadi community “attempted in various ways to silence me, for example through defamation and false assertions” online. According to these representations, she “worked unscientifically, is crazy, and has delusions.”

American anti-sharia activist Pamela Geller likewise condemned Ahmadi advocates in 2014. “These ‘moderate’ Muslims smear, defame and attack counter jihadists like Robert Spencer and me” and “provide essential cover for the global jihad,” she wrote, “so color me skeptical.” Ironically, “US leaders of the Ahmadi community carry water for the same Islamic supremacists who would cheerfully slit their throats if they were back in Pakistan.”

Yet the strained Ahmadi relationship with free speech makes sense given the Ahmadi faith’s hollowness. Strange and not-so-true Ahmadi beliefs previously examined in this series concerning matters including caliphates, Islamic history, Israel, Jesus, marriage, sex, and the West can no more withstand open debate than can the views of the late Lyndon LaRouche. While Ahmadis deserve the same sympathy as other victims of oppression in Muslim-majority societies worldwide, Ahmadis’ own antagonism towards liberty is just one more reason not to take the Ahmadis seriously.

Rashid Rida vs. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1901-1903 era)

He was an islamic scholar from Egypt and lived from 1865 to 1935.  Rida was born near Tripoli in Al-Qalamoun, (now in Lebanon but then part of Ottoman Syria within the Ottoman Empire). His early education consisted of training in “traditional Islamic subjects”. In 1884–5 he was first exposed to al-`Urwa al-wuthqa, the journal of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh.  In 1897 he left Syria for Cairo to collaborate with Abduh. The following year Rida launched al-Manar, a weekly and then monthly journal comprising Quranic commentary[9] at which he worked until his death in 1935, gradually distancing himself from the teachings of Abduh and adopting a Salafism closer to Saudi Wahhabism.[10]

Rashid Rida’s controversial beliefs
One of his controversial views was his support of Darwin’s theory of evolution.[13] To justify Darwinism, Rida considered it permissible to “interpret certain stories of the Qur’an in an allegorical manner, as, for example, the story of Adam.”.[14] He also believed that the origin of the human race from Adam is a history derived from the Hebrews and that Muslims are not obliged to believe in this account.[15]

Other controversial beliefs held by Rida included:
– His view that usury (riba) may be permitted in certain cases [16]
– His idea that building statues is permissible in Islam as long as there is no danger of their being devoted to improper religious uses.[17]
– His support of the British against the Ottomans [18]
– His view that “the minute living bodies which today have been made known by the microscope and are called microbes, may possibly be a species of Jinn[19]

His beef with MGA started in 1901
In MGA’s arabic only book, “I’jaz ul Masih”, he wrote about Rashid Rida as follows:

After Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Rida expressed his opinion on MGA’s book “إعجاز المسيح”, where he said that the non-arabic words and rhetoric are clear in it, MGA attacked Egypt, the Egyptians, their Arabism and their dialect.

بعد أن أبدى الشيخ محمد رشيد رضا رأيه بكتاب الميرزا “إعجاز المسيح”، حيث ذكر أنّ العُجمة فيه واضحة،

هاجم الميرزا مصرَ والمصريين وعروبتهم ولهجتهم وقال:

MGA said:

“The Messenger of Allah and the Lord of الورى did not call your land [meaning Egypt] the land of the Arabs, so do not slander to Allah and His Messenger, the slanderous has been disappointed”.

MGA also said this about Rashid Rida
MGA depicted Riḍā as a “jealous” and “arrogant” scholar who, like many others, not only rejected the message, but fueled the dislike of Indian Muslims against him and his followers (See Salafiyya, Ahmadiyya and European converts during the inter war period (2016) )

1912, Rashid Rida comes to British-India
In 1912, Rashid Rida seems to have traveled to Lucknow, British-India and held a debate with the local Ahmadi’s there (see Salafiyya, Ahmadiyya and European converts during the inter war period (2016)).  

1923, Rashid Rida and the Lahori-Ahmadi’s
See “””Salafiyya, Ahmadiyya, and European Converts to Islam in the Interwar Period””
Author(s): Umar Ryad

Salafiyya, Ahmadiyya and European converts during the inter war period (2016)

“”””After MGA died and by 1923, in general, Riḍā agreed with Khwaja Kamal-ud-Dinʼs “friends” and followers in Egypt and considered him a “moderate” follower of the Ahmadiyya. In 1923, Lord Headley, Kamal-ud-Din, and Abdul Mohye, the Arab mufti of the Woking Mosque (the Arab press gave him the title of the Mufti of the English Lands), passed through Egypt on their way to hajj. The trip was covered in a favorable light in the Islamic press in Egypt, including al-Manār. In Egyptian newspapers, Kamal-ud-Din found a suitable opportunity to defend the Lahore branch
of the Ahmadiyya and their faith as being a trend close to “mainstream” Islam.  Riḍā was not able to meet them in order to discuss his doubts regarding the Ahmadiyya with Kamal-ud-Din in person. At this point, Riḍā found that Kamal-ud-Din’s consideration of Ghulam Ahmad as merely a “reformer” was a good step by the Lahore branch towards the “true” Islam (Al-Manār 24, no. 8 (Aug. 1923), 583).  

Meanwhile, despite Riḍā’s appreciation of the Lahore Ahmadiyya missionary work in Europe, he was critical of their translation of the Qurʾān into English. The Lahore Ahmadiyya tried to circulate Mawlana Muḥammad ʿAlīʼs English translation of the Qurʾān in Egypt and Syria, but their attempt was resisted by the religious institution of al-Azhar, Riḍā himself, and his friend
Shaykh Muṣṭafā Najā (1852–1932), the mufti of Beirut. In his fatwā, Riḍā saw it as a “deviant” translation that contradicts the principles of Islam. He stated that the translation attempts to destroy Islam from within by disseminating the Ahmadiyya’s “false” doctrines on revelation and by abrogating Qurʾānic rulings, such as jihad (al-Manār 25, no. 10 (March 1925), 794–796).  In his view, Riḍā emphasized that Muḥammad ʿAlī intentionally distorted some verses related to the Messiah (al-masīḥ) in order to argue, based on these verses, that Ghulam Ahmad is the promised Messiah.  Riḍā urged Muslims not to rely on this translation, or on any other, to understand the Qurʾān, but rather to act according to its rulings in a direct manner.  However, Riḍā did believe that this translation and other Qurʾān translations could be used to invite non-Muslims to Islam, particularly those without knowledge of Arabic (al-Manār 29, no. 4 (July 1928), 268–271. See Mohamed Ali Mohamed Abou Sheishaa, “A
Study of the Fatwā by Rashid Riḍā on the Translation of the Qur’an,” Journal of the Society
for Qurʾānic Studies 1, no. 1 (Oct. 2001), available online: (
Cf. Moch Nur Ichwan, “Differing Responses to an Ahmadi Translation and Exegesis: The
Holy Qurʾān in Egypt and Indonesia,” Archipel 62 (2001): 143–161).

Riḍā’s tone was inconsistent. With regard to the differences between the Lahore and Qadiyani branches in matters of creed (ʿaqīda) and their religious work in Europe, Riḍā argued that the Lahore movement agrees with other Muslims in general, except in specific issues related to the death of Jesus and the abrogation of certain verses of the Qurʾān. Despite their “great” sacrifices for Islam in India and Europe, Riḍā finally concluded that the Ahmadis of both
branches were followers of falsehood (bāṭil) (al-Manār 28, no. 7 (Sept. 1927), 543–550).

Nevertheless, it is strange that Riḍā utterly dismissed Kamal-ud-Din from the Ahmadiyya movement. After Khawaja Kamal-ud-Din’s death, Riḍā eulogized him for his service for Islam in Europe. A brief biography of Kamal-ud-Din was soon published in al-Manār by Khwaja Abdul Ghani, secretary of the managing committee of the Woking Muslim Mission and Literary Trust in Lahore, as a token of appreciation. Riḍā considered Kamal-ud-Din “the greatest missionary to Islam” in their age. Through his mission, he provided a great service to Islam by converting many high-class British, the most refined of them being Lord Headley. Although Kamal-ud-Din was known as a “moderate” follower of the Ahmadiyya, Riḍā was told by many friends who were familiar with his work in Europe, that his activities and writings did not actually reflect any inclinations to the Ahmadiyya convictions as such (al-Manār 33, no. 2 (April 1933), 138).”””””

Links and Related Essays

#ahmadiyya #ahmadiyyatrueislam #ahmadiapartheid #Ahmadiyyat #rabwah #qadian #meetthekhalifa #muslimsforpeace #ahmadiyyafactcheckblog #nolifewithoutkhalifa #AhmadiMosqueattack #AhmadiyyaPersecution #Mosqueattack #trueislam

  1.  Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World, Thompson Gale (2004), p.597
  2. ^ Ana Belén Soage, “Rashid Rida’s Legacy”. The Muslim World 98/1 (Jan. 2008), pp. 1-23.

Stoning and Hand Cutting—Understanding the Hudud and the Shariah in Islam by Professor Johnathan Brown

Dr. Jonathan A. C. Brown is a Director of Research at Yaqeen Institute, and an Associate Professor and Chair of Islamic Civilization at Georgetown University. He is the editor in chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and the Law, and the author of several books including Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenges and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy.

The essay


Often the only things people in the West associate with Islam are stoning and hand chopping. These images permeate our culture, from the trailer of hits like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) to straight-to-cable pablum like Escape: Human Cargo (1998) (again, in the trailer… ‘If you can’t live by their rules, you might die by them’). There is no better example of how our society has consistently and profoundly misunderstood Islam and its tradition of law, known as the Shariah. Stoning and hand chopping do feature in the Shariah, but their actual function can only be understood by stepping back and examining how the Shariah conceives of law overall. Only then can we make sense of its severest corporal and capital punishments, known as the Hudud (pronounced Hudood).

The Idea of God’s Law

The Shariah is not a law code, printed and bound in volumes. It’s the idea of God’s law. Like other broad legal concepts like ‘American law’ or ‘international law,’ the Shariah is a unified whole that contains within it tremendous diversity. Just as American law manifests itself as drastically different traffic laws or zoning codes in different states or locales, so too has the Shariah’s application varied greatly across the centuries while still remaining a coherent legal tradition.

The Shariah is drawn from four sources. The first two are believed by Muslims to be revealed by God either directly or indirectly: 1) the revelation of the Qur’an (which itself, contrary to the claim of a prominent Trump supporter, contains relatively little legal material), and 2) the authoritative precedent of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, known as his Sunna (often communicated in reports about the Prophet’s words and deeds, called Hadith). These two sources work in tandem. The Sunna is the lens through which the Qur’an is read, explaining and adding to it.

The second two sources are the products of human effort to understand and channel the revelation of God through the Prophet (peace be on him): 3) the ways that the early Muslim community applied the Qur’an and the Sunna, and 4) the further extension of this tradition of legal reasoning by Muslim scholars in the centuries since. The human effort to mine these sources and construct concrete, applicable rules from the abstraction of the Shariah is known as fiqh. If Shariah is the idea and ideal of God’s law, then fiqh is its earthly—and thus its inevitably fallible and diverse—manifestation.

There’s More to Law than Law and Order

A great irony in the ubiquity of stoning and hand cutting in the popular imagination is that these punishments constitute a minuscule portion of the Shariah. The tradition of law in Islam is the Muslim effort to answer the question ‘What pleases God?’ in any particular situation. As such, unlike what we think of as law in modern states, the Shariah encompasses every sphere of human activity. Most of these areas would never see the inside of a courtroom in a Muslim state let alone in the West (though, oddly, obscure points in Islamic law do sometimes come up in cases on freedom of religion). If we were to look at a typical, comprehensive book of fiqh (well over a dozen volumes, usually), we’d find that the core subjects of the Shariah are the forms of worship in Islam, including prayer (and the rules of ritual purity needed to perform it), fasting, charity tithes, the pilgrimage to Mecca and hunting and slaughter of animals (about 4 volumes out of 12). Only then would we find recognizable areas of the law such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, contracts, property, liability, injuries, etc. Although they are seemingly the only thing most people know about the Shariah, in a typical book of fiqh less than 2% of the book is devoted to the hudud crimes and their punishments.

Criminal Law in Islam and The West

In order to understand Islamic criminal law, we have to make sure we understand what we mean by criminal law in the first place. Most areas of law in the US, Europe and elsewhere are civil law, meaning they deal with people’s rights over and obligations to each other. These include contracts, marriage, property, etc. The government might play a role in adjudicating disputes in these areas through the infrastructure of courts, but these are disputes between private parties over wrongs they do each other.

Crimes are about wrongs done to the public, society or state as a whole, and in most modern states it is the government that acts to bring people who’ve committed them to justice. Of course, wrongs to individuals and wrongs to society can coincide. In old (like, very old) English law, if a man murdered another man in the street, then two wrongs had been done. The murderer had wronged the victim’s family by killing him, and he had also wronged the king by violating his ‘peace,’ or the overall order of his realm (hence our term ‘disturbing the peace’). The murderer was answerable to both aggrieved parties.[1] Centuries (and many, many legal turns) later, we find OJ Simpson on trial for two wrongs: one civil (for wrongful death and the damages this caused the victim’s family), and one criminal (murder) for which he was prosecuted by the state.

As we all recall, OJ was found innocent in his criminal trial but liable (i.e., guilty) in his civil trial. How could this be if the two trials were, in effect, for the same act? Did he commit murder or not? The two trials produced two different results because of different standards for meeting the burden of proof. In civil cases in the US, the jury only has to conclude that the preponderance of evidence indicates that the person is guilty (i.e., over 50% likelihood), while in a criminal trial the jury must be convinced ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’[2] There are different burdens of proof because of the differences in punishments for civil and criminal wrongs. Civil wrongs are punished by compensation. Criminal wrongs are punishable by incarceration or corporal or even capital punishment. In the West, the notion that judges or juries should exercise extra caution in finding someone guilty of a crime comes from canon law (the law of the Catholic Church) in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, as does the notion of innocent until proven guilty.[3]

The Shariah has remarkably similar features (actually, I think that Western canon law was influenced a great deal by Islamic law, just as Western philosophy and science were profoundly shaped by Muslim scholars in those fields from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries… but that’s another issue). Muslim jurists didn’t categorize law into civil and criminal law, but these labels are nonetheless useful in trying to understand the hudud. The categories that Muslim jurists used were those of violations of the ‘rights of God’ (ḥuqūq Allāh) as opposed to violations of the ‘rights of God’s servants,’ i.e., human beings (ḥuqūq al-ʿibād). The rights of human beings include the right to physical inviolability (in other words, one can’t be killed or harmed without just cause), the right to dignity, the right to property, the right to family, and the right to religion.

Just as in modern human rights, these rights are not absolute. They can be infringed upon with just cause. But they belong to all human beings regardless of whether they are Muslims or not. If someone breaks your toe, smashes into your car or reneges on a contract they made with you, they owe you compensation because they have violated your rights. They owe this even if they didn’t intend any of these actions since the damage was done and they were the cause. The same applies in American civil law (in both Islamic and American law, an exception would be if you smashed someone’s car because someone else threw you onto it, which was out of your control). Along the same lines, according to the rights of human beings in the Shariah, if someone steals your phone from you, they owe you either the return of your phone or its replacement value. If someone kills your family member accidentally, then your family is owed the compensation value as specified in the Qur’an and the Sunna. In such cases, as taught by the Prophet ﷺ, the job of the judge is to “ensure that all those with rights receive them.”[4]

Violations of the ‘rights of God’ in the Shariah are an important counterpart to crimes in the Western legal tradition. Of course, the ultimate ‘right of God’ upon mankind, as explained by the Prophet ﷺ, is for God to be worshipped without partner, and this right extends to other acts of worship as well, like giving the zakat charity.[5] But, unlike human beings, God is eminently beyond the capacity of any creature to harm. Also unlike human beings, God has “ordained upon Himself mercy” (Qur’an 6:54), and promised that His “mercy encompasses all things” (Qur’an 7:156). This element of God’s vast mercy plays a crucial role in the other rights of God that Muslim jurists have identified, namely the crimes known as the hudud.

What are the Hudud?

The concept of hudud in Islamic criminal law is not found in the Qur’an, though it is referred to in hadiths considered authentic by Muslims.[6] Ḥudūd in Arabic is the plural of ḥadd, meaning limit or boundary. The Qur’an mentions the “limits of God” several times, warning Muslims of the sin of transgressing them and that they should not even approach them (Qur’an 2:187). But nowhere does the phrase appear in the clear context of labeling certain crimes (see Qur’an, 2:229, 4:14, 58:4, 65:1, though 4:14 is followed by a discussion of sexual impropriety).

As the famous scholar Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) noted, definitions for the categories of crimes (and their corresponding punishments) in Islamic law were the products of human reason and not scripture.[7] Early Muslim jurists probably inherited the concept of a category of crimes called hudud from references to it made by the Prophet ﷺ and the early generations of Muslims. Muslim scholars have agreed that the hudud include: adultery/fornication (zinā), consuming intoxicants (shurb al-khamr), accusing someone of fornication (qadhf), some types of theft (sariqa), and armed robbery or banditry (ḥirāba). Muslim schools of law have disagreed on whether three other crimes should be included as well: public apostasy (ridda), sodomy (liwāṭ) and assassination/premeditated murder for purposes of robbery (ghīla).[8]

What is in common among the hudud crimes is that their punishments are specified in the Qur’an or Sunna and that they are considered to be violations of the rights of God.[9] Of course, some of the hudud are also violations of the rights of humans as well. Sariqa (the hudud-level of theft, see below), qadhf (sexual slander) and ḥirāba (armed robbery, banditry) are obviously violations of people’s rights to life, property and/or dignity.

