It’s nice here.
But this is Cairo from the perspective of two eyes—literally—so let it not be the final sight.
On Religion [continued],
Religiosity shines from the people of Cairo. They know they’re Muslim, and they know what it entails. Something that shocks you when you acquaint yourself with Cairo is the sheer number of people whose physical appearance attests to their level of practice. I would say most men bare the sign of prostration on their forehead. It truly is extraordinary to see. On the women’s end: vast majority of women cover up with traditional Islamic attire. In fact, women fashioning jeans constitute a minority.
What is truly extraordinary about this is that Egyptian society is open to all kinds of dressing. You will find women in highly western “summer” clothing in malls and around the streets, and they need not fear discrimination or being accosted. The airwaves in Egypt are free and open and may propagate as they please on this point; yet despite that, traditional Islamic modesty is the norm. Egyptians know what’s out there, yet they choose Islam.
The people here know their Islam. From the Al-Azhar Mufti ascending to the Minbar, to the taxi driver, they both know what it means to be Muslim. Almost every taxi driver I’ve engaged, I have come to call a “hadith quoting taxi driver”. It is what it sounds like. The average taxi driver may wow you by their level of knowledge on matters of religion. They can quote verses, hadiths, sayings of scholars, list the halal and haram, know matters of fiqh: it’s extraordinary. Left me dumbfounded.
You get into a taxi and you will often find the radio tuned to either an Islamic lecture or Quran recitation. It ought not shock you if you discover your taxi driver is a Hafiz al-Quran. As a friend of mine attested: “To say you only know 3 juz of the Quran is embarrassing in Egypt”. Regular shop owners you will discover to be graduates of Al-Azhar’s Fiqh College, Hadith College, and the like. Walk around the streets and you will find pictures of Shaykhs or paraphernalia on the walls attesting to the Muslim identity of the people.
For a student of knowledge, Cairo is a gleaming pile of unguarded treasure. Too many a learned people are willing to teach you whatever you desire about Islam. Many, if not most, will be offended at the thought of being paid to teach Islam to the seeker. You can learn aqeeda, the four madhabs, hadith sciences, Quranic sciences, you name it. Most do not speak English, however, so having a fluency in Arabic is the one and only key to this treasure, which can readily be acquired with just a year of study.
Or one can opt for Islamic teaching institutions, of which there is no scarcity. There is, of course, Al-Azhar University with its 90,000 strong undergrad student body, not all in the Islamic sciences, and not all Egyptians. Al-Azhar, interestingly also has branches for primary and secondary education. The Al-Azhar campuses are home to many different colors and features and ages among its student body, united by the goal of seeking knowledge. As well, there are numerous madrasas one can join to the same end.
In Egypt, you know you’re in the land of the Muslims.