A titanic and towering swell of love lodged inside my chest after the birth of my first child. Here I was, just an ordinary woman of 25 years of age, but I had been entrusted with the world’s very best baby. In my eyes, he was perfection, the realization of my every dream. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why adoring someone so much left me feeling so destroyed. After I’d wrestled my baby to bed, I’d stand around our small high-rise apartment in Queens not knowing which of my needs or wants I had time to address before he woke up again. Could I get in a shower? Some exercise? Reading? Or should I give up and watch television, or maybe plant my face into the floor and cry?
In those small evening reprieves from childcare, I felt no relief, just heaviness. I’d imagined becoming a mother would endow me with the disposition of the sweetest, most energetic preschool teacher. I was going to be the kind of mom who crouched down to talk to my little one in an even and calm voice. I was going to be brimming with ideas for creative play and projects. But when my beautiful baby grew into an energetic toddler, I didn’t grow into the mom I thought I’d become. I didn’t get down on the floor and play enough. I raised my voice too much. I let him eat too many processed foods and watch too much television. And where was all the early education I had planned on—the language instruction and flashcards? Where were the crafts? I didn’t do nearly enough crafts.
At the time, my husband was in the midst of his first residency and his call schedule was brutal. A sense of urgency surrounded the nights when he was home. I only had a few hours to make him understand what a failure I was as a mother, how he didn’t know who he was leaving his child with everyday. Read the rest of this entry »
Trailblazer. Entrepreneur. Leader. Interfaith Activist. Role Model. Writer. Mother. Teacher. Sister. Peace Advocate.
So many of us have benefited from Azizah magazine founder Tayyibah Taylor’s dedication to amplifying Muslim women’s voices and perspectives. She was recently diagnosed with cancer and we hope that our beautiful community will pray for her, and support her generously in this sacred month of blessings. Any amount you can contribute will help. Find out how to help on her website, here.
Food, Love & Memories is a bimonthly column devoted to the evocative connections between the heart, food & soul. We invite you to share your story+recipe for future columns. More details here.
It’s still a few hours before any hint of twilight when my mother-in-law pulls herself up off the couch, murmuring with a sense of urgency, “I need to start getting the pakora batter ready for iftar.”
“Relax, Mama,” I tell her. “It won’t be the end of the world if the kids don’t get pakoras for iftar one day. I’m going to be making fruit chaat and lassi; that will be more than enough before dinner. And those two healthful things are better for them than fried pakoras every night, don’t you think?”
She waves away my suggestions as inconsequential. “My bacchas love pakoras; they’re going to get pakoras. As long as their grandmother is around with them during Ramadan, they will get their request for pakoras fulfilled.”
Read the rest of this entry »
The phone rang, waking me from deep morning slumber. Naturally, I don’t pick up, though when I see the number my heart skips a beat.
It’s my college roommate. She never calls me. In the past decade since graduating, our lives took very different paths. The only times I hear from her are for celebrations or deaths. She called me for her engagement, marriage, baby one, and baby two. What else could be left – it must be sobering news.
Sure enough, a text message follows: “Give me a call as soon as possible.”
We’d been randomly assigned as roommates our freshman year, two naïve Muslim girls who bonded immediately and spent the next four years exploring our American Muslim identities and boundaries. By the time adulthood rolled around, I was on my way to DC to be a political activist, and she was going on rishtas with eligible Arab men selected by her mother. She was the first of our college circle to get married. We drifted apart, reconnecting only for significant life events.
I braced myself, and called her back as soon as I was coherent. “How are you?” I asked tentatively. “How is the family?”
“Everyone is great,” she replied, suspiciously cheerful. “So… at my son’s school, he has a lot of Bangladeshi friends. And I was talking to one of the mothers and she has a brother….”
When novelist & #WeNeedDiverseBooks co-founder Aisha Saeed walked into her local Barnes & Noble ten days ago, she was surprised & thrilled to see a Ramadan book display for children. She wanted to buy all four books displayed but after chatting with the bookseller, she realized that those were the only books in stock.
If she bought those books, not only would they be sold out of all of their Ramadan-themed children’s books, but the Ramadan display would disappear too. Shockingly, her bookstore was not located in a small town, but in Atlanta, GA. B&N thought they could only sell four Islamic-themed books in a city with a huge Muslim population.
Aisha’s blog post explaining the situation and asking that Muslims “be the change we want to see” was the spark we needed to ignite a book-buying revolution. Using the hashtag #RamadanReads, we asked our communities on social media platforms to share their children’s, young adult, and adult book recommendations for our Ramadan/Eid gift list. We based the extensive list below on your feedback.
This Thursday, July 3rd, marks the second phase of our campaign: Muslim communities will visit or call their local bookstores and libraries to order books from the list, letting them know that their request is part of the National #RamadanReads Campaign. We want this to become an annual event, inshAllah, and for Ramadan to become known as the month in which Muslims flock to bookstores to support their storytellers.
Muslims were once renowned as a community that loved, wrote and bought books, built libraries, and engaged in vigorous coffeehouse debates over the ideas that lie at the core of our humanity. At 8 million strong in the US, and with an estimated $170 billion in annual consumer purchasing power, we have the power to shape our own narratives. The key? Simple: The more Muslim storytellers we support with our dollars, the more diverse Muslim stories we will see.
