Mother of the Believers: A Novel of the Birth of Islam (Review)

March 12, 2012

Book cover for "Mother of the Believers" by Kamran Pasha.Title: Mother of the Believers: A Novel of the Birth of Islam

Author: Kamran Pasha

Publication Year: 2009

Pages: 560

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Source: Review copy from the publisher

From the cover:

Deep in the heart of seventh-century Arabia, a new prophet named Muhammad has arisen. As his message of enlightenment sweeps through Arabia and unifies the warring tribes, his young wife Aisha recounts Muhammad’s astonishing transformation from prophet to warrior to statesman. But just after the moment of her husband’s greatest triumph — the conquest of the holy city of Mecca — Muhammad falls ill and dies in Aisha’s arms. A young widow, Aisha finds herself at the center of the new Muslim empire and becomes by turns a teacher, political leader, and warrior. Written in beautiful prose and meticulously researched, Mother of the Believer is the story of an extraordinary woman who was destined to help usher Islam into the world.

Despite the fact that Muhammad is such an important historical person, there’s an awful lot of reluctance to write about him in less serious ways in order to make his life story more accessible to the masses. One of the most important reasons why I picked up Mother of the Believers was because it looked like a rather interesting take on the life of the Prophet and those around him, particularly the intriguing and often misunderstood figure of Aisha, his youngest wife.

I meant to read this book for Ramadan Reading last summer, but it’s such a long book that I kept pushing it to the bottom of my pile, and didn’t get around to it until my winter vacation. I read most of the book on an extremely long and over-complicated train ride across South Africa. It’s a testament to the appeal of this book – both the events told within and Pasha’s writing style – that I was able to focus on it for hours on end in a cramped train compartment with no air conditioning and a small child running around distracting me. So while the book looks like it’s really long and intimidating, I’m telling you right now that it’s interesting enough to make up for that.

While this book primarily takes place during the time of Prophet Muhammad’s life, and the events often revolve around things he says or does (or the early Muslim community experiences), it is all told through the prism of Aisha’s perspective and her experiences. I really enjoyed this, expecially since there’s so much conjective – both inside and outside of the Muslim community – about Aisha’s life and her position among the early Muslims. It’s really nice to see her story told from her own perspective rather than through the prism of someone else’s observations and opinions.

I could really feel Aisha’s emotions through Pasha’s writing. In particularly I could feel her frustration, her jealousy, and her sadness … but also her joy and elation. It was often a roller coaster ride of emotions, but throughout it all, I felt like I got a much better sense of Aisha – and of the history of the Muslim faith – through reading Mother of the Believers.

Even if you’re not Muslim, I would highly recommend reading this book. It’s a rather interesting semi-fictionalized take on one of the most important figures in Muslim history. And it’s about one of the most important women in the Islamic tradition, something that I don’t think is talked about enough either inside or outside of the faith. It’s a great book, intriguing and educational at the same time. Pick up a copy and enjoy!

Rating:

5 Comments

  • Helen Murdoch March 13, 2012 at 3:22 am

    This sounds like a good one along the lines of the Red Tent (religious/historical story told from the woman’s perspective).

  • C March 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Isn’t this the controversial book which says that Aisha actually cheated on her husband or is that another book. I remember there was one stupid one like that.

    • Carina March 13, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      Nope. It does talk about an incident where some people accused her of cheating when she was left behind accidentally in the desert and found later by a man she knew (which I believe is accurate, as in, there was an *accusation*), but she is cleared in the end (which I believe is also what happened in reality). It’s a rather interesting section, actually, which really got into the nitty-gritty of her mindset and her frustration with being accused of being unfaithful.

  • Amy March 14, 2012 at 5:49 am

    I’m glad to hear you liked this one so much! It does sound really interesting. I can’t believe you could concentrate even with a child running around – I hate that.

    • Carina March 16, 2012 at 11:01 pm

      Hee hee. You have even less of a tolerance for small children than I do, though. 😛

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