NameBareya Khan

I grew up a very devout Ahmadi Muslim from a Pakistani background. My whole life was oriented around Islam. My mother taught me how to read the Qur'an by the time I was 4, and I was reading the Qur'an with English translation by the time I was 7 or 8. I started reading the Qur'an with commentaries by the time I was 12 and very much immersed myself in Islam, reading the Qur'an twice a year at the last, and becoming very familiar with the Hadith, Sunnah, and literature on Ahmadiyyat. I wanted to be an Islamic scholar and at one point even wanted to be an Imam - though I found out very quickly that as a woman that was not an option for me. At 12, I started questioning the Qur'an. It started from Surah al-Nisa and it went on to many other passages. My immediate response was to defend Islam and to find interpretations that reconciled the beautiful, peaceful, and just version of Islam my mother had taught me with what I was learning myself. Being from such a persecuted Islamic sect also solidified my resolve in wanting to defend Islam. However, the older I got, the more I was worn down. I realised that there was no way to reconcile Islam with my moral views. But I truly believed in God, and I prayed every night for answers, for some relief from the pain of not knowing what was right or wrong. I prayed nawafil, tahajjud, numerous istikharas but I could not reconcile Islam with morality. On top of this, I lived in an incredibly conservative insular Muslim community where everything was controlled. As a woman, I faced many barriers. I was told repeatedly that I was mentally deficient to a man, that Allah had made men superior in some ways, and that as I got older I would understand the wisdom behind this. I internalised these heavily as a young girl and they affect me even today. I learned that a woman is subordinate to a man, that in some *exceptional circumstances* a man does have the right to beat his wife (but it can't leave a mark lol), that I had to wear hijab and a burqa (the South Asian burqa - not the afghan/arab burqa which requires face veiling, though veiling your face was seen as the height of piety so at one point in my life I was veiling my chin and mouth as well), I could not sing, smile or laugh or talk too loud in the presence of men (when I was allowed to talk at all), I could not have any pictures up on social media or be caught on film or a video, ah the list goes on. Though I attributed these things to culture and conservative Pakistani values, I soon learned through my pursuit of Islamic knowledge that a lot of things were very much grounded in the Islamic faith and so if I was to be true to Islam, I did have to believe these things. After an incredibly difficult few years, I decided to leave Islam at the age of 17. I remember the next day, fearful of being caught because I lived in an area full of Muslims who knew me, I took the train to a whiter part of London, and I removed my hijab. It started raining, and as I stood on the platform feeling the rain on my head for the first time in I couldn't remember how long, I was overcome with emotion. I am now 21, and I know I have made the right decision. I have kept my apostasy hidden from my parents because I know it will hurt them too much, and I kept it hidden from my community out of fear that my family would be dishonoured and due to a genuine fear of excommunication in the Ahmadiyya community - which means it is likely that my family and the community would be told to sever ties with me. I understand that living in the UK I am in a much more privileged position than most ex-Muslims because I don't have the fear of death. Still, I am not prepared to lose my family so I stay hidden. This is an attempt at being an open ex-Muslim somewhere until I am ready to be one fully.