The scriptural commands that specify these hudud punishments are, in summary:

  • Zinā: The Qur’an commands that men and women who engage in fornication be lashed 100 times (Qur’an 24:2), and hadiths add that if the person is single and has never been married then they should also be exiled for a year.[10] The Hanafi school of law does not accept the additional punishment of exile because it does not deem the hadiths in question strong enough evidence to alter the Qur’anic ruling. It was agreed upon by all the Muslim schools of law that the Qur’anic punishment referred to here was for unmarried people. Married men and women guilty of adultery are punished by stoning, as demonstrated in the Sunna of the Prophet (peace be upon him).[11]    
  • Sariqa: the Qur’an specifies that the thief, male or female, should have their hand cut off “as a requital for what they have done and as a deterrent ordained by God” (Qur’an 5:38).
  • Qadhf: The Qur’an commands that anyone who accuses someone of adultery and does not provide four witnesses to the alleged act should be lashed 80 times and should never again have their testimony accepted (Qur’an 24:4).
  • Shurb al-Khamr: Though the Qur’an prohibits drinking wine (khamr) and intoxication, the punishment for drinking comes from the Sunna. The most reliable hadiths state that the Prophet ﷺ would have a person lashed 40 times for intoxication, but the caliphs Umar and Ali subsequently increased this to 80 after consultation with other Companions.[12]
  • Ḥirāba: This crime is understood to be set out in the Qur’an’s condemnation of “those who make war on God and His Messenger and seek to spread harm and corruption in the land.” The Qur’an gives it the harshest punishment in Islam: crucifixion and/or amputating hands and feet (Qur’an 5:33). The vast majority of Muslim scholars have held that this verse was revealed after a group of men brutally blinded, maimed and murdered a shepherd and then stole his camels. The Prophet ﷺ ordered the killers punished in exactly the same way.[13] Yet prominent scholars were skeptical of reports that he had actually ordered the murderers’ hands or feet cut off.[14] This disagreement between the punishments ordered by the Qur’an and by the Prophet ﷺ may have been because the Prophet’s order came before the verse was revealed,[15] but the ambiguity is generally understood as illustrating that the ruler/state has discretion in deciding the proper punishment for ḥirāba.[16]

The hudud do not cover what most legal systems would consider the most serious part of criminal law: murder. But this does fall within what we can term Islamic criminal law. Although the Qur’an and Sunna conceptualize murder, accidental killing, as well as physical injuries done to others, as private wrongs against individuals and their families, from the time of the Prophet ﷺ it was the state that oversaw these disputes and carried out punishments. These were violations of the rights of people, but they also touched on the realm of public order and violence, which was the territory of the ruler.[17] Since cases of homicide were brought by the victim’s kin (much like in the West until the nineteenth century), the state (in the person of the judge or governor) would be responsible for bringing cases for victims with no kin, on the basis of the Prophet’s ﷺ saying that “The authority (sulṭān) is the guardian of those who have no guardian.”[18] The state also often took responsibility for compensating victims and their families when the guilty party could not be identified.[19]

God’s Mercy and Applying the Hudud Punishments

Violations of people’s rights have to be restituted because those people have suffered actual damage or loss. God, on the other hand, is not actually harmed by violations of His rights. In the case of the rights of God, it is God’s mercy that defines Islamic legal procedure. Only an adult Muslim of sound mind and who is aware that one of the hudud acts has been prohibited by God and still intentionally engages in it is even theoretically liable for the punishment.[20] In this regard, the hudud crimes differ from violations of the rights of people, such as accidental manslaughter or accidentally damaging someone’s property, where intention is not required and children’s families are liable for the damage they cause.

The central principle in the application of the hudud punishments is maximizing mercy. This was formulated clearly in a hadith attributed to the Prophet ﷺ that was also echoed by prominent Companions, among them his wife Aisha and the Caliphs Umar and Ali. The best-attested version states, “Ward off the hudud from the Muslims as much as you all can, and if you find a way out for the person, then let them go. For it is better for the authority to err in mercy than to err in punishment.”[21] Within a century of the Prophet’s death Muslim scholars had digested this hadith into the crucial legal principle of ‘Ward off the hudud by ambiguities (shubuhāt).’[22]

Some might argue that this doctrine was developed by Muslim jurists in the generation after the life of the Prophet ﷺ to remedy the Qur’an’s harsh punishments. In other words, they inherited a regime of severe punishments and maybe they thought they needed to find some way out of applying them. Or one might argue that the Prophet himself ﷺ preached warding off the hudud if at all possible because he was uncomfortable with the punishments revealed in the Qur’an.

But neither of these theories could be correct. The establishment of a harsh regime of punishments alongside a nearly unreachable standard of proof occurs together within the Qur’an itself. The Qur’an ordains that those who commit adultery should be lashed 100 times, but just one verse later it states that anyone who accuses someone of adultery without four witnesses to the act is punished with 80 lashes for slander.[23] Why would a message seeking to establish an order of law set up harsh punishments but then make them almost impossible to apply? We will discuss this later, but now let’s turn to the ambiguities (shubuhāt) that Muslim jurists elaborated to avoid applying the hudud.

The Muslim jurists who developed the massive and diverse body of fiqh took the Prophet’s command to ward off the hudud very seriously. Some of the procedural safeguards were found in the Qur’an itself, such as the requirement for four witnesses to zinā. A significant number were added in the hadiths. In the most famous case (there are six known instances) of the Prophet ﷺ ordering a man stoned for adultery, the man comes to the Prophet ﷺ and confesses his sin. The Prophet asks him if he is crazy, and when he continues to insist the Prophet ﷺ suggests that perhaps he only kissed the woman.[24] In order to prevent witnesses from assuming sex was occurring when perhaps the couple was just embracing or lying on top of one another, the Prophet ﷺ required the witnesses to testify that they’d seen “his penis enter into her vagina like an eyeliner applier entering into its container.”[25] Because the man who confessed, Māʿiz, insisted on confessing four times to the Prophet ﷺ, the majority of Muslim scholars require all confessions of zinā to be done four times. Anything less cannot be punished by the hudud.[26]

Based on the same case of Māʿiz, jurists agreed that even someone who had confessed to zinā could retract that confession at any point and no longer face the hudud punishment. Finally, even external signs such as pregnancy were not considered proof that zinā had occurred in the opinion of the majority of Muslim scholars. For example, if a woman’s husband had been away for years, he could have been miraculously transported to be with her.[27] Or she could have been raped. The one school that did consider pregnancy determinative proof of zinā (assuming the woman didn’t claim she had been raped) allowed the possibility that a woman could be pregnant for up to five years. Normally in the Shariah such miraculous or fantastic claims would carry no weight in legal matters. But as possible ambiguities to prevent application of the hudud, they were accepted.[28]

This immense allowance for ambiguities in ruling on sexual offenses can be seen most clearly in the Hanafi school of law, which was the official school of the Ottoman Empire. When prostitutes and their clients were caught, they were not tried for zinā due to the (admittedly outlandish) ambiguity that prostitution was structurally similar to marriage; both were exchanges of sexual access for money (in the case of marriage, the groom’s dowry payment).[29] This is not because Muslim scholars had any sympathy for prostitution or a low regard for marriage, but rather because they hunted for any possible ambiguity to avoid implementing the hudud.

In the case of sariqa, the strict definition of the crime laid out by the Sunna explains why I’ve been so reluctant to translate it as theft. Sariqa is only a very specific kind of theft. First, hadiths specify that a thief would only have their hand cut off stealing something over a certain value.[30] In another hadith, as well as in the practice of the Companions, we are told that an accused thief should be prompted two or three times to deny that he stole.[31] In court procedure, what this means is that, even if the thief is caught red-handed, with the usual number of witnesses (two) testifying that they saw him steal, all the thief has to do is claim that the item was his, and enough ambiguity would be established to make hand cutting out of the question.[32] On the basis of an instance in which a man stole a cloak from under a sleeping man’s head, jurists concluded that only something stolen from a secure location (ḥirz), a concept determined by local custom and conditions, merited the hudud punishment.[33] The Prophet ﷺ also exempted acts of misappropriation done blatantly in the open.[34] In the end, the list of requirements that Muslim scholars agreed on to eliminate all ambiguities reaches (see Appendix Requirements for Amputation for Theft from al-Subki). As a result, as described by scholar Rudolph Peters, it is “nearly impossible for a thief or fornicator to be sentenced, unless he wishes to do so and confesses.”[35]

This system of making it virtually impossible to implement the hudud punishments through ambiguities characterized the hudud crimes of intoxication and, to a lesser extent, sexual slander as well. Someone who smells of alcohol would not be liable for the hudud punishment. Even someone who was seen drunk and vomiting up wine was not subject to the hudud punishment according to most Muslim jurists because he could have drunk the wine accidentally.[36] Since Muslim scholars have disagreed a great deal about what constitutes an intoxicant, the approach to applying the hudud punishment has been to follow Imam Shafi’s position that “people are only punished based on certainty.”[37]

Off the Hook? How Non-Hudud Crimes were Punished

Of course, just because an ambiguity was found to avoid the hudud punishment, this did not mean that the alleged wrongdoer was off the hook. Rather, their offense simply dropped from the upper echelon of violations of the rights of God to the violations of the rights of human beings. Such offenses were punished according to taʿzīr, or discretionary punishment set by the judge. So a thief who had been caught red-handed by two, upstanding witnesses (the standard evidentiary bar for crimes) stealing a bar of gold from a safe deposit box could avoid the hudud punishment by simply denying he had done it. He would not have his hand cut off. But there was still sufficient evidence to convict him of theft at the level of ghaṣb, or usurpation (similar to petty larceny or the civil wrong of conversion in common law). An unmarried couple found naked in bed could not be punished for zinā, but they could still be severely disciplined.

A judge or governor could also draw on his authority to maintain public order to punish offenses that fell below the threshold of hudud. For example, someone who stank of wine and was obviously drunk might not be punished at the level of hudud, but he could still be punished below that level.[38] In the case of armed robbery/banditry, if the perpetrators repented and surrendered, then these ambiguities would drop the offense from the hudud range. But they were still liable for the punishments for homicide and non-hudud theft.[39]

Unlike American laws’ different burdens of proof in civil versus criminal cases, the main protection against conviction for a hudud crime was not the burden of proof (though this was almost unachievable in the case of zinā). The escape hatch was more often provided by the nearly endless list of ambiguities that the judge saw as his duty to explore.

The analogy of American criminal versus civil law is still useful since it helps us understand how the accused could be found innocent of an act in one category of law by its standard of evidence and simultaneously found guilty of the same act in another category of law. It was much easier to produce the evidence needed to convince a judge that a perpetrator was guilty of a taʿzīr offense than a hudud one. In the Shafi school of law, for example, someone could be convicted of non-hudud theft based on the testimony of one man and two women. And in the Hanbali school slaves could testify in non-hudud cases.[40] But no major Muslim school of law allowed women or slaves to testify in hudud cases since the more restrictions on who could bear witness the more difficult it was to convict the accused.[41]Since taʿzīr is, at its core, determined at the discretion of the judge, some punishment could be assigned without reference to any fixed standard of proof at all.

Discretionary punishment was historically the primary category of punishment in the Shariah. In some schools of law, jurists developed detailed tables of punishments within their schools of law for what taʿzīr punishments applied to what sorts of offenses. Lashing, the bastinado (smacking the soles of the feet with a cane) and, to a lesser extent, incarceration, have been the main methods of punishment. Although there has been disagreement on the details, the most common position among Muslim jurists is that the upper limit of taʿzīr punishments is that they cannot reach the punishment for the equivalent hudud crime. This was simple in the case of sexual indiscretion or intoxication, for which the hudud crime had a fixed number of lashes. The most that a taʿzīr punishment could be was 99 lashes for sexual crimes or one day less than one year of exile. Theft was a different matter. Petty theft was generally handled by lashing or short jail time, while repeat offenders could be sent to prisons for thieves (see for more on the types of punishments used in Islamic civilization.

One of the most important features of how the hudud crimes were conceptualized in the Sunna and by later jurists was the central role of avoiding tajassus (seeking out offenses done in private) and providing satr (finding excuses for, or turning a blind eye to, private misconduct. These concepts were rooted in the Qur’an, which forbids tajassus (Qur’an 49:12), and the Sunna, where the Prophet ﷺ repeatedly ignores a man trying to confess to having “violated one of the hudud.”[42] “If you seek out a people’s secret or shameful areas,” the Prophet ﷺ warns, “You’ll ruin them.”[43]

The Companions understood this as key to legal procedure. The prominent Companion and governor of Kufa, Ibn Masʿūd, was brought a man “whose beard was dripping with wine,” but Ibn Masʿūd’s only response was, “We have been forbidden to seek out faults. But if he does something openly before us, we would hold him responsible for that.”[44] One reliable report tells that the caliph Umar heard rowdy voices from inside a house in Medina, so he climbed over the wall and found a man with a woman and wine. When he confronted the man, he replied that, while he was indeed committing a sin, Umar had committed three: he had violated the Qur’anic commands against seeking out faults in others (49:12), climbing over the walls of houses (2:189) and entering homes without permission (24:27). Umar admitted his fault and left.

As with other areas of Islamic criminal law, the application of the hudud ultimately fell under the authority of the ruler or state. Although the Prophet ﷺ warned that, once a hudud crime had reached the authority, the trial had to be held, this was meant to emphasize that no one could expect favoritism.[45] The Prophet ﷺ and the early caliphs made it clear that the ruling authority could suspend the hudud punishments entirely if this was necessary, as the Prophet ﷺ ordered for soldiers who stole while out on campaign and as Umar famously ordered for theft in times of famine.[46] As the famous Hanafi jurist al-Kāsānī (d. 1191) wrote, “It is not permissible to carry out the hudud without the probability of some benefit.”[47]

Historical Application of Hudud in Islamic Civilization

The Muslim judges who applied the rules of fiqh also took the command of the Prophet ﷺ to ward off the hudud by ambiguities as a divine command. All indications are that the hudud punishments were very rarely carried out historically. A Scottish doctor working in Aleppo in the mid-1700s observed that there were only six public executions in twenty years. Theft was rare, he observed, and when it occurred it was punished by bastinado.[48] A famous British scholar of Arabic in Egypt in the mid-1800s reported that the hudud punishment for theft had not been inflicted in recent memory.[49] In the roughly five hundred years that the Ottoman Empire ruled Constantinople, records show that only one instance of stoning for adultery took place (contrast this with colonial America/USA, where over fifty people were executed for various sexual crimes between 1608 and 1785).[50]

Jurists’ theories of far-fetched ambiguities found real-life application. A Muslim woman in India in the late 1500s whose husband had died in battle was suddenly found to be pregnant and was accused of fornication. She claimed that her husband had been miraculously brought back to life every Friday night, when he would visit her. Jurists of India’s predominant Hanafi school of law were consulted on the case and replied that it was indeed technically possible for such a miracle to have occurred.[51]

The concept of non-invasiveness (i.e., avoiding tajassus) and covering up faults (satr) also became real practices. Wine drinking, fornication, prostitution, and homosexuality became widespread in medieval Islamic civilization. Yet Muslim scholars could do little more than complain about this.[52] One scholar in Mughal India himself strayed into wanton ways, taking up womanizing and throwing drinking parties. When the market police climbed over the wall of his house to break up one such party he reprimanded them by reminding them of the caliph Umar’s lapse. The police left the scholar’s house in shame (the scholar later reformed himself, reports his biographer). In the extreme west of the Islamic world, the chief judge of Fez in the early 1300s was respected by everyone for his fairness and knowledge. But he was criticized for hiring someone to ‘sniff out’ alcohol on people’s breath. ‘And he deserved that criticism,’ added one Muslim chronicler.[53]

Instances in which thieves did have their hands cut off were shocking to local populations. The famous Moroccan scholar and traveler Ibn Battuta (d. circa 1366) recounts how, in Mecca, when a judicial official had ordered a young man’s hand cut off for stealing, the youth later murdered that judge.[54] The Mughal emperor Akbar the Great (d. 1605) was furious when he found that his chief judge had carried out the execution of a man convicted of a hudud offense, citing the principle of avoiding this through ambiguities. The judge fell from imperial favor and eventually died in exile.[55]

The best illustration of how seriously judges took the command to ward off the hudud as a religious duty is a near soap-opera level scandal from Mamluk Cairo in the year 1513. A magistrate from the Hanafi school of law had a gorgeous wife, who was lusted over by a Shafi magistrate. This Shafi judge took advantage of his colleague’s absence to enter the couple’s house and consummate the affair. But a jealous neighbor who also was in love with the wife informed the husband, who immediately returned home, busted into his room and found the couple in his bed. The Shafi magistrate pleaded with the fuming husband, offering him money not to disgrace him publically. The man’s wife pleaded along Shariah lines, saying, “Satr is called for.” But the husband refused and locked them in the bedroom until the authorities arrived. When confronted, the Shafi magistrate confessed to zinā and even wrote out his confession before another magistrate.

Hearing of this scandal, the Mamluk Sultan, al-Ghūrī, was livid at the corruption uncovered amongst his magistrates. So he asked for a ruling by a Shafi judge, who declared (correctly) that the couple should be stoned. The chief judge affirmed, and the Sultan, who had been acknowledged as overly zealous in punishment, was elated. He’d be commemorated for his justice, he exclaimed, since “history would record that someone was stoned for zinā in his time.”

