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The premise of the new book Mother of the Believers by Kamran Pasha is a familiar one: the book is about one of the most beloved wives of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Aisha. There was a book last year that was released under much controversy, Jewel of Medina, which focused on Aisha's relationship with the Prophet (peace be upon him).

The book is told from Aisha's perspective under the guise of writing a journal for her nephew Abdullah as a way to recount the events of her life. We are there from her birth, her childhood as part of the persecuted group of Muslims, the migration to Medina, her marriage to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh),  and so on and so forth. Pasha touches on many of the significant events that are representative of the time of the Prophet (pbuh) while including a cast of characters who are familiar to many Muslims. However, while Kamran Pasha has obviously spent a great amount of time researching the life of Aisha, Mother of the Believers is not exactly a book I would recommend for those who wish to learn about Islam due to the manner in which this book is presented and the lack of true understanding of the religion that may come from reading Pasha's novelized account.

Pasha telling the story from Aisha's eyes and as a form of communication to her nephew doesn't work too well here. First of all, there are too many scenes without Aisha in them where the first person point of view can't even come into play, never mind the fact that there would be no way she would be able to relate these scenes to her nephew in her journal. Second, if Aisha is writing with the her nephew as the audience in mind, there would be no need to explain the Islamic concepts that she does for the benefit of the reader. I mean, why should she have to define such terms as hadith for someone like Abdullah? I realize that many may look at these as minor grievances, but these alone made this book hard for me to digest.

In addition to the aforementioned contentions, the actual topic of this book did not sit too well with me. In the Author's Note in the beginning of the book, Pasha writes "My intention in writing this novel has been to give Westerners a glimpse of the richness that exists within the Muslim historical tradition and invite all my readers to learn more about Islam and draw their own conclusions." That is definitely noble. Yet, despite these intentions, I'm still not quite sure how I feel about the novelization of the most revered Prophet for Muslims and other people that are held in high regard, like Aisha herself.

The reader may come away from this book without being able to distinguish what was real or not. One may believe that some of the more fantastical elements that Muslims believe happened are the work of Pasha's imagination while thinking other events and pieces of dialogue are true when it's something that Pasha added to give more color. It is not up to the author to add his own elements to true accounts (for Muslims anyway) that may end up misrepresenting the actions of historical figures or even Islam itself.

In the end, I don't believe that fictionalizing these religious icons is in the best interest of one who wants to learn about Islam. I understand that not everyone may agree with me and that's fine, but hopefully if someone really wants to learn about the religion, he or she will go to a different source.

Also check out:
Kamran Pasha recently wrote an article about the controversy that he expects to face with his new book.

4 Comments

HCNoor

May 31st

I find it interesting that with all that I have read about this novel and of all of the reviews, that the only negative remarks I have seen so far have come out of the minds of several Muslims. As a fellow Muslim taking into consideration all of the really negative novels (and that includes several publications masquerading as 'true accounts'), I do not see from what I have read so far, that this novel is going to 'harm' Islam. I don't know that Islam could possibly be harmed any further than it already has by the actions of a few 'Muslim's' around the planet have already done. The average reader who will pick up this book is likely to be someone with some education. At this point in history, with all of the negative publicity that we do receive, I have not seen anything in this book that would do anything except possibly lead someone into going ahead and educating themselves more fully as to what Islam is about-and isn't that what we really want others to do? Yes, there are plenty of Islamic materials out there besides this novel that one can read to educate oneself about Islam (if only the fear factor wasn't there for them!). The average non-Muslim might have problems finding it on the shelf of their local Borders or B & N however since too much of the selection is materials that most Muslims wouldn't bother with. Therefore, a light dosage of Aisha in a novel for a non-Muslim that gives them an infinitely more positive view of us should be welcome, as we need a positive view more than ever. Mr. Pasha has done an excellent job at providing actual Islamic references (and many from well known converts to Islam) for one to advance their learning of Islam with after finishing with the novel as well. This is not even mentioned in the review. These are references to works that are considered highly within the Islamic community. The foreword that accompanies this publication touches on many of the typical areas where someone may have problems and issues, and Mr. Pasha addresses these. As Mr. Pasha is a devout Muslim brother who has just returned from Hajj, I don't think there is an intention of spreading incorrect material to the uneducated, non-Muslim masses, but one of trying to educated in a manner that will not alienate. As for those of us who are Muslim, if we are truly educated, we should be able to tell the difference. Insha'Allah, other educated Muslims will see this as an education tool, Dawa 'Light'. When will the Muslim community quit radiating negativity onto everything someone does associated with Islam, especially when their sole intention is to do something positive?? It is tiresome-and it needs to stop!!


Bushra

May 10th

Like I said, Mr. Stark, everyone's entitled to their own opinion :) This is just my review with my opinion. I'm glad you got something out of and it made you want to learn more about the deen. I've read and heard a lot of lectures that do more to make the actual, real stories of the Prophet (pbuh) and the Mothers of the Believers come alive than by reading this book. Stuff is out there. However, even if this book wasn't about real religious figures, I still wouldn't be able to recommend it. The writing style didn't work for me and the book was rife with problems, in addition to the issues I already pointed out. My own opinion :)


Alexander Stark

May 6th

I have read the book and found it to be a deeply moving and respectful account of life of the Holy Prophet (SAWS). There are moments when it brought tears to my eyes, and it definitely increased my love for Islam and desire to learn more about my deen. I think it is unfortunate that you are nitpicking Mr. Pasha's book, which in my view helps make Islamic history come alive for a new generation that knows little about Muslim history and would never pick up and read a dry history book. At least he is trying to counter the books written by non-Muslims, which are filled with lies and distortions. Had he not written this book, the only stories about Sayyidina Aisha (RA) on the market would be those by non-Muslims like Jewel of Medina which trash her character and make a mockery of Islam. This is the same kind of Muslim negativity toward Moustapha Akkad's movie The Message. To this day, there are Muslims who think his movie is sinful, but most people who bother to watch it find it to be an inspiring film. Here is another review by a Muslim brother that shows why this book is needed right now: http://salaamsblog.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/mother-of-the-believers-a-novel-of-the-birth-of-islam-book-review/


Hamza21

May 5th

I haven't read the book and don't plan on doing so. Unlike other historical figures The Prophet & his companions lives being fictionalized or distorted to fit a novel I believe does more harm than good. Karman Pasha wrote in article about his book: "As a practicing Muslim, I felt it was my duty to directly address these attacks on Prophet Muhammad. And in my novel, I endeavor to realistically portray the world in which he lived to give context to his actions." Although his intention may be good I think his actions isn't.Writing fictionalized accounts of Aisha will only open Pandora's box making it easier to attack Islam under the guise of "freedom of expression".






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