Imagine you are a Muslim

A Guide to Islamic Sects

Faith in the Public Sphere — A Muslim Perspective

Islam in Suffolk

What does it take to be a Good Citizen?

Helping Ipswich

Islam and its peaceful treatment of People of other Faiths


A Muslim in Britain - Daughter

A Muslim in Britain - Mother

My Muslim Experience


You believe in the absolute Oneness of Allah (the God).

You believe in a long line of prophets

from Adam to Muhammad,

among whom are Abraham, Moses and Jesus PBUT

(Peace be upon them).

You believe in a final Day of Judgement.

Your holy book, the Qur'an, is written in Arabic.

It was revealed by Allah to Muhammad

through the Angel Gabriel in 610 CE.

Everything you need to know as a basis for life

is embedded in the Qur'an

and the Sunna (traditions from the life of the Prophet).

Friday is your special day and your place of worship,

sanctuary and study is the Mosque.

You base your life on the five pillars of Islam:

Shahadah (declaration of the faith);

Salah (prayer five times a day facing Mecca);

Zakah (giving of charity);

Sawm (fasting during the month of Ramadan);

Haii (pilgrimage to Mecca).

You are Muslim because you submit your will to Allah,

"the Compassionate, the Merciful".

_Pic3The crescent moon and star is an internationally recognised symbol of the Muslim faith, with ancient Middle Eastern roots. It serves as a reminder to Muslims that God created the heavenly bodies. "As the caravans were guided by night by the cool light of moon and stars, so the Qur'an gives guidance on the journey through life."



The world's second-largest faith, Islam is not monolithic.  Schisms, focusing first on disagreements over who should lead the new faith and later on matters of doctrine, began developing soon after the prophet Muhammad's death in the year 632. 

Here are some of the major sects within Islam, which has 1.3 billion followers:


Accounting for at least 85 percent of the Islamic world, the Sunni claim to be the direct continuation of the faith as defined by Muhammad.  For many years they acknowledged the religious authority of a ruling caliph, the major point of contention with the breakaway Shiite movement.  The Sunni derive their name through reliance on the "Sunnah" or the observed sayings, lifestyle and practices of Muhammad as recorded in a collection of writings called the Hadith.  The Sunni accept the "Sunnah" as a source of spiritual wisdom, while the Shiite insist on the primacy of the Koran. 


The smaller of the two principal branches of Islam, the Shiite account for at least 10 percent of all Muslims.  They originally were followers of the fourth caliph, Ali, who was Muhammad's son-in-law through his marriage to the prophet's daughter Fatima.  Ali claimed that Muhammad on his deathbed selected Ali as leader of the faith, but Ali was murdered during the fifth year of his reign.  The Shiite formally broke away from Muslim leaders recognized by the Sunni around 680.  A principal belief of the Shiite is that no caliph since Ali has been legitimate.  The movement became popular among disaffected non-Arab Muslims who feared they were held in lower esteem within the faith. 


Accounting for less than 1 percent of all Muslims, the Kharijis were the first major schism within Islam.  They broke away in 658 when they rejected the use of arbitrators empowered to decide major issues within the faith. 


A secretive Islamic breakaway group concentrated in Lebanon around Mt.  Hermon and in the mountains near Beirut and Sidon.  They refer to themselves as the Mowahhidoon.  Most Muslims consider the sect blasphemous since it declared that God was manifested in human form as the Egyptian caliph al Hakim Bi-amr Allah 1,000 years ago.  They number at least 250,000.  The Druze do not accept new members, virtually never discuss their faith and often pose as members of the dominant religion where they live. 


A small branch of Islam that broke away from the Shiite in the Ninth Century under the leadership of Ibn Nucair Namin Abdi.  Almost exclusively found on the Syrian coast plains, the Alawi have 1.5 million members including Syrian President Assad. 


A Shiite sect that believes the succession of spiritual leadership should have continued through the sons of Muhammad Ibn Isma'il.  The Ismali believe that Islam has never been without a living Imam, even though clearly recognized spiritual authority became increasingly rare as Islam matured. 


Founded in Qadian, India, by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who died in 1908.  Ahmadis believe their founder was a renovator of Islam, a position most of the world's Muslims consider to be heretical.  The group has many enthusiastic missionaries. 


These are the mystics within the Muslim faith, a religious order that follows mystical interpretations of Islamic doctrines and practices. 


These take their practices from as-salaf us-salih (meaning the pious predecessors); Rasoolullah (saw) and the sahaba, from the first three generations.  They do not follow the teachings of a specific venerated imam, although they do refer to their teachings.  Salafiyyah strives to be free from biddah and cultural misguidance.

Wahhabi Movement:

Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab began a campaign of spiritual renewal in the smaller city states of Arabia in the mid- 1700s.  His extremely traditional group opposed all innovations within Islam, often using violence to enforce its views.  The group threatened to become the first nation state in Arabia, prompting a crackdown by the Egyptian army in 1818.  Today, Wahhabism is quite strong in Saudi Arabia.  It demands punishment for those who enjoy any form of music except the drum and severe punishment up to death for drinking or sexual transgressions.  It condemns as unbelievers those who do not pray, a view that never previously existed in mainstream Islam.  Wahhabism was an inspiration to Osama bin Laden.




Ipswich & Suffolk Bangladeshi Muslim Community Centre
and Mosque

The growth of the Bangladeshi Muslim community during the 1970s and 1980s resulted in the urgent need for a permanent place of worship.  So in 1984, they purchased a Victorian Fire Station from Ipswich Borough Council which, even with the later addition of a portacabin, was soon unable to accommodate the community especially for Friday prayers and during Ramadan and Eid.

After running a long fundraising campaign they managed to purchase an adjoining building in 2006 and after total refurbishment of the site the new Ipswich Mosque opened on 13th May 2009 with the intention of serving the now diverse Muslim community.

Inside, the mosque has no seating, but it is beautifully carpeted, as Muslims stand and kneel on the floor when praying.



On Friday Jummah prayers may be attended by over 500 worshippers. There is an area for women, and a community centre enabling the provision of classes and various other activities.

The Ipswich Mosque, 32-36 Bond Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 1JE



Shah Jalal Masjid (Ipswich)


Previously a shop, this building was also acquired in the 1980s and converted into a Mosque by the Ipswich Bangladeshi Community.

Shah Jalal Masjid, 110-114 St Helens Street, 110-112 St Helens Street,
Ipswich, Suffolk IP4 2LB



Kurdish Community Centre (Ipswich)


There is now a significant number of Kurdish Muslims living in Ipswich. They have now purchased a closed public house and converted it into a Mosque and Community Centre. It is also used by other Muslims living close by.

Kurdish Community Centre, 77 Norwich Rd,
Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 2PR



Other Muslim Groups

Muslim immigrants and refugees from many parts of the world have now settled here and are gradually finding places to meet and pray.  Outside Ipswich, in Lowestoft, Newmarket and Bury St.  Edmunds there are various groups using temporary accommodation, especially for Friday prayers.  In smaller towns like Sudbury there is also a visible Muslim community. 


Ipswich and Suffolk Muslim Council (ISMC)

This is an umbrella organisation for the Muslims of Suffolk which seeks to be inclusive and promote co-operation, consensus and unity on Muslim affairs.  It aspires to raise awareness of Islam and Muslims in the wider society and to promote good community relations.

