Chapter 16: Contradictions




•George: It’s half past eight; do you think we’ll be able to keep our appointment with Gerges.

•Jamal: Let’s have breakfast quickly then go to him, and en route we’ll contact him and tell him that we may be a little bit late. I’m sure he’ll understand. Gerges is a respectable man, except for his cruel words to me yesterday...

•George: … His cruel words?!

•Jamal: He contacted me yesterday and praised you very much.

•George: I am sorry again about everything that happened.

•Jamal: It seems that you want to go back on our agreement!

•George: No, thank you Jamal. How grateful I am to you.

George and Jamal arrived at the world employment company, and George asked about Gerges; the secretary told him that he was waiting for him. The two entered and Gerges welcomed them.

•Gerges: Give me good news; did your friend bring the wallet?!

•George: First, let’s have a seat; second, I am sorry for the delay.

•Gerges: I spoke to your friend Jamal for a long time yesterday, and in fact he is a respectable man and I do not think he stole it - but I pressurized him a lot.

•George: Sorry, I tired you and hope you will forgive me. Jamal has a great character and he forgave me; I found my wallet in the hotel bathroom!

•Gerges: Ah, your mercy my Lord. May the Lord forgive you and me, I was very rough with Jamal!

•George: This is my friend Jamal.

•Gerges: My brother, excuse me for what I said yesterday.

•Jamal: Let bygones be bygones. The matter is finished and we have agreed to close it completely.

•Gerges: When did you know that George had found his wallet?

•Jamal: I found out at eight o›clock, when I gave him my wife›s gold in lieu of his wallet.

•Gerges: O Lord, I beg Your forgiveness. I›m sorry again, God is truthful [O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with any news, verify it, lest you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done] (Al-Hujurat: 6)

•George: What text is this?

•Gerges: This is an excerpt from the holy Qur›an.

•George: Do your Christians memorize the holy Qur›an too?

•Gerges: Didn’t I say to you I had a surprise for you tomorrow and I didn’t know if it would appeal to you or not! I embraced Islam only six months ago.

•George: Have you embraced Islam and left Christianity?!

•Gerges: Yes, what is strange about that? A lot of people adopt Islam; truly Islam is spreading quickly in the entire world, compared to other religions.

•George: Nothing strange, it is just the first time I have seen someone who›s adopted Islam.

Jamal was surprised and put his hand over his head, and said:

•Jamal: I was surprised about what you said to me yesterday, my brother, and I thought you were saying things for humanitarian reasons. May God make you happy in this world and the Hereafter.

•George: Happiness in this world and the Hereafter?! Regarding the Hereafter I do not know about it, but as for this world, there is happiness in the West.

•Jamal: If you mean the means of comfort and welfare, then I agree with you, but if you mean psychological happiness, the cases of unhappiness are on the increase. Thus, the cases of suicide, madness, breakdowns and psychological diseases are increasing very much in the West.

•George: Are you referring to me, Jamal?

•Jamal: I do not understand! What is the connection with what I have just said and you?

•George: I am part of that West you are speaking about.

•Jamal: The issue is concerned with the understanding of the meaning of happiness; if it is concerned with welfare or with inner emotions. I think the material life that lacks any spirituality is the cause of confusion, and so it is the cause of unhappiness.

•Gerges: Praise be to God that you found your wallet. So let›s leave the issue of happiness for now, as there are people waiting for their interviews and we have work to do.

•Jamal: You are right. Sorry, I am leaving now. When shall I return, George?

•Gerges: I expect to be late and suggest that you have a rest. When we are done I will give George a lift myself.

•George: Thank you. Could I see you tomorrow at eight o›clock, Jamal?

•Jamal: Alright, I’ll leave now, peace be upon you.

•Gerges: Jamal is a great man, how did you meet him?

•George: Through his brother in Britain. I must tell you something that he said about you that you do not know: before our arrival he said that you were very respectable, despite the fact that you were extremely cruel to him, and he thought that you were a Christian.

•Gerges: In Islam we have to be just, even with our enemies. God the Exalted says: [O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah and be just witnesses; and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is well-acquainted with what you do] (Al-Maidah: 8). But let’s leave this matter now, we need to discuss contracts first and then begin interviews. According to what you said, your time is limited.

•George: Okay, but I want to discuss with you your acceptance of Islam later.

•Gerges: At lunch or during our return to the hotel.

At six o›clock, George and Gerges left the employment company to return to the hotel. Following a day filled with interviews, contracts and agreements, George rode with Gerges in his car.

•Gerges: You’ve made a great effort in one day, and finished all the interviews. How were the ones you met?

•George: Actually, they exceeded my expectations. I admired the interviewees’ social nature, beside their professional qualities; such a mixture is not common in Britain. Thanks to your efforts, my job has become easier.

•Gerges: What is the next stage?

•George: I don›t want to rush. I still have two more interviews tomorrow and the day after in another two offices, after that I can make my final decision.

•Gerges: Alright, it is not good to rush.

•George: In fact, you made me remember my problem...How grateful I am to Jamal, this great person... But as you say it is not good to rush, then why did you rush and adopt Islam?

•Gerges: Ha ha! Now don›t be quick in jumping to conclusions. Who said to you I rushed? Rather, I was very late in changing.

•George: How?

•Gerges: I took a long time until I was convinced about Islam. The one who persuaded me was the owner of the company, although he did not pressurize, order or bother me to adopt Islam. After I was convinced, I actually waited six months before declaring my faith, and this was when I really delayed changing.

•George: Six months is not a long time and rather quick to make such a serious decision!

•Gerges: What if I had died in a state of disbelief, and became disgraced in the life of this world and the Hereafter?

•George: Wow! It appears you always make a connection between this world and the Hereafter, but could you point out to me what is the disgrace in this world and the Hereafter?

•Gerges: As for the disgrace of this world: I didn’t feel tranquil, relaxed and happy until I finally declared my faith. You may wonder at this, but this is the truth. The meanings of monotheism to God, servitude to him and resorting to him only, without taking partners with Him, makes the soul content even if one has problems in life. Some of our relatives abandoned me; rather they tried to harm me.

•George: Do monotheism and servitude make the heart happy?!

•Gerges: Yes, just as paganism, polytheism and the trinity makes one feel unhappy. As for the disgrace in the Hereafter: I don›t want to meet Allah while I associate partners with Him. In spite of His grace and mercy, God does not forgive associating partners with Him, but He forgives everything else. God was kind to me as I didn›t die before I made my declaration of faith.

•George: Your words are strange!

•Gerges: Why? What’s strange about them?

•George: Let’s complete our conversation in the hotel restaurant, now that we have arrived.

•Gerges: I hope you will allow me to leave as I›m late. Let›s discuss the matter later!

•George: Do you mean I›ll have the meal alone!

•Gerges: Sorry, if it doesn›t bother you.

•George: Never mind, excuse me.


George went upstairs to his room and put down his belongings and his brief case. He went downstairs directly to the hotel restaurant as he felt very hungry. While he was having supper, a person wearing strange clothes stood beside him.

•Ramy: Hi, sorry to bother you. My name is Ramy; can I have a word with you?

•George: Okay.

•Ramy: Were you the one taken to hospital yesterday?

•George: Yes.

•Ramy: Be very careful of the thieves in this country.

•George: Okay...well, you’re a bit late because I was robbed yesterday.

•Ramy: I know that, that›s why I›m reminding you.

•George: How do you know this?

•Ramy: I know everything through the spirits

•George: Which spirits?

•Ramy: This is one of my secrets.

•George: Do you know what will happen to me tomorrow?

•Ramy: Yes, I do.

•George: But doesn’t this contradict reason and religion?

•Ramy: Do you know our religion better than us, are you a Muslim?

•George: No, but it is in your holy Qur’an that the unknown is only known by God.

•Ramy: This is a type of science; I’m not interested in any religion at all.

•George: I am not Muslim, but I think this is superstition not science. This is the case for Christians but I›m not sure about Muslims!

