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

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

by Sabeeha Rehman

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781628726664
Publisher: Arcade
Publication date: 06/14/2016
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 30,488
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

Sabeeha Rehman was born and raised in Pakistan. She came to the United States in 1971 after a hurried arranged marriage to a Pakistani doctor in New York. With a bachelor’s degree in Home Economics, she settled into the life of a homemaker. Once both her sons were enrolled full-time in school, she went back to college to get her masters in healthcare administration and began her twenty-five-year career as a hospital executive. Her career spanned hospitals in New York, New Jersey, and Saudi Arabia.

Raising children Muslim in the absence of a Muslim community was a daunting challenge. In the early 1980s, she and her husband began the work of establishing a Muslim community on Staten Island, where they were living at the time. Their efforts culminated in the building of a mosque.

Ms. Rehman has spent the last several decades in engaging in interfaith dialogue with faith communities. She served as the director of interfaith programs at the American Society for Muslim Advancement and as the chief operating officer at the Cordoba Initiative, a multifaith organization dedicated to building bridges between Muslims and the West. She is active on the interfaith circuit, raising awareness of Islam, and Muslims in America.

When her grandson was diagnosed with autism, she left her career and cofounded the New York Metro Chapter of the National Autism Association, and served as its first president.

Her memoir, Threading My Prayer Rug, received Honorable Mention in Spirituality in the San Francisco Book Festival Awards of 2017. It was listed as a Top 10 Religion and Spirituality Book of 2016 and a Top 10 Diverse Nonfiction Books of 2017 by Booklist. She has contributed op-eds to the Wall Street Journal, and she blogs on topics related to American Muslim and Pakistani immigrant experience at

She lives in New York City with her husband Khalid, a retired hematologist/oncologist

Table of Contents

Preface to the Paperback Edition ix

Prologue Not a Mosque, and Not at Ground Zero 1

Part 1 An Arranged Marriage in Pakistan

1 It's Arranged 11

2 I Never Said, "I Do": The Marriage Contract 44

3 A Silver Watch: My Splendid Pakistani Wedding 55

4 Marital Advice 62

Part 2 A Pakistani Muslim in New York

5 A Pakistani Bride in New York: "I Wouldn't Do That If I Were You" 67

6 Where Are You From? 75

7 A Muslim Girl in New York: A Holiday Muslim 81

8 Pakistani Pregnancy, American Delivery: A Baptism of Sorts, Plus a Circumcision 87

9 Ramadan without Ramadan: Why I Stopped Fasting 94

10 The Christmas-ization of Eid 98

11 A Muslim among Orthodox Jews 101

12 The Americanization of Yours Truly 105

Part 3 Creating a Muslim Space

13 Where Do I Begin? 119

14 Building a Muslim Community 124

15 A Muslim Sunday School and a Mosque 129

Part 4 Rediscovering Islam: Religion or Culture?

16 Born-Again Muslim 141

17 Lower Your Gaze 164

18 Pakistani Islam or a Hybrid? 167

19 Moon Sighting 179

20 Tradition versus Women's Rights 185

21 My Brand of Islam 191

22 Abraham's Sacrifice 196

23 Grounded in Roots 199

Part 5 An American Muslim in New York

24 An Arranged Marriage for My Sons? 213

25 The Shia-Sunni Schism 242

26 Don't Ghetto-ize Islam 249

27 Flashpoints 264

28 And Then Nothing Was the Same: September 11, 2001 280

29 Extremism and Islamophobia: Viewed from the Eyes of a Muslim 286

30 Upgrading Islam into the Twenty-First Century 292

31 An American Muslim in Pakistan 295

32 An American Muslim in New York 309

Acknowledgments 315

Glossary 317

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Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman's Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Finnlove More than 1 year ago
I loved THREADING MY PRAYER makes our nation sit up and take notice of how much we need to embrace different cultures and ideas....we have become a nation of bias and fear. Most people are good people , trying to find a better life for themselves and their families..Bravo to Sahbeeha Rehman for giving us such a wonderful and insightful look into American Muslim Life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All Americans should read this book to learn more about the beauty and culture of the Muslim Communities both in Pakistan and in America. The story of Sabeeha’s arranged marriage in Pakistan is riveting. It is charmingly written with love, sensitivity and humor depicting the very intricate rituals the bride, groom and their families practice to find a suitable marriage partner. In her case she has found her soul mate for life. The rest of her book, in America, takes us through Sabeeha’s forty year journey of assimilation and struggle to maintain her religious, cultural beliefs and family values, and incorporate them into becoming an American. Not only does she assimilate, but becomes an advocate and leader in interfaith organizations. She takes pride in being a devout Muslim and an American. Her warmth and love of her family and people in general is embracing to the reader. This book is written in an easy reading conversational style as Sabeetha talks directly to reader. I believe this is a MUST READ memoir.…Kathy Wilson author of Out of the Rabbit Hole.
Farhana Liaqat More than 1 year ago
The description of Sabeeha's experiences and challenges can be related to most of the Pakistani female lives which keep on increasing the readers' interest chapter after chapter. But her journey through different religions and cultures by maintaining the integrity of a Muslim, is really inspiring for the youth; immigrant or non immigrant, muslim or non muslim.
BettyTaylor More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this remarkable memoir of a Pakistani Muslim lady and her family evolving into an American-Pakistani Muslim. I suspect all religious minorities in the US can relate to quite a few of her challenges. Khalid Rehman is doing his residency in New York when his family and Sabeeha’s family negotiate an arranged marriage for them. They are married in Pakistan and then take off to the US to start their life together. Sabeeha is immediately confronted with culture shock. She soon realizes that it will be a challenge to fit into her new home while also maintaining her deep faith as a Muslim. And the challenges increase as their two sons grow into the American culture. Sabeeha tells us of the reactions of American non-Muslims when there has been a terrorist attack involving a Muslim, and of the reaction of the American Muslim community. She also tells of the compassionate non-Muslim Americans who stood beside them through turbulent times. She became an advocate for interfaith relations. But to me, the most interesting part comes toward the end of the book when she focuses on how culture influences the religion, and how a unique Muslim American is developing – an entity that holds true to its faith while absorbing traits of the country they now live in and love. Back when Sabeeha met Khalid she agreed to come to the US for only two years. They have now been married for over 40 years and have been in the US most of that time – and have become American citizens.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank you, New York Times, for an editorial earlier this summer that mentioned this book. On a basic level, it's an entertaining read (author is an excellent writer and story teller), and as a one-in-a-million American of Scottish/Irish descent (Christian, non-Catholic heritage), I enjoyed learning a lot more about what it was like for a young Pakistani Muslim woman to move to the United States over 45 years ago. And, her explanations of her cultural and religious heritage were easy to understand. More importantly, though, I was deeply moved by Sabeeha's courage to share her life story and her hopes and fears, and for her extreme goodness as a human being who cares about making the world a better, more peaceful place, where there is room for all of our different heritages and beliefs. She gave me hope that we can move the world toward a more peaceful place of understanding and acceptance. This would be an outstanding book for a book club, because it needs to be discussed. Bravo!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent resource for becoming acquainted with the Muslim faith and ethos at the everyday (as compared with the sensational) level. The world needs to read this book.
Farhana Liaqat More than 1 year ago
The description of Sabeeha's experiences and challenges can be related to most of the Pakistani female lives which keep on increasing the readers' interest chapter after chapter. But her journey through different religions and cultures by maintaining the integrity of a Muslim, is really inspiring for the youth; immigrant or non immigrant, muslim or non muslim.