For further information.  Please contact:

ISMC, PO Box 915, Ipswich IP1 9PY or email: ipswichsmc@yahoo.co.uk


Jam'at Ihyaa' Minhaaj Al-Sunnah (JIMAS)

JIMAS is a UK based Charity Organisation that has been operating since 1984.  Thus it has a pioneering history going back over twenty five years.  During these years it has gathered much experience and good results by the grace of Allah.  It carries out all its activities according to the truth of Allah's final revelation to mankind, namely the noble Quran and the blessed teachings of His last Messenger to humanity, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).  Its primary role is education through promotion and maintenance of projects that achieve all three types of actions mentioned in the narration below.  Thus its main objective is to facilitate recurring charity (sadaqa jariyya) for Muslims and this underpins all activities without any compromise.

For further information.  Please contact:

JIMAS.  24 Bishops Hill, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP3 8EN

Website: http://www.jimas.org




For Muslims the word 'faith' includes believing in some things that are unseen e.g., God, an Afterlife, angels and the soul.  However, faith is supported by reason, the evidence of creation, a logical process and natural human instinct or perception.  Underpinning faith in Islam is a deeply held conviction in human dignity due to humanity's possession of intellect.  To have faith does not necessitate that every such person must understand the theology of that faith.  Islam requires Muslims to use reason to try and understand life, its purpose, goals and suitable behaviour.  Ultimately it is about an ethical approach to life as encapsulated by the Prophetic statement, "I have not been sent but to complete the generous and beautiful behaviour."

The scholars have said that Islam's view of freedom is rooted in the postulate that the individual enjoys liberty in all things provided that this does not violate the rights of others and the collective interest of the community.

The term 'secular' was invented by George Holyoake in 1846 to describe the promotion of a social order separate from religion, without actively dismissing or criticising religious belief.  This type of secular public sphere is desirable where many faiths inherently contend for followers.

The public sphere is where contests take place over the definition of the 'common good', and also of the virtues, obligations and rights that members of society require for the common good to be realized.  Everyone has the right to try to persuade the other to his or her viewpoint including that of beliefs.

  One of the preconditions for civil society is the 'existence of a relatively independent public sphere' in which debate takes place that 'influences' political decision-making.  Jurgen Habermas, whose name is closely associated with the idea of the public sphere, sees as its essential element the historical emergence in Europe of 'rational-critical' discourse among the 'reasoning public' of eighteenth century bourgeois society (Calhoun 1992:7).

It is a space of critical discussion, debate and dialogue, open to all, where private people came together to form a public whose "public reason" would work as a check on state power.

Ideally it is an intermediate space in which ideas are presented on their own merits rather than as emanating from such authorities as preachers, judges and rulers.  Authority is vested in the public sphere itself.  In it, all participants have in principle an equal opportunity to persuade others.

Iin Islam anyone can be decent, upright, ethically sound and moral.  The discussion is rather in consideration of authority.

Faith has to have a legitimate place in the public sphere.  If a religion is isolated from the surrounding culture then it breeds all sorts of atrophied and deviant streams of ideas and practices which will be ill-adjusted to society at large.  Societies do play a powerful role in shaping and constraining religions into a formal and acceptable paradigm of what a religion should be.  Religious movements and representations in public life can institute a sense of legitimacy through congregational forms of deliberation and cannot be neglected as being part of the process through which norms are produced.

Islam's objectives are the preservation of 5 universal matters:






Anything that preserves these five goals is deemed good and beneficial whereas anything that undermines them is deemed bad and removing this bad is considered to be good.  Even if something is perceived to be good but does not protect any of these objectives then it is deemed harmful.

If we could classify an item as either absolutely essential or simply needed or as a luxury then generally all luxuries can be forgone for needs, and all 'needs' can be given up for what is absolutely essential.

If we don't know or don't understand something then we should admit that.  Muslims are obliged to seek knowledge and it is the process which is reckoned more important than arriving at an answer.

Matters shall be judged by their objectives."

"Certainty shall not be removed by doubt" which includes the precept that innocence is to be assumed until guilt is proven.

"Hardship shall bring alleviation" which means that the law cannot validly require anything which people are incapable of fulfilling without undue difficulty.  In fact, necessity makes the prohibited permissible.

"Harm or difficulty shall be removed" which invalidates rulings that lead to harm, even if technically valid.  Anything that leads to harm or difficulty is always undesirable.  The precedence is always removal of harm over and above attainment of something positive or good, starting with greater harm over lesser harm.  In addition the general good is given precedence over specific good.  Freedom in Islam finds its meaning in "belonging to the community and participating with the people".  It is egalitarian in that freedom is not enjoyed at the expense of causing harm to others, and it is communitarian because in the event of a conflict between individual freedom and social good, the latter is often given priority over the former.

"Cultural usage shall have the weight of law" which means that cultural usage is definitive implying that customary usage has authority similar to fundamental textual precepts of the law.

Faith for many people has energies and vitalities that cannot be safely or beneficially excluded.  Organised religion does have a right to claim a stake in the public sphere, because although there are cases where they may speak for a minority, the majority of the people do identify with some faith and religion.  In the case of Muslims, the overwhelming majority are believers with varying degrees of practice.

However, although religious groups should be consulted by local or national government, one should be acutely aware of self-seeking and incapable "leaders", who are invariably unelected and unaccountable to the public or even to their own sub-community.  There is no need for gross generalisation of Muslims as forming a monolithic block neither to drive at an essential Islam.  Both harms unity and co-operation in universal values.

Islam as understood and practised by its adherents must constantly seek to be contextually correct against the global and national backdrops, i.e., Muslims must continue in earnest to develop and maintain sound hermeneutics to interpret religion in contemporary terms and the contemporary modern world in religious terms.

Are there common patterns for integrating the personal practice of religion into public life?

Who are the actors in this integration and what impact do they have on public policies?

What do we mean by religion in the public sphere? Does it require a theological reform or just a recasting of religiosity?

How are the changes and challenges in Western societies reflected in Muslim understanding and practices of Islam?

How do national norms of citizenship and national norms regarding the relationship between religion and the state shape the adoption of different approaches to this issue?

What is the relationship between Islam and culture? How does this relationship vary across the major religious traditions? What is distinctive about religion as a discourse of identity?

When people of faith enter the public sphere, they would do well to a) be respectfully tolerant and lenient in pressing their points across and b) beneficially contribute as equals among many which makes clear what they stand for.

Islam has a clear fundamental ethic for engaging in the Public Sphere.  This ethic has everything to do with fulfilling trust through service to humanity and creation, through love and respect.  The Muslim's duty is to live a life of stewardship, upholding the trust to care for, protect, preserve and serve humanity, the environment and creation in general.  Islam teaches that the way a person treats God's creation, God will treat them in the same manner in this life and the Next.

Abu Dhar, states, 'I asked the Messenger of God about how the worshipper is saved from the Hell-fire,' and he answered, 'By faith in God.'

'0 Messenger of God, is there no deed with faith?'

He said, 'Then let him enjoin justice and forbid wrongdoing.'

'And what if he is unable to enjoin justice and forbid wrongdoing?' 'Then let him assist some simple person.'

'0 Messenger of God, what if he were too weak and unable to help someone who has been wronged?'

`Do you not wish to leave your friend any good? Then let him restrain himself from harming others.'

'0 Messenger of God, do you mean someone will enter heaven for doing thus?'

He replied, "Anyone who manages but one of these things I have described will be taken by the hand into Paradise."

