Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim

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By Sabeeha Rehman

This enthralling story of the making of an American is also a timely meditation on being Muslim in America today.

Threading My Prayer Rug is a richly textured reflection on what it is to be a Muslim in America today. It is also the luminous story of many journeys: from Pakistan to the United States in an arranged marriage that becomes a love match lasting forty years; from secular Muslim in an Islamic society to devout Muslim in a society ignorant of Islam, and from liberal to conservative to American Muslim; from student to bride and mother; and from an immigrant intending to stay two years to an American citizen, business executive, grandmother, and tireless advocate for interfaith understanding.

Beginning with a sweetly funny, moving account of her arranged marriage, the author undercuts stereotypes and offers the refreshing view of an American life through Muslim eyes. In chapters leavened with humor, hope, and insight, she recounts an immigrant’s daily struggles balancing assimilation with preserving heritage, overcoming religious barriers from within and distortions of Islam from without, and confronting issues of raising her children as Muslims—while they lobby for a Christmas tree! Sabeeha Rehman was doing interfaith work for Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the driving force behind the Muslim community center at Ground Zero, when the backlash began. She discusses what that experience revealed about American society.

Buy the book in Amazon

Suggested Reading

Shariah and Constitution: A Personal Journey

Shariah and Constitution by Zia H Shah

Reviews of the book

“Rehman’s personal journey is her own, but speaks broadly to all immigrant journeys in contemporary America. With so much discussion about immigrants from Muslim in the national conversation, it’s good to have a story with this unique perspective.” —Booklist, starred review

“Rehman’s spirited debut memoir illuminates the challenges of living an authentically Muslim life in America. . . . With sparkling anecdotes about everything from the ‘Christmas-ization of Eid’ to engineering her son’s marriage, Rehman lends a light heart and an open mind to the process of becoming a multicultural ‘hybrid.'” —Publishers Weekly

“A heartfelt memoir plumbs the multilayered experience of being Muslim in America. With a steady infusion of verve and personality, Rehman immerses readers in the traditions of a Middle Eastern culture. . . . Rehman’s memoir offers a deeper understanding and appreciation for Muslim lifestyles while imparting a message of unity and international fellowship. A culturally rich and rewarding personal chronicle of ethnic faith and intermingled tradition.” —Kirkus

“An entertaining and honest story of one woman’s journey to fuse the cultures of her past and present to create her own experience . . . Her story is permeated with hilarious personal experiences and asides as she adapts to the country she will soon call home. Rehman lends a strong and compelling voice to moderate Muslims, and her discussion of her faith and the areas she believes need modernization illustrate the different opinions within the Muslim community.” —Library Journal

“Take this journey on Sabeeha’s prayer rug, and you will be enchanted as she vividly and beautifully transports you through rich and elaborate threads of a lifetime lived with love, intelligence, and compassion—an inspiration to all.” —Ranya Tabari Idliby, coauthor of The Faith Club and author of Burqas, Baseball and Apple Pie

“Funny and frank, acute, and compassionate, this story of an immigrant ‘fish out of water’ who falls in love with her adopted American home is for all of us, and for all times—but current events also make it the story for this time. As Americans consider who they were, are, and want to be in the future, they could have no better guide than Sabeeha Rehman. I can’t imagine our country, or my bookshelf, without her.” —Susan Choi, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of A Person of Interest and My Education

“With anti-Islamic sentiments on the rise in this country, Threading My Prayer Rug is a refreshing look at what it is really like to be a Muslim in the US today. With humor, charm, and great insight, Sabeeha Rehman recounts how one can be both a devout Muslim and an American wife, mom, grandmother and community activist.” —Jan Goodwin, award-winning author, journalist, and Senior Fellow at Brandeis University’s Schuster Institute of Investigative Journalism

“Coming to America is seldom associated with discovering one’s faith—let alone Islam. Rich in exotic detail, Sabeeha’s true-life story is funny, sweet, beautiful, warm, and deeply touching to any reader, who will note how much the heart and soul of a Muslim mother is like that of any other.” —Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of Cordoba House, author of What’s Right With Islam andMoving the Mountain

“Sabeeha Rehman’s prose resonates with intimacy, wisdom, and wit. She achieves a richly textured narrative that introduces readers to the rituals and enduring values of her Muslim faith as she, her husband Khalid and their sons Saqib and Asim integrate into the American melting pot. At the conclusion of her classic text, Ms. Rehman affirms, ‘Together we will change the discourse, quell violence with knowledge, and banish phobias to the fringe as we work together in unity of the spirit.’ This reader was moved to respond, ‘Ameen . . . Amen.'”—Sidney Offit, former president of the Authors Guild Foundation and Authors League Fund and author of Memoir of a Bookie’s Son

“A charming and engrossing book, Threading My Prayer Rug provides a window to a culture and people we do not know enough about. . . . Readable, easy to relate to, and inspiring!” —Sumbul Ali-Karamali, author of The Muslim Next Door: the Qur’an, the Media, and that Veil Thing

Threading My Prayer Rug is a beautifully written memoir of a cosmopolitan and faithful Pakistani-American Muslim woman. It’s recommended for all who want to have a sense of how the tapestry of American Islam is shaped by the contributions of a variety of Muslims, including those from South Asia.” —Omid Safi, Director, Duke Islamic Studies Center

Threading My Prayer Rug is a warm, wise, and wonderful book. Ms. Rehman writes in a wry and often humorous style that is understanding of human foibles yet gently pushes readers of all backgrounds to become fuller and more engaged human beings. As an Orthodox rabbi working to strengthen cooperation between Jews and Muslims, I was moved by her involvement in Muslim-Jewish coalition-building efforts.” —Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and coauthor with Imam Shamsi Ali of Sons of Abraham

About the Author

Sabeeha Rehman came to the United States in 1971. When her sons were school age, she earned her masters in healthcare administration and began a career as a hospital administrator. After her grandson was diagnosed with autism, in 2008 she cofounded the New York Metro chapter of the National Autism Association and was its president. She has spent several decades working for interfaith dialogue and was COO of the Cordoba Initiative and director of interfaith programs at the American Society for Muslim Advancement, where she traversed the Tri-State area raising awareness about Islam and in particular about the role and rights of women. She has been on the public speaking circuit since the late 1980s and has spoken at synagogues and churches, civic organizations, educational institutions, and on television. She lives with her husband in New York City.

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