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

Asra Q. Nomani
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: £9.26 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Product details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (Mar 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060832975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060832971
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.6 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,320,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Standing Alone 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 ... Full description

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ALLAHABAD, INDIA-One hot winter afternoon, I was lost in India on the banks of the Ganges, a river holy to Hindus. Read the first page
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3.0 out of 5 stars Better Muslims in the West? 10 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was well impressed by the author's fight for equality inside the mosque, so I mentioned her crusade to my wife, who remarked,' what's the use if her own community has ostracised her in the end?' I thought it was a valid point as I plunged into the book.
Unfortunately the book is nothing but a classical dichotomy between parental religion (in this case Islam) and her own version, through the eyes of an ABCD (American born Confused Desi). The main accusation against ABCD is that they think they are superior as compared to their parent's culture. They are trying to answer a very important much avoided question here: why did the parents chose to leave their own set environments and cultures and or a life in the West? It is a noble and valid quest to answer indeed, filling a gulf in their lives I am sure, but the way they go about trying to answer this question is where I disagree. They always seem to pick out religion as the only really reason for the demise of the parental cultures. I guess because religion is the most documented that's why. This is a classical contradiction as religion must be held liable for its demise an breakdown of parent's culture surely? How are the ABCD's trying to rekindle something which is proven to have failed, if it was the only reason that is.
The second point is religion is one of the reasons for the demise of the parental cultures, there were many other factors for the sorry state of original cultures like lack of resources, jobs, family issues, living conditions, security, services with the biggest reason being relative equality o opportunities which the ABCD's do not seem to expose too much. Maybe because they haven't really managed to compete with the Western counterparts that well? I am not really sure.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  47 reviews
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One woman's honest and heart-felt journey for her place in Islam... 26 Oct 2006
By Salihah - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I picked up this book just on the spur of the moment from my local library. I'll admit that the title grabbed me. Not knowing what it was really about, or what to expect, I began to read with half-interest. I was quickly gripped, however, with the honesty and heart from which this woman has told her story. Many of us choose to withold those things we consider too personal, painful, or private for public view, but Asra Nomani pushes this norm aside in her pursuit to share a journey she felt the world needed to hear.

Nomani, a daughter of Indian immigrant parents, grows up in a typical American lifestyle. At a young age, she begins to come aware of some of the tensions between that of her Islamic and American upbringings. As an adult, she becomes pregnant outside of marriage and is suddenly hurled into the heart of these matters as she struggles to find her place in a religion, which at first appears to reject her situation and struggle. Undaunted, Nomani begins a journey with her year-old son to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam. This journey parallels a travel made by both her body and her spirit as she goes physically to the heart of Mecca during the holy pilgrimage of Hajj, and spiritually as she plunges to the very heart of her spiritually, faith, and definition of self. Her honesty is both riveting and inspiring.

The only drawbacks I saw with the book: a lot of name-dropping. As an accomplished journalist and traveler, Nomani has met and built lasting friendships with numerous big names. She doesn't hesitate to sprinkle them all over throughout the book. Also, she digresses, at times, into side and back-stories that don't seem to really be necessary. But this is a biography, of sorts, so both these issues are not that bothersome.

I am forever moved by Nomani's courage and sincerity to seek harmony between all the aspects of herself, her faith, and her American values. By reading this book, you do not need to be a woman or Muslim to be inspired to take on your own journey of self-discovery and clarity. As a Muslim woman myself, I don't agree with all of Nomani's statements and views, but I don't have to. This is her story, not mine, and I applaud her heartful journey to the very soul of herself and her place in Islam and the world. This book is well worth the read for anyone seeking to better understand religion in the modern world, Islam, or women's struggle of self-definition the world-around.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story, weak writer 24 Jan 2006
By E. Rothman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I don't know how many times I put this book down, only to pick it up again because the story Ms. Nomani has to tell is so good and so important. Her superficial level of thinking and analysis through much of the book, paired with the painfully repetitive narrative, amazed me from a woman who has written for the Wall Street Journal. Throughout the book she feels the need to mention the names of stores and restaurants she passes; why? Yes, it seems odd when we encounter the landmarks of American commeralism in foreign countries, but one mention would have sufficed, rather than the dozens we are subjected to, getting in the way of her own story. In addition, she repeatedly points out typos made by her detractors (but not those of her supporters)- overall I have an impression of a person prone to pettiness and without a great capacity for deep thought. Nevertheless, she is a couragous woman doing important work for the Muslim Community, and I applaud her. While not greatly impressed with her writing, I remain impressed with her story and am interested to read some of the other books she refers to, written by people I know to be better writers.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Morgantown 19 Jun 2009
By a gentle sound - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My brother was in her class, and I grew up an older MHS alumni, reading her work as a very young journalist. Watching as she evolved into this activist writer. And then, years later seeing her work, I was thinking her family must be so worried, so proud, thinking of how from here to there of the ways she was taken onto her path. I just finished watching "America At the Crossroads" on PBS, a program telling of the struggle Asra Nomani had returning to Morgantown. After the horror of the loss of her friend Daniel Pearl, she went home going to raise her son. I was so surprised in some ways, watching the program, as it was showing her encountering her religion there. Shockingly she found a very rigid Mosque.She had to enter a back door. And in the things her journalist self would catch, she listens and sees that she is called to act, she knows this kind of language leads to places we cannot undo. So I was watching this program follow her there through time- as the story of her confronting the mosque unfolds, as she is seeing her book (this book) into print and asking of her community to look fully at how women are treated within that Mosque of Morgantown, WV. Looking at her asking about how we slide a slope into things unrecognizable when we fail to stand and debate difficult questions. And demand of one another open communication.

