But my faith began to shatter in college. I was 20 when I took off my head scarf, feeling I could no longer visibly represent a religion that did not allow women to preach before men, lead them in prayer or serve as witnesses in some judicial matters.
Now, at 38, I have a tangled relationship with Islam. It is the bedrock of my values. It informs how I smile at strangers, give to charity and try to be patient with dentists and landlords. But I date, I own a (modest) bikini, and while I still fast during the holy month of Ramadan, I do not exactly adhere to Islam’s other prescriptions.
Still, I had always dreamed of doing the hajj. My oldest sister, Marwa, a farmer in rural New South Wales, and I planned to take a year off and walk to the Kaaba, as the great Sufi woman Rabia al-Adawiya did in the eighth century, from Basra, Iraq. It was one of those bucket-list items that got kicked back as life happened.
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