What do we Mean by “Doubt?”
The Context and Extent of Doubt
Do I need God?
What can I get from Islam that I cannot get elsewhere?
Can Islam provide me a happy life?
These imams who say they’ve never had anyone come to them […] if he hasn’t had someone come to him with these issues, he’s disconnected, he’s oblivious. This is part of the problem of our community.
Moral and Social Concerns
[Her mother] treated boys differently than girls...kind of like the older brother does anything he wants and the mom won’t say anything, but the sister has a lot more limitations, reprimanding, and discipline. That led her to [question] the overall way that women are treated in the Muslim community. Eventually, she began blaming the religion and its ‘culture of oppression.’ [This eventually led to her] doubting why we can’t drink or eat certain things. Now, I would characterize her as agnostic in faith.
Some scholars are picking fights with feminism—trying to win an argument when they should be trying to win people over […] [These feminists] are not trying to attack, they are merely saying ‘Hey, I don't think this is fair, give me something to allay my concerns and show me that you respect me.’
I have personally not had that many conversations with women [about their doubts]. The reason is simply that a lot of our sisters who are wanting to leave the faith are already so dismissive of the male clergy […] and that really goes to this hardcore strand of feminism, one of the stepping stones to losing faith. There is this anti-male clergy syndrome.
Philosophical and Scientific Concerns
There has been a disservice on both extremes. You have people coming out on the minbar saying [believing in evolution] is kufr—that’s just simply inaccurate. Evolution is very wide and most of it has no contradiction with any of our revealed sources. On the other hand, you have this inferiority complex […] unquestioned deference to science and an eagerness to accept anything and everything from that domain.
I’m very frank in saying that the theory of evolution is one of the biggest problems we’ve ever had in our intellectual tradition…Many imams say it’s just a theory, not a fact—that’s ridiculous […] That’s not to say I have a solution to Darwinism. That’s one of the things I say in lectures: I don’t know, I really don’t know […] But the theory of evolution can be modified and it can be made to […] fit within an Islamic worldview, and that’s the only way I can believe in it for the time being.
A lot of young sisters have come to me […] Almost always, there’s abuse that takes place by the father or the mother, or an abusive relationship or marriage, or they had a traumatic experience with the hijab—the hijab was forced on them. The women that come to me with faith crises, it’s almost always trauma as opposed to intellectual criticisms.
He said for the first five, ten years of Islam, [he would think to himself], "Yeah I know these people are racist, but Allah and His Messenger are Allah and His Messenger." Eventually, that [certainty gave way] to deep doubts about the faith: "Maybe the reason why Islam is unable to transform these people is because Islam isn’t transformative; therefore, if Islam is not transformative, then it is not true […] then it kind of rolls downhill."
Religious America, Secular Europe?: A Theme and Variations (Aldershot, England:
Routledge, 2008). For a more recent assessment of the exceptional standing of religion in
America, see, Pew Research Center, “Generally, Poorer Nations Tend to Be Religious;
Wealthy Less So, except for U.S.,” April 19, 2016, http://www.pewresearch.org/facttank/2016/04/19/5-ways-americans-and-europeans-are-different/ft_16-04-14_religious_salience-update/.
Research Center, 2015).
for Extremism; Mainstream and Moderate Attitudes” (Washington, D.C: Pew Research
Religiosity among Young Muslims in America” (Master’s Thesis, Lehigh University, 2011);
David Voas and Fenella Fleischmann, “Islam Moves West: Religious Change in the First and
Second Generations,” Annual Review of Sociology 38, no. 1 (2012): 525–45.
2011,” US Mosque Study 2011 (Council on American-Islamic Relations, 2012). In terms of
Islamic higher education options in America, the current tally stands at four: Zaytuna College
in Berkeley, CA, Bayan Claremont Islamic Graduate School in Claremont, CA, the American
Islamic College in Chicago, IL, and the American Islamic Institute based in Boston, MA.
These educational institutions are similarly relatively young, with each only taking its
present form within the past decade.
was granted for more nebulous “third spaces.”
based: New York Metro (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania); Mid-Atlantic (Washington,
D.C., Maryland, Virginia); New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts); South (North
Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee); Midwest (Illinois, Michigan).
Irreconcilable,” Friendly Atheist, accessed September 10, 2016,
“Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics | RAINN,” accessed August 7, 2016,