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44 of 47 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...
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...
Published on October 26, 2006 by Salihah

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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story, weak writer
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...
Published on January 24, 2006 by E. Rothman


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44 of 47 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..., October 26, 2006
By 
Salihah "Book Addict" (Minneapolis/St. Paul) - See all my reviews
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.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story, weak writer, January 24, 2006
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.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Controversial book, with its faults, but worth reading . . ., August 29, 2005
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.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Morgantown, June 18, 2009
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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..
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31 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely and Enlightening, December 10, 2004
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Right on...Asra, July 17, 2009
Going through the book was as if I am reading my own mind. When I came to America, I thought the American muslims are much more progressive than where I was raised in Indonesia. Although Indonesia is more pluralistic than any other Islamic countries, there are still pockets of muslims that put some kind of restrictions on women, though not too severe. Indonesian muslims are very free to interact with each other, men and women, moslems and non moslems.

I can really relate to Asra's way of thinking. I would however not call ourselves as moderate moslems, rather, re-newed moslems since we believe in the real teachings of the Quran. In as much as Asra's role as a ginele non-wed mother, there should be some statement that single women should not just have children for the sake of having children. Other considerations should also be thought of, how the children will be brought up -- education-wise, economic-wise and not fall into the widespread idea of having children to collect welfare as we see in our society. When I was much younger, I was planning to have a child of my own (without a husband), a thought that will shutter the moslem world. Unlike Asra, I finally conceived a child after I got married to a non-moslem, but very knowledgable and open minded about Islam.

I have stopped going to the mosque here for the very same reasons of treating women as a 3-rd class citizen, and I reject that idea!! Quran does not teach that, and I have become a lone moslem in following the quranic teaching.

Right on, Asra..... we need to re-new our beloved faith, Islam and let the world know the real mccoy.

Rosita Sipirok-Siregar
Honolulu, Hawaii
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23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars those with out a sin should cast the first stone, June 11, 2005
First of all, it is very clear that the extremely negative reviews were written by people who have NOT read the book

Those who criticize the author's faith or personal life should focus on minding their own business and stop trying to take God's role. How many Muslim men walk around with pride while denying the existence of their off spring, who are born out of wedlock. Oh of course! Silly me. These children don't exist and denial is a river in Egypt.

Those who criticize her choice of leading the Friday prayer should take the discussion else where. The book was written before March 2005. Word of advice: focus on discussing/ debating/ reasoning with her in logical manner and don't attack her personal life. This shows better character and knowledge on your behalf.

Now to reviewing the book:

Unlike many Islamic scholars, writers, and Amazon reviews Ms. Nomani does not claim perfection... She admits to being human (sinning). During hajj (Islamic Pilgrimage) she battles the concept of asking for forgiveness and living with regrets

"I struggled with the question of how to find forgiveness. Did i earn it? ... i felt the pressure of the weight i carried on my back for the sin of having had sex as a single woman"

I truly suggest those who condemn her to read her book and remember that - thank God- judgment is not up to them "those with out a sin should cast the first stone"

The book is unique because it was written by a woman who questioned herself, and her religion. This is an act of courage, which so few people are willing to do.

"In my heart, i felt fear and loathing for my religion. Could i remain in a religion from which so many people sprang spewing hate? Could i find space in my religion for my kind of women? Could i remain a Muslim?"

This is how Ms. Nomani described her feelings towards her religion after 9/11, the death of her dear friend Denial Pearl and being abandoned by her baby's father.

She decides to perform pilgrimage, perhaps, as a way to understand the meaning of Islam. In a later chapter she contributes her return to Islam to birth of her son. (Everything happens for a reason).

While performing the Hajj, she meets Muslims from all around the globe. She stumbles across the true unity of Islam. However, this leaves her questioning why so many Muslims fail to adopt the morals of Hajj in their everyday life.

She comes back from Hajj with a sense of peace and forgiveness. This also determines her to embrace Islam and learn more about it.

Upon going back to the United States she struggles to win back her right to enter a Mosque and join the men in their discussions (this event was covered by many newspapers in the US). I found her experiences, whether in Makkah or the US, to be quite valid and realistic.

