Thursday, April 26, 2012

The awesome Emory book reading. What was and what wasn't.

Today was my first reading. Ayesha Mattu, the co-editor of Love Insh'Allah flew in from California.  Ayesha is a breath of sunshine whenever our paths align and we are lucky enough to meet, so I was so thankful that Abby, a great local mom who works at Emory helped coordinate the event and made it all possible. She did a great job. We had a lovely turn out with lots of great questions, support, and my was it cool to sign books!  It was also so nice to see friends I see every day and friends I haven't seen in ages, all of whom are very busy but came out anyways [and my son's proud shouts of momma only helped make the evening that much more special]
But this book has not been without personal consequences for me and the lack of support from my Muslim community, startling, as I've had to endure silence and the not so infrequent hostile whispers. While this hurt, as people filled up the seats, asked questions, and my friends hugged me and my son ran up jumping into pictures because well, how do you take photos without him in it? I realized for the umpteenth time how blessed I was. The pain left a hollow crater, but in that moment I felt it fill up with love and gratitude for the beauty around me.

And yet, I want to figure out how to process what happened, or rather what didn't from those I thought were friends? Who heard the gossip and said nothing? Who have yet to say a word about the book, the reading, or anything close to it? Who've been in my home? Whose babies I held? Whose hands I held during difficult moments? What do I make of the silence? How does one proceed from here to protect ones heart? Is it simply the universe telling me its time to cull my friendships? Or am I making too much of this? This is not about those who supported me and let me know they couldn't make it because I understand life is busy, this is about those who couldn't even bother to say a word. Ever. It's the silence that unsettles. I try to treat people as I would like to be treated-- and while my son might prevent me from attending an event such as this, I would never simply lay forth a canvas of silence. I've written about my desire for, and my lack of community; this was never quite so starkly laid out for me as tonight. I'm thankful for my friends who are there for me, I'm thankful Waleed will have their love in his life but I had always envisioned him growing up in a large supportive faith-based community, and tonight I'm beginning to think this might be an area in which I ultimately fail him.

I don't normally lay it all out there like this, but I was hoping to get advice if anyone has ever experienced this, or in my shoes what they would do. Any advice appreciated.


Anonymous said...

you look great!

Sprogblogger said...

OK, first off--AWESOME to have a book reading/signing, and I'm so glad it was a successful event!

Something you said at the end of your post struck me--you essentially said that you feared you were failing your son because of other folks' lack of support and meanness. Do you hear how awful that sounds? You're taking responsibility for their shortcomings in a very personal way, and that's not good for you OR for Waleed.

While it's nice to grow up in a faith-based community, it's not the ONLY thing. And if instead, you had chosen to teach him the lesson that it's ok to be small-minded/judgmental/mean as long as you claim to be religious, then you truly would be doing him a disservice.

That said, I'm so sorry that your community hasn't been more welcoming and impressed with the beautiful work that went into this book, but also that they haven't been as welcoming and supportive of you, in general as they should be. It's hard, when we have such clear ideas of what we want from our communities--whether those communities are family, friends, political allies, religious, or any other grouping. It's hard when they don't live up to their end of the 'community' bargain, and it hurts--feels like a betrayal of the worst kind.

I hope you find a new community--faith-based or otherwise--that can fill the hole this one has left in your life, but I think you're absolutely doing the right thing by Waleed by not accepting their bad behavior. That's the real lesson he should take away--that actions speak louder than words, that they MATTER. Thinking of you and hoping that you find what you're looking for.

Aisha said...

Thanks Anon :)

Susan, thank you for your well thought out response to this. I think the reason it has mattered so much is that we are always calling back to our childhood and growing up I had a huge sprawling "community" I could count on but I think I look back to those times with more rose-tinted nostalgia glasses than actual truth in what it was since I'm sure there were a lot of the similar challenges. I guess I feel I owe W my childhood, and last night [and for quite some time now really, but last night most starkly of all] I realized that this will likely not be the case. I'm strangely at peace with it, but confused whether I'm being too harsh on people.

Michele said...

Oh honey... Sometimes we just have to accept that it isnt 'us', it truly is 'them'. Their preconceived notions, their issues, their problems... They lay them out in their hostility towards those of us they cannot understand and, at times, those they are jealous of.
Sending hugs and thoughts...

Anonymous said...

I ordered the book on Amazon and loved it. Your story, as well as others, made me cry. I am trying to decide which friend I think would appreciate the book so I can pass it on.

As a Muslim myself with a young son, I share similar disappointments with a lack of a faith-based community. It is very unfortunate and I just accept that there is nothing I can do about other people. I just appreciate those few real people in our lives, no matter what faith. This makes it all the more important to instill faith at home. I hope to find my son a nice Sunday school to attend, IA, as I did. People who disappoint me will be learning lessons for my son.

