As much as leaving Islam is a question of personal belief, that’s far from all it is. Leaving the faith and making oneself an “apostate” is to renounce a slew of rights designated only to Muslims -- and put oneself at risk of prosecution.
1. The right to life
The first, and and most important right an apostate loses is a right to their safety. Apostasy in Islam is punishable by death, a punishment which is often enacted swiftly and mercilessly. When they are not killed, ex-Muslims are subject to cruel and degrading punishment, by authorities or members of their own community.
2. The right to inheritance
According to all madhabs, or schools of jurisprudence, when a Muslim becomes an ex-Muslim, they also forfeit the right to inheritance, disowned by definition as an apostate. All madhabs prescribe that the apostate’s property must be seized and distributed to their Muslim relatives.
3. The right to marriage
Just like in the case of inheritance, all Islamic madhabs rule that an apostate’s marriage must be annulled. Along with emotional distress, this carries with it a slew of legal and financial implications.
In our Apostate Report, many ex-Muslims said that fearing the loss of family, including spouses, was their main reason for concealing their beliefs.
“My husband will definitely divorce me if I ever told him openly. His family is very religious.” - 42-year-old female
4. The right to child custody
Under Islamic law, children are not to be left with an apostate parent. When someone comes out, or is discovered as an apostate, they lose all rights to their children. If an ex-Muslim has children with a religious Muslim spouse, they may leave with those children, even across the border of a Muslim country, with the full support of the law.
“I divorced before leaving, and ended up in a custody battle with [my children’s] father who was trying to save the children’s souls from my influence.” - 46-year-old female
Combining these, it’s not hard to see why many ex-Muslims, even firm in their convictions, might choose to stay ‘in the closet.’