The Fyzee & Islam File


THE OTHER FACE OF ISLAM: Letter to a Daughter Studying Fine Arts in Paris

Letter to a Daughter – on the Importance of Prayer


[Dear Shireen,
The words below were written by the late professor A.A.A. Fyzee, married to Adda’s (my mother Khursheed Kashmeri) sister (your great Aunt), and one of the foremost scholars of Islam and Middle Eastern Studies who taught at Cambridge and Oxford and wrote scores of books and papers that are still used in major universities. It was written in 1954 to his daughter Summaya, or Summi, as we call her, who is dying to meet you and take you to the family’s little island retreat, Kihim, off the coast of Bombay, where I spent many happy summers as a child. She was studying painting at Les Écoles de Beaux Art in Paris. A copy of this letter was given to me by Uncle Fyzee, himself, or Khaloojan (my dearest uncle), as I called him. – Dad]



9 Roberts Lane,
New Delhi

I have been thinking of writing to you for some time, but have had no time on account of work and other preoccupations.  Since your mother left for Bombay, there is a considerable amount of household work, in addition to looking after and amusing the children which takes a good deal of doing.  Anyhow, on this New Year I had promised myself to write to you fully on a certain matter of importance.

You will recollect that I have often told you it is desirable to pray. You have so far been young and have not yet seen the necessity of regular prayer. This is not by any means an order or a lecture or a command but an invitation to see things as I see them.  Reject or accept it, as you wish.

A 1968 portrait of A.A.A. Fyzee on the balcony of his apartment by the Arabian Sea in Bombay. (Photo: Zuhair Kashmeri)

A 1968 portrait of A.A.A. Fyzee on the balcony of his apartment by the Arabian Sea in Bombay. (Photo: Zuhair Kashmeri)

A man’s life cannot be complete without work, rest and peace. Mental peace can only come when his life and work conform to certain ideals. These ideals cannot be learned from books or from teachers or from parents, but they must be realized by oneself.  The question arises why we should believe in any religion at all and if we do believe in a religion and in a God, then why should we pray?  Putting it in another way, there are two questions which I wish to answer today: first, to whom shall be pray, and second, why should be pray?

In the world today, there are a number of important religions.  To my way of thinking, they are all true in their own way.  They show the path to the eternal life and they show the path to peaceful existence in this world.  And these great religions are according to the number of adherents: first Christianity [800 million], secondly Buddhism [500 million], thirdly Islam [400 million], and fourthly Hinduism [300 million].  In our country, we have them all and each one of them emphasizes a certain way of life and a certain aspect of the final unknowable truth.
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