One of my most fulfilling experiences as a writer has been a message I received from someone who had read a piece that I had written for a national women’s magazine, about a day in the life of my family during Ramadan.
The reader wrote, “ Please accept my intrusion on your privacy, but I read about you online and I read your article ‘Not My Mother’s Ramadan’. I am a Catholic woman with a 19 year old daughter who told me two weeks ago that she is in the process of converting to become a Muslim. With that sentence, I will tell you that I am afraid, concerned, confused, cautious, curious and searching for answers and direction.”
She wrote that she is a devout Catholic Christian and the Director of Religious Education at her church. Her family life centers around the church. Her daughter sang in the choir, was a teen leader in the youth group, and taught religious classes to the younger children. She said that all she knew about Islam was what she heard on TV or read in the newspapers. That she was scared.
We started an online conversation, which continues today, although we’ve never met. I tried to answer her questions, provide some resources and contacts. We journeyed together as her daughter converted to Islam; met a Muslim man; got married.
We exchange emails every so often. A few years ago, she wrote: “My recent trip to Turkey for my daughter’s Nikkah was an amazing experience. Every day there was something new to learn and to experience about Islam. I can honestly say I am at peace with my daughter’s decision. She will no longer be my Catholic daughter. Yet somehow I realize and accept that we can follow our own paths to God.”
My new found friend started sharing her own experiences about the Islam she has come to know, giving talks at her church and doing media interviews. She wrote, “I think that in a very small way I too have been working at dispelling misperceptions.”
This Ramadan, she promised her daughter that she would fast one day a week in solidarity with her and with all Muslims. “I want to be a part of your 30 days 30 deeds too, inshAllah”, she said. Yesterday she wrote, “Fasting for just one day was so difficult, I am amazed at how everyone can do it. I have been keeping a chart to inspire myself and keep track of small deeds I am trying to do during Ramadan. It helps me stay connected to my daughter – reminding me what this holy month means to her and to all Muslims.”
Here is someone who didn’t know much about Islam or Muslims initially, or what she did know was largely negative; who happened to read an article and took the chance to reach out to its writer. That initial bold step led us on a journey – to share life moments about faith and family, love and loss, joy and sorrow, and the eternal unconditional connection between mothers and daughters.
My dua (prayer) as part of the ’30 duas’ series is that we try and understand one another, respect one another, make space for one another. And in the words of a wise, devout, loving mother, “realize and accept that we can follow our own paths to God.”