But in the meantime, the couple retracted their confession. Leading scholars wrote that the hudud punishment would have to be dropped. The Sultan responded in outrage, “O Muslims! A man goes into the house of another man, commits iniquity with his wife, they are caught together under the covers, the man confesses to what he’d done and writes a confession with his own hand, and they say after all this that he can retract it?!” The Sultan convened all the senior judges and jurists at his court, including the then nonagenarian pillar of the Shafi school, Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyyā al-Anṣārī (d. 1520). One leading Shafi scholar, Burhān al-Dīn Ibn Abī Sharīf (d. 1517), replied to the Sultan, “That is God’s law,” warning that whoever executed the couple would be liable for their murder. Zakariyyā al-Anṣārī agreed. Enraged, the Sultan executed the couple anyway, fired all the chief judges and scholars from their judgeships and teaching positions and sent Ibn Abī Sharīf into exile.[56]

We must appreciate what took place in this episode: several leading scholars and judges of Mamluk Cairo accepted dismissal from their posts and exile rather than affirming the application of a hudud punishment. Writing a century later, the historian Najm al-Dīn al-Ghazzī (d. 1650) remarked that the Sultan’s crime of executing two people without legal right and ignoring the protocols of the Shariah was a cause of the fall of the Mamluk state, which the Ottomans conquered only three years after this scandal.[57]

Aside from the hudud, Muslim judges have historically generally been conservative about carrying out capital or severe corporal punishment. For example, one of the few instances in which a judge can refuse to enforce the ruling of another court applying another school of law is if that other school has more severe rules on issues like requiring execution for murder.[58] When one of the Ottoman sultans ordered a group of merchants to be executed for disobeying his ruling on fixing prices, a Muslim jurist intervened, objecting that, “It is not permitted to kill these people in the Shariah.” The sultan replied that the merchants had disobeyed an order he had issued, and the scholar replied, “What if your command did not reach them?”[59]

Why Have Rules if You Don’t Follow Them? Law in Pre-modern versus Modern Societies

When my students read about Shariah law, their first reaction after learning about the hudud is, ‘Why have punishments you’re not going to apply?’ This question strikes at the root of the incongruity between modern law and how many view the Shariah. Although it seems obvious and, indeed, essential to many today, the notion that a legal system should function as a routinized and efficiently ordered machine stripped of cultural fictions and traditions is fairly new. It is a product of legal reforms envisioned by modernists like the English philosopher and jurist Jeremy Bentham (d. 1832).

Prior to the comprehensive legal reforms in American and British law from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth, having laws on the books that were not intended to be applied was normal. In fact, it’s still a feature of law today in the US. How many times do we see signs warning us that littering will be punished by a maximum fine of $1000? How many of us know anyone who has been fined $1000 for littering? How many college students are allowed to drink under the age of 21? To quote the conservative legal scholar Robert George (and also Paul of Tarsus), law is our teacher. It is not just a means of resolving disputes or maintaining order. It is a statement by authoritative voices within a society of how that society should be.

Another major historical change was in law enforcement. Modern law enforcement as we know it emerged in Great Britain in the early 19th century. It is no coincidence that Britain was also the first state to transition into a new stage of human history, comparable in its dramatic changes to humans settling down in agricultural communities five millennia prior: that of a modern, industrialized society. This involved changes in every area of human life, from culture and religion to political representation and economic power.

Pre-modern states like France or Britain, not to mention massive multinational empires, were highly decentralized. Often, the ruler had little direct control outside major urban areas and sometimes only around the capital. What technologies like the railway (Britain was joined by railways in 1851, followed by the US) and the telegraph (in regular use by the 1850s) enabled states to do was actually project their authority among their populations on a scale never possible before. At the same time, improvements in health care and sanitation meant that, for the first time, the population of a city like London actually grew on its own without depending on immigrants (previously, morbidity in European cities was so high that they were death traps, with higher death than birth rates).[60] By 1850 more than half the population of Britain lived in cities, a milestone reached globally around the year 2000. That meant that problems of crime in cities also saw manifold increases.

So as far as law is concerned, what the modern industrialized, urbanized state and society meant was 1) unprecedented challenges of law and order, 2) a new vision for an ordered, rational, technicalized and bureaucratized world, and 3) the technological, administrative and financial resources to pursue this vision and tackle new challenges.

It is difficult for us to imagine how law and order functioned prior to these mid-nineteenth-century developments. Prior to 1830, Britain had no organized police force. Though major cities like New York and Boston developed police forces by the 1840s, only after the Civil War did official police forces become a normal feature of urban life in America. Ironically, formal police forces in the US South developed out of the Slave Patrols that had formed decades earlier to track the movement of slaves and free blacks out of fear of rebellion.[61]

Of course, cities had not been lawless up to this point. As early as 1285 the British monarchs had instituted decrees to safeguard law and order in London, just as Louis XIV (d. 1715) did in Paris. But these ad hoc, often unprofessional, watchmen were only found in the capital cities. More importantly, they did not engage in preventative policing (walking the beat) nor investigation of the wide range of crimes reported. The same applied to the institution of the shurṭashiḥna, or fawjdār (all meaning, roughly, police) in Islamic civilization, which can first be found under the early caliphs.[62][62]

Prior to the nineteenth century, the only law enforcement officials in cities and towns around the world were the equivalents of local marshals or sheriffs, whose main job was to handle prisoners and provide security in the court. In Britain, if someone committed a serious crime, the assumption was that “a great hue and cry” would be emitted and that a crowd would bring the perpetrator to the courthouse to stand trial.[63] Outside of Islamic metropolises like Cairo or Istanbul, where Shariah courts were readily available to litigate people’s disputes, people in rural areas probably settled most disputes informally within village or family networks.[64]

Marshals and sheriffs conjure up images of the Wild West, and this is actually helpful. As in films like High Noon (1952) or Tombstone (1993), marshals in pre-modern towns were on their own. Only in exceptional situations could they call on and deputize private citizens for a posse (short for posse comitatus). Films like The Wild Bunch (1969) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (also 1969), in which tough and endearing groups of outlaws are eventually mowed down mercilessly by the sheer ordered force of the modern state, commemorate the losses and gains felt at moving from the self-help and community of the pre-modern to the regimented and impersonal world of the modern.

Simply put, pre-modern states did not have the means to engage in the type of law enforcement that we consider normal today, particularly preventative policing and the investigation of mundane crimes. This important fact lies behind the severity of punishments found in Islamic law and in many pre-modern legal systems for that matter. Though scholars of criminal law continue to disagree on the best means of deterring crime, a common approach has been the utilitarian one formalized by Bentham. Its basic premise is the following equation:

(E)xpected Punishment/Deterrent power = (S)everity of Punishment x (P)robability of getting caught…. E = S x P. [65]

In a system where there are few or no police or where the police do not busy themselves investigating crimes, moderately intelligent criminals faced little chance of being caught. According to the E = S x P equation, if the probability (P) of being caught is minuscule, then in order for any meaningful deterrent effect to be created the severity of punishment (S) must be mammoth. Frightening punishments were seen as the only way to deter potential criminals whom police (what few there were) would never be able to reach. We can see this clearly in Britain in the 1700s and early 1800s. In 1820 there were over two hundred crimes punishable by death in Britain, including stealing firewood and poaching fish from another’s fishpond.[66] The colony of Virginia had the death penalty for taking vegetables or fruits from a garden.[67]

But, similar to the hudud, few people convicted of these offenses were actually executed. Putting thousands of petty offenders to death was not the intention of the law in Britain or its colonies. Scaring people into not breaking the law was. Inevitably, judges and juries would find procedural loopholes to reduce the punishment, such as purposely undervaluing stolen goods to drop the crime from grand larceny (punishable by death) to petty larceny (punishable by flogging).[68]

And we can see how the mind-boggling advances in technology and administrative capacity in the mid-1800s changed Britain’s legal landscape. More effective policing, better prisons and, more importantly, better municipal services and a much-advanced economy meant that more offenders were caught and convicted.[69] (P) went up dramatically, so (S) dropped accordingly. By 1900 Britain had only four death-penalty offenses.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

No discussion of criminal law in the Shariah can pass without addressing the issue of Western revulsion at flogging, the most prominent form of punishment historically employed by Muslim courts, and at the dramatic hudud punishments of amputation and stoning.

Today we think of incarceration as the normal way of punishing crime, so much so “that it becomes difficult to conceive of a moment when prisons were not at the core of criminal justice,” to quote one noted scholar.[70] But prisons have been the exception, not the rule, for punishment in human history. They are immensely costly, especially for the perennially cash-strapped pre-modern state, and carry with them constant worries over security. Prior to the seventeenth century, when the situation in Europe changed, the main use of prisons globally had been for detaining suspects pending and during trial, not for punishment.

Corporal punishment, on the other hand, is quick and cheap. Although many condemn it as barbaric today, inflicting some form of pain on the body of the perpetrator has been the main means of punishing serious wrongdoing in human society. In Europe from the Middle Ages through the 1700s, horrendous types of mutilation were standard punishment: amputating hands, fingers, ears, tongues, burning with hot tongs, drawing and quartering, etc.[71] Thomas Jefferson recommended cutting a half-inch hole in the nose of women who engaged in sodomy.[72] To understand how this situation changed, one must appreciate important trends in criminal punishment that accompanied industrialization in the early-modern and modern West.

In the eighteenth century, in Western Europe and later Britain, the dominance of execution and severe corporal punishments made way for various forms of forced labor, imprisonment, and deportation to the colonies. Although the first modern prison opened near Philadelphia in 1790, the philosophy behind it had been maturing for decades. Growing out of institutions for forced labor in the seventeenth century, particularly in continental Europe, prisons emerged as institutions that combined incarceration and forced labor by those who had committed crimes that would otherwise have been punished by death.[73] In the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania, thinkers like the founding father Benjamin Rush (d. 1813) began articulating a theory of reformative justice in which harsh corporal or capital punishments would be set aside in favor of purifying the convict’s soul in hopes of eventual redemption.[74] Hence the origin of the American penitentiary, where prisoners are divided into their own small cells and given meager rations for the purposes of focusing them on reflection and consulting the Bible. This model, even after its secularization and allowance for more socialization, has since been exported widely.

This historical arc seems comprehensible enough—corporal punishment to prisons; brutal medieval mutilation makes way for more sanitary executions, makes way for forced labor in prisons, which in turn makes way for the modern penitentiary, where criminals are ‘reformed.’ But the reality is hardly so simple. Rather than a progress from brutality to enlightenment, Western criminal sanctions have simply expressed new and highly idiosyncratic cultural understandings of what is and what isn’t ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’

America abandoned public corporal punishment for the penitentiary and reforming the convict by properly directing his soul. But that guiding was done by stunningly brutal means more reminiscent of Abu Ghraib than a place of worship. Through the mid-nineteenth century, prisoners were flogged relentlessly, gagged and stuffed into small lockers where they couldn’t kneel or lie down, and had their faces flooded with freezing water. What seems to have been the most deadly of all treatments was forcing prisoners into extended periods of total isolation with enforced silence.[75] All of this was somehow seen as more humane than previous, unenlightened methods of punishment such as placing people in stocks to be pelted by fruit.

The same erroneous conflation of cultural convention with enlightened progress can be seen in British colonial rule in India. When the British East India Company took over the responsibility for administering Shariah law in the areas of India it controlled in the late 1700s, British officials were exasperated and shocked. They were primarily frustrated at how hard it was to execute criminals under the Shariah. They considered it a “barbarous construction” that the family of someone who had been murdered could accept compensation money from the murderer instead of insisting on his execution. British officials couldn’t help seeing this as some sort of pay off.

But what truly morally shocked British officials was the use of amputation as a punishment, and they eventually outlawed it in 1834. Hence we find the bizarre confusion expressed by one British woman over how a local Sikh ruler who rarely had criminals executed but instead punished them with amputation was somehow not considered cruel by his subjects (the amputation the British were referring to was mainly not hand cutting but rather an Indian punishment of cutting off the nose as the most severe taʿzīr punishment; ironically the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb [d. 1707] had banned this as alien to the Shariah).[76] British fetishization of corporal punishment alongside a cavalier attitude towards its capital elder sibling is beautifully captured in the ironic title of J. Fisch’s book on colonial law in India, Cheap Lives and Dear Limbs.

As US law professor Peter Moskos recently pointed out in his book In Defense of Flogging, the notion that imprisoning someone in a cell is somehow more humane than subjecting them to brief but intense bodily pain is a collective cultural fiction. And it is totally belied by the reality of prison-life in America. Even societies in which vicious corporal punishment was common, notes Moskos, “rarely if ever placed a human being in a cell for punishment.” “Consequently,” he concludes, “that we accept prisons as normal is a historical oddity.”[77] And incarceration in the general population of a US prison is mild treatment compared to placement in solitary confinement, a common practice in US prisons. As nineteenth-century American penitentiaries discovered, solitary confinement causes dramatic and often irreparable psychological damage. In 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture concluded that just fifteen days in solitary confinement “constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” and after that period irreversible psychological damage can occur.

The profound failings of the US prison system further indict it as a cruel and unusual form of punishment. First, prisons in the US have totally failed to reform those sent there, which is not surprising considering convicts are placed not around positive role models but around other criminals in an environment where 5% of prisoners say they had been sexually assaulted just within the previous year and in which drug use is rampant.[78] The result is that the US has by far the highest population of prisoners in the world and the second highest per capita.

Second, US prisons are cruel and unusual in that they destroy and atomize communities. As Anne-Marie Cusac points out, prior to the penitentiary movement, corporal punishment or humiliation was carried out in public, often in the town square. Criminals might be publically humiliated, but such public pain “understands criminals as existing within that community.”[79] Prior to the mid-twentieth century, many prisons were in the center of towns, with prisoners still nearby their families. Now most prisons are in rural areas incredibly distant from the urban neighborhoods most disproportionately affected by incarceration. In America, even after release from prison, felons are denied the right to vote and are nearly unemployable. Around 5.3 million Americans who would otherwise have a voice in their communities and country’s political process are denied the vote due to a past felony.[80]

The American neurosis over criminal justice is even more evident in the application of the death penalty. Developed as supposedly more humane alternatives to hanging, the electric chair, and lethal injection only euphemize the violence being done in the act of execution. As a US federal judge observed in his decision regarding an execution in 2014, a society that carries out executions must acknowledge the brutality of the act and not try to disguise it by supposedly less violent means (which often fail to work as quickly and painlessly as they are supposed to).

How Should Muslims Understand the Hudud Today?

Today the hudud are relevant mostly in their absence from the legal stage. When they do appear it is with great controversy. With the exception of a few states like Nigeria,[81] Sudan,[82] Iran,[83] and Saudi Arabia, the criminal laws of majority Muslim countries have been replaced by modified British or European imports.

How do Muslims make sense of the hudud’s absence? Can we justify it or, taking things one step further, can we justify not calling for their return? Muslim scholars have followed several tacks in negotiating these profound questions. In the mid-twentieth century some argued that the hudud were abandoned because of Western pressures during the colonial period and that, if restored, the hudud would help mold more law-abiding and harmonious societies. Once reaffirmed, these scholars argued, the punishments themselves would rarely ever be carried out.[84] Others have more recently argued that a revival of the hudud would be inappropriate for the foreseeable future because our political and social environments make removing all ambiguities (shubuhāt) systematically impossible.[85] It’s assumed that this situation is a result of colonialism and the globalization of Western values. But some scholars have argued that this had been the case for almost a millennium. Hence the extraordinary rarity of the hudud being carried out.

Taken to a higher level of detail, one Shariah argument for the hudud not being obligatory at present is that, like a person trying to perform ablutions on a missing limb, the ‘locus of the ruling’ has vanished. According to this argument, whatever the motivation for Muslim states abandoning the hudud, their absence makes them irrelevant until someone decides to revive them. Another argument is that our current era is an “age of crisis and necessity” (ḍarūra). Since in Islamic law ‘necessity makes the prohibited permissible,’ Muslim states under foreign domination or other constraints are allowed to lapse in ways that would otherwise not be allowed.

The Mauritanian scholar Abdallah Bin Bayyah has made the interesting argument that he based on the Prophet ﷺ prohibiting cutting off the hand of Muslim soldiers who stole while on campaign. Instead, the Prophet ﷺ punished them with lashes or delayed the punishment until the need for a full fighting force had passed.[86] Though Muslims are not literally in the land of the enemy, Bin Bayyah writes, they are in “a land of anxiety” where many Muslims feel uncomfortable with the hudud’s harsh physical punishments.[87] It’s as if the Abode of Islam has been culturally conquered, with Muslims becoming allergic to their own revealed tradition.

The most important point to note is that Muslim scholars have affirmed that what is essential for Muslims is to believe that the Shariah is ideal law and that the hudud are valid in theory. The actual implementation of the hudud comes at the discretion of the ruler/state and is not necessary for people to be Muslim.[88]

Can We Escape the Controversy?

Today few issues are brought up more in the media to question the civility of Islam than the hudud. Few issues are more often invoked to allude consciously or unconsciously to a clash of civilizations between the benighted past of Islam and the enlightened present of the West. When the Sultan of Brunei announced in 2014 that his country would phase in Shariah criminal law, hudud included, there was an international outcry at this return “to the dark ages.” Few issues are as political as the hudud.

The hudud are, in fact, the perfect storm of controversy and grievance. To the twentieth-century West, with its phobia of physical punishment, prison-centered approach to criminal justice and increased social permissiveness in matters sexual, the hudud are barbarity embodied. In the Muslim world, reeling from colonialism and the globalization of Western norms, the hudud have re-emerged for many as icons of a commitment to Islamic authenticity. To many Islamist movements around the world, the notion of re-establishing the hudud became both the symbol and substance of a longed-for restoration of an authentic past and an independent future.

To be fair, holding the hudud up as the symbol of a true, godly order is not some modern fabrication. The Mamluk Sultan al-Ghūrī was not unusual in hoping to be associated with stoning an adulterer. A quick glance through any chronicle of medieval Islamic civilization will yield mention of rulers or dynasties praised for ‘upholding the Limits of God.’ But, as we have seen, the hudud were really not much more than symbols of submission to the idea of God’s law.