The book is empowering because Ms. Nomani turned her bitterness and anger into a positive force. Unlike so many women, she decided to stop playing the role of a victim and be responsible for her actions. She found strength in the spirit of women who lived in the past such as the prophet's mother and Hager, Abraham's wife. She developed the concept of "Hager's daughters" in honor of the woman's suffering after being abandoned by Ibrahim in the desert. Hager, a forgotten role model so many women should learn about.

With all the positive aspects in the book I only gave it 4 stars because

Her over reaction about women's situation in Saudi Arabia was unnecessary (Saudi women are doing a great job figuring it out for themselves). Also, the situation in Saudi Arabia is not as bad as the book claims.

Her everlasting paranoia about being arrested for adultery and improper hair covering is kind of a bore but then these were her feelings not mine... She does have that "center of attention" syndrome but hey it's a book about her written by her. This "center of attention" was also given to her son, whom she took to hajj. It seems like he was the only infant who attended Hajj- this is very hard to believe

Her writing style is not as one would expect from a wall street Journalist. I found myself

Her claim of being a single mother, who has to struggle alone, is a bit dramatic and a bit contradicting. Her family, as she claims, is very supportive of her and her choices. Something so many single mothers yearn for.

I would recommend this book to any person who would like to read about the basics of Islam from a non Academic/ preaching setting. Also, this is a good reading in women study classes, as well as for women who are in search for empowerment and peace of mind and soul.

Some Arabs and Muslims should stop getting offended and paranoid at every book that comes out about Islam... Unlike the Muslim convert, who never felt inferior,"good for you", but many women do in fact feel that way. Not by Islam but by Muslims. . This is not a criticism towards Islam but towards people who preach Islam.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful story of hope, May 21, 2009
This book will give the reader who is not very familiar with Islam a wonderful look inside this fascinating religion. There will probably be many surprises as you read, but you will come away with a clearer understanding of the pros and cons of Islam in today's world. Even if it were not such an important topic, you would still find the story captivating. Well written!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars revolution has started!, February 17, 2006
By 
My salute to Ms. Nomani.

Positives:

1. The perspective

2. The uncelebrated women in islamic history

3. The suspense. oh, the suspense.

4. Her honesty just stands out

5. Vivid description of Hajj and of Mecca and Medina

6. Reading people I would have never heard about

7. Her courage. at times, my heart just sank simply reading

about what she did. Can't even imagine, actually doing it

Negatives:

1. The comaprions with history sometimes were little too shalow

2. Somtimes, it felt like I was reading her diary. it was

meant to relevant to the story, but story stopped for

too long to be worth the diversion.

3. I would have been more readble if the first half of the

book (up until she returns to USA) was shortened.

The story moved too slowly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Standing Alone is a stand alone memoir!, January 29, 2011
By 
lawliss (New Hampshire) - See all my reviews
Since 9/11, I've been pretty interested in Islam. I have specifically been interested in women's roles in Islam. There is often a lot of information about it in the media, but I've really tried to read memoirs - things like Reading Lolita In Tehran and this book really hit the mark. I learned about Ms. Nomani after watching the movie A Mighty Heart, which is about Mariane Pearl and her search for her husband Daniel. Asra is actually very close to the family, having worked with Daniel at the Wall Street Journal. She plays a prominent role in the movie.

This memoir is about Ms. Nomani's experiences during her hajj, which she went on with her son, Shibli, her parents and her niece and nephew. She was very self-conscious during the hajj and afterwards, painfully so, about being a single mother - something that was frowned upon in Islam and sometimes led to death.

I generally really enjoyed this book, even though at times, the writing became pretty choppy. I enjoyed feeling like I was getting a glimpse into Nomani's journal or diary and I enjoyed learning about the hajj, because as a non-Muslim, I will never be allowed to enter into the areas that she describes. Generally a book that should be read.
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Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam (Plus)
Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam (Plus) by Asra Q. Nomani (Paperback - February 28, 2006)
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