Is There Anything in Islam for This Ex-Muslim?

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Via Ask.Fm:

While you may have given up Islam, are there any trappings of Islam you still practice? For example, do you fast during the month of Ramadan?

I get asked variations of this question all the time, and the answer for me, personally, is no. Nothing I did beacuse of my religious beliefs was anything that continues to be worth it to me for me to continue doing as an atheist. In fact, some of the mandates of Islam are legitimately harmful.

But what about, say, charitable acts, or acts of kindness? Or the benefits of meditation? Or the encouragement to smile? Or the wisdom in certain quotes?Islam does mandate that a flat percentage of unused wealth must be given to charity (Zakat) and encourage non-mandated giving as well (sadaqah), but it hardly has the monopoly on enjoining charity. Most religions do some version of this; giving is something I do with or without Islam to tell me that I ought to do it. Ditto for kind acts and smiling and wise sayings. As a non-religious person, all the world’s commonsense recommendations and pithy quotes are mine for the adopting. I am particularly fond of the one about the blacksmith and the perfume seller, but its advice is not enough to convince me that the human race has been getting shorter rather than taller over time when the science says otherwise.

As for the alleged benefits of Islamic prayer (Salaat), some Muslims make much of the theory that the five-times-a-day ritual is proven to be beneficial to health and wellbeing. They point to pieces that cite studies in them, like this one from The Huffington Post, and claim that the benefits of prayer apply to Salaat. Yet the studies show that meditation and prayer, as in self-guided deep thinking and supplication/communication with one’s deity of choice, are what have benefits, not the ritualized Arabic recitations and bowing motions in which Muslims all over the world engage, many with little to no understanding of what they are saying.

an image of people at Coachella 2001
Ramadan: Like Coachella but without the drugs and cultural appropriation.

Similarly flawed is the idea that Islamic fasting is good for you. While there is some scientific evidence that said controlled starvation can have some health benefits, those studies are about people who fast from food, not water. Islamic fasting, as is practiced in Ramadan, is legitimately dangerous because it requires people to dehydrate themselves. This is especially true now that the oddness of the Hijri lunar calendar means that Ramadan is in the worst, hottest part of summer.

The only Islamic practices that I maintain in my life are istinja and the two Eids, and the latter is because of family and not much else. Having two duck-shaped plastic watering cans in my house and dressing up twice a year to hang out with my giant family doesn’t really affect me much.

Is There Anything in Islam for This Ex-Muslim?

6 thoughts on “Is There Anything in Islam for This Ex-Muslim?

  1. 2

    That istinja link was off the chain. o_O Yeah, todos los empleados deben lavarse sus manos despues de usar el baño, but that method’s gotta be personal and flexible. Like, what if three times isn’t enough for someone with a UTI or just had food sickness assplosions or whatev? Religions are weird.

  2. 3

    Occasionally, religions get some things right. That’s not surprising since they’ve all been made by humans who tried to figure out this “being human and living in society” thingy.
    So what? The good thing about being an atheist is that you can simply look at the things and judge them for themselves. I don’t have to buy a whole pack of Haribo Colorado with the horrible liquorice & coconut sweets just to get the jelly blackberries. I can just get berries only

  3. 4

    I got beat up with the christianity bat while growing up. I can’t say I really stayed okay with the sayings, most of them seem to be rather despicably self-serving. The parable of the Good Samaritan is one I used to think about because I thought it might be a useful talking point if I got stuck dealing with a christian. Basically it seems most people think Samaritans were well liked and getting help from one sounds common now but they were actually a tribe of hated others with different beliefs. In context it ends up being a story that’s partly a criticism of the religious leaders of the time and partly a story saying good people are people who do good things, all else is window dressing.

    Family life is another matter. I dealt with a lot of authoritarian nonsense and it drove me away from family. That’s probably part of why I don’t retain any religious practices. Family would have been a moderating influence when I originally recoiled from religion. I find it very interesting and insightful to hear about people who have other experiences that differ from mine.

  4. 5

    The only Islamic practices that I maintain in my life are istinja and the two Eids, and the latter is because of family and not much else. Having two duck-shaped plastic watering cans in my house and dressing up twice a year to hang out with my giant family doesn’t really affect me much.

    Funny, it’s exactly the same with me. Those two I things I still do!

    (And instinctively saying the salam greeting and Allah hafiz even to ex-Muslims)

    The health benefits of fasting always struck me as funny in the Pakistani Ramzan tradition because what I’d see is a very unhealthy sehri in the morning and an even unhealthier iftar in the evening. Dehydration plus two large unhealthy meals 12 or so hours apart for about 30 days doesn’t exactly seem like a good idea.

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