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Threading My Prayer Rug, Sabeeha Rehman.

April 22, 2016

Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim, Sabeeha Rehman.  Arcade Publishing (2016), 336 pages.

5 stars

A valuable and informative account of a woman’s religious journey from Pakistan where she was raised, to New York where she came as a young bride and gradually became involved in the creation of a moderate American Muslim community.

Sabeeha Rehman was born and raised in Pakistan.  Although her parents were rather liberal, all those around her took the Muslim faith for granted. Her world was immersed in Islam. After an arranged and very happy marriage to a young doctor, she came to New York in 1971. Other Muslims seemed invisible. As her two sons grew, she wanted to ensure they were grounded in Islam. Her first step was to find and create a Muslim community to celebrate the faith and teach the children.  She and her husband began a Sunday school and later a Mosque. After her experience of the Haji, a trip to Mecca, her faith deepened. Rehman became a leader in the group as they worked through what was essential to Muslims as a minority religion in America and what should be discarded or reshaped, such as the attitudes toward women.  She also became deeply involved with Christians, Jews, and Hindus who shared her hopes for a pluralistic nation.

As a woman who has known Islam in both Pakistan and New York, Rehman is able to write knowledgeably about its basic practices and local differences.  She provides readers with some of the texture of living as a Muslim woman and offers valuable examples about the practical aspects of how Muslims pray and celebrate.  She describes how traditional arranged marriages are giving way to practices that give young people more chances to meet other Muslims and still prioritize the existing families.  She discusses differences among Muslims and the Islamophobia in the United States in recent years as well as her growing role in interfaith work.

I enthusiastically recommend Threading my Prayer Rug as a fine introduction to what it means to share our country and our world with Muslims.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2016 8:13 pm

    This sounds interesting…
    Where I live in Melbourne, there has been, for decades, a large Turkish community who are presumably mostly Muslim. I say presumably because although they run Turkish restaurants and participate in community festivals, and have for years offered classes in drumming and in Turkish language, they are not noticeably Muslim. The women have never worn the hijab, the men don’t have the beard and the white cap, and at the school where I worked there were no demands to eliminate pork from the canteen. (They send their children to local schools and have not set up their own separate Islamic schools). They practise their faith privately, and not assertively, as most other people in Australia do. These people prove that it is perfectly possible for Islam to work in a modern society, and I often use their example when I come across people who are Islamophobic.
    I think that the key to this is, as you say, attitudes to women. At school we heard of a few cases of a ‘nice Turkish boy’ being imported as a husband for an Australian educated girl, and without exception these marriages failed. Educated Aussie young women who’d grown up in a society where women had equal rights were not going to put up with being told what to do by uneducated boys from traditional societies, especially not when unlike their bilingual wives, these young men could only speak Turkish and relied on their women in every way! These young women were not going to be told to cover up or subscribe to someone else’s idea of what was modest, and they expected to have their own careers, their own money and their own independence. These girls are now lawyers and doctors and leaders in their community, and their children will be the same.

    • April 25, 2016 2:51 pm

      Interesting. Here in the U.S.the pattern is the opposite. Men born here or who come here to study go back to India, or Pakistan or wherever, and marry women that they hope will be more docile than those born and raised here.

      I apologize for not responding regularly to reviews and comments. All I can say is that I do what I can do, and that isn’t what it used to be.

      • April 25, 2016 7:08 pm

        Don’t apologise:)
        I comment to let you know that I’m reading your posts and thinking about them, but I don’t expect an instant response…

  2. April 22, 2016 10:17 pm

    This sounds an important book in terms of helping build more understanding of people who follow the Islamic faith. In the aftermath of the Paris and Brussels bombing we saw considerable animosity towards Muslims but little recognition that many subscribers are law abiding citizens who simply want to be able to follow their faith quietly

    • April 25, 2016 2:52 pm

      I agree. The author does an excellent job of explaining that.

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