•Ramy: Ha ha! Italy is the land of Christianity. Do you know the number of fortune-tellers there is more than the number of priests!?

•George: I know that superstitions in the West spread quickly due to our search for the spirituality which we lack, but I believe it is just a superstition. Can you convince me that this science is correct?

•Ramy: Yes, I can.

•George: I was robbed twice yesterday; do you know who robbed me?

•Ramy: Could you give me your hand to look at it?

•George: Okay.

•Ramy: The one who robbed you is very close to you.

•George: Wonderful, you seem to really know the unseen, what did he rob me of?

•Ramy: He robbed you of something very dear to you.

•George: Where did he put it?

•Ramy: Somewhere near here... or far away, I need only 10 Dollar to give to the spirit that will tell me its whereabouts

•George: If you can tell me where my wallet that was stolen is, I›ll give you 100 Dollar from it!.

•Ramy: Okay, but first, give me the 10 Dollar.

•George: I don›t have it on me now.

•Ramy: The good spirit told me if you don›t pay me now, you will face major problems.

•George: Ha ha! I have finished my meal, now you tell that good spirit of yours that he is a liar, and my wallet is with me and was not stolen from me; I was only kidding with you.

George went back up to his room while laughing at the fortune-teller who had sat with him. He was wondering why the number of fortune-tellers in Rome was more than the number of priests. Does this indicate that religion is so weak and contradicts logic, reason and science so much that there are more imposters and people who rely on superstitions than priests? He opened his computer to check his email that he didn’t read the day before and found a message from Janolka:

“Dear George, I read your message and I felt sorry about what happened to you, but I must point out two matters; the first, we must make a distinction between religion and ideas or schools of thought and the behavior of some of its individuals, except when they do things that the religion encourages. The second, I co-exist with Muslims here and all-in-all they do not tend to rob, in spite of their poverty and their weak regime and tribal disagreements. The temptation they have is great, but they still abstain from stealing because of their religion, as Islam forbids them from stealing, and not out of fear of the regime. But for us, on the other hand, we are mostly prevented by the regime, not by ethics or religion. When the regime becomes broken, chaos prevails, and you know western history better than I. Finally, I would like to tell you, in spite of my stubborn nature, I am about to enter Islam, although I still have some arrangements and matters to sort out, Janolka”

He replied to him:

“Dear Janolka, Thank you for being sympathetic towards me. I don’t really know what to say to you; I thought I was robbed and accused my Muslim friend and wronged him, but later found my wallet. So my Muslim friend’s great character appeared and he embarrassed me with his moral fiber, chivalry and good manners: I did not know how to apologize to him for my foolishness! As for me entering Islam, I do not know why but I feel it is not possible, at this time at least, for me; I still have considerable doubts about it, such as the status of women and human rights, and the cultural level of this religion. I hope you can benefit me with what you find in this regard, George”

Then, he opened a message from Levvi:

“Dear George, I felt sorry for what happened to you and I warned you, but maybe what happened is good and serves as a lesson to slow down your and my fiancé Habib’s rush towards Islam. Is there anything we can do for you? You can come to Tel Aviv anytime; we will welcome you with open arms and we all will be happy with you and try and save you from the terrorist Muslims. I am anxiously waiting for you, Levvi”

He replied to her:

“Dear Levvi, I miss you very much, and cannot do without your advice at all. But I really do not know what to say to you; I thought I was robbed and accused my Muslim friend and wronged him, but then I found my wallet. My Muslim friend’s great character shone through and he embarrassed me with his moral fiber, chivalry and good manners. I reiterate to you that I am not rushing into Islam. In spite of my admiration for many of its rulings and beliefs, I am not clear about other points. I congratulate you on your engagement to Habib and take it from me; you will not find a person like him with his personality, intellect and understanding. Try to have a talk with him and you will find out that he has many characteristics that you will not find in another person. I wish I could come to you in Tel Aviv, but I assure you that I am welcomed here just as much as I was in Tel Aviv; I hope to visit you soon, George”

Then he found a message from Katrina among the incoming messages:

“My darling George, Adam told me about the robbery that happened to you, George, and he also told me about Bassem’s brother when I visited him in the hospital yesterday, and I’m sorry about that. I want you to be sure about something though, as over the past two days I have acquired some knowledge of Islam that Bassem told me, and I find it highly unlikely that his brother would have stolen from you. But how are you now? Katrina

He replied to her:

“My darling Katrina, He did not rob me, the evidence is conclusive, so you can assure yourself of this fact. There was a misunderstanding on my part. Please apologize to Bassem on behalf of me. By the way, is it reasonable for Katrina, the devout catholic, to want to learn about Islam? Or did the holy Qur’an or the book “My Great Love for Jesus Led Me to Islam” which you were afraid of reading influence you? I miss you very much, darling, George”

He kept browsing the incoming messages from his friends answering his questions which he had sent to them, and then he summarized them and wrote to all of them:

“Regarding terrorism: Habib: Terrorism has no religion at all. Levvi: If the Muslims who killed my father are not considered as terrorists, then I do not know the meaning of terrorism at all. Katrina: There is no terrorism in Islam. Adam: The terrorist is he who occupies land to plunder its blessings.

•Tom: Terrorism is a veil used by terrorists to intimidate people with what they do not like.

•Janolka: The most serious form of terrorism is intellectual terrorism; it is terrorizing people from even thinking, but Islam encourages thinking.

•George: Up until now I have not seen any connection between terrorism and Islam except through our mass media.

As for women: Katrina: Women have a special status in Islam, albeit I do not understand why they wear hijab until now. Levvi: It is not worse than Judaism or Christianity.

•Tom: I need to do more research on this matter. In the holy Qur’an when Mary’s mother gave birth to her, she said: [“O my Lord! I have given birth to a female child,” - and Allah knew better what she brought forth. - “And the male is not like the female, and I have named her Mary, And I seek refuge with you (Allah) for her and for her offspring from Satan, the outcast.”] (Al-Imran: 36)

Habib: It does not oppress her.

•Janolka: We demand equality between men and women in our culture, in spite of the evident differences and the bad consequences of such equality, rather such equality is impossible. But Islam treats her justly and gives her the rights due to her.

Adam: Women have not been honored by any religion as they have been in Islam, and if you wish, make a comparison of women in Islam with any heavenly or man-made religion.

•George: I still have some doubts about hijab, handshaking between men and women and inheritance, etc. I’ll try to understand these points.

Now that your answers about Islam are mostly positive, my question will be direct: what is stopping you from adopting Islam? Answer me in depth and realistically in two days please, George”

He browsed Tom’s Facebook profile, but he did not find anything meaningful; then he browsed Adam’s Facebook page and found a new episode of “Lessons of my friend searching for happiness: lesson 5.”