It’s hard to know if those countries that do enforce hudud punishments today represent a continuation of pre-modern Islamic legal practice or not. The hudud are probably carried out in Saudi Arabia at a higher rate than they were historically in Muslim societies.[89] But they are still very rare. Between 1981 and 1992, there were four executions by stoning in Saudi Arabia and forty-five amputations for theft. In a one-year sample (1982-83), out of 4,925 convictions for theft, only two hands were cut off. The rest of the guilty were punished by taʿzīr. In the same time period, out of 659 convictions for hudud-level sexual crimes, no one was stoned. Many death sentences are the result of political punishments, not the hudud.[90][90] In Nigeria’s northern states, all of which have adopted Shariah-based legal codes, a few amputations for theft have taken place. There have been at least two sentences to death for adultery, but in all cases so far ambiguities were found to release the guilty party.

Like American conservatives calling for a return to some imagined utopia of the 1950s, the authentic past that modern Muslim states claim to revive with the hudud is mostly an imagined one. It is envisioned to fend off the loss of identity and autonomy that so many have felt in the modern age. So it is no surprise that countries today where the hudud are actively enforced either define themselves by their resistance to the Western imperial order (Iran), by claims to embody Islamic authenticity (Saudi Arabia), or lie on sharp cultural, religious and political fault lines between Western cultural and military imposition on the one hand and strong traditions of indigenous identity on the other (Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan).

So today it is almost impossible to discuss the hudud apart from consuming political tensions and conflicts over identity and autonomy. In 2005 the Swiss Muslim scholar and intellectual Tariq Ramadan called for a moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning, and the death penalty in the Muslim world. He was subsequently savaged by both Western critics of Islam who saw his call as too little and by some more conservative Muslim ulama who saw it as transgressing the commands of God.

Could we imagine some alternate reality in which a complex, cosmopolitan Muslim state passed through the wrenching processes of industrialization, centralization, and urbanization while preserving a Shariah legal regime intact? The Ottoman Empire actually offers something fairly close to that. It passed through significant industrialization and urbanization. Though by the mid-1800s the Ottomans were certainly feeling the political and cultural pressures of European power, they escaped the worst of Western colonialism until World War I.

The Ottoman Penal Code of 1858 is a fascinating artifact of a modernizing, unquestionably Shariah-legitimate criminal law. The Code was produced as part of the Ottoman state’s reform of its entire administration in light of new technologies and new challenges. The 1858 Code reformed the penal system by replacing existing punishment such as the bastinado with forced labor (kürek), prison, fines and exile (it also retained the death penalty for some crimes). The Code drew almost all of this content nearly verbatim from the French Penal Code of 1832.

And yet the Code’s Islamic legitimacy was not in question. It begins ‘In the name of God, the most Gracious, the most Merciful’ and was approved by the Ottoman religious establishment, which remained deeply conservative until the end of the empire. The 1858 Code never mentions hudud, but this was not because it eliminated them. Rather, this was because the whole Code explicitly limited itself to reforming the taʿzīr level of punishments. Since the hudud had not been an effective presence in legal application, replacing the taʿzīr area was tantamount to overhauling the entirety of Ottoman criminal law. By not removing the hudud and instead leaving them in effective abeyance, the 1858 Code avoided assaulting a major symbol of Islamic legitimacy. The punishments it introduced were set by the French, but they were just as ‘Islamic’ as the ones previously used by Ottoman judges, since taʿzīr was a matter of discretion not specified in the Qur’an and Sunna. Moreover, the first paragraph of the 1858 Code commits to not violating any rights of individuals under the Shariah, and it even retained people’s rights to the Qiṣāṣ process in the case of homicide should they choose it.

Let’s imagine that the Ottoman Empire had not been on the losing side in World War I and that it had continued on to the present day, maintaining its 1858 Penal Code (which survived until 1923 anyway) with slight modifications. Would we hear the same controversies we do over executions in Saudi Arabia or reviving the hudud in Brunei? Probably not as much, because the hudud would have continued as a symbol with no noticeable role in the law.

Yet there would, no doubt, still be some protests. As Amnesty International objected over Brunei’s announcement, the Shariah is problematic because it assigns harsh punishments “for acts that should not even be considered crimes.” The bottom line is that many modern objections to the Shariah in general and to the hudud in particular are not about specific punishments. They are about many Muslims’ insistence that acts like fornication should be condemned as criminal in the first place. Perhaps they are even about the insistence that such acts should be deemed morally reprehensible at all.

It’s worth considering that the crimes human societies have judged the most acutely harmful—murder and rape—are not included among the agreed upon hudud crimes. Perhaps the hudud are not necessarily the most grievous crimes in terms of the toll they take on their victims or society. Fornication and hudud-level theft are offenses almost by definition done in private, as intoxication could be as well. They are done out of the sight of all but God. Perhaps these stringent laws, which God’s mercy has made almost impossible to apply, exist primarily to remind people of the enormity of the sins that they usually get away with.

Appendix: Requirements for Amputation for Theft from al-Subki

This is a fatwa given by Taqī al-Dīn ʿAlī b. ʿAbd al-Kāfī al-Subkī (d. 756/1356), a senior Shafi scholar and judge from one of the leading scholarly families of Damascus:

The Imam and Shaykh, may God have mercy on him, said: It has been agreed upon that the Hadd [punishment] is obligatory for one who has committed theft and [for whom the following conditions apply]:

  • [the item] was taken from a place generally considered secure (ḥirz)
  • it had not been procured as spoils of war (mughannam)
  • nor from the public treasury
  • and it was taken by his own hand
  • not by some tool or mechanism (āla)
  • on his own
  • solely
  • while he was of sound mind
  • and of age
  • and a Muslim
  • and free
  • not in the Haram
  • in Mecca
  • and not in the Abode of War
  • and he is not one who is granted access to it from time to time
  • and he stole from someone other than his wife
  • and not from a uterine relative
  • and not from her husband if it is a woman
  • when he was not drunk
  • and not compelled by hunger
  • or under duress
  • and he stole some property that was owned
  • and would be permissible to sell to Muslims
  • and he stole it from someone who had not wrongfully appropriated it
  • and the value of what he stole reached ten dirhams
  • of pure silver
  • by the Meccan weight
  • and it was not meat
  • or any slaughtered animal
  • nor anything edible
  • or potable
  • or some fowl
  • or game
  • or a dog
  • or a cat
  • or animal dung
  • or feces (ʿadhira)
  • or dirt
  • or red ochre (maghara)
  • or arsenic (zirnīkh)
  • or pebbles
  • or stones
  • or glass
  • or coals
  • or firewood
  • or reeds (qaṣab)
  • or wood
  • or fruit
  • or a donkey
  • or a grazing animal
  • or a copy of the Qur’an
  • or a plant pulled up from its roots (min badā’ihi)
  • or produce from a walled garden
  • or a tree
  • or a free person
  • or a slave
  • if they are able to speak and are of sound mind
  • and he had committed no offense against him
  • before he removed him from a place where he had not been permitted to enter
  • from his secure location
  • by his own hand
  • and witness is born
  • to all of the above
  • by two witnesses
  • who are men
  • according to [the requirements and procedure] that we already presented in the chapter on testimony
  • and they did not disagree
  • or retract their testimony
  • and the thief did not claim that he was the rightful owner of what he stole
  • and his left hand is healthy
  • and his foot is healthy
  • and neither body part is missing anything
  • and the person he stole from does not give him what he had stolen as a gift
  • and he did not become the owner of what he stole after he stole it
  • and the thief did not return the stolen item to the person he stole it from
  • and the thief did not claim it
  • and the thief was not owed a debt by the person he stole from equal to the value of what he stole
  • and the person stolen from is present [in court]
  • and he made a claim for the stolen property
  • and requested that amputation occur
  • before the thief could repent
  • and the witnesses to the theft are present
  • and a month had not passed since the theft occurred

[1] The compensation paid to the victim or the family was the wergild (lit. man price) or bot, while the wite was paid to the king or lord for breaking the mund (peace); Bruce O’Brian, “Anglo-Saxon Law,” in Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History, ed. Stanley Katz (London: Oxford University Press, 2009), 1:82; F.W. Maitland, The Constitutional History of England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1908), 107-9.

[2] This well-known phrase does not appear in the US Constitution, but was adopted into American law around 1800 from English law. It was first formally articulated in England in the 1780s, though it was actually used in 1770 in Boston by the future President John Adams and Robert Paine in their defense of the British soldiers involved in the Boston massacre; see James Q. Witman, The Origins of Reasonable Doubt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 187, 193-94; and

[3] Heikki Pihlajamäki and Mia Korpiola, “Medieval Canon Law: The Origins of Modern Criminal Law,” in The Oxford Handbook of Criminal Law, ed. Markus Dubber and Tatjiana Hörnle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 214-215; Kenneth Pennington, “Innocent until Proven Guilty: The Origins of a Legal Maxim,” The Jurist 63 (2003): 106-24.

[4] Abū Bakr al-Khaṣṣāf, Adab al-Qāḍī, ed. Farhat Ziadeh (Cairo: Maṭbaʿat al-Jablāwī, 1979), 254.

[5] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī: kitāb al-jihād wa’l-siyar, bāb ism al-fars wa’l-ḥimār; Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim: kitāb al-īmān, bāb man laqiya Allāh bi’l-īmān…; kitāb al-zakāt, bāb ithm māniʿ al-zakāt.

[6] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī: kitāb al-muḥāribīn min ahl al-kufr wa’l-ridda, bāb kam al-taʿzīr wa’l-adab.

[7] Jonathan Brown, “Taʿzīr,” Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

[8] This minimal list is held by the Hanafi school (NB: for Hanafis, ḥirāba was included under the heading of sariqa). All other schools consider public apostasy (ridda) and sodomy to be among the hudud crimes as well. In the Maliki school, ghīla (assassination or murder to steal someone’s money) is considered a hudud crime punished by death. See Wahba al-Zuḥaylī, Mawsūʿat al-fiqh al-islāmī, 14 vols. (Damascus: Dār al-Fikr, 2010), 5:714-15; Ṣāliḥ ʿAbd al-Salām Al-Ābī, al-Thamar al-dānī fī taqrīb al-maʿānī Ḥāshiyat Risālat Ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawānī. 2nd ed. (Cairo: Muṣṭafā al-Bābī al-Ḥalabī, 1944), 423, 432, 435.

[9] There is some disagreement over qadhf, which some scholars consider to be a violation of the rights of human beings only; Manṣūr b. Yūnus al-Buhūtī, al-Rawḍ al-murbiʿ, ed. Bashīr Muḥammad ‘Uyūn (Damascus: Maktabat Dār al-Bayān, 1999), 466; al-Khaṣṣāf, Adab al-Qāḍī, 217, 333; Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Qurṭubī, al-Jāmiʿ li-aḥkām al-Qur’ān, ed. Muḥammad Ibrāhīm al-Ḥifnāwī and Maḥmūd Ḥāmid ‘Uthmān, 20 vols. in 10 (Cairo: Dār al-Ḥadīth, 1994), 6:476 (on verse 24:4).

[10] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī: kitāb al-muḥāribīn min ahl al-kufr wa’l-ridda, bāb al-iʿtirāf bi’l-zinā; Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim: kitāb al-ḥudūd, bāb ḥadd al-zinā, bāb man iʿtarafa ʿalā nafsihi bi’l-zinā.

[11] There has long been effective consensus on the punishment of stoning for adultery, which was even accepted by the Muʿtazila school of thought (though not by the Kharijis). In 1973, the famous Egyptian ʿālim and scholar of law Muḥammad Abū Zahra (d. 1974) stated at a conference in Libya that he seriously doubted the reliability of the reports that the Prophet ﷺ had engaged in stoning, considering it too cruel a punishment (this was reported by two scholars in attendance, Muṣṭafā Zarqā’ and Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, see Muḥammad Abū Zahra, Fatāwā, ed. Muḥammad ʿUthmān Bashīr (Damascus: Dār al-Qalam, 2006), 673. There is a modern theory that stoning is taʿzīr, and thus discretionary, since the Prophet ﷺ said that God gave “a path out” (Qur’an 4:15) for a non-married virgin who had fornicated with the 100 lashes mentioned in the Qur’an and then an additional year of exile added by the Prophet ﷺ as taʿzīr; the punishment for the married adulterer would mirror this, with 100 lashes from the Qur’an and then stoning as the Prophet ﷺ added, discretionary taʿzīr. Dr. Jasser Auda argues in his book Naqd naẓariyyat al-naskh that stoning was Jewish law practiced in the beginning of Islam and then abrogated by Surat al-Nūr. See Jasser Auda, Naqd naẓariyyat al-naskh (al-Shabaka al-ʿArabiyya li’l-Abḥāth, 2013). What has emerged as very controversial in the modern period is the notion that there could be a verse of the Qur’an concerning stoning that was removed (naskh) by God. Most pre-modern Muslim scholars had no problem with the notion that the Qur’an originally included a verse stating ‘The noble man and woman, if they commit zinā, surely stone them both,’ but that God ordered the verse removed while maintaining the ruling intact. The famous Shāfiʿī/Ashʿarī Hadith scholar Abū Bakr al-Bayhaqī (d. 458/1066) stated that he knew of no disagreement on the possibility of a verse of the Qur’an being removed in its entirety (naskh al-tilāwa) while its ruling remained; Abū Bakr al-Bayhaqī, al-Sunan al-kubrā, ed. Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Qādir ʿAṭā, 11 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1999), 8:367. A leading traditionalist scholar of the twentieth century, ʿAbdallāh al-Ghumārī (d. 1993), however, denied the possibility of naskh al-tilāwa. He deemed it rationally impossible and added that all reports describing it as having occurred are narrated by too few transmissions (āḥād) to match the certainty of Qur’anic verses. He notes that the most reliable piece of evidence, namely the reports of the caliph ʿUmar in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī that he worried that people would abandon stoning because it was not found in the book of God, do not actually include the wording of the supposed verse with that ruling, as pointed out by Ibn Ḥajar (though Ibn Ḥajar does not doubt that there was such a verse); ʿAbdallāh b. al-Ṣiddiq al-Ghumārī, Dhawq al-ḥalāwa bi-bayān imtināʿ naskh al-tilāwa, 2nd ed. (Cairo: Maktabat al-Qāhira, 2006), 12, 14; Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī: kitāb al-muḥāribīn min ahl al-kufr wa’l-ridda, bāb al-iʿtirāf bi’l-zinā. Most ulama do not accept al-Ghumārī’s argument. For one thing, another sound narration of the hadith from ʿUmar includes his saying, regarding a Qur’anic verse on stoning, that “We recited it, understood it and heeded it” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī: kitāb al-muḥāribīn…, bāb rajm al-ḥublā min al-zinā idhā aḥṣanat). Although al-Ghumārī does not discuss this narration, he rejects as insufficient proof all the hadiths mentioning verses of the Qur’an being removed. See Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, Fatḥ al-Bārī, ed. ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Bin Bāz and Muḥammad Fu’ād ʿAbd al-Bāqī (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1997), 12:168, 173-74. See also al-Albānī, Silsilat al-aḥādīth al-ṣaḥīḥa, #2913.

[12] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim: kitāb al-ḥudūd, bāb ḥadd al-khamr.

[13] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim: kitāb al-qasāma wa’l-muḥāribīn…, bāb ḥukm al-murtaddīn wa’l-muḥāribīn.

[14] Sunan of Abū Dāwūd: kitāb al-ḥudūd, bāb mā jā’a fī al-muḥāraba.

[15]  Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī: kitāb al-ṭahāra, bāb mā jā’a fī bawl mā yu’kalu laḥmuhu.

[16] Al-Qurṭubī, Jāmiʿ li-aḥkām al-Qur’ān, 3:509-11.

[17] Mālik, al-Muwaṭṭa’: kitāb al-ḥudūd, bāb mā jā’a fī al-rajm; bāb tark al-shafāʿa li’l-sāriq idhā balagha al-sulṭān.

[18] Musnad of Ibn Ḥanbal (Maymaniyya print), 4:133 (The hadith reads:”man taraka mālan fa-li-warathatihi wa man taraka daynan aw ḍayʿatan fa-ilayya wa anā walī man lā walī lahu afukku ʿanhu wa arithuhu mālahu wa’l-khāl wārith man lā wārith lahu yafukku ʿanhu wa yarithu mālahu); 4:131 (This narration adds aʿqilu ʿanhu); 6:47.

[19] Al-Shāfiʿī, Kitāb al-Umm (Beirut: Dār al-Maʿrifa, 1393/1973), 6:21; See also Muwaffaq al-Dīn Ibn Qudāma, al-Mughnī, ed. ʿAbdallāh al-Turkī and ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ al-Ḥulw, 12 vols. (Cairo: Hujr, 1986), 9:476, 10:9, 22; Muḥammad al-Sarakhsī, al-Mabsūṭ, 30 vols. in 15. (Beirut: Dār al-Maʿrifa, [1978]), 10:219; al-Buhūtī, al-Rawḍ al-murbiʿ, 461; Aḥmad al-Qudūrī, The Mukhtaṣar, trans. Ṭāhir Maḥmood Kiānī (London: Ta-Ha Publishers, 2010), 530-31.

