The Reasons for Leaving Islam

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Reasons for the Increasing Conversion from Islam

Islam is considered one of the fastest growing religious communities in the world. Islam is a popular and influential religion, particularly in the Middle East. Countries such as Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia among other countries are governed using Islamic laws known as Sharia laws. In spite of its popularity and influence, various instances of apostasy that is the conversion from Islam have been reported. Most of the conversions are in the western context and are made up of English speaking Muslims (Khalil and Bilici, 111). The increasing conversion from Islam is as a result of various reasons as will be discussed in the paper below.

Intellectual Reasons for Leaving Islam

According to studies, some people have cited intellectual and science-related reasons for leaving Islam. For instance, Khalil and Bilici cite their interview with Jamal who though born a Muslim decided to leave Islam primarily for intellectual reasons. Jamal says that his reasons for leaving Islam are primarily based on the theory of evolution. According to him, human beings came into being through an unguided process of evolution and that there was no place for god in the process (Khalil and Bilici, 113). The theory of evolution and scientific writings of Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan are credited for Jamal’s thinking about religion. He believes that God has no place in explaining the existence of life. Jamal also left Islam because he found the Quran to be unscientific. He also finds the idea of eternal damnation horrific and the roles of women in Islam are deplorable. Jamal believes that Islam like other religions is a cult (Khalil and Bilici, 113).

Other Reasons for Leaving Islam

A number of reasons for departure from Islam are also mentioned by Ibn Warraq in his book “Why I am not a Muslim” as cited by Khalil and Bilici. Ibn Warraq gives a number of reasons for leaving Islam. His reasons are primarily due to the difficulties in ascertaining the history and source of Islam, prophet Mohammed’s problematic character from the moral point of view, Islam’s intolerance and its incompatibility with human rights as well as its advocates’ to totalitarianism. Ibn Warraq also found that the Quran was not divine. Islam’s unnecessary taboos concerning wine, pigs, and homosexuality also defined his motivation to leave Islam. Above all, the motivation to leave Islam was also determined by the history of Arab imperialism and Islam colonialism as well as Islam’s mistreatment of non-Muslims, women, and slaves (Khalil and Bilici, 115).

Leaving Islam in Malaysia

In some Islamic countries such as Malaysia persons who wish to leave Islam are required by law to apply to leave Islam. This is meant to make leaving Islam difficult and thus discourage people from leaving the religion. Despite the restrictions, people still continue applying to leave Islam (Samuri and Quarash, 9). According to data provided by the Negeri Sembilan State Government Mufti’s Department, a religious agency formed to manage applications to leave Islam, a total of 219 applications to leave Islam were made between 1998 and 2003. These applications were made by born Muslims and newly-converted Muslims. Majority of the applications to leave Islam were made by Indians, followed by individuals of Chinese ethnicity and lastly individuals of the European origin (Samuri and Quarash, 9).

Process of Leaving Islam in Malaysia

In Malaysia, applications to leave Islam are made to the Sharia courts where they are heard and determinations, whether to grant applicants their wishes to leave Islam or reject them (Samuri and Quarash, 11). According to Samuri and Quarash, applicants give various reasons for applying to leave Islam. For instance, a man born to Ceylonese and a Tamil Indian mother applied to leave Islam stated that he was uncomfortable with Islam and preferred socializing with Hinduism. His application was however rejected with the court saying that his reasons for leaving Islam were insufficient (Samuri and Quarash, 11). However, studies show that applicants whom the court considers to have given sufficient reasons to leave Islam are granted their wish without the court declaring them as apostasies. Reasons that the court considers as sufficient include lack of enough Islamic teachings and practice on the applicant from his or her young age of life. In most cases, these applicants became Muslims technically by virtue of being born to Muslim parents (Samuri and Quarash, 13). These applicants are granted the leeway to leave Islam because they do not have preexisting knowledge or idea of Islamic constitution and thus making consultative and counselling sessions with such applicants less effective (Samuri and Quarash, 13).