“I have said over and over to you that my friend is in the last stages of his journey, and I think he is greatly convinced that Islam is the route to his happiness. He will not find answers to his major questions anywhere except in Islam, but guidance is only from God. His wife wept deeply because of her love for Islam and I do not know if she has entered Islam or not. She returned to her home while weeping and I pray that God will show her the route to happiness in this world and the Hereafter. As for my friend, as much as I have confidence in his mind and understanding, I fear about the Muslims of the present time. He went to Egypt to learn about Islam, but regrettably he said he was robbed by one of them. He did not understand the difference between a fault or a defect being in Islam itself, or being with the Muslims? I think he is very truthful though, and he will be able to get over this plight and adopt Islam. I’ll summarize the lessons in the following points: Islam is impeccable, but regrettably, Muslims make a lot of mistakes. Making the decision to embrace Islam needs considerable courage and a deep understanding, and my friend needs a lot of both. We should not hasten in making people adopt Islam and travel along the path to happiness; they must be completely convinced first. We do not have, in the route to happiness, anything to conceal; it is complete and convincing from every side. Every person granted the path to happiness from God should point it out to others in a gentle way, but guidance is and will always be only from God. I wish my friend all that is good and I really do not know whether God will guide him or not? Wait for the sixth lesson... Adam”

Adam’s excerpt on Katrina annoyed George a lot; he was wondering if it was reasonable for Karina to adopt Islam? Impossible! Maybe she was complimenting Adam and he misunderstood her. Perhaps Adam was lying to show his page readers that he could make a Catholic adopt his religion, he thought. Her last message yesterday did not indicate that she was going to embrace Islam. He reviewed the history of Adam’s article; he found it was written two hours earlier, while Katrina’s message to him was yesterday morning. Is it reasonable that she adopted Islam in the evening, and if so why didn’t she tell him?
Katrina’s last messages held only positive views about Islam; she even made a distinction between Islam and Muslims concerning the robbery. Is this not evidence that she has embraced Islam? But Katrina was always so zealous for Catholicism and she loves Christ very much and devoted herself to him by serving the church. Is it possible that she might leave all this?
George spent his night thinking deeply… Sometimes he thought that it was his wife›s right to embrace whatever religion she wanted, however at the same time he felt furious with her, and then other times he denied the news of her adoption of Islam. He was wondering if he should tell her if he wanted to adopt Islam, or if having to tell her, while she hadn’t told him, would be a form of gender inequality! He was about to contact her more than one time, but he stopped because he felt that she was able to call him and tell him herself or at least send him a mail if there was any news. In the end he concluded that she had not made a final decision yet.


George woke at 7 a.m., tired and troubled; he had a quick shower and took the lift down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. After he had finished, he sat in the reception area waiting for Jamal to come so that the two of them could go together to the employment company.
They arrived at the company and requested that the secretary arrange for them to see the manager...

•The secretary: You can enter to see Mr. Mustafa in a few minutes.

•George: Jamal, the manager’s name is Mustafa, what does it mean?

•Jamal: It is one of the Prophet›s names, meaning God has chosen and selected him, and Muslims name their sons after him with this name.

•George: You mean he is a Muslim!?

•Jamal: Yes, it is a Muslim name.

After two minutes had passed, the secretary told them that Mr. Mustafa was ready for them.

•Mustafa: Welcome.

•Jamal: May I take leave from you and I’ll meet you, George, at twelve o’clock?

•George: I’m not sure how much time I will need with Mr. Mustafa though.

•Mustafa: According to your e-mail and what we have prepared, I expect to finish at two o’clock, or you can come to us again tomorrow to continue.

•George: Okay, then I›ll see you Jamal, if it’s alright with you, at two o›clock.

•Mustafa: But I suggest we have dinner together, now that you are our guest today.

•Jamal: Oh, but my mother asked me to bring George to have lunch at our home this afternoon.

•Mustafa: So have supper with me then.

•George: Alright, it›s settled then. I›ll see you at two o›clock Jamal.

•Mustafa: And I›ll pass by at seven o›clock at the hotel so we can go out for dinner.

•Jamal: Okay, I’ll take your leave.

Jamal left and Mustafa turned to George.

•Mustafa: It seems that you two are very close friends.

•George: Yes, I›ve only known him for a short time but he is a man in the true sense of the word.

•Mustafa: As you›ve only known him for a short time, I should warn you of those religious Islamists.

•George: How did you know he is religious and an Islamist?

•Mustafa: It is evident from the way he looks.

•George: What are you warning me of?

•Mustafa: I warn you of being killed or robbed and the like, as they see you as a disbeliever who must be hated and also killed.

•George: Thank you for this advice. From which sect of Muslims are you, then?

•Mustafa: I am a Muslim, but an enlightened one. I lived a period of my life in America and learned many cultural habits Islam lacks.

•George: Give me an example?

•Mustafa: I›ve learned democracy, the acceptance of different views, and accepting people who have different religions.

•George: You’re flattering us, but I am surprised at your speech because we, the Christians, also see you as being backward disbelievers!

•Mustafa: Mustafa felt confused, then he said: in fact, we are backward. Your point of view about us is correct in this regard.

•George: Maybe. Anyhow, we have to begin our work.

•Mustafa: Alright… let›s begin, but I assure you that dealing with people who are more open-minded to other cultures guarantees success for you, and keeps you away from what you would not like.

•George: Unquestionably, especially if he loves his nation and society.

•Mustafa: Thank you. I›ve prepared a number of employees for you with the specifications that came to me in the e-mail.

•George: Good, how many are there, and what is your evaluation of them?

•Mustafa: Eight people at first, and most of them are open-minded to different world cultures.

•George: What about their occupational and professional abilities, and their specializations?

•Mustafa: Not bad. Meet them yourself; do you want to begin the interviews?

•George: Okay, I hope you›ll give me their CVs before they enter.

•Mustafa: Here you are. (Mustafa hands George the resumes.) I›ll let the secretary know so that they will enter the meeting room one after another, in the same order as that of the resumes that are in your hand. Let’s go to the meeting room together and then I›ll go back to my office to wait until you finish your meetings.

George met the eight people whom Mustafa had recommended. He finished at quarter to two.

•George: Thank you, I have finished the interviews.

•Mustafa: What is your opinion of them?

•George: Good, I›ll make my decision after finishing the company›s interviews tomorrow. What is your opinion about completing our conversation while having supper this evening, especially since Jamal will arrive in a few minutes?

•Mustafa: Well, I›ve prepared for you something you will enjoy and find pleasant. And until Jamal comes, did you particularly like any of the eight people you met?

•George: Many drew my attention and I found that many of them were suitable.

•Mustafa: You will find all that satisfies you today.

•George: How?

•Mustafa: We›ll complete our discussion while having supper.

George left the company to find Jamal waiting for him. He rode with him to Jamal’s house..

•Jamal: How was your meeting today?

•George: Not bad.

•Jamal: It seems as though you weren›t comfortable!

•George: I was not comfortable at all!

•Jamal: Why?

•George: He brought me a group of servants to work for me, although I wanted professional programmers.

•Jamal: Maybe he did not understand what you wanted.

•George: He understood me very well, but he thought I only wanted to gratify my desires. Imagine, I met eight people; five women, only two of whom were programmers, and three men, only two of them specializing in computers.

•Jamal: According to which criterion did he choose the people for you?

•George: Mostly on beauty, elegance and hypocrisy!

•Jamal: I understand what you mean and apologize for this, but we, the Egyptians, are not like that!

•George: Maybe. I wish I didn›t have to meet him again, albeit there was a man and woman from the group I met who were very distinguished.

•Jamal: Now that you have promised him, have supper with him today and request that he arranges for you to meet those you found suitable.

•George: But that will happen after I finish the last meeting tomorrow.

•Jamal: Most things a person does involve some difficulties. We will arrive to the house very soon, as we›ve entered the area of my home. And I apologize as we live in a poor area, not in a five or four star area.

•George: I appreciate this, and I repeat my thanks and gratitude to you and your mother.

•Jamal: I can›t go any further with the car because the streets, as you see, are very narrow. We›ll have to take the rest on foot, but don›t worry, it›s very close.

They arrived at Jamal’s apartment which was on the third floor of a block of flats that seemed to be very old. Jamal welcomed George in his home and led him to a small well-arranged room prepared for receiving guests.

•Jamal: Have a seat. Excuse me please; I’ll be back in a few minutes.

George sat thinking about the furniture of the simple room. He liked simplicity, and from the moment he entered the poor area until they arrived at Jamal’s flat a feeling of awe had filled him. He wondered to himself: “Is this really his house? Or did he bring me here for some other reason?” He remembered Mustafa’s words when he told him that those Islamists are killers and robbers, and they like to retaliate. But he laughed at his strange ideas and remembered Jamal’s chivalrous attitude when he accused him of stealing his wallet. While waiting for him, Jamal returned bringing with him a large tray full of various plates that held different food dishes, and he put the tray in front of George...

•Jamal: Sorry if I took long. Please eat.

