The Egyptian Sami Al-Beheiri says that he is almost 70 years old and has lived in royal Egypt – the Egypt of Nasser, the Egypt of Sadat and the Egypt of Hosni Mubarak and then migrated to America.
He says during the sixty years of his life, Islam was something fairly different from what it is now. He speaks in his beloved Egyptian dialect, which we all understand because of the influence of the wonderful Egyptian songs and the films, the influence of its teachers, and its culture in addition to its TV serials.
Sami says: I can remember the manifestations of religion in the past as following:
“We never saw any veiled woman in Egypt except Umm Muhammad who was working for in one of our villages.
“We never saw any men with prayer marks on their foreheads in downtown.
“We never saw a man in the street wearing a short jalabiya (a traditional Egyptian garment) or woman wearing niqab.
“We never saw women attending religious lessons at the house of their friend Soso and their companion given by Sheikh Abdul Sabour who knows their religion more than them.
“The only religious program on television was “Noor on Nour” on Friday before a football match presented by Ahmed Farraj wearing a suit, married to Sabah the singer, not like today’s clergymen who appear in every program except those related to the kitchen.
“We never had visitors in our house, making fuss and wondering if we have a prayer rug or the direction of Qibla. They performed their prayers quietly and we did not feel it.
“People did not stop their work or meetings to perform prayers.
“The people went on a pilgrimage once in a lifetime, and did not go for Umrah every year, and when they do, women were always dressed in white, not black as they do now.
“There was only one mosque in the whole neighborhood and no prayer places under each building. There were no microphones and not blaring from loudspeakers.
“There were no lessons on the recitation of the Holy Quran.
“We never heard of ‘sheikh’ so and so or ‘bin’ preceded by family name as the clergymen of today.
“There were no tapes of the Holy Quran with the sound echo.
“We never heard about the torture in the grave or the snake.
“The clergymen who used to appear on television were prying free to spread the principles and teachings of Islam not for a few amount of money or millions. There was a state that monitored and inhibited and arrested those who encouraged division. There were no distinguished names and titles that accused others of disbelief and distinguished between Egyptian Muslim and Egyptian Christian, between the Shiite and Sunni, between the woman and the man between those who wear hijab and others who do not, and the same was with niqab and so on.
“We were never interested in knowing whether our schoolmates were Muslims or Christians.
“The world was spherical until a sheikh came and said it is flat.
“When a baby is born, the celebration was after a week but not slaughtering sheep as is the case now.
“When we were answering the phone, we used to say: ‘Hello’ not Hello ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum’ (Peace be upon you).
“Honestly, I missed it, I missed the Islam that I was born in and grew up feeding on its morals,” Sami concluded
This is not hypocrisy. Don’t you agree with him?
By Ahmad Al-Sarraf