[20] This is based on a hadith in which the Prophet ﷺ says that, “The pen has been lifted [from writing a person’s deeds] for three people: the person sleeping until they wake up, the person afflicted [with some madness] until they recover, and the youth until they grow up,” on the Prophet’s question to a man confessing to zinā, “Do you know what zinā is?” and on the practice of the caliph ʿUmar, who ruled that, “There is no hadd except on the one who knew it (lā ḥadd illā ʿalā man ʿalimahu)”; Sunan of Abū Dāwūd: kitāb al-ḥudūdbāb fī al-majnūn yasriqu aw yuṣību ḥaddanSunan of Abū Dāwūd: kitāb al-ḥudūdbāb rajm Māʿiz bin Mālikal-Bayhaqī, Sunan al-kubrā, 8:415. See also al-Qudūrī, Mukhtaṣar, 544.

[21] This hadith can be found in Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī (kitāb al-diyāt, bāb mā jā’a fī al-qiṣāṣ), with a similar version narrated by Abū Hurayra (Sunan Ibn Mājahkitāb al-ḥudūdbāb mā jā’a fī al-satr ʿalā al-mu’min wa dafʿ al-ḥudūd bi’l-shubuhāt) (weak according to all). Scholars like Tirmidhī and Bayhaqī consider the narrations attributing this to Aisha rather than the Prophet ﷺ to be more reliable; al-Bayhaqī, Sunan al-kubrā, 8:413. For other Companions making similar statements, see al-Bayhaqī, Sunan al-kubrā, 8:413-15. According to Ibn Ḥajar, the most reliable version is Umar’s saying, “For me to err in the hudud because of ambiguities is more preferable for me than to carry them out because of ambiguities.” See Shams al-Dīn al-Sakhāwī, al-Maqāṣid al-ḥasana, ed. Muḥammad ʿUthmān al-Khisht (Beirut: Dār al-Kitāb al-ʿArabī, 2004), 42.

[22] See Intisar Rabb, “Islamic Legal Maxims as Substantive Canons of Construction: Ḥudūd-Avoidance in Cases of Doubt,” Islamic Law and Society 17 (2010): 63-125.

[23] Qur’an 24:2, 4, and the Qur’an reiterates the need for four witnesses again in verse 2:15.

[24] aḥīḥ al-Bukhārī: kitāb al-muḥāribīn min ahl al-kufr wa’l-ridda, bāb lā yurjamu al-majnūn wa’l-majnūna, bāb hal yaqūlu al-imām li’l-muqirr laʿallaka lamasta aw ghamazta; Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim: kitāb al-ḥudūd, bāb ḥadd al-zinā, bāb man iʿtarafa ʿalā nafsihi bi’l-zinā.

[25] Sunan of Abū Dāwūd: kitāb al-ḥudūd, bāb rajm Māʿiz b. Mālik, bāb fī rajm al-yahūdiyayn.

[26] Ibn al-Amīr al-Ṣanʿānī, Subul al-salām, ed. Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Marʿashlī. 3rd ed, 4 vols. (Beirut: Dār Iḥyā’ a-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 2005), 4:9.

[27] ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Shaʿrānī, al-Mīzān al-kubrā, 2 vols. in 1 (Cairo: Maktabat Zahrān [no date]. Reprint of 1862 Cairo ed. from Maktabat al-Kastiliyya), 2:145.

[28] Sulaymān al-Bujayramī, Ḥāshiyat al-Bujayrimī ʿalā al-Minhāj (Cairo: Maṭbaʿat Muḥammad Shāhīn, 1380/1960), 345; Mullā ʿAlī al-Qāri’, Sharḥ Musnad Abī Ḥanīfa, ed. Khalīl Muḥyī al-Dīn al-Mīs (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, n.d.), 487; Muḥyī al-Dīn al-Nawawī, al-Majmūʿ, ed. Muḥammad Najīb al-Muṭīʿī (Jedda: Maktabat al-Irshād, n.d.), 5:211.

[29] James Baldwin, “Prostitution, Islamic Law and Ottoman Societies,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 55 (2012): 125.

[30] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī: kitāb al-ḥudūd, bāb qawl Allāh taʿālā wa’l-sāriqu wa’l-sāriqatu….

[31] Sunan of Abū Dāwūd: kitāb al-ḥudūd, bāb fī al-talqīn fī al-ḥudūd; Sunan al-Nasā’ī: kitāb qaṭʿ al-sāriq, bāb talqīn al-sāriq.

[32] Mullā Hüzrev, Durar al-ḥukkām sharḥ ghurar al-aḥkām, 2 vols. (Istanbul: Fazilat, n.d. Reprint of Amīriyya print, n.d.), 2:82.

[33] Al-Buhūtī, Rawḍ, 469; Sunan of Abū Dāwūd: kitāb al-ḥudūd, bāb man saraqa min ḥirz.

[34] Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī: kitāb al-ḥudūd, bāb mā jā’a fī al-khā’in wa’l-mukhtalis wa’l-muntahib.

[35] Rudolph Peters, Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 54. The same was observed by the British in the application of the punishment for theft in India in the late 1700s. See Jörg Fisch, Cheap Lives and Dear Limbs: The British Transformation of the Bengal Criminal Law 1769-1817 (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1983), 76.

[36] Al-Ṣanʿānī, Subul al-salām, 4:41; al-Buhūtī, Rawḍ, 467.

[37] Al-Bayhaqī, Sunan al-kubrā, 8:549

[38] Al-Buhūtī, Rawḍ, 467.

[39] Al-Qurṭubī, Jāmiʿ li-aḥkām al-Qur’ān, 3:515.

[40] Al-Khaṭīb al-Shirbīnī, Mughnī al-muḥtāj, 4:176; al-Shaʿrānī, Mīzān al-kubrā, 2:225.

[41] Al-Shaʿrānī, Mīzān al-kubrā, 2:227.

[42] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī: kitāb al-muḥāribīn min ahl al-kufr wa’l-ridda, bāb idhā aqarra bi’l-ḥadd…; ṢaḥīḥMuslim: kitāb al-tawba, bāb fī qawlihi taʿālā inna al-ḥasanāt tudhhibna al-sayyi’āt.

[43] Sunan of Abū Dāwūd: kitāb al-adab, bāb fī al-nahy ʿan al-tajassus.

[44] Sunan of Abū Dāwūd: kitāb al-adab, bāb fī al-nahy ʿan al-tajassus.

[45] Sunan of Abū Dāwūd: kitāb al-ḥudūd, bāb al-ʿafw fī al-ḥudūd mā lam tablugh al-sulṭan.

[46] Sunan of Abū Dāwūd: kitāb al-ḥudūd, bāb al-sāriq idhā yasriqu fī al-ghazw a-yuqṭaʿu.

[47] Lā yajūzu iqāmat al-ḥudūd maʿa iḥtimāl ʿadam al-fā’ida; Abū Bakr al-Kāsānī, Badā’iʿal-ṣanā’iʿ (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 2003), 9:248.

[48] Alexander Russell, A Natural History of Aleppo, 2 vols. (London: no publisher, 1794), 1:331.

[49] Edward Lane, Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (New York: Cosimo, 2005), 112.

[50] Fariba Zarinebaf-Shahr, ‘Women in the Public Eye in Eighteenth-Century Istanbul,’302–304; Anne-Marie Cusac, Cruel and Unusual: The Culture of Punishment in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 22.

[51] ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Badā’ūnī, Muntakhabu-t-Tawārīkh, trans. W.H. Lowe (Delhi: Renaissance Publishing, 1986), 3:146.

[52] See, for example, al-Suyūṭī complaining about a brothel that continued operating in Cairo; Al-Suyūṭī, al-Taḥadduth bi-niʿmat Allāh, ed. Elizabeth Sartain (Cairo: al-Maṭbaʿa al-ʿArabiyya al-Ḥadītha, 1972), 175.

[53] This scholar’s name was Saʿd Allāh Banī Isrā’īl; Badā’ūnī, Muntakhab, 3:88. For this point of prohibiting tajassus, see Sunan of Abū Dāwūd: kitāb al-adab, bāb fī al-nahy ʿan al-tajassusThe judge in question was ʿAlī b. Muḥammad al-Zarruwaylī (d. 1319 CE); Muḥammad b. Jaʿfar al-Kattānī, Salwat al-anfās wa muḥādathat al-akyās mimman uqbira min al-ʿulamā’ wa’l-sulaḥā’ bi-fās, ed. ʿAbdallāh al-Kāmil al-Kattānī et al., 3 vols. (Casablanca: Dār al-Thaqāfa, 2004), 3:180. 

[54] Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, The Travels of Ibn Battuta, ed. H.A.R. Gibb, 3 vols. (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2004), 2:219.

[55] Al-Badā’ūnī, Muntakhabu-t-Tawārīkh, 3:129-130.

[56] Muḥammad b. Aḥmad Ibn Iyās, Badā’iʿ al-zuhūr fī waqā’iʿ al-duhūr, ed. Muḥammad Muṣṭafā (Cairo: al-Hay’a al-Miṣriyya al-ʿĀmma li’l-Kutub, 1984), 4:340-45; Najm al-Dīn al-Ghazzī, al-Kawākib al-sā’ira bi-aʿyān al-mi’a al-ʿāshira, ed. Jibrā’īl Jabbūr, 3 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Āfāq al-Jadīda, 1979), 1:102-5, 295.

[57] Al-Ghazzi, al-Kawākib al-sā’ira, 1:103.

[58] Al-Khaṣṣāf, Adab al-qāḍī, 349.

[59] Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-Shawkānī, “Rafʿ al-asāṭīn fī ḥukm al-ittiṣāl bi’l-salāṭīn,” in Majmūʿ fīhi sabaʿ rasā’il li’l-imām al-muḥaqqiq Muḥammad b. Ismāʿīl al-Amīr al-Ṣanʿānī, ed. Muḥammad al-Ṣaghīr Muqaṭṭirī (Beirut: Dār Ibn Ḥazm, 2004), 452-3.

[60] Andrew Lees, The City: A World History (London: Oxford University Press, 2015), 49.

[61] G. Edward White, American Legal History: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 74.

[62] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī: kitāb al-aḥkām, bāb al-ḥākim yaḥkumu bi’l-qatl ʿalā man wajaba ʿalayhi….

[63] Lawrence M. Friedman, A History of American Law, 2nd ed. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985), 577.

[64] Wael Hallaq, Sharīʿa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 163.

[65] I draw this equation from lecture notes from Professor Neal Katyal’s course on Criminal Law at Georgetown Law School, 9/11/15.

[66] E. P. Thompson, Whigs and Hunters: The Origin of the Black Act (New York: Pantheon Books, 1975), 270–77.

[67] Cusac, Cruel and Unusual, 28-29.

[68] J.S. Cockburn, A History of the English Assizes 1558-1714 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 128-133.

[69] J.J. Tobias, Crime and Industrial Society in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Schocken, 1967), 249-50.

[70] Norval Morris and David J. Rothman, eds., The Oxford History of the Prison (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), vii.

[71] John Langbein, “The Historical Origins of the Sanction of Imprisonment for Serious Crimes,” Journal of Legal Studies 5, no. 1 (1976): 36.

[72] Cusac, Cruel and Unusual, 21.

[73] John Langbein, “The Historical Origins of the Sanction of Imprisonment for Serious Crimes,” 51.

[74] Cusac, Cruel and Unusual, 36, 41-44.

[75] Cusac, Cruel and Unusual, 53-56.

[76] Radhika Singha, A Despotism of Law: Crime & Justice in Early Colonial India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998), 3, 9, 24, 52, 54-55.

[77] Peter Moskos, In Defense of Flogging (New York: Basic, 2011), 50.

[78] Moskos, In Defense of Flogging, 52, 56.

[79] Cusac, Cruel and Unusual, 13.

[80] Moskos, In Defense of Flogging, 74.

[81] Gunnar J. Weimann, “Nigeria,” in The [Oxford] Encyclopedia of Islam and Law. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. 05-Dec-2016. <;.

[82] Hudud have been in place in Sudan since 1991. The main manifestations have been flogging for intoxication; Olaf A. Köndgen, “Sudan,” in The [Oxford] Encyclopedia of Islam and Law. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. 05-Dec-2016. <;.

[83] In Iran, the amputation for theft is very rarely carried out, though in Imami Shiism it is only the fingertips that are cut off, not the hand. Stoning is not carried out; Hassan Rezaei, “Iran,” in The [Oxford] Encyclopedia of Islam and Law. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. 05-Dec-2016. <;.

[84] ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Maḥmūd, Fatāwā, 2 vols. (Cairo: Dār al-Shurūq, 2002), 2:434; Maḥmūd Shaltūt, al-Islām ʿaqīda wa sharīʿa, 14th ed. (Cairo: Dār al-Shurūq, 1987), 302-4.

[85] ʿAlī Jumʿa, al-Bayān li-mā yashghalu al-adhhān (Cairo: al-Muqaṭṭam, 2005), 71-2; see a 2013 interview with Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī and its transcript.

[86] Sunan of Abū Dāwūd: kitāb al-ḥudūd, bāb al-sāriq yasriqu fī al-ghazw a-yuqṭaʿu.

[87] ʿAbdallāh Bin Bayyah, Tanbīh al-marājiʿ ʿalā ta’ṣīl fiqh al-wāqiʿ (UAE: Muntadā Taʿzīz al-Silm fī al-mujtamaʿāt al-Muslima, 2014), 83-5.

[88] Shaltūt, Fatāwā, 45; Jumʿa, al-Bayān, 71; Bin Bayyah, Tanbīh, 83-4.

[89] Knut Vikør, Between God and the Sultan: A History of Islamic Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 266.

[90]  Frank Vogel, Islamic Law and Legal System (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 246-47; Vikør, 266.

Disclaimer: The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in these papers and articles are strictly those of the authors. Furthermore, Yaqeen does not endorse any of the personal views of the authors on any platform. Our team is diverse on all fronts, allowing for constant, enriching dialogue that helps us produce high-quality research.


Links and Related Essays

41:33 of the Quran and what Ahmadi’s really believe about it

Dear readers, Ahmadi’s are extremist when it come to their “Tabligh”, which is called “Dawah:” in most Muslim circles.  Afzal Upal exposed this about Ahmadiyya in his work.  He quoted academic writers who told us that in British-India many movements like Ahmadiyya arose, which were focused on tabligh and even made tabligh a mandatory part of Islam.  Per additional academic writers on Ahmadiyya, the Ahmadi’s see religious freedom as the ability to preach openly.  Whereas, religious freedom was only meant for private functions.  However, it has turned into a big business in the west, see the life of Scientology and Jehovas Witnesses and many others.  One last thing, it’s 41:34 in Ahmadiyya Quran’s and in their magazines.

Ahmadi’s and 41:33
We are unsure what MGA wrote on it.

Not every Muslim should do tabligh or dawa
Tabligh or Dawa is not the duty of the average Muslim person, male or female.  It should only be done by qualified people.  It is really hard and takes at least 10 years of proper research to understand the Abrahamic faiths.

41:33 is about the adhan, and your actions being a model, not preaching and buying people
See Tafsir Ibn Kathir

The Ahmadiyya 5-volume commentary on 41:34

Mirza Masroor Ahmad on 41:34 in 2006

What are Ahmadi’s told to believe about 41:34?
The Mirza family uses this verse as they rape Ahmadi’s for their monies, free time, and children.  The mirza family is vicious in this regard.

Links and related Essays


Atif Mian’s conversion to Ahmadiyya story


We wanted to post the official conversion story of Atif Mian.  He doesn’t give lots of details however, he seems to have gotten disgusted with Islam after the attacks of 9-11-01, and then converted to Ahmadiyya in haste.  We have copy and pasted the story from ““”””By the Dawn’s Early Light: Short Stories by American Converts to Islam By the Dawn’s Early Light: Short Stories by American Converts to Islam First published in the United States of America in 2009 Published by: Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya USA An Auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community 15000 Good Hope Road Silver Spring, Maryland 20905 USA””” (see page 90).

Atif Mian doesn’t give any proper reason for leaving Islam.  He has been totally silent on Jesus in India, the eclipses and many other classic irregularities with Ahmadiyya.  Just like Dr. Salam.

Related Essay’s

The full story 

Atif Mian 
Chicago, Illinois 

"The greatest gift of Ahmadiyya teachings is that they 
introduce you to the true concept and reality of God." 

I was born in Nigeria in 1974 but grew up mostly in Pakistan. Looking back 
at my life, I have to admit that I have been extremely fortunate in many ways. 
I had the most loving and caring parents who sacrificed a lot for the education 
and proper upbringing of their children. I was the youngest in my family, with 
three older sisters. So you can say I was spoiled once by my mother and three 
times by my sisters. 

I would describe our household as moderately religious. My mother 
constantly taught me the value of good morals. I remember having a sense 
from a fairly young age that I was expected to do the "right thing," i.e. tell the 
truth, respect elders, not be extravagant, and so on. My parents paid great 
attention towards their children's education. They commuted long distances 
for six years just so we could go to school in Lahore where education standards 
were higher. 

When I was finishing my high school, my father encouraged me to apply 
to the U.S. for college. Luckily I got admitted to MIT and joined there in the 
fall of 1993 as a freshman. Life at MIT was quite difficult in the beginning. 
Classes were tough, language was a bit foreign, and culture was very different. 
There were adjustments to be made at many levels. It was perhaps the result 
of exposure to alternative ways of life, or perhaps the natural consequence of a 
maturing mind that I began to ponder seriously about the pre-suppositions of 
life that a child grows up with. 

I had been raised as a Muslim with a strong emphasis on the belief in God. 
I had never questioned what I had been taught thus far, but this now turned out 

Short Stories by American Converts to Islam 91 

to be an uneasy compromise. Should I believe in Islam simply because fate had 
me born into a Muslim family? Why should one take religion seriously when 
its primary determinant seems to be the flip of a coin that decides which family 
one is born into? Why should one put so many constraints on life because of a 
God that may or may not exist? 

