Now Reading
Meet the Muslim Author Who Blogged Letters for Her Son’s Hajj

Meet the Muslim Author Who Blogged Letters for Her Son’s Hajj

With this year’s Hajj coming to a close, pilgrims are returning home. If you look hard enough, the stories of such pilgrims have flooded the Internet. But the narrative I’ve enjoyed following the most was the collection of letters that author Sabeeha Rehman blogged to her son, who was performing his first Hajj.
Throughout the five days of Hajj, Sabeeha reflected on her own experiences as a Hajji daily, when she imagined what her son might be doing while he is there. In case you’re not entirely familiar with what goes on during the five days, I really recommend reading these blogs.
Her stories made me curious to learn more about the generational differences in performing Hajj, as well as how she managed raising her children as Muslim Americans after immigrating to the United States from Pakistan.
I caught up with Sabeeha to ask her a few questions, considering her uplifting, positive voice that she uses to discuss these issues in her blog and her 2016 memoir, “Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim.”


Muslim Girl: How many years ago did you perform Hajj? Did you go with a tour group? How has it changed since then according to your son’s experience or what you’ve heard?
Sabeeha Rehman: I have performed the Hajj twice, Alhamdulillah. The first time was in the late 1980s. We went with friends who had family in Saudi Arabia. They connected us with a local group in Saudi, who handled our arrangements. At that time, there were no U.S.-based Hajj travel groups that we were aware of. The second Hajj was in 2002 when we were living in Saudi Arabia, and signed up with a local group.

What has markedly changed, is the connectivity. When I did my first hajj, cell phones and internet were non-existent. You said your goodbyes when you left, and the next time you spoke to your loved ones, was when you returned.

Groups today are far more organized, offering various levels of comfort — from basic packages to luxury VIP packages, making one question whether it dilutes the intent of Hajj, which is to immerse oneself in the spiritual experience and focus on one’s connection with God.
On the other hand, some groups driven by profit are scam artists, engaging in unethical practices. My older son was a victim of such a scam when the travel agent in the U.S. took off with his group’s payment and failed to deliver their passports, leaving people stranded in New York.
He and his group-mates called the press and the episode was broadcast on one of the major TV networks. He lost his money and had to postpone the hajj to the following year.
My younger son performed the Hajj this year. He chose to go with a new travel agent, a leap of faith. I am waiting for my son to return to learn about his experience. But from what I can tell, it went beautifully.

Picture the landscape in the 1970s: no mosques, no Muslim Sunday schools, no Muslim community, no Muslim teacher, and no Islamic books, barely any Muslims, and definitely no role models, except for Muhammad Ali.

What has markedly changed, is the connectivity. When I did my first hajj, cell phones and internet were non-existent. You said your goodbyes when you left, and the next time you spoke to your loved ones, was when you returned.
Look at it now! We Face-timed, texted, and thanks to social media, watched photos and videos posted by his travel agent on their Facebook page. I was with him in the virtual sphere.
Whereas he used the privilege sparingly, choosing to focus on fulfilling his spiritual obligation, I was totally connected with him through the group’s Facebook page. I knew when he left Arafat for Muzdalifa; I got teary-eyed seeing his hands raised in prayer; I felt the oomph of the donut he was digging into; and I had the urge to rub my hand over his shiny bald head. I knew when to get worried, and I felt the sweetness of relief, thanking God, each time he returned after the ritual of Rami. I was with him on the Hajj in cyberspace.
How many children do you have?
I have two sons. When my husband and I did our first hajj, we had sent the boys with my parents to Pakistan. After I did my Farewell Tawaaf, I told my husband, ‘I want to come back with my children. If they do the umrah now, it will inspire them to do the hajj when they are adults.’
We returned with our boys two years later for umrah. Three years ago when my older son left for Hajj, I thought of that moment. God had heard my prayer.
Was it difficult to raise children as Muslims in the U.S.?
Picture the landscape in the 1970s: no mosques, no Muslim Sunday schools, no Muslim community, no Muslim teacher, and no Islamic books, barely any Muslims, and definitely no role models, except for Muhammad Ali.
How does a parent even begin? Well, you begin at home, and you begin with stories. Then you build a community, one family at a time; gathering first in your living room, then in the basement, then moving into rented community halls, constantly finding a reason to have a party.
And once you have a critical mass, you get organized, and start a Sunday school, again— first in the living room and then you grow outwards.

See Also

And once your children become young adults, allow them to define an American Muslim identity for themselves, one that is wholly Muslim and wholly American.

Where do you find teachers? You don’t. They weren’t any. You parents wave the magic wand, utter the sacred words, and turn into teachers. On those trips to Pakistan, you come back loaded with books and get yourself an education.
That is when you realize how ignorant you have been all your life. You learn to separate culture from religion and rediscover Islam in its pristine and original form. Now, you are ready to educate.
What is the biggest piece of advice to young mothers you could share for raising Muslim children outside of Muslim countries?
Get involved! Get involved in the religious education of your children. Volunteer at the Sunday school — not just bringing cookies and cake — define the curriculum and select the teachers.
Know what brand of Islam you want your children to embrace, and make that happen. Don’t drop off your children at the school and drive off to run errands. Park your car and stay. Know what they are being taught, and if you don’t like what you hear, make it change. You can do it!
And once your children become young adults, allow them to define an American Muslim identity for themselves, one that is wholly Muslim and wholly American.
Here I will quote from my book:
‘Dear Muslim immigrant parents: Turn the denial dial to the Off position, listen to your children, talk to them, walk with them, and grow with them. Your children are American. Trust them to redraw the boundaries as American Muslims. Recognize that our children will be better Muslims than us, because you have molded them into informed and educated Muslims and have given them the best values of both worlds. Trust them to redefine their identity. Trust them to recast Muslim practices as Americans. You are doing more than changing the direction of your prayer rug — from facing west in Pakistan to facing northeast in America — the picture of your prayer rug has changed.’ mgheart


 
Sabeeha Rehman is the author of the memoir, “Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim.” It’s available in bookstores, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. The audio book is available on Audible.

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Scroll To Top