•George: The food looks delicious, thank you. It must have cost you a lot.

•Jamal: No, it didn’t cost me anything; it’s not from me, it’s from my mother. She’s the one who invited you to have dinner here, and she’ll pop in soon to greet you.

•George: It’s unusual for the host not to be present to greet the guest on their arrival.

•Jamal: The woman is greatly honored in Islam - more than you think. She is like a queen who is attended to. I am willing to do anything my mother wants, whatever it may be.

•George: Whatever is may be?

•Jamal: Yes, as much as I can. God made a connection with being obedient to Him to being obedient to one›s parents, especially the mother.

Bassem’s mother came and stood at the door. She knocked lightly and then began speaking in colloquial Egyptian Arabic.

•Bassem’s mother: Peace be upon you my son, you have honored us with your presence here, and Bassem speaks highly of you.

•Jamal: My mother sends her greetings of peace to you George and welcomes you, and she said to you that you have honored us with your presence here, and that Bassem speaks highly of you.

•George: Please tell her I say thank you. I don›t know what to say… why doesn›t she sit with us? Have a seat with us...

•Jamal: My mother just came to welcome you and tell you we are all at your service as you are our guest.

•George: You have overwhelmed me with your generosity, but why didn›t she sit with us and why didn›t she shake my hand?

•Jamal: In Islam our women don›t sit with men unless there is some need to do so, and they don›t shake hands with men except those they are forbidden to marry.

•George: As I told you earlier, I met five women; four of them shook my hands but I was surprised when one of them refused to shake hands. However they all sat with me.

•Jamal: What did she say, the one who refused to shake hands?

•George: She apologized, saying that she doesn›t like shaking hands with men, that›s all.

•Jamal: So what is your opinion about her?

•George: I respect her wishes, especially since two of the other women shook hands in a impolite way, and also their looks and gestures were downright rude.

•Jamal: Is it possible for me to travel to Britain and shake hands with the Queen there?

•George: What is the connection? The law only allows seven types of people to shake hands with the Queen.

•Jamal: Didn›t I tell you that in our religion the woman is an honored queen? Islam doesn›t allow men to shake hands with women at all except if they belong to one of ten specific relatives; the father, grandfather, husband, father of the husband, son, brother, paternal uncle, maternal uncle, nephew and grandson. This is out of respect and reverence for her; we do it out of reverence for our queen and to keep her away from any possibly corrupt situations.

•George: Ha ha! An honored queen! Then why did those women shake hands with me in the interview?

•Jamal: Regretfully, a lot of Muslims do not take their religion seriously, but Islam is innocent of them.

•George: Oh yes, and Adam also didn›t shake hands with Katrina at all; now I understand! Does it bother you when I speak about women in Islam?

•Jamal: Do you expect me to be annoyed when you are speaking about the queen!?

•George: Let me ask you a question: why are women only given half the inheritance of men? And then you claim that she is a queen. You only need to make her equal with man; and not make her this so-called queen.

•Jamal: Do all the employees that you employ earn the same salary?

•George: It seems that you are trying to change the subject

•Jamal: Not at all! I am speaking about the crux of the matter.

•George: Of course not, do you expect me to give the manager the same as the courier?

•Jamal: Do you wrong the courier when you give him less than the manager?

•George: No, I am just with him.

•Jamal: That is why Islam established justice between men and women, and among all mankind, but not equality. For this reason the woman is given half of what is given to the man with regards to inheritance as the man has to spend on her, but she does not have to spend on him; this is complete and utter justice.

•George: Why? Doesn›t your wife pay half of the household expenses?

•Jamal: Spending on the home is obligatory upon the man, and the queen is to be served.

•George: Excuse me…but this means the woman does not learn and work.

•Jamal: Who said that? She should learn just like the man, and it is her right to work.

•George: What about the salary she receives?

•Jamal: It is solely her right, and she does not have to spend it on anything for the home.

•George: Ha! Ha! Then, economically, women get more profit than men.

•Jamal: No, not more than men, but according to justice, as just as she is different from the man with regards to her nature and the jobs she performs, her rules and obligations differ too.

•George: A beautiful description of justice, but concerning another topic, don›t you see that the hijab is a form of social injustice against her?

•Jamal: No, it is a form of honor and reverence.

•George: How is that the case when she is wrapped up in these clothes that screen her beauty and femininity?

•Jamal: How were your queens and princesses fifty years ago?!

•George: What are you trying to say?

•Jamal: Answer my question.

•George: Queens and princesses had full rights.

•Jamal: No, I mean what did they wear, their clothes?

•George: Are you trying to tell me that they wore similar clothes to what female Muslims wear today

•Jamal: Yes, there is no doubt about that. And isn’t that the type of dress worn by nuns too?

•George: But we developed, and therefore women›s clothing developed too.

•Jamal: First: your nuns’ clothes did not develop, in fact – I’m sorry to say - their position in church diminished. And your women›s clothes did not develop, but - I am again sorry to say - they regressed and became degraded. Read the percentage of sexual harassments, adulteries, abortions and other catastrophes as a result of this degradation.

•George: But there is also sexual harassment etc. in Muslim countries!

•Jamal: We too are human beings and make mistakes, but we do not have even a small percentage of such problems compared to you. Regrettably, most of such problems arise here due to the people imitating you.

•George: What do you mean?

•Jamal: Can I use figures and statistics? I like referring to them very much.

•George: Figures make matters clear and are very convincing. Go ahead.

•Jamal: Statistics indicate that 90% of unmarried women practice adultery often or from time to time in Europe and America. In America, the percentage of pregnant school students because of adultery reached 48% at one of the secondary schools there. The official American statistics show that a percentage of 87.8% of all the secondary school students have had sexual intercourse, 22% of them before the age of 13; while 60% of the newly born in Sweden are children from adultery, their fathers and mothers not being married to each other.

•George: That’s enough, I know that and many other disasters in our western societies, but this happens in the whole world! Aren’t you like us?!

•Jamal: As I mentioned to you, regrettably, a lot of Muslims have followed the same way. The more the man is away from religion, the nearer he is to falling into such errors. But the difference in figures between the two nations is not just large, but very large.

•George: Do you want to say that your clerics don›t marry or are monastic like the priests and popes?

•Jamal: I told you many times, we don›t have clerics in Islam, in fact even the Prophet married.

•George: Yes, I read that your Prophet married and I was amazed about this fact! Excuse me, where is your wife?! Aren’t you married?!

•Jamal: At school, she is a physics teacher at high school. She works from twelve to six p.m., and she will arrive soon.

•George: Tell me truthfully, do you force her to wear hijab?!

•Jamal: Definitely not.

•George: Then why do you say women have to wear hijab and you do not make your wife wear it? It is very bad to use religion just to follow our personal whims; not applying it to all our life!

•Jamal: I didn’t force her because she wore it out of her own choice. I agree with you it is wrong to use religion just to follow our personal whims. Rather, the Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade that.

•George: You mean she wore hijab without you making her wear it?

•Jamal: Of course.

•George: What made her wear it?!

•Jamal: Her religion and the order from her Lord, as well as protecting herself.

•George: From what does she protect herself?

•Jamal: From falling prey to those statistics! Ha ha! If you want new figures and statistics, I have lots.

•George: That’s enough; I have a lot of such statistics. But sorry, in Britain we hear a lot about Egyptian singers and dancers?!

•Jamal: Yes… as I said to you, the more we are away from the religion, the more we imitate you, regrettably.

•George: Why is it regrettable?

•Jamal: I don›t mean to insult you, but I think that the position of your women is degrading, so much so that many of your intellectuals have mentioned the importance of looking into the disaster that the society is heading towards.

•George: There are several disasters! Which disaster do you mean exactly?!

•Jamal: Why should man marry if he gets what he wants without marrying? This situation abolishes and spoils the family system, which destroys the strongest societies in the world and annihilates them.

•George: Explain to me more.

