My name is Amil Imani, and I am a former Muslim from Iran. I am often asked why I left Islam and how did it happen. Looking back, I see no particular time or event that suddenly severed my link with Islam. There was nothing nearly as dramatic as what reportedly happened to Paul on the road to Damascus, transforming him from a rabid Christian persecutor to a devoted follower of Jesus.
My alienation from Islam had its seed in the way I was raised. My parents encouraged me to ask questions and to question everything, rather than telling me to shut up, as children are often told.
Never fully embraced Islam
Being born in a Muslim family in Iran, I was literally enveloped by Islam and everything Islamic. Many questions unavoidably kept popping in my mind, and I tried to find answers to them. More often than not, the answers I found tended to repel rather than attract me to Islam. I never fully embraced Islam. I didn't leave Islam. Islam simply failed to take me.
From very early on, I believed in a modified version of Occam's razor, also known as the lex parsimoniae or "law of parsimony." To me, an explanation with the fewest assumptions is either the correct one or the preferable one. The best answers, more often than not, are the simple ones. Islam, by contrast, seemed to supply numerous answers to the same questions in complex and confusing forms. A great many of the answers, it seemed to me, were improvisations of the clergy who took the freedom of saying what suited them. The Quran itself, being bewildering, helped the clergy in their muddled pronouncements.
My search for answers has taken me on a journey of discovery in the competing, crowded, and confusing marketplace of ideas. I noticed a universal human need to believe in some power or forces beyond ourselves and beyond the finite and the corporeal. If there were no God, we humans would make one up, it is said. I found out that, in this debate about this seemingly innate need to believe in a supernatural being, three major viewpoints have emerged: Monotheism, positing a single god who created the universe, set it in motion, and, according to deism, let it play out without interfering in it; polytheism, with many gods, sometimes requiring a "super-god" above the rest, "sorting them all out," so to speak; and atheism, characterized by dismissing any and all gods. (Other views included pantheism, humanism, freethought and mythicism.)
Of the three major camps, polytheism seemed to me the most attractive and yet troubling at the same time. And Islam's theism—"Allahism"—steeped in superstition, replete with nonsensical explanations and discriminatory sharia law, repulsed me. I discovered eventually that all the religious instruction I needed to guide my life was contained in the ancient Zoroastrian triad of good thoughts, good speech and good deeds, and I accepted the Universal Charter of Human Rights as their logical extension.
Going to the source: The Quran
Muslims contend that their faith is squarely based on the Quran and all other Islamic dogma should conform to the teaching of the Quran. They also claim that the Quran is a literal word of Allah and consider Allah the one and only creator of the entire universe. According to the Quran itself, Allah created the universe by one word of his mouth, in Arabic kon va yakoon—"be and became." These claims made my task somewhat simpler. My search was narrowed, and I focused myself fully on the Quran, aiming to understand it to the best of my ability, striving to find out what exactly Allah's words were.
Although I am not Arab, I know enough Arabic to go directly to the book of Allah and study it word by word. As I spent endless days studying the Quran, instead of becoming enlightened, I found myself more and more confused and bewildered. At that time, I ended up with the conviction that the Quran may indeed be the handiwork of Allah, as Muslims believe. But, in reality it is nothing more than a smallish book consisting of a collection of confusing verbiage, contradictory phrases and even outright errors of facts that purportedly the illiterate Mohammed authored over the course of some 20 years in a piecemeal fashion. I am certain that presenting the Quran for evaluation to a body of 100 of the greatest and most impartial scholars, fully versed in Arabic, will result in a verdict similar to my own conclusion.
As Quranic scholar Gerd-R. Puin says:
The Koran claims for itself that it is "mubeen," or clear. But if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn't make sense. Many Muslims and Orientalists will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Koranic text is just incomprehensible.
Moreover, the Quran is full of what could be called "hate speech" against non-Muslims. As summarized by Dr. Moorthy Muthuswamy:
About sixty-one percent of the contents of the Koran are found to speak ill of the unbelievers or call for their violent conquest; at best only 2.6 percent of the verses of the Koran are noted to show goodwill toward humanity. About seventy-five percent of Muhammad's biography (Sira) consists of jihad waged on unbelievers."
As an ethical and loving person, I just could not hate those billions of non-believing human beings, as required by holy writ.
"About sixty-one percent of the contents of the Koran are found to speak ill of the unbelievers or call for their violent conquest."
Time for change
The 21st century presents great challenges and opportunities that demand new ways of thinking and behaving. The doctrine of Islam may have been appropriate for the desert dwellers of some 1,400 years ago, the people Muslims themselves stigmatize as "The Ignorant." However, Islam today is dysfunctional, to say the least. As a matter of fact, Islam went astray from the very beginning and inflicted a great deal of suffering on both its followers and those who resisted its advance.
Life is precious. It is to be protected, nurtured and celebrated. Mankind is moving, perhaps at a glacier pace, toward reconciliation and ever-expanding inclusiveness, without any group or ideology imposing itself on others. Any attempt against this trend of "unity in diversity" is doomed to failure, as exemplified by the demise of fascism and communism.
The Islamic "charter," the Quran, in many parts preaches discrimination, death and imposition of its dogma on everyone. The political system of Islam, just like fascism and communism, is likewise a dysfunctional ideology that needs to be abandoned. Humanity has matured considerably since the time of Muhammad. In order to continue its forward march, mankind must follow a roadmap appropriate for its age and state of development. It is foolish to insist that a book composed nearly a millennium and a half ago must serve as the one and only guide for humanity today.
"It is foolish to insist that a book composed nearly a millennium and a half ago must serve as the one and only guide for humanity today."
Islam as slavery
Islam is a slaveholder religion. It feels that it owns you; it condemns you as an apostate to be beheaded if you dare to leave its chains. Islam demands submission, which is the meaning of its name, and Muslims happily call themselves "slaves of Allah." In this regard, Islam also has a long history of actual slavery, justified by its texts. Non-Muslims, by contrast, respect the individual as a free human being and support one's inalienable right to believe whatever one wants to believe—even if it is a non-belief. If one still wishes to wrap oneself in this suffocating security blanket—Islam—then, I ask, please keep it to yourself and refrain from forcing it on others.
Iranian ex-Muslim activist Amil Imani has his own website at AmilImani.com, as well as FreeAmericanPress.com. Amil writes hard-hitting exposes of Islamic doctrines and history, especially as concerns his beloved native land of Persia. The author of Obama Meets Ahmadinejad and Operation Persian Gulf, Imani is also a dedicated American patriot and Constitutionalist, having lived in the United States since 1979, the same year his country was taken over by Islamic fundamentalists. Amil works with many other Iranian activists and longs for the day when his homeland can be free.
Iranian Women Protesting Against A Budding Islamic Oppression (1980)