Born with Wings — a Muslim woman’s spirtual journey

Activist Daisy khan started her writing career at 21 when she wrote an opinion piece for a newspaper. Born with Wings: The Spiritual Journey of a Modern Muslim Woman is her first book and is a memoir about the author’s spiritual journey that she imparts to empower women around the globe. It took Khan four years to complete the manuscript of this lyrical, sour stirring, heart touching and most of all –deeply relevant book. She starts off by writing: ‘‘I have never taken off those red boxing gloves (that papaji gave me). I wear them to honour my faith. I have quietly passed them along to my sisters around the world. This book is about that journey.” The memoir shines a spot light on her family life in Kashmir, her personal struggles, finding her true identity and marrying and growing under the shade of an imam –the breeziest part of the story. It is an inspirational account by the author as she deals with the duality of cultures in the modern era. ‘‘I am a living example of how Muslim women can balance faith with modernity.’’ Khan compares the cultural shock she felt to the author in The Kite Runner, when she travelled to far away New York from her deeply religious existence in Kashmir.

In spite of being a free spirit career oriented women, the “starved soul” sought for something missing from her life and there is when the story reaches its meridian. ‘‘My identity was still in formation. I was no longer just a Kashmiri. I was also an Indian and an American, a New Yorker and a Muslim. As a designer, I understood that colors individually are crystalline and clear, but when you mix them, their essence can be enhanced, diluted, or lost, depending on the proportions. Mix yellow and blue together, and you can have a myriad of greens. Red and yellow can produce a sherbet orange or a fiery coral. But if you blend shade upon shade upon shade, the color wheel fails you, and you end up with shades of gray or black.”

Khan shares with the readers her experiences on ground realities pertaining to interfaith unity. “We are all expressions of ‘divine breath’ and we all hold a strong relation to our Creator”

Khan shares with the readers her experiences on ground realities pertaining to interfaith unity. “We are all expressions of ‘divine breath’ and we all hold a strong relation to our Creator.” She also relates an expression of Islam that is uniquely American for those who hold fragmented picture of Muslim women.

The book follows a chronological sequence, each chapter narrating a new aspect of author’s life. To each chapter there is an attached excerpt that underlines specific initiatives on her part or other women. It really contributes to practical outlook of her struggle amidst strange cultural politics. The repetitive structure sometimes creates a monotonous approach, but at the same time serves the purpose of writing on myriad identities and controversies. The plus point is that the writer has included her original writings to back her view point with solid evidence. There is good news for poetry lovers too, as the author quotes Rumi’s work, crediting it with providing her with needed inspiration.

The story flows in plain sailing mode. This approach is right on target for those who feel that Islamic feminism sound like oxymoron. In spite of the complexity of the subject matter, Khan beautifully engages the readers in her 350 pages long resume. The snippets between chapters develop an insight into how Muslim women can proclaim their rights while holding fast to their faith. The discussion varies on topics like women subject to acid attacks, child marriages, genital mutilation, ISIS recruiters, adoption of orphans and related matters. The book is a power packed genre to correct the approach of male misogynist leaders who falsely interpret the sacred scripture for subjugation of women.

As you read the book you feel as if you know Khan at intimate level. She relates her destiny to Gods willingness, mojis predictions and her night dreams that paved her path to spiritual rebirth. It’s not only to fight for women rights but to discuss the untouched facet of brotherhood. ‘‘The more we share our stories, the more we open ourselves to one another, the more respect and even love can flow between us. Once we see ourselves in the faces of others, we can stand side by side on the basis of our human identity, as Westerners or Easterners, as religious or not, as black, white, yellow, or brown. With layers of our identity nested within a larger sense of identity—‘out of many, one,’ in a single space,’’ this quote towards the book’s end wraps up her tireless journey.

What should the male reader take away from a female-oriented construct? As Marilyn Monroe said; “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.”

Throughout the book Khan recalls the deep bonding that she shared with her father and grandfather, crediting their influence for guiding, nurturing and liberating her ideas. We should empower girls so faith is not defined by outdated attitudes. “Islam teaches us Muslims to propagate freedom of thought, justice, forgiveness, honor and sublimity.”

Published in Daily Times, September 8th 2018.