•Jamal: With complete frankness, isn›t the bringing up of a dog better and less costly than the bringing up of a son for a lot of people? Isn›t the mistress less costly and more interesting than the wife?

•George: Only to people whose innate nature is corrupt.

•Jamal: You›re right, but some societies have reached that stage. Do you know that the birth rate in some societies has reached to less than one child for every woman; these societies will dwindle and disappear sooner or later.

•George: Ha ha! You have even overpowered Europe with the number of births.

•Jamal: The Prophet (peace be upon him) says: «Marry the woman who gives birth a lot and is loving.»

•George: Islam lays down guidelines even for such details!

•Jamal: Islam is a totally comprehensive religion and deals with all areas of life, that is why the soul becomes balanced and feels happy and comfortable with it. And no aspect of life is allowed to prevail at the expense of another as in such a case the person would become tired.

•George: Wow! There are many details in Islam! But is this not rather a fault and disadvantage?!

•Jamal: What do you mean?!

•George: These particulars tire man out when he follows them; they are just additional restrictions to life!

•Jamal: Which is better: a country in which law is enforced like Britain, or a country which abounds with chaos?

•George: I understood what you mean, but the good law is the one that gives large space for innovation and interpretative judgment.

•Jamal: It is as if you described Islam! Islam opened up very wide horizons for us to develop innovate ideas, use our imagination and think deeply. It is for this reason there are verses in the Qur›an which encourage contemplation, looking at the greatness of nature, history, different biographies, and so forth.

•George: Wouldn›t you be afraid of people contemplating and finding the deficiencies and weaknesses of your religion?

•Jamal: Only man-made and distorted religions have these problems; but as for Muslims, the more they think deeply, the more they are religious and faithful. And regretfully, the less they think deeply, the less they are religious.

•George: I admire your confidence in your religion.

•Jamal: Could I ask you a question?

•George: Sure!

•Jamal: What is stopping you from embracing Islam?! I feel that you are convinced by it!

George felt confused because of Jamal’s question and grasped his fingers firmly. He remembered what Adam had written about Katrina weeping and the need for courage to make any decision. He also remembered what Janolka had written in his last message. He sighed deeply and remembered that this was the question that he had sent to his friends. He wondered to himself: “Is it weakness, hesitancy, ignorance, or being slow and careful and not hasty?” Whatever the reason, he had to answer himself before even answering Jamal. He turned to Jamal:

•George: Would you allow me not to answer your question now?

•Jamal: It is up to you. I just mentioned that to you because I want only the good and what›s best for you.

•George: Thank you. I›ll answer you in two or three days.

•Jamal: It›s not important to answer me; the most important thing is to answer your soul and its questions. Regrettably, the material life has converted us into machines that become tired if they think. And as a result, humanity lives in misery.

George sighed when he heard the phrase ‘when you answer your soul’, and remembered the words of the old man that he had met. Then he said:

•George: It’s as if you are describing me.

•Jamal: Sorry, I did not intend to offend you, but this is the state of humanity when they turn away from God. God said: [But whosoever turns away from My Reminder (i.e. neither believes in this Qur’an nor acts on its teachings), verily, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection.” (Taha:124) and God also said: [And whomsoever Allah wills to guide, He opens his breast to Islam; and whomsoever He wills to send astray, He makes his breast closed and constricted, as if he is climbing up to the sky. Thus, Allah puts the wrath on those who believe not.] (Al-Anam:125)

•George: How cruel!

•Jamal: Forgive me. I did not mean to sound cruel; in reality the one who goes away from God is being cruel to himself. However I don’t mean your situation right now, but I mean the rest of your life!

•George: What do you mean?

•Jamal: People escape from their lives in different ways. There are some people who escape with amusement and drinking wine, others escape with some religious matters which gratify a small part of their spiritual hunger. Some of them escape with empty philosophies; while others escape to the unknown, to avoid thinking about the matter at all. I ask you again with all my love and sincere well wishes: what is stopping you from having happiness in this world and the Hereafter?!

•George: I told you I›ll answer you in two or three days.

While they were in the middle of their conversation they heard the sound of the door opening, and so Jamal took leave from George for a little while.

•Jamal: One moment, please. My wife ‘Aisha has just arrived.

•George: Do you mind if I speak to her a little?

•Jamal: Let me ask her.

•George: Ask her what?

•Jamal: I know she doesn›t like to speak with men and I don›t like to force her to do anything she doesn›t like. Just a minute, let me ask her.

Jamal left the room leaving George in a state of amazement as what had happened that day had shaken him violently. He had begun to feel as though he had gone astray and he did not know what to do. All day he had kept asking himself, «Why did I come to Egypt? Even my questions seem to tire me out. What do I want? Why am I alive? Why is there so much tiredness…ah…»
While he was distracted with his questions, Jamal and his wife entered. He looked at her and saw she was wearing hijab and that only a small part of her face was showing.

•Jamal: This is my wife. What would you like to ask her?

•‘Aisha: Jamal told me that you wanted to adopt Islam, and you have questions about the status of women in Islam.

•George: I didn›t say that I wanted to adopt Islam at all, albeit I would like to know about the status of women in Islam.

•‘Aisha: Why do you want to know about the status of women in Islam if you don›t want to adopt Islam?

•George: Just to know.

•‘Aisha: Knowledge that doesn’t benefit man is worthless, and knowledge that doesn’t elevate the status of its seeker is useless. Profound knowledge leads one to revere God. God says: [It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Almighty, Oft-forgiving.] (Fatir: 28)

•George: I mean I only want to know. Do you consider merely knowing and having knowledge as being faulty and wrong?

•‘Aisha: As for us, any knowledge that does not result in action is worthless, and I think futility and not having aims and purposes indicates that one is ill in one’s mind and far from religion, you know this problem very well.

•George: What do you mean by the phrase ‘as for us?’

•‘Aisha: I mean as for us as Muslims. Let me talk about what you want, as I am sure you wouldn’t ask questions unless you wanted to adopt Islam.

•George: How are you sure?!

•‘Aisha: I hope this will not bother you, but God the Exalted says: [Perhaps (often) will those who disbelieve wish that they were Muslims (those who have submitted themselves to Allah’s Will in Islam Islamic Monotheism, this will be on the Day of Resurrection)].] (Al-Hijr: 2) there is no intelligent person, amongst those who do not believe in monotheism and have not submitted themselves to God, who can accept the contradictions of different people’s whims and the contradictions in the distorted religions.

•George: What do you mean by intelligent?!

•‘Aisha: The person who can›t think well can overlook the contradictions in his life and religion, and also the questions of his soul, and just occupy himself with marginal issues, but…

•George: But what?!

•‘Aisha: But Jamal told me you are intelligent, as his brother Bassem told him that and he also noticed it himself.

•George: Thank you...

•‘Aisha: Let’s tackle our subject “women in Islam”, but where should we begin?

•George: Begin wherever you want, and I›ll ask you all I want.

•‘Aisha: Before Islam it was the custom of the Arabs to bury their newborn girls alive so as to kill them, as they viewed women as evil omens.

•George: What? How disgusting! Utter backwardness and cruelty, if you ask me!

•‘Aisha: Yes, absolutely, and you are correct. But this view was not restricted to the Arabs, as philosophers used to hold meetings to discuss matters such as does a woman have a soul like that of a man›s? Does she have a human spirit or an animal one? In the end they conclude that women do have souls, but to a much lesser degree than a man. As for the Roman man, he had the authority to sell his wife or divorce her, and to recognize his child or not. And women in Greece did not inherit at all.

•George: Regrettably you are right - a dirty history!

•‘Aisha: All heavenly religions brought justice for women, but regretfully the Jews changed that. Its distorted book became filled with made-up sexual indulgences and great injustices against women.

•George: Levvi talked to me about that very much, and I read a lot about it.

•‘Aisha: Who is Levvi?!

•George: A very respectable Jewish woman.

•‘Aisha: I wish she becomes truly happy and honored by embracing Islam.

