Letter to the Editor: In response to the article "A Sound Mind in a Sound Body," the following was printed in the August-September 1999 issue of the Voice of Islam newsletter.
First of all, I would like to commend Mohamad K. Yusuff for another thoughtful article: "A Sound Mind in a Sound Body." I support the principal theme of the document, i.e. R&R is a good thing. I have a comment about the paragraph on "open, public beaches." Br. Yusuff states that Islam's orthodox 'ulama' have deemed these un-Islamic. Presumably, their decisions are based on the attire, or lack thereof, on the part of the beach goers. No doubt, amusement parks (including water parks) would also be disallowed, since many of the visitors in these parks dress no differently than the beach goers. For obvious reasons, these rulings may have some merit.
Now, as the article points out, we ask Allah for good in this life and good in the hereafter. Toward this end, some Muslims go to the beaches and amusement parks with the intention of having wholesome fun with their families and friends. The societal norm in the West is generally to 'dress down' during the hot summer season. However, the dictates of the orthodox 'ulama' in this instance would exclude lay Muslims from attending even legitimate business, including buying groceries, shopping for clothes, going to work, and so on, for at every corner we may run into people who may not be "properly" attired.
Since most of us have voluntarily immigrated to the West and intend to remain here, we must confront these obstacles and face the challenge of developing our religious thought and practices, while remaining faithful to an Islamic paradigm based on the principles of the Qur'an and the authentic sunna. The alternative would be the creation of Muslim ghettos should we decide to isolate ourselves from the rest of the society in which we live, an option that is clearly unacceptable. But assimilating within practical limits while maintaining one's religious identity is an approach that is highly preferable.
For those who are interested, the subject of 'beaches' and other contentious issues facing Muslims today are intelligently addressed by a pre-eminent Islamic scholar, in accordance with Islamic tenets at the following web site.
Abdul Hafeez Manraj
Posted September 28, 1999