Spotlight: Aida Rahim, engineer, outdoor aficionado, and Love InshAllah contributor!Posted: January 9, 2012
Aida Rahim is a Malaysian-American engineer and lover of the outdoors. She is currently working for a company that develops fiber optic instruments. During her free time, she loves physical activity, especially hiking. From Aida: “The best hike I’ve been on was up Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire. The hike was strenuous and the views from the ridge were breathtaking! The craziest hike was in the Adirondacks. We hiked up in a snow blizzard in substandard protection (running shoes, rain jacket, track pants). It was not the wisest of decisions but we survived to tell the story.”
An excerpt from Aida’s piece, “Brain Meets Heart”:
“After high school, I moved to England to continue my studies. Suddenly faced with the prospect of being a minority, both racially and religiously, I wanted an identity that I could hold on to and call my own. I decided that I would Be Muslim, instead of being Muslim merely by chance of birth. I would do this by following, to the letter, all the rules that I had learned in school in Malaysia. I thought that the more closely I adhered to those rules, the stronger my faith would be.
This was my religious conviction at twenty-four, when I met my first husband. By this time, I was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and enrolled in a PhD program. I had never been on a date before, and no boy or man had ever shown any interest in me. Perhaps I was too serious and conservative—I wore hijab, dressed in long, flowy clothes, and avoided unnecessary conversation with men. Perhaps I was too independent—I had lived on my own for the past ten years and had never needed to ask permission of anyone to do anything. Perhaps my standards were too high—I wanted a fellow rule-follower and someone physically and mentally smarter and stronger than I. Or perhaps the right man just had not come my way.”
To read the rest of Aida’s story, order Love InshAllah today!
Why were you drawn to this project?
I am a bad storyteller. I mean verbally. If I am trying to tell a story and you look even a little bit disinterested, I get disheartened and lose my train of thought. I feel apologetic for boring you and end my story in a whimper, or just drop it mid-story. But I do have a story to tell. And this project was the perfect medium through which I could tell my story.
I wanted to share my relationship experiences as the experiences of someone who happens to be a woman, happens to be American, and happens to consider herself Muslim. ‘Woman’, ‘American’, and ‘Muslim’ are these boxes that we put ourselves into, the delineating limits of which are murky (body shape? genitalia? citizenship? cultural connections? God-choice? life principles?). It should be difficult to come up with a stereotype, yet stereotypes exist. I wanted to be a part of a project that promised to deliver a diversity of experiences to readers from the point of view of those who consider ourselves to be American Muslim Women.
What was the most challenging part of sharing your story?
Well, going through the editing process was quite painful. Having to go through my own story time and time again, expanding upon unclear parts and polishing ideas, was grueling. I almost gave up right at the end (I told the editors to go ahead without my story), during the last round of edits, because I could not bring myself to sit down and intelligently consider the editors’ questions. It of course did not help that the editors identified my main weakness: I was not describing my emotions and thoughts deeply enough, but merely described events as they happened. Exciting as these events were, they gave almost no insight into what was happening in my head, and my thoughts and opinions navigating them. Having to dig deep for real emotions and thoughts was quite challenging.
If there’s one thing you hope that readers will take away from your story, what is it?
Know yourself. Acknowledge your self worth. Act on your beliefs. Do not be afraid. I guess that’s four things… I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and not only that, the best of reasons. Hence I think that the best way to go through life is to enjoy whatever comes and learn from it.