•George: I›m not so sure if she would consider embracing Islam. Anyhow, please continue...

•‘Aisha: God is the one who has the key that opens people’s hearts. Let’s continue: Christianity also distorted the justice God brought for women. Regrettably Christianity became filled with insults against women.

•George: Good presentation.

•‘Aisha: Islam came after that and honored woman more than any other religion. And nothing has been distorted from this religion as God is the One who preserves it.

•George: I am totally convinced that Islam has not been distorted and I do have questions I wish to ask, but I would like you to continue with what you want to say first.

•‘Aisha: Woman had never felt as dignified in the world as she felt when Islam came. Europe learned from its interactions with Muslims how Islam honors its women, and they learned justice and many sciences. But they were shocked by the distortions in their holy books and teachings of the church, thus they revolted against the church. Regrettably, they did not embrace Islam, but instead they searched for a system to honor women, and their limited mind drove them to spread the idea of equality.

•George: For that reason the human mind became better than religions?

•‘Aisha: Of course, they could not change woman’s innate character, temper and role to suit their false equality. They decided to burden her with the man›s jobs along with her job. And what is surprising is that she works a man›s jobs as well as hers but only receives half or a quarter of the wages or salary! However I wish men reducing her wages and burdening her with more than she can bear was the only problem, but unfortunately they also exploited her and took from her what they wanted without marrying her, so she turned from being a maintained respectable wife to a shabby mistress. Institutions of equality and human rights appeared and tried to change this poor state. It demanded that she had equal wages and salary, but they were only able to achieve that ostensibly and not in reality. They set conditions so that her husband would not take her rights. Afterwards, they found out that the one who took her rights was a lover who had no legal obligations to her, in lieu of the husband.

•George: What you are saying does not apply to everywhere in the West and for all its different cases.

•‘Aisha: Yes, it applies only to a large part of it as still there are people whose manners prevent them from acting like this. But the disaster is that it drove the women, in the name of equality, enjoyment and liberation, away from being under men›s control so that they became more dissolute and decadent until she reached a level that even animals would be ashamed of and would not accept.

•George: What do you mean?

•‘Aisha: Sorry if my words were harsh or if you thought I was insulting you, but what I mean is that women are regrettably seen as a plaything to spoil, misguide and corrupt in the name of equality, and her rights have been taken. But if this is not the case, then how do you explain the appearance of sex channels, sex movies and the sex trade?

•George: It can be explained as a form of admiration of this beautiful creature!

•‘Aisha: And so you acknowledge that she is a beautiful creature which is different from man. Equality between the two is a form of injustice against her and him. As for me, I›ll explain the appearance of these problems being due to man in these societies; after plundering her financial rights and after feeling comfortable because she carries out both her job and his, he pillaged even her human rights from her and turned her into a mere toy to play with. If that is not the case, then how do you explain the fact that naked or semi-naked women are displayed in shop windows in many countries in the same way a utensil, piece of furniture or a car is displayed!?

•George: These practices are in poor taste, but it does not represent all our society.

•‘Aisha: It is at least legal and considered an accepted norm, whereas the hijab is forbidden legally and isn’t considered an accepted norm either, as even those who believe in it are prohibited from wearing it. The system permits the women to become a toy for display to be sold and bought but does not permit the Muslim women to wear hijab.

•George: I also don’t agree to the suppressive practices of some European countries.

•‘Aisha: Then, you are a terrorist according to your criteria. I apologize for talking for so long, if it weren’t for my husband’s request to speak with you and to hopefully be a reason for you to embrace Islam, I wouldn’t have agreed to talk with you.

•George: I have some short questions that I have already asked two other people, but it is important that I hear the answer from a woman.

•‘Aisha: Okay.

•George: You are a specialist in physics, i.e. one of the important subjects of the modern science which we gave to you and which raised your level of living, yet you wear hijab. Do you have to wear it? Or is it like our nun’s veil which does not represent chastity, but is just a form of traditional clothing which they wear? Or do you live in a perverted society, so you have to wear such cloths or else you will be prone to blackmail and harassment? Or why exactly do you wear it?

•‘Aisha: First: sciences have been inherited, at one time or another, by everybody; as before you gave us modern science, we gave it to you when you were in total darkness. As for blackmail and harassment, you know that there is a direct connection between not veiling oneself and wearing skimpy clothes on the one hand, and such abusive harassments. If you want the statistics which support this, we have spoken about it earlier. As for me, I wear hijab because it is part of my religion and because I know that it will make me happy in this life and the Hereafter. In this world it gives comfort and makes me tranquil, and in the Hereafter it results in grace and bounties being given to me from God.

•George: You always seem to repeat ‘happiness in the world and the Hereafter’.

•‘Aisha: Yes… A form of happiness that is not known to anyone but those who have actually experienced it.

•George: Maybe, but frankly would you accept Jamal marrying another wife, as your Prophet did?!

•‘Aisha looked at Jamal who was silently standing beside her, then said:

•‘Aisha: I don’t think Jamal would do that; I hope he doesn’t marry another woman.

•George: But your Prophet had many wives?

•‘Aisha: Yes, he (peace be upon him) had many wives and one of his wives, the mother of the believers, had the same name as mine: ‘Aisha.

•George: So, why don’t you want Jamal to follow the example of his Prophet and marry another woman?!

•‘Aisha: Islam did not request me not to be a woman! It›s my right to be jealous. Islam did not request me to be weak and not express my wishes. But I am sure that polygamy is better than having mistresses!

•George: And generally, not having polygamy is definitely the best choice.

•‘Aisha: I think the need of some men to practice polygamy is part of human nature. Therefore, polygamy is not specific to Islam; rather it is present in all religions. The main difference is that the previous religions did not limit the number of wives. Prophet Solomon married one thousand women, Adam married thirteen wives and Prophet David married sixty nine wives. In Islam, polygamy is limited to only four wives.

•George: But we don›t allow polygamy now, and most systems ban it.

•‘Aisha: Your holy book is full of polygamy and your priests have become tired trying to explain that. Some of them said that those who practiced polygamy, referring to the prophets, erred, while others said that it was allowed for a period of history in which wars were fierce and so there were more women than men. But this statement contradicts the present reality, and they forgot that wars are fiercer now. Others said that God changed His mind about that, God forbid; so they implied that He is uninformed and does not know the truth. Far is He above what they say.

•George: The most important point is that we have developed our religion, systems and laws to prevent polygamy.

•‘Aisha: Great: «We developed our religion», but the truthful religion has to be valid for every time and place, and does not need to be developed, as if it needs to be developed it would be deficient. Allah says about Islam: [This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion,] (Al-Maidah: 3). We do not need to develop our religion because it is perfect just the way it is.

•George: But we have developed our systems and laws to prevent polygamy, which is a form of oppression.

•‘Aisha: Yes, in most European and American countries you have explicitly prevented polygamy, but explicitly permitted mistresses!!!

•George: The point here is that we prevent polygamy.

•‘Aisha: And since the life and nature of humans and society as a whole causes some men to need more than one wife, you allowed them to have mistresses. But a most serious problem is that polyandry is permitted in some nations instead of polygamy, and even wife-swapping. Undoubtedly, it is more honorable for the women if her husband has more than one wife than if he has a mistress or, I am sorry for the phrase, partakes in wife-swapping, which is disgusting.

•George: Good, but the modern science that you learnt and teach may greatly contradict your religion!

•‘Aisha: Science contradicts our religion!? It seems as though you don›t know our religion or know anything about science! In any case, Jamal knows more than me regarding the relationship between science and religion. He requested that I discuss the topic of women with you, though I didn›t like the idea; I only did it because of Jamal’s request and because he said that it was a service for the religion. I would be grateful if you would excuse me now because I need to check my son and his homework.

•‘Aisha left and George turned to Jamal with a perplexing smile…

•George: I congratulate you on your wife, although it would be better if she was a man and not a woman

•Jamal: Ha ha.