The questions were many, but I struggled with finding acceptable answers. 
At the same time the conventional understanding of Islam seemed more and 
more intolerant and irrational to me. Muslims who advocated on behalf of 
Islam enthusiastically split hairs when it came to religious dogma, and yet 
seemed oblivious to the basic tenets of justice, tolerance and human civility. 
For example, otherwise sane looking people would actively support the idea 
that anyone who chooses to leave Islam should be condemned to death. I was 
beginning to be put off by religion. 

It was around these early years in college when I found out that an old 
friend of mine from high school, Hamid Sheikh, was an Ahmadi Muslim. I 
had known him for over eight years but never knew that he was an Ahmadi 
Muslim. My impression of Ahmadi Muslims at that time was quite negative, 
formed largely by the general social attitude towards Ahmadi Muslims in 
Pakistan. In my mind Ahmadiyya Community was some weird cult devoid of 
common sense. Therefore, when I found out that a good friend of mine was an 
Ahmadi Muslim, I was quite surprised. 

At this point, however, I was less interested in the finer details of differences 
between Ahmadiyya Islam and Sunni Islam teachings. I had enough trouble 
trying to understand religion at a basic level and did not care much about 
complicated sectarian discussions. So I badgered Hamid with some general 
questions about God, religion and the purpose of man's creation. We had 
some discussions, and Hamid gave me two books to read: Islam's Response to 
Contemporary Issues by the Fourth Khalifa, and his biography, A Man of God. 

I had been searching for a logical and humane approach towards religion 
but was disappointed with what I had found thus far. However, reading Islam's 
Response to Contemporary Issues was a totally refreshing experience. I was not 
yet ready to say that I believed in a particular religion, but I remember saying 
to myself after reading the book that if there ever were a religion worthy of 
following, it must look like the one described in that book. 

I loved the way the Fourth Khalifa approached religion. He spoke with 
the precision of a scientist. He always began with "first principles" and then 
gradually built his case through the rules of logic. There was also a deep sense 


of love, compassion and humanity in whatever he wrote or said. It is hard to 
express it in words, but I fell totally in love with his personality. 

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community began to provide me with the 
answers that I had been searching for. But conviction of the heart and mind are 
two separate issues. There were always more questions that I could have asked. 
At what point do I draw the line between skepticism and belief? 

I did not know the answer to this question. I was also perturbed by the 
idea of praying for myself. How could I do that if I were not willing to call 
myself a believer? Wouldn't that be hypocritical? Even selfish perhaps? And 
then there was the chicken and the egg problem. If one needs to have faith to 
pray sincerely, and must pray sincerely to have faith, where should I begin? 

My solution to these conundrums was that I could only pray to a possible 
God. I would pray that if You are truly there then guide me to what is right 
and what is true. In my heart I already had the suspicion that the truth might 
be Ahmadiyya. Therefore, afraid that I might stay away from it because of the 
social sanctions against it, I would add that I was willing to pay whatever price 
it took to find and accept the truth. 

Over the next few years, I continued to read whatever I could on Islam 
Ahmadiyya. I did not discuss this much with others. I preferred to study on my 
own instead. The web was a great tool for me., the Community's 
website, was just beginning to develop and I must have been one of its most 
voracious consumers at the time. My greatest attractions were the "Q&A" 
sessions conducted by the Fourth Khalifa, as well as his sermons. I could spend 
hours listening to him. 

While I found the message of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community very 
attractive, I was extremely repulsed by the attitude of orthodox clerics towards 
the Community. How could they lose all sense of humanity and prevent Ahmadi 
Muslims from practicing their faith in Pakistan? How could man become 
arrogant enough to decide who is a Muslim and who is not, as a matter of law? 
It was because of such attitudes of orthodox clerics that I never took them 
seriously in their allegations against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. 

After finishing my undergraduate education at MIT, I decided to pursue a 
doctorate in Economics, also at MIT. I finished my PhD in 2001 and moved to 
Chicago to start my first job as an Assistant Professor at University of Chicago. 
While I was in Boston, I had stopped going to the local mosque for a long 
time because I could not pray behind an Imam who condoned an intolerant 
interpretation of Islam. There was an Ahmadiyya mosque near Boston but it 

Short Stories by American Converts to Islam 93 

was far and I did not have a car. So now that I had a car in Chicago, I thought I 
should look for an Ahmadiyya Muslim mosque. 

Once I found the local Ahmadiyya Muslim mosque in Chicago, I began 
going for Friday prayers. I might have done so for the rest of my life without 
becoming an Ahmadi Muslim. I had already acknowledged that the Ahmadiyya 
interpretation of Islam was the only one that made sense. Why then go through 
the hassle of conversion and all the social conflicts that come along with it? 
After all, what is the line beyond which one says, "I believe"? The human mind 
is a specialist when it comes to making excuses. 

However something changed in March of 2002. 1 cannot say how and why. 
The Holy Prophet Muhammad said that the key to a person's heart is in Allah's 
hands. So one day Allah changed my heart. There is no other explanation for 
it. I felt a strong desire that I must sign the initiation form. I had to do it. There 
was no other option for me anymore. Like a kid in the candy store, I had to 
have it. 

My parents were quite unhappy at my decision to become an Ahmadi 
Muslim. This trial has been the most difficult for me since the last thing I ever 
wanted to do was to upset my parents in their old age. It is all the more difficult 
given how much they have done for me. But life ultimately owes its existence 
to God, and I pray that we may all find peace in Him. 

While there are sacrifices in the path of a convert, these are overshadowed 
by the fact that man at his core is a moral being. There is nothing more rewarding 
than being truthful to one's conscience. The greatest gift of Ahmadiyya teachings 
is that they introduce you to the true concept and reality of God. Everything 
that is pure and good is to be found in God. Therefore one can never be truly 
spiritual unless one tries to get closer to God by developing attributes that are 
in His likeness: developing compassion for humanity, being sincere, treating 
everyone with absolute justice, and saying the truth even when it may have 
negative immediate consequences. When one struggles to become better only 
to attain closeness to God, God never leaves such a person alone. This is the 
ultimate lesson of Islam Ahmadiyya and the ultimate gift for a convert. 

I have been fortunate to serve the Community in various capacities. One 
of my greatest joys has been the many friendships that I have formed through 
MKA. I have had the privilege of meeting many remarkable individuals whose 
sincerity, desire to serve humanity, and selfless dedication to work tirelessly 
for the good of others, leaves me awestruck. At a time when religion has been 
distorted to create mayhem in many parts of the world, the Ahmadiyya Muslim 
Community provides a true picture of what Islam is supposed to be.

Related Essays

Another Ahmadi leaves Ahmadiyya

Dear readers, we support anyone that leaves Ahmadiyya unconditionally.  In this pursuit, we are publishing a new blog from an Ex-Ahmadi turned agnostic.  Enjoy!

The link to his blog

The data

Message to My Family: Why I Have Left Islam

And whoever of you reverts from his religion [to disbelief] and dies while he is a disbeliever – for those, their deeds have become worthless in this world and the Hereafter, and those are the companions of the Fire, they will abide therein eternally (2:217)


I am writing the following article primarily for my extended family, but since I also want other people to benefit from it, I will be keeping details anonymous throughout the article. For my relatives who have been linked to this article, I am the third son of the family which resides in Canada.

I count in total more than 60 uncles, aunts, and cousins in my extended family, and since I know that not all of you will be able to read through the whole article, the main takeaway will be that:

I have left Islam and Ahmadiyyat. I no longer consider myself an Ahmadi, or any type of Muslim.

For those of you who have not yet cast any judgment, are willing to keep an open mind, and are interested in learning why I have left Islam, I encourage you to read the rest of the article: it is fairly extensive and covers the various reasons for why I have made such a major decision.

Table of Contents


But I want you to understand how people often grow to believe things the way that they do, and how fear can entrench those beliefs so deeply in one’s mind—especially a child’s mind—that they become all but intractable (Ali Rizvi)

For most of you, if not all, this message will come as a surprise: as far as I can tell, I will be the first one on both, my father’s side as well as my mother’s side, to explicitly leave Islam.

This was not an easy decision to make, nor was it a hurried decision: in fact, I have spent hours, days, weeks, months in an objective study of Islam that brought me to the conclusion that there indeed was no divinity contained therein.

Before going through the article, it is important that you familiarize yourself with two fundamental ideas, namely: Cognitive Dissonance and Indoctrination.

From Google:

The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feelings of discomfort that result from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is an inconsistency between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is going to play a very big part as you read this article: you will undoubtedly go through internal conflicts as you will learn more about Islam and Ahmadiyyat, while trying to reconcile it with your own preconceived notions of religion.

I just want you to be aware that this will be a very natural feeling, and instead of fighting it from the onset and immediately discarding any conflicting evidence, simply try to keep an open mind and at the end of the article, you will have the opportunity to digest what you have read.

Regarding indoctrination, Google says:

Indoctrination is the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.

One thing should be clear to all of you: every single person who was born in a religion and grows up to believe that that religion is from god has been indoctrinated.

When we’re discussing Muslims in particular, the very first thing a child hears is the Adhan, which includes statements such as I bear witness that there is no god except Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.

Growing up, we’re told that Allah has revealed the Quran, that Muhammad was the most perfect human being and the chosen prophet to guide the world to God, and for those of us who are Ahmadis, we were raised on the belief that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the promised messiah and reformer.

When you teach such ideas to a child, especially when further contextualized with ideas of heaven and hell, punishment and reward, the child has no option but to accept such beliefs as facts.

By the time they grow into full-fledged adults with critical thinking abilities, it is often too late to question such inherited beliefs, and they will spend the rest of their lives committed to such ideas which were ingrained in them from when they were young.

As Ali Rizvi says:

Your religious beliefs aren’t really you. They are simply part of the medium you were cultured in when you were raised. You know, deep down, that if you were born in a Hindu family, you’d probably be Hindu; and in a Christian family, you’d be Christian. You know, deep down, that your faith is really just an accident of birth. So, logically speaking, it can’t be about ideas, can it? Ideas don’t come with birth. They need to be considered, explored, and evaluated.

And we will do exactly that through this article: we will consider, explore, and evaluate Islam because that is the right thing to do.

Just because you and I were born in Islam does not mean that Islam is free from critique.

My Personal Journey

This will come off as a bit impersonal, but I have already been writing about my personal experiences, as well as objective studies and analyses of Islam, online for the past few months: at the risk of repeating myself, I will simply link to such existing content to serve as primers with regards to understanding why I have left Islam.

  1. About – this page serves as an introduction to why I am writing about Islam online. It also explains the name of this blog, as well as contains links to my Reddit and Twitter handles.
  2. My Story – this page provides a good overview on how I went from being a devout Ahmadi Muslim to eventually agnostic.
  3. Is the Quran from God? – this page is an objective study into the lack of divinity in the Quran.

While it is not necessary to read the above three pages to follow the rest of this article, I do recommend them, especially the article about the Quran, if you’re interested in learning more beyond what’s on this page.

Before continuing, I want to be firm in the following statement:

I am not interested in debate.

I do not want to be told that I am wrong, or that I have misinterpreted Islam, or that I have not prayed hard enough, or that I should have written a letter to the khalifa, nor do I want to be linked to pro-Islamic/Ahmadiyyat material.

You might be thinking: isn’t it hypocritical that I have written criticisms of Islam for you to read, but I am not willing to hear from your side? To that, I say:

Firstly, you are an adult, and you are choosing to read this article containing critique of Islam: as I said above, if you’re not able or interested in keeping an open mind to consume such content, there is no reason for you to read this article and your time will be better spent elsewhere.

Secondly, I am assuming a lot of what will be written here will be novel to most of you and will give you an opportunity to learn more about your faith: if this is all very familiar to you, it’s actually concerning that you know as much (or more) than I do about Islam and Ahmadiyyat and are still following it.

Thirdly, and more importantly, I have been there. By most metrics, I was a much more devout Muslim than the majority of my cousins: I prayed 5 times a day, I read the Quran (in Arabic) daily, I fasted every year, I attended Ijtimas and Jalsas, I’ve paid thousands of dollars of chanda, I have never drunk, I have never taken drugs etc.

I know what it is to be Muslim. I have heard arguments in favour of Islam and Ahmadiyyat my whole life. I believed in those arguments, which I now attribute to my indoctrination.

But today, I know what it is like to not be Muslim and to have freedom on conscience. This is a perspective which the majority of you have probably not come across, and if you are willing to learn more, this article has been written for you.

Note: The following two sections will focus on a more objective view about religion, explaining why I have full conviction that there is no divinity present in Islam and Ahmadiyyat. If you’re more interested in reading about my personal stories, values, and beliefs, you can head directly to my section “Have I Misunderstood Islam?”

About Ahmadiyyat

Note: This section can be skipped if you are not Ahmadi or not interested in learning about Ahmadiyyat – I am simply writing about this since it mirrors the beginning of my journey and how I begun questioning my indoctrination in the first place. I talk about Islam at large in the following section.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad

The answer is that men and women are not equal. Universal experience has shown that man is superior to woman in physical and mental powers. There are exceptions, but exceptions don’t make the rule. Justice demands that if man and wife want to separate, the right to decide should lie with the husband (Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, p 314)

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is believed to be a prophet sent from Allah after Muhammad to reform Islam: this belief in of itself is contradictory to the mainstream Islamic view that Muhammad was the final prophet, as evidenced by numerous Hadiths (Sahih Al-Bukhari – Volume 4 Book 56 Number 735Muhammad’s Last Sermon) as well as verse 33:40 in the Quran where Muhammad is said to be the seal of prophets.

Something which may surprise Ahmadis is that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad himself believed in such teachings:

“It should be clear that we curse anyone who claims prophethood” from Ishtiharat Vol.2, p.297

“We be-lie and disbelieve anyone who claims prophethood and messengerhood after the Prophet Muhammad, the Final Messenger” from Ishtiharat Vol.1, p.230

“…that I am not a claimant to Prophethood and that, in fact, I consider such a claimant to be outside the pale of Islam” from Asmani Faislah p.6

Of course, Ahmadiyya literature will find ways of reconciling the above statements with the prophethood of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, dedicating pages amongst pages to prove that he was indeed foreseen by Muhammad 1,400 years ago:

I personally do not care for either interpretation since I fundamentally disagree with the belief that Islam is divine. However, I do want to share with you some examples from Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s writings so that you can assess for yourself whether this person sounds like he’s from god. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has:

Before you automatically default to excuses such as god told him to say those things, or that he was simply retaliating against others who instigated such fights … just ask yourself: are you fully comfortable knowing that the man you have been following your whole life has exhibited such petty behaviour? Do you truly think that god would tell his prophet to write curses for five pages? Ask yourself whether your current khalifa would call people “haram zaada”, or would openly caricature opponents of Islam today. There are many more vocal opponents of Islam today than Mirza Ghulam Ahmad could have ever known during his time and yet we don’t see the later khalifas resorting to such unholy, distasteful retorts.

The above references are, granted, fairly superficial but I hope that this showcases your lack of knowledge of your own prophet – I would be very surprised if any of my Ahmadi family has seen such writings before.

Extensive work has already been done in dissecting the claims, actions, and character of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and once again, I will defer to such references instead.

Nuzhat Haneef wrote an excellent book titled Recognizing the Messiah, which is a critical study into the writings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. I recommend starting with the following sections:

  • Pages 52 – 60 discuss via direct quotes how Mirza Ghulam Ahmad constantly shifted his prophecized age of death, and how he actually ended up dying at the age of 69 according to his own writings, instead of at 80, which is what he claimed god had initially revealed to him.
  • Pages 114 – 120 discuss how he leveraged the plague affecting India and Hong Kong at the time to recruit members to Ahmadiyyat. It personally seemed disingenuous to me how he claimed that acceptance of Ahmadiyyat would save people from the plague.
  • Pages 187 – 207 showcase the foul language, as well as unholy content, published by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. It seemed impossible to me that a person engaging in such writings would be from god (the above examples are largely drawn from this section).
  • Pages 309 – 324 serve as a useful reminder that there are numerous other religious denominations experiencing similar, if not greater, success than Ahmadiyyat: this objective observation should indicate that Ahmadis do not have a monopoly on religious success, as often claimed to be the sign that Ahmadiyyat is truth.

Marmuzah has also written about the failing claims of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, including:

  • John Huge Smyth Pigot, which is where Mirza Ghulam Ahmad said Pigot would die during Ahmad’s lifetime (i.e. before 1908) for claiming that he was Jesus but Pigot actually died in 1927. Ahmadis will claim that this occurred due to Pigot retracting his claim. However, it turns out that Pigot still believed he was Jesus even after Ahmad had died.
  • 40 Years, which is where Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed in 1892 to have 30 years remaining in his 40 year mission, but he died in 1908, 14 years shy from his original prophecy. Ahmadis will circumvent this by stating that Ahmad’s son eventually became a khalifa and so Ahmad’s mission was effectively extended but in times like these, we should apply Occam’s Razor: is it more likely that Ahmad was being purposefully elusive or that he was simply pretending to have revelations which obviously went unfulfilled?
  • English Revelations from Allah, which includes revelations such as “We can what we will do”, “You have to go Amritsar”, “He is with you to kill enemy” and “Yes, I am happy”. You would expect a divine being to be more articulate than that, and besides, god experiences happiness? This sounds more like a human’s understanding of what he wants god to be like than what an actual divine being would be like.

At this point, I hope that you have sufficiently enough primary sources to investigate for yourself as to whether Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was actually a prophet from god, as he claimed: do you agree with such an assessment, when you critically think about it, or will you go on accepting inherited beliefs from your parents because you were indoctrinated to accept such a claim?

I will leave you with a last example of how Ahmadis often twist literature to fit their narrative.

