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October 6, 2010 Dear Ms.

Woodward: I hope this letter finds you in the best of faith and health, Ameen. My name is Saeed Shaikh, a friend of Dr. Imran Ahmed, and a fellow member of the Islamic Center of New London (ICNL), Groton, CT. I am writing this letter on behalf of him, and at his request, in response to your letter to him dated September 30, 2010. Dr. Ahmed is currently under rehabilitation treatment due to a knee replacement surgery, and has asked me to follow up with your query. I want to thank you at the outset for an interesting and inquiring question. I see your viewpoint in full light of the background under which we live. In order to understand an Islamic viewpoint, I urge you to consider the background that I am about to present. In Islam, Muslims learn to accept certain beliefs. They are fundamental to our identity. I am going to list just two, relevant to our topic. They are: (1) three sources of knowledge in Islam: senses (five), reason, and scripture and in that order, the highest being the scripture, and (2) literal acceptance of the scripture (the Quran). The western civilization has mostly been reduced to secularism. In secularism, the source of knowledge ends with reason, and there is no reference to the God. In Islam, everything is referred to the God. Our highest source of knowledge is the Quran, which dictates us to believe in every word of it, without questions. It does not mean that reason has no consideration in Islam. It does, in a big way, however, what it really means is this: What is not apparent to humanbeings today may become apparent tomorrow. It has happened all the times. So what seems to appear illogical in the scripture today may become logical tomorrow, and so forth. It also means that our Lord, the Creator, the Most Exalted, knows what is best for us. Not us. With this background, consider the following text from the Quran: 24:30 Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (Called awra. It includes areas from naval to knees for men). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do. 24:31 And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (Called awra. It includes the whole body except palms (of hands), face, eyes, feet) (from illegal sexual acts, etc.) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like palms of hands or eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer dress like veil, gloves, head-cover, apron, etc.), and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms, etc.) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands fathers, their sons, their husbandssons, their brothers or their 1

brotherssons, or their sisterssons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigor, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful. It is very specific, and for Muslims, every verse of the Quran is a covenant with the God. Perhaps its a fact that even with all his trials, tribulations and negativity, a Muslim is much closer to his/her religion than his/her fellow men/women. So it does matter to us what our scripture tells us. For us, this rules our lives. For us, this is not a brainchild of some humanly saint or Pope or theory of a Nobel scientist or a renowned sociologist of today or a great philosopher of yesterday. They can come and go. Their sayings may or may not withstand the test of times. Their wisdom originates from His Wisdom, whom we also call Al-Hakeem (The Most Wise, The Judge of all judges, another name of the God in Islam). So why shouldnt we take His Word rather than the word of His creation? Islam openly declares that men and women have an equal status and value before God, and piety alone differentiates one individual from another. This is a subject by itself on which one can find volumes and volumes of information and I would refrain from adding more due to brevity. In legal and practical aspects, the general rules are the same for men and women. Both have the same acts of worships, the same Islamic etiquette and manners, and are subject to the same legal penalties. But there are also many cases where the rulings are different. Women are exempted from fasting and prayer during their monthly periods and child-birth days by way of deferral. Men are prohibited from wearing gold and silk while women are allowed to, as it is womens nature to beautify themselves. Friday prayers are obligatory for men but optional for women. Men must spend their money on the family but a womans money is entirely her own to spend as she chooses. There are differences in clothing requirements as well, since the physical appearance of men and women are dissimilar. All of this is reflective of the natural differences between men and women. So in lesser jurisprudential matters, Islam treats men and women according to their inherent differences as per substantive equality and in the interest of justice. Muslims believe that this is logical and full of reasoning, wisdom, and in accordance with His Word. As for your query, it is not only the women who have to hide their arms, bodies, faces and hair, but men also have to lower their gaze, as explained by the Quran. Whats to be hidden is defined by the God, not man (or woman to that matter). And to us, He knows the best. We have no quarrel or qualms for His dictation. As a matter of fact, it becomes our duty. And to believe and implement His commands are our obligations for which we will be judged on the Last Day. Your quest of knowledge and zeal for truth are commendable and are greatly appreciated but I would like to urge you to consider your question in light of our background and our positions. In conclusion, Islam affirms the absolute spiritual equality of men and women, and assigns both an equal rank before God. In jurisprudential matters, Islam promotes the substantive equality of men and women, recognizes their unique strengths and capabilities, and rules accordingly 2

protecting the rights of both. In the eyes of the world, it may seem that the woman made me do it, but in the eyes of the God, thats not the case. Muslim men believe that. To us, the ultimate purpose of life is to go closer to Him, to gain His Pleasure. Thats the ultimate success. And to follow His Commands does that. To see from the lens of the woman made me do it is purely corporeal, and of lesser stations of spirituality, as we know it. I hope this helps you in understanding our position. If there is some truth in my effort, its from Him and Him alone; and if there is error in it, its mine and mine alone. I apologize for that in advance. Thank you for your query, and Imran and I would be more than happy to entertain further questions you may have about Islam. We believe this is the best way to forward the cause of mutual understanding.


Saeed Shaikh 6 Rhonda Lane North Stonington, CT 06359