•George: What’s the matter? Why did you laugh?!

•Jamal: As if you know that a man is not like a woman, then why do you call for equality?! Take it from me, there is no human being who is gentler and more obedient to her husband than her because she is religious and the Prophet (peace be upon him) advised her to obey me.

•George: But that is discrimination. Why didn’t your Prophet advise you to treat her gently?

•Jamal: But he did, in fact he (peace be upon him) said: «The best among you is the one who is the best towards his wife, and I am the best of you to my wives,» so basically he said that he is the best person with regard to treating his wives well. I am very happy with your discussions, but will you allow me to pray my afternoon prayer?

•George: It›s half past four now. If it›s okay with you, we can go out together for you to pray and for me to wander in Cairo for an hour. Then, you can come with me to meet Mustafa because he invited me for supper, though I don›t know why?


•George was in the car waiting for Jamal to finish his prayer, and when the pray had finished he looked at the faces of the people who were leaving the mosque. He noticed one person who had European features and so he waved at him. He got out of the car to greet him, but he answered him in poor English:

•William: Hello, I’m William, where are you from?

•George: I›m from Britain.

•Peter: And I›m Peter from Germany.

•George: But you were praying with the Muslims!

•Peter: Yes, I am a Muslim from Germany.

•George: You are actually from Germany, or are you an Egyptian living in Germany?

•Peter: Half of the Muslims in Europe are native Europeans, and I am one of them. The number of Muslims in Germany is more than four million, and they make up nearly 5% of the population.

•George: I believe that……the Muslims in our country are more than two million and they make up nearly 3% of the population, but my question is, were you a Christian?

•Peter: My parents were Christians but I was an atheist. Praise be to God, I adopted Islam and then felt happy. I›m only here to study Islam.

•George: What made you embrace Islam?

•Peter: That’s a question I am asked a lot. I can summarize my reason for adopting Islam by saying that I was in search of truth, happiness and justice.

•George: Did you find them in Islam? And how did you find them?

•Peter: Yes, I found them in Islam, and if you want the full story, I›ll be happy to share it with you later, but I›m sorry I have an appointment with one of my friends now. This is my card which has all my details.

•George: Thank you, I’m sorry for taking your time.

George went back to the car and found Jamal waiting for him.

•George: When did you get back?

•Jamal: I saw you speaking with a man and didn’t want to interrupt you. Anyhow, it is half past five, how much time is remaining before your appointment with Mustafa?

•George: Nearly an hour. But I›m really very tired right now and I wish I could just go back to the hotel to relax and take a rest. However Mustafa was keen on meeting me, I don›t know why, so I gave him the appointment and I don’t want to break it.

•Jamal: Wonderful, the Qur›an and Prophet (peace be upon him) urged people to keep their promises, and maybe the meeting will be useful. I suggest, during the remaining hour, that we go on a tour on a boat on the Nile to let you rest for a while, seeing as the appointment is close to the Nile.

•George: A wonderful idea!

They went to the Nile and hired a boat for an hour. They took a quiet tour in which George felt relaxed and felt that the sudden amount of information he had acquired was rearranging itself. Then they went to the place where Mustafa had arranged to meet George.

•George: Thank you; it was a wonderful trip and just what I needed.

•Jamal: God willing, I hope you were able to relax a little.

•George: Yes, but the pressure of the questions I have still tire me whenever I try to relax.

•Jamal: What questions?

•George: Can I ask you a question?

•Jamal: Okay.

•George: Don›t you ever ask yourself why you were created?

•Jamal: Yes… a lot...

•George: How do you answer yourself? Or how do you evade this question?

•Jamal: Why would I evade it when I have a clear answer!?

•George: What is it?

•Jamal: God says: [And I (Allah) created not the jinn and humans except that they should worship me alone] (Al-Thariyat: 56)

•George: Do you mean I was created just to pray and fast for God!

•Jamal: No... You were created to worship God, referring to the entire comprehensive concept of worship, although prayer and fasting are important parts of worship.

•George: How?

•Jamal: Worship includes everything in our life; it is not just on a particular day or in a particular place or age. Rather, the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us that the husband that has legal sexual relations with his wife and enjoys her will be rewarded.

•George: How?

•Jamal: Our Prophet (peace be upon him) explained that since one would be sinning if he were to do that in an unlawful manner, so he would be rewarded if he did that through lawful means, if he intends to please God by keeping His rules. In this way, one›s entire life becomes dedicated to Him; prayer and sacrifice, even death and life; as God said: [Say O Muhammad, “Verily, my Salat (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists).”] (Al-Anam: 162)

•George: And why are you alive?

•Jamal: I can give you the same answer and still be truthful. I can explain this by saying: we are alive to make full use of the land and life, and to develop it, and I would be truthful. Really, making full use of the land and life and developing it are one of the most important forms of worship. God says: [And to Thamud their brother Salih. He said: “O my people! Worship Allah; you have no other god but him. He brought you forth from the earth and settled you therein, then ask forgiveness of him and turn to him in repentance. Certainly, my Lord is Near (to all by His Knowledge), Responsive.”] (Hud: 61)

•George: Regrettably, we have arrived at our destination. Let’s complete our discussion tomorrow; I’ll wait for you at 10 a.m. My appointment with the last company is at 11 a.m.

•Jamal: Okay.

George climbed into Mustafa’s car and greeted him.

•Mustafa: Everything is arranged, and supper will be in a suitable restaurant near one of the hotels. Everyone is waiting for us there.

•George: Great!

•Mustafa: You look tired... Don’t worry; we have prepared for you everything that will revitalize you. Regrettably, we Egyptians tend to forget that the Egyptian way of life doesn’t suit Europeans.

•George: How?

•Mustafa: I studied at an American university and know your way of life well, and you will see things that will please you tonight.

Mustafa stopped the car at one of the hotels, and he and George went by foot to a side entrance lit with colored lights. Noisy music filled the place. Mustafa put his hand on George’s shoulder and moved towards him so George could hear him.

•Mustafa: We have a special private dancing hall which will accommodate us.

They reached the private dancing hall where they saw the four women that had been at the interviews waiting for him.

•Mustafa: I think you remember them from the morning and I brought them so that you could know them better: this is Samira, Manal, ‘Aisha and Diana.

Samira stretched out her hand, smiling, so George stretched out his hand, smiled and shook hands with her, and then he shook hands with the rest of them and they all sat down.

•Manal: I›ll jog your memory: I›m Manal ‹Ali and I›m 24 years old – I’m at your service.

•George: Alright... Could you all please introduce yourself as Manal did?

•Samira: I›m Samira Nazmi and I›m 23. I came here to make you happy.

•‘Aisha: I›m ‘Aisha Khaled and I›m 25. I›m here for you.

•Diana: I›m Diana Samah and I›m 25.

•George: Welcome to you all. I›m George and I am nearly 40 years old.

Mustafa stood up...

•Mustafa: I›ll be back in a little while... Have a good time, George.

•George: This meeting is a surprise for me, and I didn›t know that we were going to come here.

•One of the four girls: Mustafa told us that he was offering us as a present to you.

•George: I don›t understand?

•One of the four girls: You are here in Egypt alone, and we came to serve you.

•George: Ah... I understand. But to what extent are you willing to serve me and make me happy?

•One of the four girls: Ha! Ha! To an extreme limit.

•One of the four girls: Ask for whatever you want, and you›ll get it from us.

George remained silent staring at the four girls› faces, they were really beautiful and their smiles were tempting and charming...But he felt disgusted by them and from their triviality. He decided to break his silence and talk to them.

•George: I will ask for some things from you, and I’ll begin with ‘Aisha. .

•‘Aisha: I›m at your beck and call.

•George: I have a question: aren›t you named after the wife of your Prophet?

•‘Aisha: Yes. Why did you ask that question?

•George: Accordingly, there is no doubt that you follow her example in all that you do?

•‘Aisha: Why are you asking such a question? Ask for what you want, and I›ll do it for you.