Talk by M.  Manwar Ali, CEO of JIMA,

to a SIFRE seminar at Endeavour House on 26th January 2011



What does it take to be a good Citizen? Some fourteen hundred years ago, the Prophet Muhammad followed three simple principles to become a great and humane being –to be truthful, trustworthy and a peacemaker; indeed he was called Al-Amin, a summation of the three qualities.  He was trusted by all the tribes; even those at odds with each other; they could count on him to always be truthful.  Much before the advent of Islam, the sacred black corner stone fell off the wall of the Kaba, the revered centre of Mecca.  The infighting among the tribes began as to who would be privileged to place the stone back in its place.  As the conflict grew, they called upon Muhammad (the truthful and just) to find the solution.

Muhammad was inherently a peace maker, and strove for peace among the communities.  He laid out a sheet long enough on its perimeter for each one of the tribal leaders to place a hand on the sheet to lift the stone.  He placed the stone in the middle of the sheet and had every one participate in lifting the stone up, to set it in the wall.  Thus he was a model of inclusiveness and co-existence.

When Umar received the keys to Jerusalem from the Orthodox Christian Patriarch Sophronius, he was in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during his tour, and the time for prayer came.  Courteously the Patriarch invited him to pray where he was, but Umar as courteously refused.  "If I had prayed in your sanctuary," Umar explained, "my followers and those who come here in the future would take over this building and turn it into a mosque.  They would destroy your place of worship.  To avoid these difficulties and allow your church to continue as it is, I prayed outside." The bishop was impressed by his justice.  "Today, because of your justice, faith, wisdom, and truth, you .

have received the key to the Holy City.  But for how long will this remain in your hands? When will this sacred place come back into our possession?" Umar then replied, "As long as these four exist in Islam, as long as the Muslims have all four .

in their hands, they will retain the city." .

Compassion and peace goes hand in hand with truth, honesty, conscience and justice.

We say we want to bring peace to others, but in order to do that we must first find it within our own lives.  How can anyone who has not found peace within himself hope to bring peace to others? The Messenger of God, Jesus, met a man and asked him, "What are you doing?" "I am devoting myself to God," the man replied.  Christ Jesus asked, "Who is caring for you?" "My brother," replied the man.  Prophet Jesus said, "Your brother is more devoted to God than you are."

Islam is submission to God in peace.  Through that submission we find peace in ourselves which in turn produces peace, mercy and charity towards His creation.  While all creatures merit respect and just treatment, humanity is accorded paramount place in creation.

We believe that the Muslim who has not strengthened his own faith in God cannot strengthen the humanity of others.  How can a person who carries a water flask full of holes hope to quench the thirst of others? Peace can only be found in the heart.  The Prophet Jesus said, "Blessed is he who sees with his heart but whose heart is not in what he sees." The Prophet Muhammad said, "The richness is not with abundance of wealth, but richness is richness of the soul."

"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages and to magnify the evils of the present time

E.  Gibbon in "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"

This is how Edward Gibbon expressed the common human misconception of the good old days.  It makes memory pleasurable.

There are three aspects of our society that most of us take for granted:

the means that are available for a person to realise ambitions

the diversity of communities and subcultures

the freedom to create and to be creative

These measures are essential in order for civilisation to flourish.  They are necessary conditions for success of a people.  Virtually all Muslim communities anywhere in the world lack one or more of those three conditions, but all of us enjoy and benefit from them in our country.

There are pressures working against us and these all too often give rise to too much of a group solidarity, narrow focus and hankering after self-interests.  Two of the most important of these pressures are:

prominence of ethnic identity

predominance of Muslim immigrant understanding and reflection of Islam not fully adapted to our context in this country

"Culture is not just an ornament; it is the expression of a nation's character"

W.  Somerset Maugham

If you see a stranger being raped you will do something about it unless you have a compelling and specific reason not to.  Thus we have a clear conception that we have some kind of duty not just to behave decently ourselves but to prevent others from doing things to fellow humans which are wrong.  Yet in our society we lack a name for the duty still less a doctrine regarding it.  Islam provides both a name and a doctrine for a broad moral duty of this kind: al-amr bil ma'ruf wan-nahi 'an al-munkar.

This conjunction of commanding right and forbidding evil is found is seven places in the Quran, firmly establishing it as a duty.  There is nothing in Islam to narrow this concept of duty.  The verses demonstrate that people who carry out this duty hasten in all good works, regretful of their previous misconduct and laziness, prayerful, charitable, and patient in all suffering.

Loyalty to one's country and community is recommended, and so is self-exertion and sacrifice for a good cause, but not if these mean compromising on impartial justice.

Someone asked the Prophet Muhammad if he could summarise Islam in a few words for him.  He responded with the Qur'anic passage:

Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition.

The Quran, Chapter 16 verse 90

In both Islamic and Western thought, justice is also understood as a moral virtue and an attribute of personality within or outside the social context.  Ancient Greek thought conceived of justice as an aspect of the character of the individual.  Plato thus characterized justice as the right alignment of the individual soul, and Aristotle considered it one of the virtues needed to lead an excellent life.

Justice is a collective obligation and stands next in order of priority to belief in the Oneness of God (Tawhid) and the truth of the Prophethood of Muhammad.  Any path that leads to justice is deemed to be in harmony with the Shari'ah or God's Law.  And this law does not signify judicial norms but the route or the way.  Barely a thirtieth of the Quranic verses have a legal aspect.  Its principal object is moral in nature.

0 you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and do not let the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice.  Be just: that is next to Piety: and fear Allah.  For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.

The Quran, Chapter 5 verse 8

The Messenger of Allah said, "The merciful people will be treated with mercy by the Most Merciful.  Be merciful to those who are on the earth and He who is above the heavens will be merciful to you.”

Islam teaches that the way people treat God's creation, God will treat them in the same manner in this life and the Hereafter.

How we live with one another in pursuit of virtue is a test of our humanity and servitude before God. 

The Quran states:

“To each is a goal to which God turns him; then strive together (as in a race) towards all that is good.  Wheresoever you are, God will bring you together.  For God has power over all things.”

[The Quran, Chapter 2 verse 148]

Religious contexts still influences the local culture.  The young, either not matured or mellowed through life, view the fact that all the countries, most organizations and most individuals that are being targeted by the US-led 'war against terrorism' are Muslims, and consequently become angry.  Exposed to secular and Western ways of political thinking as well as urban living, detachment from cultural roots and history, some of them succumb to radicalism due to lack of proper instruction and training in the faith, rather than due to a sinister cultivation of aimless enmity.

The growth of Islamic fundamentalism in the UK has a lot to do with religiosity which is more important than religion – a religiosity driven by political awareness and fuelled by irrepressible feelings – a religiosity that could not calm the spirit and seek virtue in sound moral character, civic engagement and humble worship.

The BBC reported that in November 2005 a 12-year old Palestinian boy, Ahmed Ismail Khatib, was shot and killed in Jenin by Israeli troops.  The Israeli army expressed regret over his shooting, who had mistaken his toy gun for a real one.  His organs were transplanted into five Israeli children and an Israeli woman aged 58.  His father Ismail said, saving lives was more important than religion.  Preservation and saving of life is the highest of the five aims of God's Law according to Islam.  He said, "I feel that my son has entered the heart of every Israeli.” “I have taken this decision because I have a message for the world: that the Palestinian people want peace -for everyone," he told the AFP news agency.  "We have no problem whether it is an Israeli or a Palestinian [who receives his organs] because it will give them life," added the boy's mother, Ablah Khatib.

