From dust to tribe . . .

Dust and Tribe (D&T) is the experience of growth through adventure.

Our fall and spring signature excursions are annual opportunities for Muslim men and women to push through the boundaries of supposed mental and physical limits into a new awareness of what we can be when we support one another.

It is where we discover what we are (dust) and what we become together (tribe).

Spring 2016: D&T Grrrl!

On April 22nd, fifteen women left for three days and two nights camped out on an island two-hours off the California coast. This blog is their story!

Thursday, March 3, 2016


About a month ago I was standing atop an overlook known by the locals as Top of the World. I was there with my mother and a few other ladies. We were perched at the edge of a craggy coastal hillside staring out at the Pacific Ocean. We could see Santa Catalina Island, the biggest of the Channel Islands, though officially outside of park boundaries. It was approaching sunset and we were waiting for the new moon.

We do this every 29 or 30 days, wal-hamdu lillah. It’s an open invitation, but every month it’s my mom and these women. I call them my moonsisters. They often bring tea.

One of the women turned to me and said, “You know something. We take you for granted.”

She knows that I call my community on a weekly basis to play with intention in the wild. Very few actually take up the invitation and that’s what she was getting at.

I believe a more accurate statement is that everyone takes everything for granted.

I stopped using the word “busy.” I don’t believe in it anymore. It’s the word we use to describe others who have priorities that are not aligned with our own. That’s the truth of it.

And if people aren’t standing with me on a hilltop to look out for the new moon, it isn’t because they are “busy.” It’s because they’ve set other priorities. That moon is important to me, my mother, and my moonsisters. Not so much to others.

That’s not necessarily a problem. I don’t feel taken for granted, though a shared experience is, generally speaking, a richer one. We’re social animals, after all.

But her comment did get me thinking about priorities. Do we approach our priorities with intention? Or do we assume them without focused consideration because others expect us to? I can only speak for myself, but many of my priorities are set by others. They aren’t really mine at all.

Children are born, for example. There may not have been an intention to specifically procreate, but here they are. You didn’t set the priority, but these children will have needs and they will look to you to address them. You can either align yourself with this new situation, or not. If you choose the latter option, you may appear “busy” to your children.

Married people will find that their priorities are actually a function of honoring the wants and needs of their partner. Working people will find that their priorities are dictated by their boss. Religious people will find that their priorities are set by the shifting interpretations of God’s Law by clergymen, scholars, academics, and even social trends.

Truth be told, we don’t set many (or even most) of our priorities. The choices that we make around those adopted priorities are often automatic and without conscious consideration. We’re on autopilot.

Not cool for a community that spins upon the axial hadith, “Without doubt, actions are by their intentions.”

Ultimate responsibility lies with each and everyone of us. We own the intention behind the choice or the lack thereof.

And we do not enter our graves alone. We share that space with our choices.

Our priorities must either be set with intention or adopted with intention. We cannot simply “fall in.” To move through life without intention is to build up a reservoir of resentment, and it won’t be long before a major “falling out.”

Fifteen of you made the choice to cross the Santa Barbara Channel to spend a weekend in the dirt. What’s behind that? What intentions did you bring into that decision? What choices are you making today that honor this priority that you have set?

I would love to see your comments below. I think many would benefit. Regardless, get clear on your reasons behind this choice. As we get closer to your date of departure, you will be confronted with the reality of this priority not quite lining up with the priorities of others.

And it will take tremendous courage to hold fast.

As an aside, the next new moon is coming up on Wednesday, March 9th, insha Allah.


  1. That is a good idea to clearly understand why we want to go on the trip. For me when I took the time to think about it it basically for two reasons.
    1. To reconnect with myself. I feel with kids I forgot who I am on my own (was I a nerd? Cool? I dunno). As a mom, I get so immersed with my kid's priorities, Ive lost myself a little bit ....will like to rediscover all this.
    2. Reconnect with God. Dude if I can pay my 5 prayers nice and slow with khushoo, that would be a huge accomplishment in rejuvenation I'm hoping. I miss my Creator and given the chance to retreat away from distractions will do me a lot of good.

    Hoping to hear from others!

    1. I can assure you, bintmuslim, you're plenty cool. But you're right. For that to mean anything, it might be something you have to rediscover on your own.

      You mentioned praying. I remember an evening in the San Gabriel Mountains. It was time for the sunset prayer and all around us were owls calling out, "Hu! Hu!" Which sounds very much like the Arabic for "He! He!" They were calling out to Him at the very moment we were preparing to do the same, subhan Allah. A mystical moment, for sure.

      May Allah grant you all you seek and more.


  2. Very nice points, JAK. For me this opportunity really seemed like an answer to my feeling so very overwhelmed with life. I'm hoping it will be an opportunity for me to disconnect from my responsibilities temporarily and from being pulled every which way and iA give me a chance to take some time to reconnect with myself and Allah (swt) iA and iA to meet other women who've made the commitment and to iA learn from their life experiences.

    Bintmuslim, I've been thinking about praying in peace longingly as well ... iA outside under the open sky with the time I wish to spend sounds amazing!

    Though I've yet to make it to a moonsighting evening, you've inspired me to take the time to appreciate the moon and our connection to it. Alhamdulillah since last month my little one and I have been doing our best to keep an eye on the moon and it's constant change, it has been wonderful.

    1. The moon is such a fantastic gift, subhan Allah. As a natural calendar, it has no equal. As a symbol of beauty and mystical union, there are few metaphors that can compare. I'm so in love with your sharing her with your child, Sister Syma.

      May your journey into the created world deliver you from the world you have created.

      Wa billahi tawfiq was-salam