I know that town too. Can understand thinking going there again might keep us safe, shield us from things that are too painful to know, but having gone on into my work to serve others knowing it would ask more of me, not less should I ever return. It would require an adult. Truthfully Morgantown always held me aware of all that is our requirement to understand, see and process to develop ourselves in our time here. I designed the county seal of this place, I grew up there, and it does not surprise me in any way to see debated there the issues of our times as so very often I saw this spring from Appalachian soil as the very meanings of America it represents to me. To think and to act based on the looking from perspectives and reason as well as love and community. I looked at the program tonight and at the way my town looks.
You know similarly as the book looks through her entire life perspectives and lessons to interpret to us her meanings. You can glimpse the roads I walked too, if you want to know a place for me that is quite dear.

She's an amazingly brave person, cannot recall a time my brother has failed to praise her. So I encourage reading this work. It seems such a short time ago I was reading something with her by-line in the Dominion Post.
Quite a longing for home comes to me, and the struggles she's bringing forward have been touched by this place. I can send to her my respect and love..
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Controversial book, with its faults, but worth reading . . . 29 Aug 2005
By Ronald Scheer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Although written mainly for an American Muslim audience, Nomani's book tells an absorbing story for other readers whose knowledge of Islam is limited by whatever happens to be the day's news. Nomani, best described as a reformer within the American Muslim community, accomplishes two things: describing in detail the compelling experience of hajj (a pilgrimage with her family to Mecca in post-9/11 Saudi Arabia) and opening the doors of the mosque to reveal the fiercely intense political struggles that are currently being waged there between hard-line conservatives and moderates.

The polarizing issue (and its magnitude may surprise some readers) is the role of women in the mosque, where the near absolute dominance of men prevents women from worshiping as equals before the Creator. Simply insisting on the right to enter by the front door of her family's mosque in Morgantown, WV, causes an uproar, and her Bill of Rights for Women in Mosques has the impact of Luther's 95 Theses in shaking the foundations of rigidly held Islamic dogma.

Meanwhile gender intolerance, as she notes, is accompanied by the anti-Western, anti-democratic politicizing of Islam that is being advocated within the walls of many mosques in America. Hers is a disturbing account of a religious community under siege. Nomani is not a scholar, and her book is more the story of a personal journey than a reasoned argument in support of toleration, compassion, and equality, which she holds as the core values of Islam now betrayed by religious extremists.

Along the way, she struggles with doubts and uncertainties, confronts obstacles, and over a period of time (2001-2004) overcomes barriers both within and without to assume leadership as an advocate for Muslim women's rights. It's easy to find fault with aspects of this book, and many are noted in the other reviews posted here. While her story is fascinating and worth reading by anyone wanting to understand more deeply the political and cultural complexities of Islam both in the world and here in the U.S., it's probably not the only one a person should read.
31 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely and Enlightening 11 Dec 2004
By Gypsi Phillips Bates - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Journalist Asra Nomani is a woman of much complexity-she is a single mom, a career woman and an American Muslim. The birth of her son Shibli, and her desertion by Shibli's father, marks a turning point in her life and leads her to give more serious thought to her spiritual life, the result of which is her desire to participate in the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

Standing Alone in Mecca is the very personal memoir of Nomani's experiences during the hajj, of her struggles as a woman in what has become a male dominant religion, of her search for a God of love among all the dogma, and finally of how the journey helped her redefine her spiritual life. She examines her life prior to the hajj, tries to work out the knotty problems of issues like pre-marital sex and divine forgiveness and the horror that some have done in the name of her faith. Nomani bares her heart and her soul to the reader as she seeks her truth.

This books is more than just a spiritual journal, though. It also gives outsiders a closer, clearer few of Islam, it's practices and it's history. I found it to be not only enlightening, but very timely for our age.

Ms. Nomani has opened a new world for me by helping me be rid of many stereotypes and prejudices that I had unwittingly harbored. I hope that others will read it and find the same release from ignorance and a renewal of love and respect for others.
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