Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Notes from a global diaspora
(May 2014)

Keep driving! I yelled as the car continued to tailgate us. It was a late May night in Irving, Texas, and we planned to go home and sleep after some jokes and laughs at the local Starbucks. But some joker forced us to run for our lives.

I arrived in Dallas in early September to attend the Bayyinah Dream programme as a researcher. I would spend the next nine months exploring Muslim students motivations for learning Arabic while examining how their teacher established his authority during student-teacher encounters and beyond. After attending a…


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Notes from a global diaspora
8 August 2014

The sun is setting behind Rumi’s tomb, scorching the clouds on its descent, giving them auburn and rusted edges. The students exit the museum housing Rumi’s resting place and make their way to the side of the building towards a mini colosseum is constructed. Tourists are already seated, and the students walk along the rows of each level to find seats. As they settle in, Hamza Yusuf offers a brief introduction to the event and what they will see.

Many Muslims consider the performance of the whirling dervishes an innovation, circumventing the…


Journeying with holy chapters

Photo by Jawad Jawahir on Unsplash

This reflection is part of Sapelo’s Ramadan 2020 series.

I look down at the Arabic script and stare. I wonder if I can still read it. It’s a strange fear that I have, that I’ll open the Qur’an one day and be unable to read. When I pick up the book after some time away, despite my daily prayers, I often struggle. My tongue carries this fear heavy and cautious stumbling over the first few words, until it quickly curves out, moving in chaotic waves of a comfortable rhythm. The tightness ebbs as the words flow.


Photo by Author in Büyükada, Turkey

Notes from a global diaspora
23 August 2014

A s midday approaches, my roommate and I board a ferry to Büyükada, one of the nine Princes’ Islands in Turkey. She calls me ‘sister’ given our shared African heritage, but only when she is happy with me; otherwise, it is ‘cousin’. Side by side, we lean against the railing watching the buildings become smaller and smaller as we set off. The hypnotic rhythm of the Marmara Sea was a welcome point of focus after close to three weeks of classroom lessons during the Rihla programme. …


Photo by mohammad alashri on Unsplash

Notes from a global diaspora
6 August 2014

T.J. Winter, also known as Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, sits elevated on a small stage, men sitting in neat rows to his right and women to his left. He holds a tasbih (rosary like string of beads) in his right hand, eyes closed, legs resting against each other crossed at the ankles. His voice is barely audible above the whirring of the air conditioner. A low table sits in front of the sofa, a book and a glass of water an arm’s length away. “La ilaha illallah.” He begins the first part…


Photo by Author in Konya, Turkey

“I feel very bitter,” Manahil says regarding the negative stereotypes of Muslims in mainstream western media. A twenty-six-year-old Texan of Pakistani heritage, Manahil travels to Turkey in the summer 2014 to fill gaps in her childhood education, and to learn how to deal with the challenges she faces as a Muslim woman and as a mental health therapist in a men’s prison.

Growing up in a family which she characterises as moderately Muslim, with parents who didn’t “stress us out that much,” Manahil’s upbringing was different from her more conservative Muslim peers.

“I think their families were like, you’re Muslim…


Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

Aaron was afforded a good education having grown up in an affluent area in Orange County, California. Third generation Puerto Rican-Chinese, and a child of divorced parents, at the start of his teens, Aaron grew up with two different cultures and two different homes, struggling for balance. His family was distant from religion, “more of a cultural thing and not really observed consciously at all. It was seasonal,” he says. In fact, they were so distant that he classified them as “borderline atheist or spiritually atheist.”


Author photo from 2014 Bayyinah Dream Programme

T he two young women sit close together on a sofa in their teacher’s living room, along with many other young women from different parts of the U.S. Their dark-skin sets them apart from the rest of the women in the room, most of whom are of Arab or South Asian descent.

At the beginning of the autumn season of 2014, nestled in the suburbs of an affluent Dallas neighbourhood, Nouman Ali Khan and his wife welcome the fourth year cohort of students to the intensive nine-month Arabic programme. The women-only gathering is a meet and greet for students and…


Burhan stands at the edge of the pond, on a university campus in Michigan, gazing at the fountain at its centre. Water gushes out of a hidden spout and splashes into the surrounding pool. The birds are slightly muted and the sun shines brightly above.

From time to time he reaches down to pick pebbles from the grass and skip them across the water, casting ripples upon its surface. One, two, three. Still, he remains there, standing, sometimes pacing or staring out, while the rest of the students congregate in small groups. …


Hotel Fairmont Royal York

For the pleasure of God and acquiring knowledge of His word, hundreds of Muslims braved the inclement weather, four days before the arrival of Christmas. It is precisely this closeness to the holiday and vacation time that allows Muslims from North America and other regions of the world to escape from the grind of the working week to downtown Toronto. While news bulletins deliver the terrible news of homeless people and elderly folk dying in the streets or in their homes due to the lack of proper shelter or heat, students hurry into the warm confines of the Royal York…

Zainab Kabba

Educator | Researcher | Writer Focus on education, institution development and social impact -- zainabkabba.com

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