You said you were thankful for the few friends that supported you, and that is what you should focus on and what counts.

Tracy said...

I agree with "Sprogblogger" (Susan?), 100%

You're not the one who missed out, they did.

By the way, next time we see each other, you'll have to sign my book too :)

Love you mucho.

Sunny said...

Congrats on a successful signing! And I am so sorry for the silence and whispers from those you hoped would support you. I experienced something similar (although not to that extent) when the church I grew up in said that God wouldn't consider my husband and I married because our ceremony took place outside, instead of inside the walls of a church. Because you know, God didn't create flowers or trees or anything. *eye roll* But it was incredibly painful at the time. You are a warm, bright, compassionate woman, and you will build a "community" for yourself and your son, and good riddance to those who don't want to be a part of it. You deserve better. My assvice is to grieve the disappointment, and then look for positive influences to fill your life.

Faiqa said...

I read this and I feel a tinge of guilt. I have your book on my reading list and I think of you often. I should have been more vocal about my thoughts. I'm proud of you, to call you a sister in Islam, and from what I've heard about the book, it seems like it's an important piece of literature whose real value is in the process of unfolding. I'll move it up on my reading list, until then, please know that you are supported and that there are many who are proud of you -- how could we not be? XO

ireminisces said...

Must admit have not read the book, like the cover. Someone once asked Hadhrat Ibraheem bin Adham (Allaah have mercy upon him) for advice. Come and have a look at "Six Habits"

Anonymous said...


katery said...

wow aisha, this is SO cool, congratulations! i don't know why anyone would be anything but proud of you, i think it's the coolest thing ever. wish i could say what i would do if i were in your shoes but i'm kind of stumped, i'm not 100% sure what i would do.

pj said...

im sorry that you are going through i just commented on the other sucks. but i am super happy that you have a great group of friends to support you. why on earth everyone has decided to cut you out is beyond me, you seem pretty cool.

Lawyer Loves Lunch said...

Holy moly, you are a published author! And that is one awesome accomplishment :)

PS: Sent you an email!

Anonymous said...

Just as there are different subsections of 'community' in the wider world, they exist in the Muslim community too. It might help to try groups that have younger adults, or groups that have more focus on studying Islam... basically not the ones that have older, often judgmental, immigrant majorities.

Aisha said...

Michele, so nice to hear from you, and thank you so much for your compassionate insight to this. Thank you for your words, a balm to healing wounds.

Anon, wow thank you so much for sharing that you relate to this post, it helps to know I'm not the only one who is dealing with this. Your words of advice resonate with me as someone in the same shoes as me and you are right who is there is more important than who is not. Thank you.

Tracy, aw thanks, and just hoping and wishing and waiting for when I can finally see you again [and sign your book :)]

Aisha said...

Sunny, thank you so much for sharing your own personal experience with this, its comforting to know that one day like you I will look back at this with an eye roll and laugh. Your advice is spot on, give myself time to grieve the disappointment and then move on to enjoying the good in my life and the good people.

Faiqa! Please don't feel any guilt! It means a great deal that its on your reading list and I'm honored for your kind words towards the book and towards me, thank you so much.

Aisha said...

Thanks Ireminisces!

Kate, any perspective as to what you think you might do quite welcomed, thanks so much for your well wishes!!

PJ, thank you :) I appreciate your kind words and for taking the time out to share your point of view on this. Thank you.

Azmina, thanks for the heads up, will check my e-mail now!

Anon, most certainly there must be subsets, my 'community' is the younger non-immigrant people. . . i guess it differs everywhere, but your point is very valid. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the book reading!!!!
I know how hard it hurts when something like this happens. I've always done things that were considered strange when I was growing up because I didn't act or necessarily think like everyone else. It lead to lose of friendships. The biggest being when I converted. But although it hurts, there is always a reason for these things. People are in your life for a reason no matter how short of a time. God will place you where you belong.
And sorry if this is well written. I'm running on no sleep:) Pixie

Aisha said...

Pixie, thank you so much and wow your perspective is illuminating, particularly what you shared about converting to Islam--- I can only imagine how much it hurt to see a backlash to something you believed in. I am sorry for that. Thank you for the perspective, advice, and encouragement!

Mina said...

Congrats for a successful event! I am sorry it was made memorable in more than one ways by the silence and whispers. It is puzzling how people think they are doing the "proper" thing when in fact they are being petty and mean. But this is a matter pf perspective afterall. Which thank God it differs and you do not think that YOU did something wrong here.

I think you want to offer W the type of childhood you had, with community and sharing and people who love and care and educate and with stories to tell untill all the fires in the world go to sleep. You can't. None of us can offer our children the type of childhood we had, regardless of how much we try. Times are very changed. Expectations are very different. Attitudes could not be more different than they are. W will have a childhood filled with love and stories to tell, just not the kind you thought in the first place. Which does not mean it is wrong. It is just...different. :-)

Aisha said...