Mercy and its practical consequence, forgiveness, is the key to breaking the link in the chain.  The chain that forms when violence begets violence.

Enmity cannot be overcome with enmity.

Vengeance cannot be defeated by vengeance.

Jealousy cannot be overcome by jealousy.

Hatred cannot be overcome by hatred, nor anger by anger.

Let us not forget that community, family structure, a connection to deeper historical roots, and answers to 'authentic' values are essential for the psychological health of people as vital means to cohesion in society.


Friday 23rd November 2007



I greet you all with the universal Islamic greeting Assalamu Alaikum (peace be on you).

The Bangladeshi Muslims first moved to Ipswich during the 1960s and worked in the local factories as general labourers.  These early settlers subsequently brought their families from Bangladesh and made Ipswich their home.  These early Muslim immigrants were received warmly by the people of Ipswich and soon they obtained employment in local factories, bought their own houses and over time they became successful businessmen, setting their own catering businesses and shops.  These people contributed tremendously to the economic prosperity of Ipswich, its cultural diversity and richness.

The presence of over twenty five Bangladeshi restaurants, takeaways and shops in Ipswich is a testament to the economic contribution of Ipswich's Bangladeshi Muslim community.  There are also two mosques and a Bangladeshi Support Centre based in Ipswich which collectively contribute to making Ipswich an economically thriving, socially tolerant and culturally rich place to live and work in.  We will continue to work closely with all partner organisations such as Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Constabulary and others to promote economic regeneration, cultural understanding and social cohesion in Ipswich and Suffolk for the benefit of all its citizens.

from the Bangladeshi Muslim Community

Mayor’s Celebration of Community 2006



In the Name of God the Most Compassionate the Most Merciful 

The Arabic word "Islam" means "submission" The very name Islam comes from the Arabic root word 'salama' which means peace.  Thus,  by this very simple linguistic definition, one can ascertain as to what the nature of this religion is

Islam is a religion which is based upon achieving peace through the submission to the will of Allah.  In a religious context it means attainment of peace, inward and outward, through voluntary submission to the will of God

 "Allah" is an Arabic word means The God, which is used by all Muslims, particularly Arab Muslims and Christians alike.  Islam is a religion of peace, mercy, justice, forgiveness, virtue, inclusiveness and human dignity for all

Every Muslim starts any new beginning “In the name of God, the Most Compassionate the Most Merciful”.  This is a constant reminder to compassion and mercy in our day to day dealings

Every Muslim greets another by saying:

As salaamu alaikum - Peace be upon you

The holy Qur’an is the record of the exact words revealed by God through the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad.  The 114 chapters of the Qur’an have remained unchanged through the centuries and are still memorized and read by Muslims all over the world

Muslims  believe   in   One,    Unique,   and Incomparable God.  They believe in the Day of Judgment and individual accountability for their actions.  Muslims believe in a chain of prophets beginning with Adam and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, David, Solomon, and Jesus (peace be upon them all).  God's eternal message was reaffirmed and finalized by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him).  One becomes a Muslim by affirming, "There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God’’

Quran defines The mission of the prophet as:

“We have sent you forth as a blessing and mercy to mankind.”(21:107)

When Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) was asked:

“What is Islam?”   His reply took  less  than a minute,  showing  the  simplicity of the religion and its accessibility by all.  He said:

“Obedience to God, and kindness and compassion to humanity.”

Islam is not a new religion, message of Islam is the same truth that God revealed to all His prophets throughout history

In addition to believing in the holy  Qur’an, Muslims also believe in the holy Torah and the holy Gospel. 

’’It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong).”(3:3)

The holy  Qur’an affirms our belief in all of God’s Prophets without distinguishing among them.The faith of a Muslim is not acceptable unless he believes in all of the Prophets who preceded prophet Mohammad(PBUH).  This is such an integral part of the faith.  . 

“Say ye: "We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to the God.  (Q.21:136)

People of the Scripture are further granted a special consideration in Islam.

‘’those who believe, and the Jews, the Christians and the Sabians , whoever believe in God and the Last Day and does good , they shall have the rewards from their lord and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.’’

The holy Qur’an talks about the mankind in the following Way:

“O mankind! We created you male and female and set you up as a nations and tribes so that you may know one another.  The noblest among you in the sight of God are the most pious and righteous of you.’’ (Q.3:64)

If Islam is based on the notion of peace, then how is it that some  acts are done under the name of Islam are contrary to peace? The answer is simple.  Such actions, if not sanctioned by the religion, have no place with it.  They are absolutely not Islamic and should not be thought of as Islamic.

The foundation of Islam is base on oneness, Therefore the holy book needs to be read and understood in its entirety.  The background to each sura should be fully understood and one cannot take a verse revealed for a particular battle and conveniently leave out verses and insist it is for the daily affairs of Muslims.  These actions undermine The spiritual values of  message of the holy Quran and the image and sanctity of the Prophet of Islam.  Doing so aids those who have hijacked Islam for their misguided cause.  Neither the Quran nor the tradition in Islam justifies violence.

Ones who persecute innocent people because of their faith are not welcomed to the House of Islam, their use of Islam as a scapegoat does not make Islam what they portray it to be.  The holy Quran categorically prohibits coercion in matter of religion by sheer of force.  Islam teaches divine justice.  Individual is  responsible for his own decision and acts.  No one as far as Islam is concerned, is held responsible for another's  decision actions. 

Islam continuously reassures man of his rights to freedom of choice and freedom to use that God-given faculty of thought and reason.  therefore man is expected to reason things out objectively and systematically for himself.  To question and to reflect.  No one should press other to make a hasty decision to accept any of the teachings of Islam.  Every man has that individual will.  No one else can take that away that will and force him to surrender to the will of God.  One needs to find out and make that decision himself.  The faith is only acceptable when one comes to it with its mind and heart. 

The holy Quran and Hadith vehemently insist on religious tolerance and the idea of "no compulsion in religion."

The Holy Quran explicitly says "There is no compulsion in religion".  At another place the Heavenly Book says, "Don't create chaos and dissension on earth".  It is an established fact that Islam is basically and essentially the religion of peace, moderation and toleration, having no place at all for any extremism or violence

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in God have he has  taken  grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks, for God is All Hearing and Knowing’’.  (Q.  2:256)

Islam commands the Muslims to be just with people of other faiths, whether they be Jews, Christians, or pagans.  Islam calls us to treat them kindly and try to win their hearts. 

‘’And tell my servants that they should speak in a most kindly manner (unto those who do not share their beliefs).  Verily, Satan is always ready to stir up discord between men; for verily; Satan is mans foe ....  Hence, We have not sent you (Unto men 0 Prophet) with power to determine their Faith.’’ (Q.  17:53,54)

Allah commands Muslims to respect their non-Muslim parents and to accompany them in this world in a good manner

"Argue with the People of the Scripture in the best manner except those among them who act oppressively.  Say: We believe in the revelation that has come down to us and in that which came down to you.  Our God and your God is one, and it is to Him we submit ourselves as Muslims." (Q.29:46)

Here are some verses from the Holy Quran in relation to the message of the prophet  which show how Islam at it's core and at its source is a religion of peace. 