Gender Roles in Islam and Leaving the Religion

Gender roles in Islam also influence some people's decisions to leave Islam. Though most educated Muslims believe that Islam is a humanistic religion that upholds respect for human rights and while elevating and protecting the status of women, it, however, denies women the rights to pleasure. For instance, Islam restricts women from pleasurable outings such as going to the beach in a swimming costume. Islam also restricts women to a certain form of dressing that denies them the freedom of dressing like other ordinary people. It also denies them the freedom of thought (Warraq, 180). Studies also show some people leave Islam because of the religion’s treatment of women and its permissibility of the prophet to get married to the young Aisha (Khalil and Bilici, 114). It is also notable that Islam’s intolerance and the nature of Sharia laws that are unfavorable to women also influence most people’s decisions to leave the religion. For instance, women who convert to Christianity argue that unlike Christianity, Islam lacks emphasis on virtues such as love, kindness, grace, and forgiveness (Khalil and Bilici, 115).

Difference Between Male and Female Apostates

Despite the deplorable status of women being one of the cited intellectual reasons for leaving Islam, there is a big gap between the number of men and women leaving Islam. According to studies, most testimonies of people leaving Islam come from men compared to women. For instance, according to the 2003 report, 68% of apostates of Islam were males and 72% of those leaving Islam were equally males. On the contrary, only 28% of Islam apostates were females and a negligible 7% of those leaving Islam were females (Khalil and Bilici, 117).

Comparison of Islam and Buddhism

Islam can be compared with other religions that people have left. One such religion that can be compared to Islam is Buddhism. The comparison between these two religious communities is in terms of the determinants to barriers to the freedom of religion. Both Islam and Buddhism share some similarities in regard to the freedom of religion (Khareng, Awang, Rahman, Machae, and Ismail, 318). For instance, Islam protects the freedom of religion in that Muslims have no right to coerce or prohibit others from choosing or practicing religious customs that they believe in. Similarly, Buddhism also gives people the right to accept or reject a religion. However, the most notable difference between Islam and Buddhism is that Islam denies its believers the right and freedom of leaving the religion after joining it. Leaving the Islam religion is called apostasy and is punishable by death (Khareng et al., 319). On the other hand, Buddhism does not deny people the freedom to leave Buddhism. Unlike Islam, in Buddhism, everyone has the right to change the religion from Buddhism as well as becoming an atheist (Khareng et al., 319).


In conclusion, Islam is still one of the fastest growing and influential religions in various parts of the world. Despite its growing popularity, it is also witnessing instances of people leaving the religion. Various reasons for leaving the Islamic religion are cited by those who have left the Islamic religious community. They cite reasons such as the religion’s deplorable status of women, intellectual reasons such as the evolution process, being born into an Islamic family and therefore their wishes to leave. Islam can be compared to other religions such as Buddhism. Islam is similar to Buddhism since both religions give people the freedom to choose a religion they believe in. it is however distinct from Buddhism since denies its believers the freedom to leave the religion.

Works Cited

Ibn, Warraq. Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out. Prometheus Books, 2003.

Khalil, Mohammad H., and Mucahit Bilici. "Conversion Out of Islam: A Study of Conversion Narratives of Former Muslims."The Muslim World, vol. 97, no. 1, 2007, pp. 111-124.

Khareng, Mutsalim, et al. "Freedom of Religion in Islam and Buddhism: A Comparison Study of the Barriers That Determines the Freedom of Religion."Asian Social Science, vol. 10, no. 22, 2014, pp. 315-321, doi:10.5539/ass.v10n22p315.

Samuri, Mohd A., and Muzammil Quraishi. "Negotiating Apostasy: Applying to “Leave Islam” in Malaysia."Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, vol. 25, no. 4, 2014, pp. 1-18,

November 24, 2023




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