The publishing industry is demand-driven. Buying available books sends a resounding message to publishers and bookstores that our representation matters and that we want to hear more Muslim voices and stories.
Please join us! Call/visit your bookstores/libraries with your book orders on Thursday morning, and then share the books you chose and what your experience was like with the #RamadanReads hashtag. We’d love to hear about what it means to you to read books written by and about Muslims. What were your childhood experiences like with or without books reflecting you? What kind of stories do you hope your children will have access to? Why is supporting Muslim authors and books important to you? Let’s talk about it all on Twitter at 11 am PDT/2 pm EDT this Thursday!
Let’s “be the change” – together.
- Aisha Saeed, aishasaeed.com
Ayesha Mattu, Deonna Kelli, & Nura Maznavi, LoveinshAllah.com
Jennifer Zobair. Storyandchai.com
Sabina Khan-Ibarra, MuslimahMontage.com
PS: The list below features books by diverse Muslim authors, including those who identify as orthodox, cultural and secular. If you’d like us to consider adding a book, please leave a comment below, tweet or email us!
Love InshAllah’s Top 10 Editorial Picks – The books we love to give as gifts
1. Night of the Moon by Hena Khan: A delightful children’s story about Ramadan/Eid with a female protagonist.
2. The Conference of the Birds by Alexis York Lumbard, Demi and Seyyed Hossein Nasr: Gorgeously illustrated book based on Attar’s 800-year-old Persian parable that will illuminate the hearts of both children and adults. In fact, all of Demi’s books that I’ve read (Muhammad, Rumi, The Hungry Coat, & One Grain of Rice) are wonderful.
3. A teenage Pakistani-American Muslim superhero? Yes, please! Check out the cool new Ms. Marvel comic,, issues 1-5 today!
4. E-mails to Scheherazade by Mohja Kahf: This powerful book of exquisite poems was shared between three generations in my home, each one feeling as if Professor Kahf had written the poem just for her.
5. The best biographies of the Prophet (saws) soften your heart and make you fall in love with him all over again. Omid Safi’s Memories of Mohammad does just that.
6. That gaping emptiness inside? It’s why I read Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s Purification of the Heart: Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart every year.
7. If you haven’t read Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson yet, you’re missing out on one of the most fantastic debut novels ever. The NYT selected it as a notable book of the year and called it “a bookload of wizardry and glee.” We agree.
8. Do Muslim Women Need Saving? by Lila Abu-Lughod: if you are a Muslim woman, or have an opinion about us, Read This.
9. Haldol & Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life by Melody Moezzi: My cousin received a bipolar diagnosis, so Melody’s memoir hits close to home. Evocative, funny, and informative, she’s helping to open up a critical conversation around mental health in the Muslim community.
10. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X: A classic that changed my life and perspective when I read it at 16. Great for teens and adults alike.
And, if you haven’t already, check out the books of the writers who created the campaign:
Painted Hands by Jennifer Zobair: Zainab Mir is a beautiful, sharp-tongued campaign strategist with a penchant for stirring up controversy. Her best friend, Amra Abbas, is a seemingly-unflappable attorney on a grueling partnership track. Can these ambitious Muslim women juggle two cultures, high-powered careers, and unexpected men—including a right-wing talk radio host—to have it all?
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. This beautiful novel follows a Pakistani American teenager who falls in love with a boy in her community against her parent’s wishes. When they find out, the consequences are greater than she could have possibly imagined.
See the complete list of books below. Search Indiebound for the independent bookstore nearest you, or order from Powell’s Books online. Don’t forget to tell them that #RamadanReads sent you! Read the rest of this entry »
To mark the end of Pride Month and the beginning of Ramadan, Salaam, Love contributor Ramy Eletreby writes for the Huffington Post about the greatest heartbreak of his life – losing his Muslim community:
One of the greatest heartbreaks in my life occurred after coming out at the age of 24: I lost my Muslim community. After my public coming out, via an article in The Los Angeles Times, and the backlash that came with it, I retreated. I distanced myself from the people I cared about, the people I’d been raised with in the masjidin Los Angeles, those whom I viewed as extended members of my own family. I was certain that they had stopped caring about me. It took me years to take responsibility for my part in that break rather than only see myself as a victim of circumstance.
Read the rest, here.
To read more about Ramy, check out Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy.
He came here full of hope.
It was 1981 and he was a twenty four year old graduate student sent from his home country of Sudan. He was told to make his country proud so he packed his belongings along with his dreams for a better life.
The ultimate dream of any person living in a poor country. He was starting a new life in America.
A land of endless opportunity and a place where anyone could make it.
My mom said women were always taken aback because he was exceptionally handsome. His nubian almond shaped eyes, strong jawline, and chocolate skin made women, from all ethnicities, gravitate towards him. His solid frame had him shy of 6’5. I always thanked Allah that I inherited his eyes and not his height.
He didn’t know it though. He didn’t realize how good looking he truly was because back in Africa he resembled any other tall and lanky East African guy walking around Khartoum.
Read the rest of this entry »