‘’0 Prophet 'We have not sent you except to be a mercy to all mankind:" Declare, "Verily, what is revealed to me is this, your God is the only One God, so is it not up to you to bow down to Him?' But if they turn away then say, "I have delivered the Truth in a manner clear to one and all, and I know not whether the promised hour (of Judgment) is near or far." (Q.  21 107-109)

‘’Assuredly, We have sent down the Book to you in right form for the good of man.  Who so guided himself by it does so to his own advantage, and whoso turns away from it does so at his own loss.  You certainly are not their keeper.’’ (Q.  39:41)

‘’Obey God then and obey the Messenger, but if you turn away (no blame shall attach to our Messenger), for the duty of Our Messenger is just to deliver the message’’ (Q.  64:12)

‘’But if they turn away from you, (0 Prophet remember that) your only duty is a clear delivery of the Message entrusted to you’’ (Q.  16:82)

‘’Oh Prophet  exhort; you cannot compel them to believe.’’ (Q.  88:21-22)

‘’And whoso takes for patrons others besides God, over them does God keep a watch.  you are not a keeper over them.  But if they turn aside from you (do not get disheartened), for We have not sent you to be a keeper over them; your task is but to preach’’  (Q.  42:6,48)

Say to them 'Whatever good betides you is from God and whatever evil betides you is from your own self and that We have (0 Prophet) sent you to mankind only as a messenger and all sufficing is God as witness.  Whoso obeys the Messenger, he indeed obeys God.  And for those who turn away.  We have not sent you as a keeper." (Q.  4:79,80)

And they ask, "When shall the promise be fulfilled if you speak the Truth?" Say, "The knowledge of it is verily with God alone, and verily I am but a plain  warner." (Q.  67:25-26)

(Noah to his people) He (Noah) said "0 my people! think over it! If I act upon a clear direction from my Lord who has bestowed on me from Himself the Merciful talent of seeing the right way, a way which you cannot see for yourself, does it follow that we can force you to take the right path when you definitely decline to take it?’’  (Q.  11:28)

(Three Messengers to their people)Said (the Messengers), "Our Sustainer knows that we have indeed been sent unto you, but we are not bound to more than clearly deliver the Message entrusted to us.'’ (Q.  36: 16-17)

To every people have We appointed ceremonial rites (of prayer) which they observe; therefore, let them not wrangle over this matter with you, but bid them to turn to your Lord (since that is the main objective of religion).  You indeed are rightly guided.  But if they still dispute you in this matter, (then say,) 'God best knows (the value of) what you do." (Q.  22:67)

Here are some sayings of the Prophet on how Muslims should treat their Non-Muslim neighbours on a day to day basis as well as how governments should treat a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state

"He who believes in God and the Last Day should honour his guest, should not harm his neighbour, should speak good or keep quiet." (Bukhari, Muslim)

"Whoever hurts a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state hurts me, and he who hurts me annoys God." (Bukhari)

"Beware on the Day of Judgment; I shall myself be complainant against him who wrongs a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state or lays on him a responsibility greater than he can bear or deprives him of anything that belongs to him." (AI-Mawardi)

I can not complete this work without remembering the wisdom of scholarship of Amir Al-Momenin Imam Ali( Blessing of Allah upon him) on being a noble human being.  He taught us:

 One hour of deep and sober contemplation is better than a life prayer without understanding.  He taught us to attach due important to sincerity of purpose of life.  Live in purity and work with nobility of purpose is form of prayers.  Man is recommended to dislike and abhor vices and wrong doing.  We are taught that who acts with pity gives rest to his soul.  We are encouraged to learn from nobility of life  Moses, Jesus and Mohammad and all other prophets (Peace be upon them all)

In a letter to his son on treatment of others Imam Ali wrote:

‘ My dear son, Do unto others as you wish others to do unto you.  Whatever you dislike to happen to you, spare others from such happening’ At another place he advices: Do not make yourself slaves of anybody.  God has created you free man, do not sell this freedom in return for anything.  Remember that to oppress a weak or helpless person is the worst form of tyranny.  Do good to your brother when he is doing harm to you.  Be friend to him when he ignores you.  Be generous to him if he is not to you.  Be kind to him when he is harsh and cruel to you.’

I hope this reflection of mercy and compassion that I have learned from my faith, in my  journey of life to be an encouragement to fellow travellers of other faiths  to help them to look inwardly to their hearts and find the compassion to understand Islam the way that Islam deserves to be understood.  Remember always That in the teaching of the holy Quran people are constantly guided to prefer Peace.  Sanctity of life is underlined in the following Qur’anic verses:

’’whoever saved a human life should be regarded as though he has saved all mankind.”(Q..5:32)

A positive step for people of other faiths is  to reflect on the  their own history and traditions too, and see fanatics and extremist exist in every nation and in the “followers” of every religion and   usually their cause is related to non-religious factors.  The extremists who misuse and exploit Scriptures to justify their wrong deeds are totally misguided.  It is necessary to have a unified stance in facing unjust, extremism  and fanaticism.  It is really a public duty where all of us have to co-operate and participate.  Moderates however are those who can bring dialogue and mutual understanding into the future and accept with dignity what we differ in.  Diversity is a blessing and as a sign of God abundant generosity . 

We only need to create  concrete and positive  outcomes of better understanding.  it is an insight that we desperately need to share.  It can take quite a while for everyone involved to grasp the ethos of dialogue.  Our dialogue and cooperation hopefully will be guided by the spiritual and ethical wisdom that are contain in our holy scriptures. 

‘’The True servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk gently  on the earth’’ (Q.  25:63)

I would like to sum up with the words of whom that is a  ‘Bridge’  between people of all faiths, Jesus(PBUH), the one who is deeply  loved and respected  by  all.  Words  that are  the two  greatest foundation on which Christianity has been based. 

‘’Love the lord with your heart, all your soul and all your Mind.’’

‘’Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’’

(Matthews XXXIII : 37,39,40)

An Islamic Prayer :

Oh God ,  You are Peace, from you come peace, to you return peace, revive us with a salutation of peace and lead us to your abode of peace. 

I  Will close by Islamic traditional blessing:

 ‘May God’s Love and Blessing be upon you’

  Wa -s-Salamu Alaykum wa Rahatu-Lllah wa Barakatuh.

Elahe Mojdehi May 2005



“Fear of, or prejudice against, Muslims and Islam” has existed since the time of the prophet Muhammad.  The term itself dates from the late 1980s and has come into general use after  the destruction of the Twin Towers and associated attacks on the USA (2001), the London bombings (2005) and other acts of terrorism attributed to Muslims in recent years.

“The rise of Islam from the early 7th century onwards was seen in the Christian world and particularly in the West as the greatest challenge it had ever faced.  Islam was seen as not just a heresy, but as worse than a heresy.  It was seen as a false religion, worshipping a false god and essentially as the work of the devil.  Some people still see it that way and cite events like”9/11” as evidence.  The bitter opposition to a Muslim community centre in New York, a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero, might be seen as exemplifying this attitude.  Christian fundamentalists and hard-line secularists alike unite in their hostility to Islam and Muslims because, they say, of the activities of Al-Qaida and its ilk.”  Rev.  Cliff Reed, President of SIFRE, 25th Sept.  2011

However, in an article in the Guardian on 10th Feb.  2012, Daisy Khan claimed that the hysterical campaign to stigmatise US Muslims poses a far greater threat to America’s civic union than radicalisation does.  She says that there is an increasingly organised campaign to portray all Muslims as potential terrorists and traitors.  Similarly, in the UK, the majority of Muslims, who denounce terrorism in all its forms and totally dissociate themselves from acts of violence, can feel that they are viewed with suspicion and are in danger of abuse and attacks.

