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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book Review: Mother of the Believers

One of the most controversial topic in regards to the Prophet Muhammad's life is his relationship with Aisha, specifically the age difference between them. Over the years those opposed to Islam have maligned the Prophet's character by bringing out this point, that he married a young girl of 9 when he was a much older man. Many Muslim have tried to reinterpret the historical data and justify this marriage and clear the Prophet's name. However within this controversy what is lost is the actual relationship of Aisha and Prophet Muhammad and impact Aisha had on the early formation of Islam and Muslim women. Aisha has always been an intriguing woman, widowed at an early age and considered a scholar who transmitted many hadith, providing examples for Muslims in coming generations on how to live their lives in the footsteps of the Prophet. It is her life that comes out in the a book by Kamran Pasha called Mother of the Believers. This book is a new approach in reading about her life, it is a novel format, a historical fiction that weaves a great story about a remarkable woman and the early formation of Islam. The story is told in her voice, she recounts her life and the history of the beginning of Islam to her nephew at the end of her life. Through her voice and eyes we obtain a perspective of the religion and early community of Muslims through the perspective of a woman. I would have to admit that I was a bit hesitant in reading this book, thinking that it will distort many things to add drama to the book, but I was proved wrong. The 527 page book is a riveting read, sticking true to the actual events in history and the stories of Aisha and the Prophet that are well known in the hadiths. What is added in here are details that string the many stories together into a novel. The book really brings a fresh feminine perspective to a history that is often seen as male dominated. While the author of the book is a male there is never any feeling that a man is writing in that he brings out a sensitivity that allows for the complexity of a woman's thoughts and emotions to come out. Kamran Pasha treats all the characters with respect and reverence without erasing any of the complexity. He shows the good and the bad to show that not everything was happy go lucky. His story gives a humanness to all of the companions of the Prophet and his wives, with emotions and thoughts that we can relate to. We can understand the jealousy that Aisha felt when the Prophet married other women, and the conflicts between Ali and Aisha or any of the other companions. These details that are added allow for the reader to feel the ups and downs of the religion and to connect to them. As I read the book I felt the jealousy, sadness and happiness of Aisha, I cried when she describes the death of the Prophet. I enjoyed reading every page of this lengthy novel. It is a well written sensitive and insightful novel that is a first in bringing out the story of a controversial yet powerful woman in the history of Islam.  

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