•George: My request is that you answer my question...

•Samira: Turn to me. I›m Samira, a Christian. What do you mean by these questions that are embarrassing my friend?

•George: Are you defending her?!

•Samira: Yes, she is my friend. It›s my right to divert these embarrassing questions from her.

•George: You are defending her now to make her not embarrassed, but you think she is a disbeliever who will be in hell because Christ did not save her from her sins!

•Samira: Yes, I›m a Christian, but in fact a secularist. I›m interested only in science and what it dictates.

•George: Now that you love science, as you say; did you not complete your secondary as well as university schooling? But what is your main qualification - your beauty!

•Samira: Don›t you want to try this beauty or enjoy it?

•George: Maybe, but I have a question. Doesn›t what you do contradict Christianity?

•Samira: I told you I›m secularist.

•George: Do you mean an atheist?

•Samira: Maybe, because I don›t understand the difference between the two.

•George: But doesn›t tasting your beauty contradict the expected norms and ethics?

•Samira: We know the expected norms here more than you, and ethics are only relative.

•George: How?

•Samira: What is considered as a contradiction of ethics to one person may be the best type of ethics to another.

•George: And there is nothing called ‘one’s principles’.

•Samira: My sole principle is only to do what benefits and interests me.

•George: Most atheists have such principles, interests and pragmatistic views!

•Samira: Now, do you want to know the happiness of tasting beauty?

•George: I have a question now for Manal.

•Manal: I don›t want your questions, what we are doing is shameful, but our needs forced us to do it - and also dirty Mustafa. Come on ‘Aisha, let›s go.

•George: So why do you ladies shame yourselves?

‘Aisha and Manal left, and the silence of the dancing hall made the sound of the loud music fill the place. The silence continued until the waiter arrived...

•Waiter: Mustafa ordered some spirits for you, but he told us to let you choose. What would you like?

•George: Nothing, thanks - I don›t drink.

•Waiter: You don›t drink?! So why did you come here with those beautiful girls? In any case, the dancing ceremony will begin in an hour. Mustafa asked me to tell you that he left you to enjoy yourself. He’ll come at half past eight to see how well you dance. If you change your mind and want to have a drink, just raise your hand and I’ll come.

•Samira: You don›t drink! But aren›t you Christian and European?! I expected that you would be more willing to taste some beauty after drinking something!

•George: Why? Do you have to drink in Christianity?

•Samira: To some extent. Even priests drink as a form of worship and deem it as a sacred form of drinking.

•George: Do you have to drink if you are European?

•Samira: Usually, yes. Europeans are not fanatic Muslims. Mustafa exerted much effort to persuade ‘Aisha and Manal to come, but your questions may have turned them into two fanatical Muslim women.

•George: Oh! Thus, you encourage fanatical Islam!!

Diana was the only one who had remained silent as she had not uttered a word throughout the whole meeting. She was the one whom he admired when he met her in the morning. She was the only one specialized in the field of computers and was professional in it.

•George: What about you? You are different from them!

•Diana: Why am I different from them?

•George: Educated… cultured... silent!

•Diana: But I am just like them; a commodity which is a present that has been offered to you.

•George: Why did you agree to be a commodity?

•Diana: To escape from myself.

•George: How?

•Diana: I’m tired and sick of life; therefore my uncle asked Mustafa to help me get over my psychological problems by being busy with amusement and entertainment.

•George: And you, what is your opinion?

•Diana: If I knew that life had some meaning, I would have an opinion! But I›m like a straw blowing in the wind: life pushes me here and there, making it have no meaning. Maybe, my uncle›s plan with Mustafa is the best way for me!

•George: Could the best way be escaping from your life, wasting your time, and turning into a commodity?

•Diana: Maybe, you don’t know the meaning of being lost and having no goal, as if you did you wouldn’t say what you just said. Suicide is easier for me than what I am now suffering.

•George: But you do know why you are alive in your religion, and why you are created?

•Diana: No, actually, I don›t know - and I would be grateful if you told me.

•George: My Muslim friend told me today that you were created to worship God, and gave me a fantastic philosophical meaning of worship.

•Diana: But I›m an orthodox Christian, not a Muslim.

•Samira: The two Muslims have left so you can relax and enjoy yourself more as the show is just about to start.

•George: Now that you two are Christians like me, I agree to enjoy this night here, but on the condition that Diana persuades me.

•Diana: Persuade you about what?

•George: Persuade me that happiness means to enjoy your fascinating beauty, drink wine and forget the world, and also escape from the misery of life to the bliss of forgetting.

•Diana: Samira is more able to convince you than me.

•George: My condition is that you convince me, Diana.

•Diana: Samira is one of the most beautiful Egyptian girls. She is a skillful dancer who can make you forget the whole world, especially if you drink some alcohol with her. Have you been persuaded?!

•George: I am beginning to be convinced. But why do you mention Samira? What if I wanted you to drink first and dance with me first?

•Diana: Although I haven›t drunk in my life before, I agree, as I feel very unhappy right now and I would like to get away from the questions which have destroyed my life.

•George: What questions?

•Diana: I have been thinking about these questions for a long time; about the reason we are alive, the creation and the meaning of life, and similar questions.

•George: Do you believe that your drinking or dancing, or even practicing sex, can make you forget your questions?

•Diana: Temporarily at least, I›m ready for what you want. Don›t speak too long and ask so many tiring questions.

•George: These questions have made me tired like you, but I am convinced that trying to escape from them is a stupid approach, and that it is better to face them and answer them.

•Diana: And so do I! But I am tired.

•George: Your politeness, culture and mind are beautiful, so don›t spoil all that beauty by abusing the beauty of your body.

•Diana: I›m leaving now, thanks for all the pieces of advice, and all the insults you offered me… Then she stood up and left...

•Samira: So it›s just you and me, and I am ready. Do you want to dance to enjoy ourselves here, or in your hotel?

•George: Where is Mustafa?

•Samira: Mustafa left us so we would be able to enjoy ourselves more, let›s go.

•George: Let’s go...

George stood up with Samira and she turned to the dance floor, while George turned and went towards the door to leave. When he was about to leave, he saw Mustafa standing holding a girl. George took a quick glance at him, and then turned away to go outside...

•Mustafa: George, wait... What›s the matter with you, my friend?

•George: Nothing... I›m tired and I want to rest in the hotel.

•Mustafa: Come with me, I’ll give you a lift.

•George: Alright, but quickly please.

•Mustafa: What›s your opinion about the girls?!

•George: Very beautiful.

•Mustafa: I left you so you could relax with them and have a good time

•George: I have enjoyed them enough.

•Mustafa: Who did you admire the most?

•George: All of them. By the way, are you a Muslim?

•Mustafa: Yes, my name is named after the Messenger.

•George: You are a bad example of a Muslim!

•Mustafa: Excuse me?! What are you saying?

•George: Nothing, you are a Muslim like my friend Jamal, but you are totally different from him.

•Mustafa: I said to you he is a fanatic and an extremist, and I have learned abroad and know the world more than him.

•George: I wish you would drive faster; I›m tired and want to reach the hotel quickly.

•Mustafa: When will our appointment be tomorrow?

•George: We don›t have an appointment tomorrow. I am busy, but I will contact you.

George reached the hotel but he couldn’t stop hitting his palms together in amazement and bewilderment. His day was very long, a day filled with surprises and contradictions... He felt that his body was heavy, so he flung himself onto his bed upon his arrival at his room and started to feel overcome with worries. His questions returned to him violently. He remembered the educated and cultured Diana whose doubt had overwhelmed her, so she try to escape by being busy with amusement and enjoyment. He remembered the question which he had sent to his friends, and Jamal had asked him the same question: «What is stopping you from adopting Islam?»
George was immersed in his thoughts and was not aware of anything until he woke up at half past eight in the morning. When he woke up from his sleep he noticed that he was still in his work clothes, and in fact he was in a deplorable state.