There are a minority of Muslims who have been become militant and pose a danger to society, sometimes because of a hatred of the West and its values; sometimes because they have misunderstood the basic principles of Islam.  Unable to read the Qur’an in its original language and not having engaged with the faith in depth they are vulnerable to the influence of extremists. 

All religions have had shameful times in their history.  Christians need to acknowledge past atrocities committed in their name and they need to be aware that these events will have an impact on present relationships and actions.  Words have to be carefully chosen especially in times of crisis.  President Bush’s unfortunate pronouncement that he would wage a “crusade against terrorism” in response to the events of 9/11 were seen by some as inflammatory by recalling brutal aggression by Christians in the Middle Ages.  Later he spoke more sensitively:  “The face of terror is not the true face of Islam………a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world.” 

It is unfortunate that the true meaning of the word “Jihad” (striving) is not generally understood.  It embraces studying and working hard, being a good parent, discharging one’s duties as a citizen or neighbour.  In the last resort it can include a “Holy War” but this cannot be by an act of aggression.  It is similar to the ”Just War” concept within the Christian tradition, which is hemmed about by many qualifications to limit damage and to protect the innocent.  In the Qur’an it is clearly stated that to kill one innocent person is the same as to kill everyone (Qur’an 5.32). 

Throughout the Qur’an, Allah (God) is described as the Compassionate, the Merciful.  He places compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who follow Him (Qur’an 57.27).  The word “Islam” comes from the same root as Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace.  It also carries the meaning of submission.  Therefore a true Muslim is one who freely submits his will and heart to Allah and is thus able to live at peace, with believers and non-Muslims alike. 

“Terrorists are not on our side – they are in fact our opponents.  They are an obstacle to our cause which is to be a force for good, to spread peace among our people – all the people of this country”.

Dilwar Hussain, President of the Islamic Society of Britain

Muslims, Jews and Christians are known as Children of Abraham, and as People of the Book.  There are many texts honouring Jesus and Mary in the Qur’an and all three faiths have much teaching in common.  Jews, Christians and Muslims have many opportunities to meet each other and members of other faiths.  Fear and prejudice can be replaced by greater knowledge and mutual understanding.  The world needs this leaven”! (Mt.  13v33)

“Guide our religious communities and those set over them,

That they may not only proclaim the message of peace

But also show it in their lives.”

from A Prayer for the Abrahamic faiths, by Hans Kung.

Assalamu Alaikum – Peace to you!

Cynthia Capey

from Facing the Issues (published by Kevin Mayhew, 2012)



I was born in Blackburn, Lancashire in 1962.  Although I have lived in the UK for the past fourteen years my formative years were spent in Bangladesh.  In fact the best way to describe me would be as a  product of  the East and the West.


I always acknowledge my Bangladeshi background when asked about my ethnic origin; otherwise I consider myself a British national.  Unlike the majority of  immigrants from Bangladesh my parents did not come to the U.K.  for economic reasons.  Rather, acquiring a good education was the goal.  Originally they had come to the U.K.  in the late Fifties so that my father could obtain his M.R.C.P.  (Member of Royal College of Physicians) degree.  They afterwards returned to the former East Pakistan in the mid‑Sixties.  However, they decided to come back to the UK in the early Eighties so that their three daughters could benefit from the education system.

Both my parents are practising Muslims.  They come from upper middle‑class families with long standing common interests in education and religion.  Both families were land owners for many generations, but by the beginning of this century were able to recognise that the future lay in education rather than inherited wealth.  Perhaps more surprisingly, against the background of the Indian sub‑continent where women are only recently beginning to enjoy some equality with men, the importance of educating and encouraging independence in the female members of  the family was understood early on by my great‑grandfathers.  Later on the two families also shared the experience of migrating to the former East Pakistan from India after the partition in 1947.

My  maternal great‑grandfather, a medical doctor who was awarded an O.B.E., employed governesses in the 1920s to educate his daughters and sent them to convent schools.  In the late 1950s my maternal grandfather, a judge with experience of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, endorsed my mother's wish to become a medical doctor; a dream which was later realised with the help and support of my father, himself a doctor.  Similarly, despite the premature death of my paternal grandfather in 1945, a  Secretary of  Bengal Legislative Assembly during his life time, all three of his daughters continued and completed University education at the encouragement of their brothers and husbands.  The daughters‑in‑law of the two families are also without exception University educated.

First Life  (1981‑1986)

My mother returned to the U.K.  in 1981 followed by my father the next year, because the political instability in Bangladesh had made it increasingly difficult to get a good education for my sisters and I.  The significance of this move can be understood by comparing our life in Dhaka (Bangladesh) with that in London ‑ especially in the early years.

We spent the first three years in a two roomed rented accommodation in a rundown part of  South London.  Our main luxury was a 12  television set which we bought in 1982.  Between 1981 and 1983 we did not receive many visitors nor did we visit many people, although London accommodated a fair number of  Bangladeshis who were either relatives or friends.  Our constant companion was a portable three ‑in‑one music set  which we had brought with us.  We all worked hard and kept each other company.

In contrast, in Dhaka we had left behind a five bedroomed house with a garden overlooking a lake; we also had servants and a car.  Dhaka of course was also the home of my maternal grandparents, numerous uncles, aunts, cousins and friends.  At the age of  fifty‑three years and at the pinnacle of his career as the top most heart specialist in Dhaka my father came back to London to work as a locum doctor.  (After a change of career eight times he is now a permanent member of a G.P.  practice.)  Similarly, since 1981 my mother has worked more or less on a voluntary basis at the Liver Unit of Kings College Hospital in London; although her work resulted in many publications in medical journals she is now in enforced retirement due to lack of funds for further research work.

My parents knew that life would not be easy in the U.K.  but still decided to come.  The only way we were able to survive as a family the harsh realities of the transition from Bangladesh to Britain was through steadfast faith.  Throughout this period my sisters and I were encouraged by my mother to remain firm in our belief  that Allah would provide and help us overcome the barriers.

In 1984 we bought a maisonette in North London.  My father also bought a car around this time.  Gradually we also started to expand our circle of acquaintances, had a wider social life and began to feel relatively secure both financially and in our outlook.

Throughout these difficult first years we held on to our Bangladeshi cultural and moral roots.  We continued to observe family rules, for example, that only Bengali could be spoken at meal times (this was mainly for the benefit of my younger sisters who would have otherwise forgotten Bengali) and that all three sisters had to be present for Sunday brunch (we were allowed to go out on Saturday night and stay over with friends rather than come home late on public transport).  During meal times we discussed everything ranging from what happened during the day to the latest pop group or fashion to politics and religion.

Unlike the majority of families from Bangladesh, or from Muslim background, my parents encouraged us to become self‑dependent and  allowed us to have an equal say in major decisions.  Most importantly, we were encouraged to ask questions about both Islamic and Bengali ideologies so that we could understand and accept them on our own terms, especially within the framework of  the Western culture that we were living in.

In retrospect  these family debates and discussions were invaluable.  These helped us three sisters to place ourselves on an equal basis in our adopted society while retaining the basic values and principles of our Bangladeshi Muslim roots.  Needless to say this constructive approach also created a very strong bond between my parents and the three sisters.  It also resulted in a better understanding and friendship between the two generations.

