I have a question about the growth of apostasy. Is it because of the influence of western lifestyle that made them question Islam? As I have observed, the westerners like to question and like to search for answers.
But even then, many people are reverting to Islam in the west so it can't be because of western lifestyle that many others are leaving Islam.
It made me wonder: is it our fault? Do we make them dislike Islam and leave Islam altogether?
If so, what can we do?
Thank you for your question.
As you pointed out, there are people who leave Islam. But at the same time, there are people who embrace Islam. We shouldn't overlook the latter. Sometimes, you could see that the reason for people leaving Islam is similar to the reason for people embracing Islam: they have questions and they found the answers.
Whether the answers are correct or not, that is an area of individual choice. What I mean by that is that a person will decide what he or she believes to be true or false. We can guide and teach, but at the end of the day, it is a personal choice.
We can't force people to believe in what we ourselves believe in.
This is not an argument for relative truth. I believe there is an absolute truth. But that absolute truth cannot and should not be shoved down people's throats. It is their right to decide whether or not to accept it. There is a saying that goes, "You can guide a horse to water, but you can't make the horse drink it." This saying encapsulates well what our job really is.
More often than not, people are leaving Islam not because of Islam, but because of Muslims, specifically in how we treat others. We, the Muslims, are not clear about what Allah expects of us. We are not clear about what our job is in dakwah.
Our job is to use the best means possible to guide people to Islam. The question of whether or not they receive that guidance is beyond our domain of control. We believe that bestowing guidance is Allah's domain. What is within our domain of control is ourselves.
When the issue of apostasy arises, it should point towards our actions and not theirs. This is not to suggest that they are absolutely free of faults. But this is pointing to the fact that we can only change ourselves in the effort that it will change the situation, because we can only control ourselves.
More problem happens when we start to control others, when in reality, we can't control them. It is impossible. We are stepping into the Divine territory, because only Allah has the power to control all. We, the slaves, have only the power to control ourselves. Rightfully so, that is all that Allah asks of us.
Having said that, it doesn't mean that we leave them be and we only focus on ourselves. No. We don't focus on ourselves, keep it to ourselves, remain dormant, and hope that other people will change. We are taught to rely on Allah (tawakkal) only after we have done our efforts, the best that we can.
So dakwah must go on, but not in a way that forces our belief unto others. That is not dakwah. Dakwah is an invitation to Islam, not an enforcement into Islam. The word "dakwah" itself, in it's original Arabic language, points to the fact that dakwah is a peaceful invitation to Islam.
Hence, that is our job.
The growing number of apostasy cases is a call for communal self-reflection. We should reflect on our collective shortcomings in the area of dakwah. We should take heed, apply the necessary improvements on ourselves, and continue the dakwah with a better approach - an approach closer to the Sunnah (Way) of our Prophet.
To begin, we have to first build a stronger sense of self. We have to remove the insecurity inside of us, such that we become overly and inappropriately defensive when people criticize our religion. We have to face the facts: we don't live in a bubble anymore.
The "sweeping under the rug" technique doesn't work anymore, in an age where information is everywhere and it is literally in the palm of our hands and our children's hands. People will have doubts. People will have questions. We shouldn't shunt them and think that it will solve the problem. Instead, we should deal with them and work our way towards the best solution.
The best solution, in my opinion, is proper education. We should first educate ourselves in order to build a strong foundation of our core belief and of our core identity, and then we should educate others, particularly starting with those who are closest to us - our family members.
We have to face reality as it is, and equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge base, sound understanding of text and context, and essential skill sets to face criticisms head on maturely, respectfully, professionally, and without losing our cool.
When issues arise, we should be quick to reflect deeply in ourselves and to see what can be improved in our ways. We shouldn't be too quick to blame the others. Even if we can rightfully blame others, at the end of the day, we can only control ourselves - what we say, what we do, what we think, and what we believe.
We should not be too quick to blame the west on everything. I have witnessed Islam booming healthily and strongly in the west, among westerners. So, I don't think the west is the real cause of apostasy. Some parts of the western culture might be a contributing factor, but to immediately assume it is the cause is a bit immature.
So yes, there are a number of evidence to suggest that it is our fault. There are a number of evidence to suggest that it is their fault too, but we should not fixate on that because moving forward, we can only control ourselves.
We should rethink, reconsider, and recalculate our efforts using the same guiding principles stated in the Quran and the Sunnah, to find better ways to invite people to Islam in this day and age. We shouldn't take the law into our own hands and start policing people.
At the end of the day, we can only control ourselves - what we say, what we do, what we think, and what we believe. That, like it or not, informs others of our religion. We are the ones painting a picture of Islam for all to see.
The Islam that the Prophet propagated was magnetic in that it attracted people towards it. Even the enemies of Prophet Muhammad acknowledged the Prophet's integrity and to a certain degree, realized that Islam is the truth.
In our dakwah to people, are we magnetic? Are we attracting people, or are we chasing them away?
"So by mercy from Allah , [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him]."
(Surah Ali Imran: 159)