I started writing this on Sunday night.

Tonight on Oprah’s visionaries Will.i.am was talking.

If you’re not sure who he is, you’re not alone. I’d heard his name, but didn’t realize he’s one of the co-founders of the group Black-eyed Peas.

The first half of the show was just him spouting off about how tickled he was to be recording a song after-hours in the Louvre, and I get that.

Geez, I’ve been talking about that very thing the last few posts, about going places you’ve always heard of drinking in the moment of actually being there. For him it was the fact that the Louvre staff considered him important enough to actually break the rules on his behalf. I wonder if he realized that really it meant that he was big enough to give them free publicity.

Even a place like the Louvre isn’t averse to free marketing, I imagine.

In the whole show the one thing he said that most resonated with me was about his discipline in going into after-hour clubs AFTER the concerts and trying out new ‘beats’ on the dancers and seeing which ones they responded to.

Basically Will.i.am is the kind of musical artist that is all glitz and very little substance. He doesn’t have a message to his tunes, he just wants to provide some escape for people.

Nothing wrong with that.

One of the hadeeths of the Prophet (peace be upon him) talked about gladdening the hearts of the sorrowful as one of the best actions.

But what I found interesting was that after he’d played a concert to an audience of 35000 he found it absolutely necessary to go into some little backwater joint and play these beats. It was basically some kind of marketing research. And he talked about how most artists would never bother doing that, but he referred to it as keeping his pulse on the likes of the people.

He also talked about how every place he travels, he meets people who affect him deeply.

After coming back from Oklahoma, I can definitely agree with that!!!

I feel like it’s a way to give back to my community. The communities in Oklahoma City and Tulsa were ever so appreciative! Masha Allah.

And I got to meet some fantastic people who were kind enough to share some of their stories with me.

I ended up staying with an old acquaintance, a Pakistani lady who happened to grow up in the vicinity of my hometown about ten years after me.

She remembered me very well indeed!

Now she’s an optometrist and through her I was introduced to some amazing people!

So many ladies who’d converted or ‘reverted’ to Islam–it was really surprising to see so many converts within the Muslim community in Oklahoma city and Tulsa.

They make up a significant portion of the community.

There was one lady who’d been a former marine or soldier, not sure which and was now working in the Islamic school in an administrative capacity. I told her about my book Wanting Mor, how it’s about a girl who’s father abandons her.

She told me about being so poor when she was growing up because her father had left them. She lived in a house with waist high grass that often contained rattlesnakes and she had no shoes. Her mother would feed the children white bread with marshmallow spread on it, and because there wasn’t enough, she’d give it to them and watch them eat, but the girl and her brother would take off strips of bread and hide them in their pillowcases and when the mother got too weak, they’d feed them to her with sips of water.

Putting them on her tongue even though they were dry and a bit moldy.

And once again my stereotypes of white people being automatically privileged by birth was shattered.

Then I met the lady who was driving me a ways and we had a lovely conversation in the car. I asked her about her revert story and she was happy to tell me that she’d learned about Islam through her room mate, who’d been a pastor’s daughter and yet had a stack of Islamic books hidden at the back of her closet.

In Tulsa, I met other reverts, two charming ladies who told me their stories. I always ask how their families reacted to their reversion and one of them said, “Oh my mother didn’t speak to me for four years.” Then around that time she was diagnosed with cancer and her step father had asked her to nurse her because no one else in the family was available or would do it. He asked how much she wanted to be paid. He even offered to give her the house, but she said she didn’t want anything. She said of course she’d do it and then her and her husband would drive a hundred miles there and back and every day to care for her, and one time while they were praying in her room, she noticed her mother prostrating along with them on her hospital bed.

And when she was done praying she asked her mother if she’d been praying with them, and her mother said yes. She asked her mother why. And her mother replied, “Because for once I wanted my prayer to be answered.”

Her mother accepted Islam before she died.

And her story reminded me of the hadeeth of the Prophet (peace be upon him) where he said that some people would live their whole life according to Islam but would come within an arm’s length of the grave and what was written for them would occur, they would negate their faith and die in unbelief, and others would live their whole life in unbelief, come within an arm’s length of the grave and what was written for them would overtake them and they would die believers.

And the way they talked also reminded me of the time I was at an ISNA convention (Islamic Society of North America) in Washington D.C., with about 40,000 Muslims from all over America attending, and I’d walked through the food court and overheard two little old white ladies wearing hijab and abayas (long dresses) discussing the finer points of ijtihad in fine southern accents. (An Islamic term I wasn’t aware of.)

That’s Islam, American style!

How I’ll ever put any of that in a book, I do not know, but it’s like what Will.i.am said. It puts your pulse on the community.

On Saturday night at about 2 am I felt the 4.6 magnitude earthquake near Tulsa. They’ve had some after shocks since then, but really I must say my misconceptions shook more than anything else.

Writing doesn’t occur in a vacuum. You have to continue grow, fill the well from which you draw your inspiration.

And in the process of all that, I felt incredibly ignorant and humbled.