However, the picture will be incomplete if  I did not add that these years were difficult for my parents as they adapted their outlook and unlearnt many principles they had held sacred all their lives.  For example, my sisters and I preferred to dress in Western clothes for day to day purposes rather than traditional Bangladeshi outfits.  Additionally, their decision to move to the U.K.  had been unpopular with the greater families and therefore difficult to be accepted by all concerned.  During this time my parents were also under a lot of pressure from the greater families to  marry‑off  their daughters, particularly me, and received a lot of  proposals of marriage.

Although I went along to meet a number of these prospective husbands, I did not marry any of them.  (The greater family's advice of course reflected the traditional outlook of the Indian sub‑continent that regardless of the educational status of a woman her salvation can only lie in marriage, motherhood and the  microwave oven!)  These years were difficult for the three sisters as in our own ways  we battled to strike some form of balance between the Eastern and Western forces that tried to make permanent impressions on our young minds.  And of course our discussion sessions did not always run smoothly and ended up many times in the exchange of angry words.

During this period my goal was to complete school and college education in order to compete in the job market on equal terms as a woman.  In 1982 after completing A‑Level examinations I joined the London School of Economics and Political Science where I earned a B.Sc.  degree in 1985 and went on to complete an M.Sc.  degree in 1986.  During these years I undertook many holiday jobs.  These ranged from helping in a bakery, to working for British Telecommunications, to assisting at a Summer Camp for disabled children in Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

My outlook and personality continued to broaden and be coloured through travelling abroad during my student days.  In 1983 I toured the U.S.A.  with seven British counsellors from the Summer Camp; we travelled from New York to Chicago to Las Vegas to San Francisco enjoying many famous sights.  Again, in 1986 my youngest sister and I back‑packed our way across Europe covering the Netherlands to Italy to France, including trekking into Hungary and the former Yugoslavia.

These trips were inevitably done on shoe‑string budgets, but they painted fascinating and unforgettable pictures of other cultures and terrains on my mind.  Although these experiences were not unusual in themselves, looking back I cannot help thinking that in the context of my Bangladeshi Muslim background it will be difficult to find many such parallels.

At all times, however, the desire to explore and experience life complemented and strengthened my faith in Allah, and my belief in myself.  Throughout the first life years my parents gave rock solid support to myself and my sisters in both our academic and non‑academic endeavours, patiently helping us take the easy steps as much as the difficult ones.  As a result one of my sister has now become a lecturer of  Sociology and the other is about to complete a PhD in  Microbiology, and I am a banker.

Second Life  (1986‑1993)

After finishing my formal education I joined the Bank of England (the Bank) in 1986.  It was also the year I met my husband, Kamran, and the year my maternal grandfather died.  By this time our life in the U.K.  had become more or less stable and my parents had moved to a bigger house.  I had also begun to feel comfortably integrated into the British society.  Although I did not recognise it at the time, the death of my  maternal grandfather followed by that of my maternal grandmother in 1988 started the gradual erosion of the special bond between myself and Bangladesh.

The most emotionally difficult blow was struck when my grandparents' house, the house that symbolised my childhood, was torn down in 1989.  From then on I could only look forward to a life as a British Muslim in the U.K.  (Since my paternal grandparents had passed away before my parents were married the bonding with my uncles, aunts and cousins on my father's side remained strong but could not stop the haemorrhaging of my special bond with Dhaka; as neither could the closeness with my uncles, aunts and cousins on my mother's side.)

This turning point of my life coincided with the growing awareness and understanding of  British society on two different levels simultaneously.  Firstly, the Bank afforded an overview of  the City  of London (the City) as a major international financial centre; and secondly, following my marriage and move to Ipswich in 1989 I came to know life outside the metropolis of London.  Both experiences have been invaluable and fascinating in their own ways.

I will not dwell on the workings of the Bank and the City since much has been written about the subject.  Strangely enough though working at the Bank has reinforced the three A's of my life: Activity, Affection and Allah.  In contrast to the City, and indeed London, the pace of life in Ipswich seems very relaxing.  And the community spirit still seems to flourish here, with many neighbourhoods offering a sense of friendship seen in bygone days.  The open green space that surrounds the town, with the country side only minutes away, adds to the charm of  Ipswich.  In many ways  Ipswich reminds me of the life we left behind in Dhaka.

Contrary to the popular image of marriage within the Indian/Bangladeshi community, Kamran and I did not have an arranged marriage; as did none of our siblings.  We met through a mutual friend, and became friends before considering and undertaking vows of marriage.  I believed that it was important to get married only when I was ready to do so, and even then only to a like minded person.  As a result I enjoyed my life as a single person to the full ‑ travelling, meeting both male and female friends, going to theatres, trying out restaurants ‑ doing everything that any other young person would do.

Luckily  Kamran has a similar outlook to myself and had enjoyed his bachelor life in a similar way.  He was born in Moradabad near Delhi in India in a Muslim family with a similar background to ours.  His parents also put emphasis on education and sent Kamran to a boarding school in the U.K.  at the age of  thirteen because his father s work with the United Nations entailed travelling all over Africa.  Later on Kamran graduated from Cambridge in 1979 before joining British Telecommunications the same year.  He went on to gain an M.Sc.  from Imperial College in 1986.

In addition to these similarities, we both enjoy having  friends from across the length and breadth of society  because we believe that people need to be judged by their actions rather than on the basis of their race, religion or wealth.  (And certainly the Quran asks Muslims to be tolerant towards other religions, especially those which have received the Book.)  However, despite such common experiences and viewpoints I feel that the necessity of getting used to the dissimilar set of values and outlook proffered by Kamran's family and culture has been somewhat more difficult than integrating into the British society.  In other ways, the long  term exposure of  his family to Western culture has made it easier for me to continue to uphold my  non‑conventional  values.  For example, I have no problem wearing Western clothes at my in‑laws because Kamran's mother and sisters do so.

Fortunately, Kamran is a firm believer of the Islamic principle that men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah.  However, Islam also advocates that men are responsible for their women‑folk.  Although initially it was difficult for me to understand this dichotomy I have now realised that my husband's responsibility towards me does not exclude my right as a woman to live on an equal basis as a man.  In fact it is seldom mentioned that the first wife of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was a successful business woman who held her own in a man's world.  I believe that Islam is a dynamic religion which allows the interpretation and adaptation of the verses of the Quran according to the time and the era.  For instance, the Quran told us fifteen hundred years ago that  Allah created man from a clot of blood, which may not have been understood until recently when science explained the meaning of conception to us.

Interestingly enough it was only after my marriage that I first glimpsed the British/ Indian  lifestyle enjoyed by those of  Indian sub‑continent origin settled in the U.K.  since the Sixties and Seventies.  I was truly amazed to discover that one could live the life of an Indian while being completely submerged in the English way of life.  (But, of course, many people still continue to remain cocooned within the Indian way of life without much regard for the host culture or ways.)  It was also around this time that I first visited Brick Lane, Ealing Road and Southall in London.  These places are not only the visible icons of the Bangladeshi, Gujrati and Punjabi communities in London but also perhaps the nerve centres of these communities.  But my first visit to the Regent Park Mosque in London on a Eid day was perhaps the most impressive, as I saw thousands of Muslims of all nationalities and cultures meeting to say their prayers and to celebrate the end of a month of fasting (Ramadan).  Since leaving Bangladesh it was the first time I had been in such a large gathering of Muslims.

