In this video, Dr. Cynthia shares reasons that we have found for Muslims returning to Islam after leaving it (technically called recidivism of an apostate).
For Christians working with Muslims, it is always a difficult to see a former Muslim returning to Islam. But this is not new trend. It has been happening since the early days of missions to Muslims, when it actually happened at a very high rate of up to 70%.
One of the reasons for recidivism, returning to Islam, is that the new believer from Muslim background came to the faith for the wrong motives. Maybe they were getting something in exchange for converting – food, increased status, marriage, acceptance, etc. In that case it is very doubtful as to whether or not they ever sincerely believed in their heart, or if they were simply making a bargain which lost its appeal in the long run.
A common reason for returning to Islam is fear and intimidation. When a Muslim leaves Islam, they are automatically under a fatwa for death, which extends all the way back to the time of the Prophet Mohammed. It does not need to be specifically pronounced for each of them. Although new converts to Islam don’t always know, those raised in Islam know the fatwa is on the head of an apostate, and any Muslim is justified in killing them anytime. Before execution takes place, if it actually does, there is usually a period of reindoctrination and reflection recommended for the apostate. In reality, this becomes intimidation and attempted brain washing. Only by great strength of will power or the Holy Spirit is someone able to withstand these pressures.
Another reason for returning to Islam is because of missing family and cultural support. Anyone leaving their family and culture is prone to miss it, and Muslims especially so. Why? First because Muslim culture is much more socially interconnected than Western: more group than individual. Secondly, because being disowned and shunned by one’s family is a painful thing for anyone. And thirdly, Islamic culture is intimately entwined with their religion. The Muslim has been programmed to base their year around the events of Islam. The special foods, the activities, the ceremonies which formerly made their lives rich are now gone.
Economic survival is another reason for returning to Islam. Muslim economies are typically not strong and without government safety nets. The safety nets are based on family, clan, and the mosque. When one leaves Islam, they not only loose family, but often their job and any means of survival. The Qur’an tells them that apostates should face hardships in this life. Not everyone faces starvation and privation willingly. In the short run it is easier to submit to Islam and eat than starve and go to heaven.
In America, thankfully economic survival is not tied to religion, so here that is not such a factor. However, in the current economy it is not easy for even well-educated English speaking Americans to find a job; how much more difficult for immigrants, even international students, to compete with Americans. Dr. Cynthia has seen examples of Muslims who return to their home nation for economic survival, where they then face all the above pressures to return to Islam.
Sometimes, she has found, former Muslims are so repulsed by Islam that it is not Islam that attracts them to leave Christianity. If what attracted them to become Christians was freedom from the bondage of Islamic Law, then they might be attracted to become secular. They become and more entangled in the ways of the world until they are scarcely different from anyone in Western culture, and scarcely have any faith at all.
Dr. Cynthia tells Christians working with Muslims that they can assess what kind of risk Muslims have of returning to Islam by finding what most attracted them to Christianity. And in any case, it is advisable for Christians discipling Muslims to provide for them emotional and social support to help make up for what they have lost in leaving Islam.