Mina, you've told me this before and I guess I've been sticking my head in the sand about it .. . I think I know why though. On facebook and beyond it seems others in this very community ARE having the childhood I had, but I think I have to face facts that perception is not always reality and hold that mantra close to me. . . thank you for the reminder that he may not have what I had, but what he wil have will be enough. I hope :)

Anonymous said...

I think it is possible to be surroundeded by more than one small "community," each of which you share something (but not everything) in common with. Perhaps there is a part of the community that cannot relate to this experience of yours. I wouldn't take it personally.

I haven't read the book yet but congratulations!

-- Rasha

Anonymous said...

I think it is possible to be surroundeded by more than one small "community," each of which you share something (but not everything) in common with. Perhaps there is a part of the community that cannot relate to this experience of yours. I wouldn't take it personally.

I haven't read the book yet but congratulations!

-- Rasha

fleur531 said...

Salaam Aisha! Aww, I'm sorry to hear about the stress that has come along with this awesome event in your life. Well, it is distressing and your response is natural. At the same time, it is comforting to know, I think, that you certainly can't make everybody happy. I definitely struggle with this myself but am slowly learning to let go. I am learning to just focus on making Allah swt happy, family and yourself. And to try to let go of the negative whispers by realizing that if you made a difference for one person through your story, then that is enough. And, you've definitely touched the hearts of of more than one person mashAllah! Your story has inspired so many. Keep on rocking!

I can relate what you mean about your fears for your son because of the lack of a nurturing community. It is sad, and I agree. I wish that as a Muslim community we could learn to judge less and learn to love more.

PS: Here's a quote that I love that I thought you might like also:

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; Who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
~President Theodore Roosevelt

fleur531 said...

oops, i forgot to sign my name...I think I accidentally signed on with a different gmail account? not sure but fleur531=Kulsum

Anonymous said...

You really shouldn't even let them know they got under your skin!

Aisha said...

Thanks Rasha, the key really is not to take it personally, and I really don't anymore. . . but I'm also confused as to how go forward--- are these my friends? Are they not? Thanks for your words of wisdom :)

Kulsum, thank you so much for taking the time to give me your perspective and or the lovely Roosevelt quote.

Anon, I don't know if they're under my skin as much as I'm trying to figure out how to practically carry on a relationship going forward.

Anonymous said...

So what I gather from your point of view in the compilation is that you married someone that your parents initially would have approved of, same race, religion, nationality. I don't get the controversy? Seems like just another desi match.

Aisha said...

Yes, you are right. I can't speak for those who have said what they've said or done what they've done, I guess it just is what it is.

md said...

congratulations! i'm looking forward to reading the book!

i had a harsh, harsh exchange of words recently with someone close. and i realized that no matter how unfair i think their opinion is, i cannot do anything to change it. it reminded me of kipling's poem, 'if'. and i decided that i must let go. in the end, we must do what we must, without worrying about others.

just bask in the glow of the book, and forget about those who can't see the light!

Aisha said...

MD, thanks so much for the poem mention, I am going to google it asap, and thanks for your words of wisdom!

fleur531 said...

It's so heart-wrenching for me to hear that you've had this experience. I've been through something similar and found it really difficult. For me, I felt that I had lost a sister, which I found to be heart-breaking.

I realized though that these defining moments do teach us who our true friends are and shines light on those who *are* there for you during unpopular times. So the bright side is that it will help you cherish those who are there for you even more.

For those who weren't ("how to practically carry on a relationship going forward."), I feel forgiveness is a powerful thing. Don't let them fool you twice, but forgive them and don't let them go either. This can be as simple as praying for them and wishing them all the best, peace and happiness in their lives. Praying for their understanding might be helpful too, inshAllah!


Leigh Ann Ahmad said...

I'm sure this has been difficult! Take pride in the fact that your participation in this project is opening dialogue and hearts. More people are learning the complex diversity and beauty that lies within the name of Islam. Three of my friends read the book who admittedly knew nothing about Islam beyond the burqa. Following the book reading, we had very open-minded and thought provoking discussions. Though I, too have no faith community and have lost a lot in my marriage choice (childhood friends, customs), I feel proud for promoting the book and know that these types of acts are what I wish for my sons to witness.

Tina S. said...

Hi Aisha!
I am so happy for you about the book.. and so sorry that I couldn't attend the book signing. I was in DC for a conference. I really enjoyed reading the book and I am proud to say that one of the authors is a friend (that's you :-) I wish I could offer you wisdom on the issue of being/feeling disconnected from the community.. but I too have always felt disconnected and have never figured out how to connect without sacrificing my identity. But I can offer you my support for your courage and bravery. And my hope that one of these days, you'll sign my copy of the book!

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