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Can One Adopt Islamic Traditions without Belief?



Reply Date

Jun 05, 2016


Could Islam be liberalized to, for example, the point of allowing for atheists to adopt Islamic traditions without necessarily believing in Allah or the Qur'an? Why or why not?



Can One Adopt Islamic Traditions without Belief

Salam Dear Reader,

Thank you so much for sending your question. We appreciate you taking the time to share with us your ideas and seek answers that help you explore new meanings and understandings.

We pray that you find answers that satisfy your mind and soul here- God willing.

With regards to your question, there are a few points to comment on.

First, with regards to the word ‘liberalized’ in “could Islam be liberalized…?” Well, Islam is already ‘liberalized’ in the sense that it does give people the freedom to not believe. Allah [SWT] says:

{The truth is from your Lord, so whoever wills – let him believe; and whoever wills – let him disbelieve.} (Quran 18: 29)

He also says:

{There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in [false gods] and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.} (Quran 2: 256)

See also the following:

{So remind, [O Muhammad]; you are only a reminder. You are not over them a controller.} (Quran 88: 21-22)

{Indeed, this is a reminder, so whoever wills may take to his Lord a way.} (Quran 73: 19)

{Indeed, this is a reminder, so he who wills may take to his Lord a way.} (Quran 79: 29)

{So whoever wills may remember it.} (Quran 80:12)

(Note: it’s interesting how you want to disbelieve in the Quran, while the Quran itself is what’s giving you the choice you ask for…)

In any case, yes, there is a choice. This choice is a test of true faith. This reflects who will lovingly and consciously choose to believe in his/her Creator. It is a test of sincerity, faith, commitment and perseverance.

Now, let us together reflect on the following hadith. We’ve highlighted in it the specific part that corresponds to the query: does it harm Allah in any way if you(and everyone on earth for that matter) decided to disbelieve in Him?

Let’s see.

On the authority of Abu Dharr al-Ghifari (may Allah be pleased with him) from the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) is that among the sayings he relates from his Lord (may He be glorified) is that He said:

“O My servants, I have forbidden oppression for Myself and have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another. O My servants, all of you are astray except for those I have guided, so seek guidance of Me and I shall guide you, O My servants, all of you are hungry except for those I have fed, so seek food of Me and I shall feed you.

O My servants, all of you are naked except for those I have clothed, so seek clothing of Me and I shall clothe you. Can One Adopt Islamic Traditions without BeliefO My servants, you sin by night and by day, and I forgive all sins, so seek forgiveness of Me and I shall forgive you. O My servants, you will not attain harming Me so as to harm Me, and will not attain benefiting Me so as to benefit Me.

O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as pious as the most pious heart of any one man of you, that would not increase My kingdom in anything. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as wicked as the most wicked heart of any one man of you, that would not decrease My kingdom in anything.

O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to rise up in one place and make a request of Me, and were I to give everyone what he requested, that would not decrease what I have, any more that a needle decreases the sea if put into it. O My servants, it is but your deeds that I reckon up for you and then recompense you for, so let him who finds good, praise Allah, and let him who finds other than that, blame no one but himself. [Muslim]”

The last part of the hadith is quite essential in responding to your query.

Think about that:

If someone came and told you “I warn you that there is a fire approaching your building.” You say, “Can you be liberalized as to allow me to not believe in what you are saying?” Well, it is not about him/her being liberalized, it is about what is in YOUR own benefit.  Sure, you have the option of disbelieving. But this doesn’t negate the fact that there will be a fire, and when it approaches, it is you who will be harmed and will suffer the consequences.

It is like, for example, the students who say that they don’t want to study for the final exam. They’re free not to study. But the exam is approaching, and they will end up failing. No one can force them to do anything, but they are the ones who will suffer the consequences.

Now, with regards to your question:sure we can adopt Islamic traditions while disbelieving in the One Creator, Judgement Day, Paradise and Hell. No one can get into someone’s heart/mind and force them to believe.  At the same time, when they die and meet The Creator, and when they stand on Judgement Day to answer for their deeds… then it’s only them who will suffer the consequences. They can’t say that they haven’t been warned.

Now, let us look at this ‘liberalized’ request in other scenarios:

If you are the owner of a company, can you be liberalized as to allow employees to work and benefit from your company’s resources, without actually acknowledging you as the Owner of the company or accepting the company’s bylaws?

What do you think? Do you accept that?

Is the world ‘liberalized’ even suitable here? It seems rather inadequate as what it is essentially calling fCan One Adopt Islamic Traditions without Beliefor is compromising rights and principles under the disguise of ‘liberalization’.

I’m reminded of students who write research papers in college.Are they allowed to benefit from someone else’s work without giving credit or acknowledging the original source, the author? Definitely not. It is unacceptable and considered plagiarism.

Refusing to acknowledge or give credit to the source isa problem in and of itself.If you think about it deeply, you’ll realize that it reflects selfishness or ingratitude.

You know that Allah’s Names include The Ultimate Source, The Originator of Existence, The Creator…

So, the issue of wanting to reject Him as The Source reminded me of what He [SWT] says in the Quran:

{And few of My servants are grateful.} (Quran 24: 13)

It is, for example, like a child who says “can Mom be liberalized to allow me to live in her house, benefit from it, and do whatever I want, while not necessarily acknowledging or communicating with her?”

Well, sure, you can do that. However, it reflects ingratitude and doesn’t really show you in the best of light as a human being.

Now, let us think about this: what exactly are we rejecting here?

Allah [SWT] honored mankind over all creations. He says:

{And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.} [Quran 17: 70]

He created everything on earth for us.

{It is He who created for you all of that which is on the earth.} (Quran 2: 19)

He is the Owner of The Heavens and The Earth and everything therein. He created human beings for a purpose. He gave them everything (hearing, sight, intellect, soul…) all of this to help them know Him, worship Him and communicate with Him on deep spiritual, intellectual and emotional levels.

{Allah has extracted you from the wombs of your mothers not knowing a thing and He made for you hearing and vision and intellect that perhaps you would be grateful.} [Quran 16:78]

{O Man, what has deceived you concerning your Lord, the Generous, Who created you, proportioned you, and balanced you? In whatever form He willed has He assembled you.} [Quran 82:6-8]

He promised to teach us, help us and guide us. We will experience His Closeness here, learn and elevate and connect with Him in the ways He designated until the Day we meet Him. He promised us in return for this short life journey of testing our faith that we will get Paradise wherein we get whatever we please eternally without any limitations.

We can reject all that. What is the alternative? That we don’t have a Creator, we don’t have a purpose, we die and turn into dust… All this love we experienced, all this knowledge, all the feelings, trials and tribulations, all our experiences will turn into… dust?  That’s it?Can One Adopt Islamic Traditions without Belief

{Say, “Shall I inform you of [something] better than that? For those who fear Allah will be gardens in the presence of their Lord beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally, and purified spouses and approval from Allah. And Allah is Seeing of [His] servants} (Quran 3: 15)

Allah, The Creator in His Last and Final Message, The Quran promised us honor, elevation, eternity, love and connection with Him (The Source of Love Al Wadud)… we want to trade that with… dust and nothingness?

In any case, the choice is there.

We ask Allah to give you all that is good and pure in this life and for eternity. May you see truth as truth, and falsehood as falsehood and find what truly fulfills your heart, mind and soul. Ameen.

I hope this helps answer your question.

Salam and please stay in touch.

About Dina Mohamed Basiony

Dina Mohamed Basiony is a writer based in Cairo, Egypt. She is the Chief Editor of She specializes in Islam and spirituality. Dina holds an MA and BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from the American University in Cairo.

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