In the introduction to Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Mirza Masroor Ahmad mentions the following Hadith to support the idea of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad being a prophet:

When you find the Mahdi, perform bai‘at at his hand. You must go to him, even if you have to reach him across icebound mountains on your knees. He is the Khalifah of Allah, [he is] the Mahdi. (Sunan Ibn-e-Majah, Kitabul-Fitan, Babu Khurujil-Mahdi, Hadith no. 4074)

This is a fairly popular Hadith which circulates Jamaat events. However, let us take a look at this Hadith in its entire form:

“Three will fight one another for your treasure, each one of them the son of a caliph, but none of them will gain it. Then the black banners will come from the east, and they will kill you in an unprecedented manner.” Then he mentioned something that I do not remember, then he said: “When you see them, then pledge your allegiance to them even if you have to crawl over the snow, for that is the caliph of Allah, Mahdi.”

Not only has this Hadith been labelled Da’if (considered to be the weakest and least authentic type of Hadith) but when the Hadith is actually contextualized, we can see that it has nothing to do at all with the narrative that Ahmadis try to push of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad being the prophecized reformer of Islam.

Ahmad made his claims around 120 years ago, and since his death, there have been 5 khalifas, considered to be his divine successors. While they will not approach Ahmad in terms of inconsistencies and foul language, they do have a myriad of opinions which would be considered harmful, especially when such statements have to be unequivocally accepted by Ahmadis since they have been indoctrinated to believe that the khalifas are from god and can do no wrong.

Ahmadiyya Leadership

If you or your daughter has the right not to observe pardah (veil) then I too have the right, borne out of the right you have, to expel such noncompliant [people] from the Community. I would be doing so because of the commandment of Allah and for this reason no one should have any complaint (Mirza Masroor Ahmad, pp.28)

I will never know what it is like to be an Ahmadi woman but I would imagine that hearing your world leader talk day in, day out about purdah would get exhausting, if not authoritarian. To then hear that your membership is contingent on whether you wear a veil everywhere would probably instill fear in you, pressuring you into observing purdah whether you want to or not.

Here is what an ex-Ahmadi woman has to say about purdah:

An ex-Ahmadi woman’s take on the oppression and control of purdah

It is almost hypocritical to proudly wave the “Love for All, Hatred for None” banner at Jalsas, all the while inviting the media to show just how accepting and progressive Ahmadis are, when such constraints are put upon women: a woman should never be measured by her choice of clothing.

And before you default to excuses such as “Ahmadiyyat is a membership, and if you do not follow its rules, it is only fair that you are removed”, ask yourself:

  1. Why are you benchmarking the secular conception of clubs and memberships to a religious, supposedly divinely guided, institution?
  2. If Ahmadiyyat was really a membership and people are free to leave at will, why do people fear leaving this membership?
  3. Memberships usually have an exit clause: I could not find any information, or support online, from official sources on how to leave Ahmadiyyat.
  4. Most importantly, can you think of any membership in which you are automatically enrolled in at birth, without ever asking for your consent, and then indoctrinated to believe that this membership is what will lead you to god’s happiness?

I will leave you with a video that showcases several statements made by the 4th and 5th khalifas about women:

Moving away from the blatant misogyny from the khalifas, let us observe how the khalifas talk about science, a field which is rooted in facts and evidence so as to ensure that there is only truth.

In the following video, Mirza Masroor states that “God made man as a man”

We know this to be incorrect, given that life began as a single-cell species (for those of you unaccustomed with evolution, you can read more online – the Simple Wiki link is a good start). Why does it matter what he said about evolution? Well …

It is dangerous for a person who is believed to be from god to make unscientific and false claims.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of children watching the khalifa, having no option but to believe everything which he says to be truth as they’ve been indoctrinated to do so – they will later learn about evolution at school but have trouble accepting the science because their khalifa said otherwise.

Along similar lines, the recent khalifas have been big proponents of homeopathy, going so far as prescribing it to cure Ebola, as well as WW3 Radiation.

There is countless evidence to indicate that homeopathy is nothing more than pseudoscience. The World Health Organization (WHO) has actually said that it does not support the use of homeopathy as treatment against diseases such as HIV, influenza, and malaria.

This goes back to my original point: when a person is believed to be from god, they cannot afford to lead people on unscientific beliefs. Do you truly think god would tell his khalifas to encourage homeopathy when god should know that it is ineffective? And if god is not telling these khalifas to do so, what is motivating them? This seems to indicate more mysticism than divinity.

While there is so much more to say about the khalifas (including the hereditary nature of the caliphate system, the fact that people knew that Masroor would be the khalifa prior to the election, and the 4th khalifa claiming 40 million Ahmadi converts in 2001, which could also be seen on the official Ahmadiyya website stating that Ahmadis numbered 200 million members at some point), I wanted to draw focus to the antisemitism present in Ahmadiyyat.

In his 1991 sermon, Mirza Tahir Ahmad talks about the “Long Drawn Plan of Jewish Domination”, citing works such as Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and Waters Flowing Eastward as credible evidence that the Jewish want to achieve global domination, despite both of those texts having been proven to be fabricated antisemitic rhetoric.

Mirza Tahir says things such as:

The plan expresses the hope that following these achievements and realizing the goal of establishing the United Nations, the Jews would then acquire control of the United Nations and exercise, through it, their dominion over the whole world.


The contemporary world situation is rooted in the plan that was founded around the year 1897, at least apparently, because it was then that the efforts directed towards the establishment of the state of Israel were started.

From the alislam Quran commentary (which was edited by Mirza Tahir Ahmad), we also see:

“Ignominy and humiliation have dogged the footsteps of the ill-fated Jewish people throughout the ages. Their return to Palestine and the establishment of the State of Israel seems to only be a temporary phase

My father’s family consists of numerous people who are sincere believers in such antisemitic canard, no doubt influenced by their khalifa holding such beliefs.

Let it be clear that there is no objective and clear evidence of such plans ever existing in the first place. It is easy to rest in a bubble and simply consume content which feeds your bias, but when there is a lack of objective studies into ideas such as Jewish people wanting to take over the world, this is probably a good indication that your belief is nothing more than a conspiracy theory founded in antisemitism.

As my friend Reason on Faith eloquently puts it,

Just as Jewish people dominate in the sciences, this small community has an indisputably strong influence with both political parties in the United States—the most powerful country in the world. There is nothing wrong with asking why and how this came to be. To analyze such an impressive feat of influence is not bigotry nor is it anti-semitic. Doubling down on long since discredited conspiracy theories, however, is what is actually noteworthy.

Conversation With My Father

O you who have believed, do not take your [family] as allies if they have preferred disbelief over belief. And whoever does so among you – then it is those who are the wrongdoers (9:23)

My father is a firm believer that everything which has happened to us is due to the grace of Nizam-e-Jamaat (the overall organization of the Ahmadiyya community). He believes, as all Ahmadis do, that this is a divine institution which has been sent and is regulated by god, and that its true followers will lead the path to salvation for the rest of the world.

As Mirza Tahir Ahmad says: “The day of Islam’s propagation and victory and the dominance of Ahmadiyyat will come. This is indeed that final destiny which will definitely take over and that indeed will be the New World Order”.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that my father is wary of anyone who criticizes this divine scheme. I distinctly remember him telling me (paraphrased):

Every individual who has ever criticized the Nizam-e-Jamaat, may they have complained about the governance or the administration or the execution, has ultimately failed in life. Allah does not shower his blessings on those who speak ill of Ahmadiyyat.

My father at the time would have obviously not known that his own son would end up leaving Islam and become a vocal ex-Muslim, critiquing Islam and Ahmaddiyat while reaching an international audience.

People from all over the world are reading my analyses of Islam and Ahmadiyyat

I wonder if my father still holds onto his belief that anyone who criticizes the Jamaat will ultimately be doomed in this life and the hereafter, and if so, does he believe that I am now destined for failure?

About Islam

This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion (5:3)

Islam is a religion which has been around for 1,400 years, currently numbering a 1.8 billion following (which is roughly 25% of the world’s population). Countless scholars have spent years of their lives studying Islam, may it be in favour of it or against it.

Within the small real estate I have available on this article, I don’t intend in any way to debunk every single claim of Islam. However, I do hope to shed light on some of its lesser-known (or more likely simply ignored) positions and stances so that you can be honest with yourself and decide whether you want to continuously follow this religion with your current lack of knowledge, or whether you will find it in yourself to take the first step in the journey of challenging your indoctrination and finding the truth which matters to you.

What is True Islam?

From average Muslims to renowned historical scholars and exegetes, almost everyone seems to have misinterpreted the [Quran] in one way or another. How could this happen? If any other book was this widely misunderstood or misinterpreted, what would you think of the author? You might think he is either exceedingly inarticulate or incompetent (Ali Rizvi).

I quoted a verse in the Quran which states that Allah has “perfected for you your religion”. I have a very simple rhetorical question to ask:

Can you identify which sect of Islam is practicing its true, perfect teachings?

The answer, obviously, is whichever sect you belong to. Now, there are numerous sects of Islam, each one believing that they have a monopoly on the correct interpretation of Islam:

The multiple sects of Islam: can you spot the true Islam?

This is not unique to Islam: Judaism, Christianity, and other major world religions are susceptible to the same fallacy, whereby an initial individual body of work (e.g. Torah, Bible) has led to multiple segments in their followings, each with their own features.

Ali Rizvi puts it perfectly:

The obvious issue here is, there is never any consensus on who the “real” Muslims are. To a moderate Muslim in the West, the Islamic State aren’t true Muslims. To the Islamic State, Shias aren’t true Muslims. To both the Shias and the Sunnis, Ahmadis—a sect that believes a prophet or messiah actually came after Muhammad—aren’t true Muslims. And to the Ahmadis, the Islamic State aren’t true Muslim.

A very hot topic since 9/11 has been around the associations between terrorism rooted in the Middle East and Islam.

Most Muslims would immediately claim that groups such as ISIS are not true Muslims – they will say that those are simply bad people who are doing horrible acts which have absolutely nothing to do with Islam, the religion of peace.


Bad thing done by Muslim: “this is not from Islam.

Nice thing done by Muslim: “this is Islam”.

Quranic verse about Jihad: “you are not a scholar…context…erm not Islam”.

Quranic verse about respecting other religions: “this is Islam”.

Consider that the leader of ISIS has a PhD in Islamic Studies and is more learned than the majority of Imams who deliver your Friday sermons. Consider that Islam was heavily rooted in warfare during its expansion. Consider that the Quran contains verses such as “And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter… and fight them until fitnah is no more, and religion is for Allah” (2:191) and “When the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war” (9:5).

To claim that ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups have nothing to do with Islam is ignorance at best. Any person who has read through the Quran should not be surprised that a group such as ISIS exists in the first place to begin with – the verses of the Quran are ripe with violence, terror, domination, and control.

Of course, the immediate retort is that these verses are out of context (more on this later). Why is it that these countless verses of violence are always out of context, but verses where it talks about charity don’t require any additional context to comprehend? This excuse sets ground for cherry-picking, whereby any group can select any partition of the book they choose to follow. And within this framework, it is equally as valid to kill people in the name of Allah as it is to donate charity to the poor in the name of Allah.

I am not saying that it is right to kill people, but there is no objective criteria to determining the validity of someone’s interpretation of Islam, resulting in parity in which all interpretations are valid, regardless of their innate morality, and that in itself is what is problematic.

Quoting Ali Rizvi again:

The fear of simply calling a spade a spade is seemingly ubiquitous, and almost exclusively happens with the case of religion. Consider for a moment how strange this is: a man yells Allahu Akbar and commits a terrible action, like a beheading. He claims his act was justified in the eyes of God. You go online and look up all of the passages he is quoting, as well as related ones. The words match his actions exactly. He has even articulated his intentions clearly and told everyone why he did it. But everywhere you turn, people are saying, no, it’s got to be something else. Even if you show them the exact words the man quoted, they find a way to tell you it’s unrelated. Some may even call you a racist or bigot simply for bringing the issue up.

I imagine this section to be fairly upsetting to my Muslim family, although I would pen this down to their lack of knowledge of the Quran more than anything else: as I stated above, it should come as no surprise how a literal interpretation of the Quran (which is a valid way of interpreting a text, given we interpret all other texts literally) can lead to Islamic terrorism.

I just want to leave you with a last food for thought:

Your son who drinks on the weekend, takes drugs, has premarital sex, does not pray, and does not read the Quran is still Muslim, but the guys who kill and do everything else in the name of Allah, while following the Quran’s numerous violent instructions literally with the hope of realizing the following verse: “So let those fight in the cause of Allah who sell the life of this world for the Hereafter. And he who fights in the cause of Allah and is killed or achieves victory – We will bestow upon him a great reward” (4:74) are considered non-Muslims.

As Veedu says:

The Holy Quran

Whatever benefit comes to you, it is from Allah, and whatever misfortune befalls you, it is from yourself (4:79)

As I mentioned above, I have previously written extensively about the Quran, covering its numerous problematic verses ranging from Allah’s obsession with destroying disbelievers to Allah’s incorrect understanding of history to the unscientific claims to the blatant misogyny. You can read more here: Is the Quran from God? An Assessment of the Divinity in the Quran.

When I initially brought up these verses with my father, his immediate reaction was: “You’re taking them out of context!”, without really paying attention to the numerous inconsistencies. Instead of critically assessing the points which I had proposed (the way he’d do with anything not involving Islam), he defaulted to his inherited beliefs in self-defense: there is no way the Quran could be wrong.

Let’s play a little game: read through my analysis of the Quran and count a point for every time in which you resort to one of the following excuses (taken from Ali Rizvi). You win if you get 35 points since I count 35 verses cited in my article.

  • Misinterpretation: If the translation was correct, it was being “misinterpreted”—but there was no explanation as to what the correct interpretation was.
  • Out of Context: If the interpretation was plausible, it was “specific to that time” or simply “out of context”—again, with no explanation as to the correct context.
  • Metaphorical: If it was all-out false or wrong, it was because it was “metaphor,” and I was “taking it too literally”; indeed, it seemed as if the more questions I asked, the more “metaphorical” the Quran got—anything in the text that had been proven false over the centuries was deemed a “metaphor.”
  • Not True Muslims: If I pointed out that many of the Saudis, Egyptians, and other Arabic-speaking nations also interpreted the book in the way I was describing, I was promptly reminded that the Saudis had been bought by America and Israel a long time ago, and remember, those Egyptians even had a treaty with the Jews.

Of course, there is nothing that I can say to change your mind about the Quran if you have to resort to such excuses for every single problematic verse: I am in no position to absolutely claim that those verses were not metaphorical all along.

However, I am a rational and logical person, and I can only give the Quran so much benefit of the doubt before realizing that no divine being would reveal a book which hinges so heavily on nuanced interpretation, and that its verses which literally talk about killing people (2:191) actually mean to love people, and its verses about eternal hell (72:23) are actually about eternal heaven, and its verses about big breasted virgins in heaven (78:33) are actually about the grandeur of god’s love: no one would stand for such folly in the secular world.

To close off this section, here is an interesting skit on how people react to the various good verses, as well as the problematic ones, from the Quran:

Prophet Muhammad

Faith, in contrast, begins with a definitive conclusion believed to be correct—such as “Jesus is the son of God” or “Muhammad is Allah’s messenger”—and then works backward, cherry picking pieces of evidence (or perceived evidence) in an attempt to support it. This preconceived conclusion is most often accepted on the authority of men who died over a thousand years ago, or the books they left behind. In essence, science poses questions before attempting to provide answers, whereas faith provides answers that it deems unquestionable (Ali Rizvi).

I speak to some of the concerns which I had about Muhammad’s treatment in the Quran in my article, including how god permits him unlimited wives, god threatens his wives directly, god has to step in to tell Muhammad’s guests to leave his house, and how god tells Muhammad that he can have sex with his female slaves (war captives).

I also talk about his marriage with Zaynab, who was his adopted son’s ex-wife, as well as his marriage with Safiyya, a young 18 year old girl with whom he had sex on the same day that he killed her father and husband.

Does Muhammad really stand the test of time as a role model for eternity?

When taking a deeper look at his actions, we see Muhammad engaging in acts of religious intolerance which no one should ever exert, least of all a man who claims to be from god. When Muhammad returned to Mecca from Medina, his first priority was to destroy the idols in Mecca. Regardless of what you think of idols or someone else’s religion, you would think that a prophet of god would take a kinder and more compassionate approach to reclaiming the Kaaba instead of resorting to such violent extremes.

Muhammad has also stoned adulterers to death, which is often attributed to him simply following the Jewish law. It’s in situations like these where it brings to question: why did god wait for people to be stoned to death before revealing that flogging is the right punishment for adultery (which in itself is problematic)? Why didn’t Muhammad see something wrong with stoning people and tell god that he won’t follow such a barbaric practice?

The thing is, it’s easy for you to sit there in the comfort of your life and believe that Muhammad is the most perfect human being to have ever graced the Earth when you are not being stoned to death by him.

