Nisha Sulthana, author of the autobiography “A Part of Me Refused to Die,” has always been a woman of few words. She possesses a shy side that she feels, at times, cripples her from speaking the truth. It’s therefore a blessing that, despite her shyness, she told the world her story.
As a child she was keenly observant, looking at things intently with a memory for details. These are all qualities that served her well when it came time to tell her own story – a perennial tale of domestic abuse and salvation through the lens of a Muslim woman. “The way the world was descending into an unprecedented chaos gave me another thrust to write, to add just a ray of light to the compounding darkness,” Nisha says.
Nisha accepted as destiny her arranged marriage to a man she didn’t know, and tried her best with the cards that life dealt her. Over the course of her marriage she suffered physical, verbal, emotional, and other abuses, as well as enduring the alcoholism and infidelities of her husband. “In the prime of life when I was going through all that I went through, fleeting thoughts crossed my mindof telling my story in a bid to wake up people to the fact that life should not be like this,” Nisha explains. “I found people clinging to only those parts of the religion that suited them. Right there they had rejected the central theme of Justice that is the life blood of Islam.”
She looks back on her experiences, and at the world around her, and observes that the calamities and tribulations we witness are a directive from God to turn us towards Him. “In relating my story, I attempted to throw light on the hypocrisy of our system that was in direct contravention to its teaching,” Nisha says. “The abuse I was subjected to was the result of a deeper malaise in our system. This is a Deen with clear cut injunction for every situation. Yet it was the people who were calling the shots as their whim and caprice dictated.”
As a child Nisha “thrived on love” and “wanted to love and be loved,” which may explain why her life led her to The One Who is the Most Loving (Al Wadud). “Islam has crafted a beautiful tapestry designed to make this world and the next blissful and fruitful. It did not forbid advancement in any field, but rather encouraged it. What is unacceptable is strife, sectarianism and spread of falsehood and hate,” Nisha explains.
“The experiences I faced after marriage may not be as pronounced these days, but infidelity, lack of commitment, and unethical practices are all there – hidden in some situations and open in others,” Nisha observes. “This book is for the oppressor and the oppressed.”
In essence, Nisha’s story is about God and her understanding of Him and His role in her life. “He allowed me to make the mistakes I made for a reason.” Nisha explains, “I could have easily put my foot down firmly and fled to my father’s house for sanctuary and safety. But I did not. God had willed that I taste all the bitterness of this life – made me swallow fire at times – so that I would draw nearer and closer to Him for Protection, Redemption, Love and Wisdom.”
Her favorite part of her book is,
“For every hit, for every injury, for every heartbreak, I ran to the Sustainer for sustaining me. Not once did He forsake me. This whole narration is about Him, not about what happened to me.”
“I describe myself as a very impatient human being,” Nisha admits, “yet I was given no choice but to be patient. I learnt it the hard way, but the fruits of patience are truly phenomenal.”
“After experiencing disappointment upon disappointment, I was taught emphatically that this place is for striving alone – not for gratification and fulfillment of desires,” Nisha shares. “If it comes your way, Praise Him and thank Him for it. And move on. The time here is the most precious commodity. Fill it with all that is good with Justice and Wisdom.”
She shares that it wasn’t challenging to recall some of the abuse, but that she was worried about exposing the privacy of her loved ones. She had to walk a fine line in her storytelling, making sure not to overstate or oversimplify anything.
“Only very few of the family members knew and were very skeptical,” Nisha shares. “I was dissuaded from continuing which made it more difficult and challenging. But then they all came on board after seeing my seriousness in seeing it through.”
Nisha explains that while some friends encouraged and appreciated her efforts and gave her the needed support to continue, they were all surprised that she really went ahead and published the book despite her deep misgivings about it. The truth is that she didn’t “decide” to publish the book. It was ordained.
Even with the criticism and lack of familial support, Nisha considers herself her own worst critic. “I did not like the way it shaped out eventually,” she laments. “The editors that worked with me did not really understand the way I wanted it to be narrated. They ended up stealing the spontaneity and beauty that I wanted there.”
Nisha worries that she did not do justice to the project because she gave credence to others’ opinions. However, life goes on and she considers it all part of the learning process that she wants to pass on to others. “The teachings of the Quran are addressed to humanity, not Muslims, and as a carrier of this message, my responsibilities are heavier,” Nisha explains. “I tried to live by it and convey it by living it, all the while realizing my deficiencies and capabilities.”
She grew from the experience even while admitting that the publishing process of the book reminded her of many of her failings and flaws. “It threw more light on myself, and made me more determined to live the idealism I have written about.” And while she has no intention of writing another book, she is considering publishing another edition of the same title, this time the way she likes it.
However, Nisha’s readers are completely fulfilled with the final version as written. One of the best complements Nisha received was an Amazon review: “This book made me realize the extent of devotion to God a human being can aspire to,” the reviewer wrote. “As an independent high achieving person, taking everything for granted, at first it was hard for me to comprehend the sacrifices the author chose to make throughout her life. However, the more I read the more I respected her strength and choices for the bigger picture and greater good that emerged. What a gift to be grateful to Him and always be able to count His numerous favors. When we are knocked down to our knees by our loved ones who just never change – what a gift to be able to love and care for such people in our lives. Unbelievable!! It’s a prophetic legacy and very few can claim to live it.”
The most important message that Nisha hopes people walk away understanding after reading her life story is that, as a Muslim, she believes that her responsibility to herself, her surroundings and the people around her are most important. She would never want to forget, or overlook that, even in a minor way. “Islam is about a million things and more,” Nisha says. “The Light in the Quran is for eternity, and by it we will be rewarded and adjudicated.”
Nisha feels she’s ultimately accomplished what she set out to do: remove misconceptions of Muslims and their religion. “If I have even partially succeeded,” Nisha says, “I will be happy.”