During this period I had been often reminded of my mother's encouragement to look at the principles and underlying philosophies of Islam instead of superficially following the ways of a Muslim life.  As a result, I tried to study the Quran and the life of Muhammad (Peace be upon him) with an open mind and I have tried to follow Islam as the dynamic religion it is.

For example, many Muslim women and girls in the U.K.  choose to cover their heads with scarves as a sign of  modesty and brave the cold weather in their native garments rather than Western clothes.  Now, the practice of covering the head arises out of  the advice in the Quran to dress in such a way as not to attract undue attention.  Importantly, the advice is directed equally at men and women.  But somewhere along the annals of history religion, culture and the concept that  women are responsible for controlling the baser instincts of men  (rather than men being responsible for their own actions) have merged resulting  in Muslim women either subjecting themselves or being subjected to restrictions not visited upon men.  Therefore, scarf‑draped ladies are rarely seen to be accompanied by similarly covered men.  Although I cover my head for saying my prayers I will only do so in a social gathering if the Muslim men present do the same.

Also, since according to my interpretation of the Quran I believe that I am allowed to wear Western clothes as long as I am dressed modestly, I continue to do so.  Another example is that many Muslims do not touch meat or poultry which is not Halal.  However, I find it difficult to believe that if circumstances are such that I must either eat non‑Halal meat or starve then Allah, the Most Merciful, would consider it a sin if  I choose the former.  In fact I have had to make this choice many times when travelling outside the U.K.  in other Western countries, especially where vegetarian food is not easily available.  Ironically, unscrupulous meat merchants in the U.K.  take advantage of steadfast Muslims and sell them non‑Halal meat as Halal, thus making a mockery of the whole argument.

By 1993, twelve years after arriving in the U.K.  I have become a moderate British Muslim without  compromising my faith, values and outlook.

Third Life  (1994 ‑ 1995)

The current phase of my life in the U.K.  is as a mother.  Kamran and I became the proud parents of a baby girl, Farah, in September 1994.  We hope to raise her as an integrated British Muslim.  Although we do not expect it to be an easy task  we aspire to succeed.  This is also the time when we perhaps really begin to understand our parents and appreciate the difficulty of the task they faced in bringing up their children.  In fact, I believe that it is one of the hardest and most responsible task that one could ever be expected to undertake.

Since my third life has just started I am yet to face all its trials and tribulations and joys and achievements.  But I continue to believe strongly in Allah and Islam and  I hope to have the strength to overcome all difficulties and teach Farah to do the same.  I have realised, however, that the rat race starts before babies even get out of their nappies!!


I believe that there are many moderate, i.e.  faithful but integrated, Muslims like myself in the U.K.  However, there are perhaps also as many if not more fundamentalist Muslims who do not wish to integrate culturally to the extent that Kamran and I and our families have done.  Frequently the actions of  such Muslims, even with the best of intentions, become translated incorrectly and therefore misunderstood.  In many ways the more fundamentalist of my fellow Muslims are in fact just trying to maintain their roots.  Just as their counterparts from Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist backgrounds are also trying to do, and just as the Europeans did a few centuries ago in countries they colonised.  The main difference seems to be that following the end of the cold war Muslims find themselves being portrayed as the new  Bogey‑man  of the West.  In fact the villains in many popular films and novels are now Islamic terrorists.

Of course international terrorism can never be condoned and I believe that blame should be given where it is due, but the reasons behind such desperate acts need to be addressed.  Otherwise, the outright dismissal of perceived grievances conveys the message that only Muslims care about each other and must unite against everyone else; i.e.  the  Bogey‑man  becomes a self‑fulfilling prophecy.  It also turns moderate Muslims into die‑hard fundamentalists.

My Story – Continued (June 2013)

It is incredible to think that almost fifteen years have passed since I wrote ‘My Story’.  Farah is now taking a gap year, experiencing the business environment within a global institution whilst our son Sami will be starting his GCSEs soon.  Although we are happy in our daily lives, unpredictable international and national events threaten to have an impact on our sense of belonging and acceptance within the wider community.  I refer to a number of exceptionally tragic occurrences including ‘9/11’, ‘7/7’ and ‘Drummer Rigby’ -  as well as the allied invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, with their far reaching consequences.

I believe that as a direct result of such events, the lives of Muslims living in the West have become difficult, as we are all tainted with the same brush – regardless of whether we are moderate, traditional or fundamentalist believers in Islam, or, perhaps just only Muslim by name.  Every one of us now seem to get labelled, and perhaps even more importantly, treated, as potential terrorists as soon as our religious identity becomes known.  My plea to greater society would be to understand that the vastly overwhelming majority of Muslims only want to live a happy, prosperous and successful life, just like everybody else. 

Rumana Zuberi



Being a mother to my

three teen‑aged daughters

was no problem,

was no problem to me,

neither was there any

difficulty with the Creator

Who wanted it thus

to be.


Being a mother, a

Muslim mother

with three  grown‑up

girls to be,

created havoc

with all the others

all the well‑wishers

for me.


They resented and they shrank away

as far away as could be,

that, I did allow

my young daughters

to walk on their own ‑‑

on their own completely.


Yes, I did say

to my innocent daughters

that, you would

never be alone

on your own,

Allah the Guardian

would surely be

with you

forever and ever and ever


you be.

Shams Zaman



I was born in the UK but spend my early child hood in Karachi, Pakistan.  I was brought up as a Muslim and followed Islamic practices without giving much thought on what I practicing and why I was practicing.  For example;

Why was I reciting Quran in Arabic although I could understand and speak English and Urdu?

Why was alcohol forbidden?

Why wasn’t I allowed to eat pork?

Why I couldn’t play lottery?

Why I couldn’t take interest?

I couldn’t get much clarification from parents as they always said that Allah has asked us to do so.  As everyone was practicing religion every day and there was nothing to compare it with I just followed the faith blindly until I travelled to Utah USA. 

My first interaction with Christianity was when I met couple of Mormon students who shared apartment with me at Utah State University.  They tried converting me into Mormonism but when I sat down with them and discussed Islam they found it very similar to Christianity.  However, they had differences with Christianity which I couldn’t agree with as a Muslim. 

I then moved to UK and have been living here since 2003.  I have learned more about Islam in the West then in Pakistan as I couldn’t find examples to compare Islam with when I was in Pakistan. 

I also found the answers to my questions raised earlier:

1.  Quran should be read in the language that the reader understands for clarity of thoughts.

2.  Alcohol is forbidden in Islam due to antisocial behaviour related to drinking and medical issues

3.  The fat contents in Pork can have detrimental effects on health

4.  Lottery has one winner and many losers, money invested is never returned

5.  Interest stops distribution of wealth evenly.

As an international student, challenges that I had to face to practice religion immediately after I left Pakistan was no provision of Halal food, interest based student loans, and no information about Islamic societies.  It wasn’t until I found a Mosque that most of my concerns were addressed.  I believe that universities should have a robust induction program for new students where close integration to Mosque or Islamic centre and Halal businesses should be included in the program.  The presence of Islamic societies and activities in the university will make new students welcome to their new environment.  Chaplaincy should have an integrating role for students with different religious backgrounds to work with commonalities and discuss the differences.  All faiths should be equally represented so students can understand other religions.

Tariq Effendi