Moving away from his reprehensible actions, let us look at some of Muhammad’s lesser known, yet still Sahih (authentic) Hadiths. I will reference a few of them below, which I hope will encourage you to study Hadiths in more detail – it should become clear to you pretty quickly how Muhammad does not sound like someone who’s had divine guidance:

  1. Muhammad says that the features of a child are contingent on whether the man or the woman ejaculates first (Sahih al Bukhari 3329)
  2. Muhammad says that a newborn child will be male if the man’s discharge prevails over the woman’s, and that the child will be female if the woman’s discharge prevails over the man’s (Sahih Muslim 315)
  3. Muhammad says that a nation with a women as a ruler will never succeed (Sahih al-Bukhari 7099)
  4. Muhammad says that angels will curse a wife who refuses to sleep with her husband (Sahih al-Bukhari 3237)
  5. Muhammad says that a woman cannot voluntarily fast (Nawafil) without the permission of her husband (Sahih al-Bukhari 5195)
  6. Muhammad says that the 7 deadly sins of Islam include practicing sorcery, running away from the battlefield, and using interest (Sahih al-Bukhari 2766)
  7. Muhammad says that keeping a pet dog will deduct two Qirat from your good deeds per day (Sahih al-Bukhari 5480). Qirat is a measurement of your deeds in Islam.
  8. Muhammad says that Allah loves sneezing but dislikes yawning. Also, yawning is actually from Satan (Sahih al-Bukhari 6226)
  9. Muhammad says not to beat your wife like how you beat your slave because you might want to have sex with her later (Sahih al-Bukhari 4942)
  10. Muhammad says to cut off the hand of the thief who steals an egg or rope (Sahih al-Bukhari 6799)
  11. Muhammad says that he has been ordered to fight until everyone believes in Allah (Sahih al-Bukhari 392)
  12. Muhammad says that he will expel the Jews and Christians from Arabia (Sahih Muslim 1767)
  13. Muhammad says that children cry because Satan pricks them (Sahih Muslim 2367)
  14. Muhammad says that angels do not enter homes with pictures (Sahih al-Bukhari 5957)

You can read countless more Hadiths here, to get a better sense of what type of person Muhammad really was based off his attributed sayings.

Now, you might say that Muhammad has great Hadiths such as “Love for one’s Homeland is part of your Faith” which counter the more questionable ones. Did you know that that Hadith was actually fabricated?

What does it say about Muhammad that we can accurately pinpoint him perpetuating the violent verses in the Quran, talking about how he’ll drive the Jews and Christians away from Arabia, but we have trouble attributing pacifist quotes to him?

Does Muhammad sound like a prophet of god to you? Do his sayings and actions reflect the standard which we’d expect from an eternal role model?

Day in, day out, you pray for Muhammad in heaven. It is actually required of you to say “peace and blessings upon him” every time his name is mentioned, and he also plays a big role in the Salat, where 1.8 billion Muslims recite at minimum 11 times daily:

My God, honor Muhammad and Muhammad’s family as you honored Abraham and Abraham’s family; surely, you are praiseworthy, the Great.

My God, bless Muhammad and Muhammad’s family as you blessed Abraham and Abraham’s family; surely, you are praiseworthy, the Great.

Next time you recite such prayers, just remember that Muhammad is the one who gave men advice on how to beat their wives.

Women In Islam

Indeed, those who do not believe in the Hereafter name the angels female names (53:27)

If I had to give one reason for why I have left Islam and have absolutely no doubt that it’s man-made (and by that, I mean it in the most literal sense that it was by males), it has to do with the treatment of women in Islam.

As with the previous sections, I will defer to the analysis which I had done about women in the Quran in my article, where I talk about the asymmetric treatment of women, including how men are given permission to beat them, two female witnesses are required for one male witness since women can err in memory, women receive half the inheritance as men, and that angels could not possibly be women.

When you consider that the Quran never talks to women directly, despite have multiple verses talking to men directly (e.g. 2:187, 2:221, 2:223, 4:3, 4:22, 4:34, 4:43), this should be cause for concern.

What divine being would create man and woman, and choose to speak directly to one half of the population, and instead defer to the men to communicate to women? Isn’t the Quran supposed to be the one truly infallible word of god? You would think a divine being to treat his creations equally instead of playing favourites.

One of the verses which I cite in my article is:

Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters), until they believe: A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allures you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe (2:221)

This is just one of the cases in which Allah talks directly to men, telling them whom they can marry, but also tells men whom their daughters can marry.

Couldn’t Allah just talk directly to women? Are they not deserving of being addressed?

Here’s a lengthy, but noteworthy, Sahih Hadith in which Muhammad discusses the deficiency of a woman in her faith and her intelligence:

Once Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) of `Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, “O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women).” They asked, “Why is it so, O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) ?” He replied, “You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.” The women asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?” He said, “Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?” They replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?” The women replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her religion.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 304)

The following anecdotes are largely my personal observations, but I do believe they tap into just how much force and constraint Islam imposes on women:

  1. I’ve recounted this story before but this was probably one of the first times when I simply could not agree with religion, despite still being a firm believer at the time. I was at a mosque event when a woman had just finished reciting a poem, and the Imam said that from that day onward, we are not to hear women speak at any events containing a male audience. Women were now only allowed to give speeches or sing poems to each other. When I asked the Imam about this ruling, he told me that men can be attracted to women’s voices, and since mosque events are meant for spiritual rejuvenation, we cannot allow men to be distracted. Of course, this concept of attraction did not apply to the women: they were broadcasted audio and video from the men’s side but there was no fear that a woman could be attracted to a man’s figure or voice. As should be obvious to any reader, attraction goes both ways: a man is just as easily attracted to a woman as the other way around. Humans are sexual beings and it is part of our DNA to be attracted. While this would have been a perfect opportunity for Islam to educate and teach consent and restraint (i.e. solving the root cause), it instead defaults to just keeping women away from men (i.e. solving the symptom).
  2. I had brought up the verse about the Quran requesting two women witnesses for one male witness (2:282) in a discussion, and was curious to see what my aunt and female cousin thought. While I was hoping to engage in a constructive conversation, it quickly derailed to both of them internalizing such an order, citing that “men have better memory than women”, and that “men and women are built differently to achieve different purposes”, and that “women are more emotional – once you get married, you’ll understand. These things don’t make sense to you because you’re young”. It’s one thing to see men being sexist but it’s another to see women internalize misogyny to this degree – I obviously can’t fault them since they were indoctrinated to believe that women are indeed different than men (in all ways which are convenient for that power dynamic to exist in the first place). I asked my aunt to give me a set of peer-reviewed research papers indicating clearly that women innately contain less mental capabilities than men but she has yet to follow-up. In the meantime, the rest of you can consult contemporary research which shows that women actually have better memories than men.
  3. I was playing with my 5 year old niece, and at some point, her top was raised up and a bit of her stomach showed. She quickly became upset and said “I must keep purdah!” and dragged her top down. I felt so bad to see that a child this young and innocent was already trained to be ashamed of her body and to think that she should always be covered up fully. I expect that her parents will continue to dress her this way as she gets older, and eventually she’ll be an adult who firmly believes that Allah will punish her if she does not wear the hijab. It’s in times like these that I sincerely do believe that the world would have been better if Islam had never existed: it’s now a religion which has permeated the lives of billions of women who will grow up suffering under its rulings, whether they are aware that they are actually being negatively impacted, or whether they have simply internalized it like my aunt and cousin to think it’s natural.

Moving away from my personal stories, a last point I’d like to touch on is that, for all the obsession in the Quran with whom you can have sex with (23:6) and with whom you cannot have sex with (17:32) and when you can have sex with them (2:187) and when you cannot have sex with them (2:222), it fails to mention rape. I will quote another excerpt from Ali Rizvi’s book:

Rape doesn’t exist in the Quran.

The concept of sex without consent isn’t even acknowledged as an entity. There isn’t even a word for “rape.” The word used for a sex crime is zinaa, defined as “unlawful sexual intercourse.” According to the Quran, there are only two types of unlawful sexual intercourse:

  • fornication (premarital sex)
  • adultery (extramarital sex)

Consent is simply not a factor.

This only makes sense in a book written from the point of view of men.The concept of consent was much more important to women, for obvious reasons, and sex crimes violating consent—that is, rape—are simply not acknowledged.

Back then, the male point of view was primarily concerned with establishing lineage and paternity. Men wanted to ensure that their children were indeed their own, and their heirs were genuine. Consent doesn’t interfere with this. But fornication and adultery do. This is also one of the main reasons men are allowed to have up to four wives (verse 4:3), while women can only have one husband.

This is really one of the most glaring points of the Quran: a true divine being would know that matters such as consent far outweigh fornication and adultery, which are sexual acts performed between two consenting adults. Instead of educating men that women are people and deserving of respect and fair treatment, Islam focuses on describing a punishment of 100 lashes (24:3) for those involved in consensual sex.

Does the omission of rape seem like an intentional choice from the god who was brilliant enough to conjure the big bang 14 billion years ago and engineered a species so complex that it contains 86 billion neurons?

Or does this mirror the way a male trader in 7th century Arabia would have seen the world?

I’ll end off this section with a skit as well. I hope you can appreciate how ridiculous the wife-beating verse (4:34) combined with the hedging of using a feather/toothbrush sounds:

Have I Misunderstood Islam?

Let not the believers take the disbelievers for friends, rather than the believers — for whoso does that belongs not to God in anything — unless you have a fear of [the disbelievers]. God warns you that You beware of Him, and unto God is the homecoming (3:28)

At this point, you must all be thinking: how could I possibly reject Islam?

The signs are so clear: there is absolutely no doubt that Islam is from god, and that Muhammad is his prophet.

You will probably want to diagnose me, figure out where I went wrong: was it the friends which I had? Was it because I spent too much time on the internet? Was it because I did not go to the mosque enough? Was it because I did not listen to Friday sermons?

Let’s briefly discuss a hypothetical situation: I undergo the exact same journey and research, and think critically about Islam to the exact same extent which I have actually done, but instead of rejecting my faith, I tell you all that I want to become a missionary who dedicates his life to Islam.

Would any of you raise a concern? Would any of you question my motive? Would any of you believe that I have not done enough to make such a decision? Of course not – on the contrary, you’d say Mashallah: how blessed am I to undertake such a decision after such a rigorous journey.

So why is it that when I reach a conclusion which does not align with your expectations, my journey is suddenly not sufficient?

This is a classic case of confirmation bias: you would only favour this information if it confirmed your preexisting notions, but anything which conflicts with your worldview has to be wrong.

I want you all to be honest with yourselves: have you ever critically thought about your beliefs?

Day in, day out, we take all other decisions seriously in our lives: we carefully consider whom we marry, which job to take, which city to live in, how we raise our children etc.

So why is religion the exception? Why is that we do not ask ourselves: “is this all true? or am I simply following what my parents taught me?”

How many of you can tell me that you have read through the entire Quran’s translation, especially if done during a dedicated period of time (e.g. Ramadhan)? Because that is exactly what I did, and that is exactly what led me to this conclusion.

I would love to know how you came across the countless verses describing hell in excruciating detail, the countless verses describing how god punishes disbelievers, the countless verses describing the big-breasted virgin Houris awaiting the believing men in heaven, and the countless repetitive narratives of the prophets plagiarized from the old Testament, and thought to yourself: “this is most definitely a book which only god could author”.

You read through the misogyny, the unscientific claims, the inaccurate history, the questionable morality, and you still have firm faith that the Quran is definitely from god.

I have spoken to multiple cousins and not a single one of them had read through the entire Quran. I actually had one cousin tell me: “The Quran is quite repetitive and I can’t read it for too long at a time”.

As Ali Rizvi says:

“An increasing number of Muslims today—especially in the West—know very little about their scripture or religion as it is.”

I was having a discussion online with someone who stated that misconceptions lead to rejection of faith. This was my response to him:

Sohaib Khalid Sial@sohaibology

Building a foundation in faith by removing barriers and answering misconceptions is sound advice imo. Not doing that is actually what leads to rejecting faith in most cases anyways don’t you think.

Dreamed of You@dreamed_you

You’re stating that misconception is what leads to rejection of faith when we’d argue otherwise – misconception is what leads to acceptance

It’s when you’re a child that you become Muslim – it’s when you’re an adult when you can critically determine otherwise

I’ll repeat this idea here: you were all children when you had “accepted” Islam. I am confident that I, as a 23 year old adult today, can think more critically than you could when you were 7 years old and believed Islam to be from god.

As I explained in the Introduction, indoctrination is when beliefs are taught such that they are not questioned. As children, we had no choice but to accept what our parents said because we trusted them. These beliefs soon change from ideas to truths, eventually preventing you from ever seeing otherwise.

The only way in which someone can go through such a revolutionary journey as mine is when the friction between your personal values and that of the religion becomes too apparent. You can read about some of my personal catalysts in my story. The biggest motivation for me to research Islam was actually my brother’s Nikah (religious wedding), since I knew that my family expected me to follow in his footsteps in marrying a Muslim girl and raising a Muslim family. I had realized that I knew very little about my religion and decided to learn more to not only become more knowledgeable but also more pious. Ironically, the more I learned about my faith, the further it distanced me away from it.

When I spoke to my parents about my journey and my decision, they had absolutely nothing to say in defense to all the issues and problems which I raised about Islam.

One of them actually told me that they felt uneasy with how much they agreed with me, while the other had to admit that they couldn’t answer my questions but they knew that I was wrong.

If you’re interested, this is the list of ~150 questions and concerns which I had about Islam and Ahmadiyyat:

I was raised to think you could never truly understand the Quran without knowing the Arabic language inside out. This only applied, of course, if you didn’t agree with all of it. The moment you did, your Arabic—no matter how rudimentary—was deemed fine (Ali Rizvi)

A last point which I’d like to touch on in this section is: why are people expected to be experts in Islam and Arabic when they choose to leave their religion, but there is literally no barrier to entry for someone who wants to become Muslim?

It’s counter-intuitive: disbelieving requires no assumptions, while believing actually asks of you to suspend rationality in which you choose to place faith in the invisible.

So why are so many questions being asked of me, but no one dares asks a question to, for example, all those who converted into Islam for the sake of marriage (and there are a lot of such people in my family)?

Once again, this is just confirmation bias: as humans, you favour information which aligns with your viewpoint.

At the very least, I hope this illuminates your cognitive biases and you can realize that all of this has little to do with faith but more to do with how your brain was trained to think.

As always, Veedu has an excellent humourous video about the dichotomy between those who leave Islam and those who join it:

Moving Forward

They say there’s a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow. And we’re all walking on that rainbow to get to that pot of gold. To be sure, we’re never going to reach it. But look at what we’re doing—we’re walking on the rainbow. What could be more amazing than that?

Today, we know, thanks to science, that every rainbow is a circle. It never ends. And that’s okay with me. I don’t want it to (Ali Rizvi).

So what now?

I imagine many of you will feel upset, sad, disappointed, hurt.

I imagine some of you may not want to associate yourselves, or your families, with me anymore.

It is your right to believe what you will of me, and I will respect that.

If it means anything, I am the exact same person I always was.

A lot of you had the opportunity to spend some time with me when you attended my brother’s wedding over the summer. I had already rejected Islam at that point, and I would have hoped that we still had pleasant interactions. And I hope that we can still have pleasant interactions in the future.

At the end of the day, I know that I am a good person, and I know that I will do good things in this world: the paths we take to achieve such ends, whether it involves belief or disbelief, is trivial in comparison to the impact which we have on others, because that is what truly matters.

I also want to use this space to to thank my parents for listening to me, for supporting me, and for accepting me for who I am.

I know that I am extremely fortunate to have such open-minded parents and I am truly grateful for that.

To my extended family, if any of you have read through this article and found that it has confirmed some of the questions/concerns/doubts which you had about Islam or Ahmadiyyat, I am more than happy to talk you through it. You can send me a message on my Contact page, which feeds directly to my personal email.

I want to end off this message with a brilliant speech from Mahershala Ali, who is actually an Oscar-winning Ahmadi Muslim. In his speech, he talks about how he accepted Islam while his mother was an ordain minister, and what this difference signifies to him:

But I tell you now, we put things to the side and I’m able to see her, she’s able to see me, we love each other and the love has grown, and that stuff is minutia, it’s not that important.


Mirza Tahir Ahmad and Mirza Masroor Ahmad told Ahmadis that it’s OK to beat their wives and to force Hijaab

Ahmadiyya is a cult, Afzal Upal has described them perfectly as “moderate-fundamentalist”.  The Qadiani branch of Ahmadi’s are very hard on their women, they don’t allow much freedoms, women can’t vote in local jamaat elections and can never be a total-local jamaat president, they are relegated to Lajna and Nasiraat, which are auxiliaries, and work independently of the main core of the jamaat.  In fact, in Rabwah, all women are forced to walk around town in full niqaab, similar to how the Taliban force covering up onto their women.  Recently, an Ahmadi-mullah spoke disparagingly about the Lahori-Ahmadis and how they have allowed their women to choose when it comes to HjiaabInterestingly, MGA allowed his young wife to walk around freely without Hijaab.  MGA’s wife even boasted of being Noorudin’s escort aka laundi.

What did MGA write about 4:34?  What about Nooruddin?  And Mirza Basheer-uddin Mahmud Ahmad?
Most Ahmadi’s have never read the books of MGA, they are ignorant of what MGA wrote on many topics.  They are unaware, that the Qadiani branch of Ahmadiyya is based on the interpretations of Mirza Basheer-uddin Mahmud Ahmad, who ended up becoming the 2nd Khalifa of the cult in 1914.  We are asking/demanding to see what MGA wrote on 4:34?  Why are Ahmadi’s hiding this?  Then we want to see what Noorudin wrote.  And then finally, we need to see what their Musleh Maud wrote aka Mirza Basheer-uddin Mahmud Ahmad.

In the video, Mirza Masroor Ahmad quoted MGA, without reference, and Mirza Nasir Ahmad

“”The Promised Messiah said: People are insisting on the relaxation of Purdah, like in Europe, but this is not all appropriate.  It is this very freedom of women which is the root cause of evil and disobediance”.

“Quoting, the 3rd Khalifa, 

“””Today some seek permission to do away with Pardah, but then they will also ask to swim naked in the sea’s and to lay on beaches, then they will also ask to bare children out of wedlock.  I will then ask them to go straight to hell. “””

Enjoy the video, its from reason of faith, we love his work.  

The video that proves it

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