Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam

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Harper Collins, Feb 28, 2006 - Religion - 352 pages

As President Bush is preparing to invade Iraq, Wall Street Journal correspondent Asra Nomani embarks on a dangerous journey from Middle America to the Middle East to join more than two million fellow Muslims on the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca required of all Muslims once in their lifetime. Mecca is Islam's most sacred city and strictly off limits to non-Muslims. On a journey perilous enough for any American reporter, Nomani is determined to take along her infant son, Shibli -- living proof that she, an unmarried Muslim woman, is guilty of zina, or "illegal sex." If she is found out, the puritanical Islamic law of the Wahabbis in Saudi Arabia may mete out terrifying punishment. But Nomani discovers she is not alone. She is following in the four-thousand-year-old footsteps of another single mother, Hajar (known in the West as Hagar), the original pilgrim to Mecca and mother of the Islamic nation.

Each day of her hajj evokes for Nomani the history of a different Muslim matriarch: Eve, from whom she learns about sin and redemption; Hajar, the single mother abandoned in the desert who teaches her about courage; Khadijah, the first benefactor of Islam and trailblazer for a Muslim woman's right to self-determination; and Aisha, the favorite wife of the Prophet Muhammad and Islam's first female theologian. Inspired by these heroic Muslim women, Nomani returns to America to confront the sexism and intolerance in her local mosque and to fight for the rights of modern Muslim women who are tired of standing alone against the repressive rules and regulations imposed by reactionary fundamentalists.

Nomani shows how many of the freedoms enjoyed centuries ago have been erased by the conservative brand of Islam practiced today, giving the West a false image of Muslim women as veiled and isolated from the world. Standing Alone in Mecca is a personal narrative, relating the modern-day lives of the author and other Muslim women to the lives of those who came before, bringing the changing face of women in Islam into focus through the unique lens of the hajj. Interweaving reportage, political analysis, cultural history, and spiritual travelogue, this is a modern woman's jihad, offering for Westerners a never-before-seen look inside the heart of Islam and the emerging role of Muslim women.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - nvenkataraman1 - LibraryThing

There are three major parts to the book: Asra's spiritual and personal motivations leading up to the Haj, the Haj experience and the post Haj fight for the application of Islamic tenets in modern ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - danoomistmatiste - LibraryThing

A very interesting, readable and unputdownable book. Everyone must put it on their must read list. There are several reasons why I like it, here are a few of them, - This writer was a reported for WSJ ... Read full review

Contents

The Dalai Lama and the Seeds of a Pilgrimage
3
Islamic Red Tape
12
Betrayal and a Turning Point
19
Fear and Doubts
26
PART
33
On the Road of Bin Laden
41
House of Saud House of Donuts
49
Climax and Anticlimax
52
PART FIVE
165
My Voice Claimed
174
Acceptance
180
A Princess in Islam
186
PART
193
History Reclaimed
199
Our Ascension
207
Islamic Rights in Western Law
213

The Divine in the Desert
60
A Prayer Side by Side
70
The Prophet and His Female Anchors
82
The Contradiction of Public and Private
91
The City of Illumination
97
My Nephew and the Promise of the New Muslim Man
106
PART THREE
113
The Devils in the Details
119
Judgment Day Sin and Forgiveness
126
The True Face of Satan
132
A Very Good God
138
A Different Path
149
Travel Warnings and War Clouds
158
A Restraining Order in the House of God
220
Disappointment After Disappointment
224
Messages of Worthlessness
233
PART SEVEN
241
Inquisition
250
Back to Mecca
258
New Triumphs
266
The Professor
272
Epilogue
281
An Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in Mosques
293
Acknowledgments
303
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About the author (2006)

Asra Q. Nomani is a former Wall Street Journal correspondent, has also written for the Washington Post, New York Times, and Time magazine on Islam, and has covered the war in Afghanistan for Salon.com. She has spoken about women’s rights in Islam on CNN, PBS, NPR, and the BBC. A Muslim born in India, Nomani was raised in the foothills of West Virginia, and currently lives in Morgantown with her son, Shibli.

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