After the locked and deleted GD thread – “Ask the Muslim Woman”, and pit thread here, I’ve decided (after some persuasion) to start this thread.
I am a Shi`a Nizari Ismaili Muslim. My background is sub-continental Indian, although I was born, and have been brought up in the UK.
Ismailism is a very small sect, even by the standards of Shi`aism, but it is a very liberal one – women and men have equal rights, a woman is considered as good as a man, in every way shape and form. The only segregation of the sexes that we have is in our mosque, men pray on one side of the room, whilst women pray on the other. However, there are no curtains, partitions or anything separating the men and women, merely a strip of carpet, which after the prayers are over, both sexes are free to cross. Men and women participate equally in all religious ceremonies, and on many occasions, the women will actually be the ones reciting the prayers. We also have no requirement for women to wear headscarves/abayas/burkhas etc. All we are required to do in everyday life, is to dress for the style of the country in which we live. For prayer, we are required to dress modestly, i.e. no plunging necklines, mini skirts that show your knickers, things like that, and for men and women, legs and hair should be covered whilst at prayer.
We follow all the basic tenants of Islam, but we do not, unlike other Muslims, regard the Hadith as authoritative. This is because we believe that after the Prophet’s (pbuh) death, there was a succession of spiritual guides, known as Imams, who were divinely appointed, in order to guide the faithful, and interpret the Koran according to the climate of the time – i.e. we believe that Allah would have known that the world today is not the same as the world 1400 years ago, and that the interpretation of Islam would need to adapt with the changing times. We believe that this guidance has continued unabated for 1400 years, through the line of Imam `Ali, through Imam Hussien.
Well, ask away.