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Mother of the Believers

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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.

560 pages, Paperback

First published March 29, 2009

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About the author

Kamran Pasha

6 books39 followers
Kamran Pasha is a writer and producer for NBC's highly anticipated new television series Kings, which is a modern day retelling of the Biblical tale of King David. Previously he served as a writer on NBC's remake of Bionic Woman, and on Showtime Network's Golden Globe nominated series Sleeper Cell, about a Muslim FBI agent who infiltrates a terrorist group.

Kamran will soon be a published novelist as well. He has secured a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster's Atria Books to publish Mother of the Believers, an historical fiction tale showing the rise of Islam from the eyes of Prophet Muhammad's teenage wife Aisha, and Shadow of the Swords, a love story set amidst the Crusades.

And Kamran has also made strides in the video game world. He recently wrote Blood on the Sand for Vivendi Universal, the sequel to hip-hop mogul 50 Cent's bestselling game Bulletproof.

An expert on the Middle East, Kamran is one of the few successful Muslim screenwriters in Hollywood. In 2003, he set up his first feature script at Warner Brothers, an historical epic on the love story behind the building of the Taj Mahal. He is currently writing an epic film entitled The Voyage Of Ibn Battuta, which follows the adventures of a famous Arab traveler who journeyed to China in the 14th century. This feature is being financed by the Moroccan government and produced by French production company Forecast Pictures.

Kamran holds a JD from Cornell Law School, an MBA from Dartmouth and an MFA from UCLA Film School. He spent three years as a journalist in New York City, writing for media companies such as Knight-Ridder. During his time as a reporter, Kamran interviewed prominent international figures such as Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, and Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 129 reviews
Profile Image for Adnan Mahmutovic.
Author 18 books46 followers
July 18, 2009
They say behind every great man there is a woman. In his intimate story about the early years of Islam, Kamran Pasha suggests that behind a historical giant such as Muhammad there is a girl, her co-wives, a community, and of course the creator. Although Pasha tries to tell a story of an individual woman, Aisha bint Abu Bakr, the youngest wife of the Messenger of Islam, the story cannot but be about a community, which developed from a crowd of both slaves and nobility, both women and men, and children, rich and poor, all burning for social changes in the sixth century Arabija. This community was formed in response to the Divine revelation of The Qur’an. After the death of Muhammad’s wife Khadija, nine-year-old Aisha becomes the mother of the believers, of the ever growing Islamic Ummah that would become a vast empire within her life time.

I must admit I envy Pasha for writing this book. I have always wanted to write a novel about Aisha and when my publisher asked me what my next project would be, I said the life of Aisha. I have waited too long and Pasha beat me to it. Just like he puts it in his introduction, most of us, both Muslim and people of other faiths or no faith who know her history have been besotted with Aisha. As a man in his thirties I can hardly imagine taking on even the fraction of the responsibility Aisha had as the teacher-mother of her community, the guardian of Islamic knowledge who came to lead an army and forever be held responsible for some internal struggles between Muslims.

I was at first put off by Pasha’s writing because it did not meet my artistic expectations, but I do not want to quibble about that. Pasha’s book oozes with the kind of passion and intimacy that made it difficult for me to put it down even though I actually know exactly what will happen next. I would have used a much more realist style to emphasize that which Pasha is after, the everyday lives and struggles of those people, who were by no means saints or holy figures and therefore much easier to identify and enter into dialogue with. Pasha’s is not just another from the historical fictions genre. There is too much heart invested in it. It is project. It has an agenda, a part of which could be expressed as “Cut Aisha some slack.” Aisha raises everything from love to hate in Muslim hearts, so Pasha deliberately emphasizes everything about her that could be considered a fault, a moral deficiency, and even a little bit of evil, and challenges the judgmental readers to cast the first stone at her. He has Aisha frequently examine the fitna of her own heart, and thus asks the readers to check what small-time or big time evils they succumb to. Aisha learns she harbors one fitna, of which she has never been conscious, is her excessive love of her husband. Pasha dramatizes this self-revelation in connection to the false accusations of adultery. Aisha, who is supposed to be the prime example of virtue in love/marriage is suspected of having had a relationship with a man who when he saved her from the burning desert. Aisha is shattered in that not even her husband nor her parents believe her innocence. When the Divine revelation vindicates her, making it punishable by law to spread malicious gossip about people and display distrust that is not grounded in hard evidence, Aisha realizes she has not been a complete Muslim, half her Islam having consisted of her devotion to Muhammad and not exclusively God. She says, “I had loved him with such youthful ferocity that I had turned him into an idol, a pristine icon of perfection, when in truth he was of the same flesh and blood as the rest of us, with same doubts and fears that plagued the hearts of other mortals.” Her new love becomes “without the taint of idolatry.” This particular struggle against fitna is what to Aisha is the greatest jihad. This makes Pasha’s decision to tell the history of Islam as a love story a good one.

Pasha dramatizes, of course, many more beautiful and intriguing episodes from Aisha’s life, like the time when Muhammad forgets about his statemanship and plays with Aisha’s dolls, or races with her, or when he decides to die lying in her lap and not any of his other wives, or relatives. Pasha does not miss to point out that despite the centuries of enmities between the Muslims and the Jew, one must not forget the fact tha it was only after the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem (from Byzantine rule) that the Jews were allowed to return to their native Palestine.

Pasha’s agenda seems to be to show the complexities of the early Islamic community that orthodoxy has neglected over centuries and especially in our modern times. This is gesture I call fundamentalizing of fundamentalism, a deep look into the origins of the faith one confesses to to escape ideology and dogma that keeps haunting it. Although I quite dislike many of the books termed page-turners, Mother of the Believers is one worth reading and remembering.
Profile Image for Jennifer Sigman.
280 reviews23 followers
July 27, 2011
I really wanted to like this book, as it was covering a period of history that my WASP-centric schools never did. But while the author covered the history well, it does nothing to make the Islamic religion at all sympathetic. Mohammad comes across as a womanizer who had "Revelations" to support his wandering eye and jealous heart. And it's completely the fault of women that they had to be closed away behind veils and walls.

Don't read if you're prone to throwing things.
Profile Image for Kerlip Bintang.
167 reviews34 followers
September 27, 2010
penonton kuciwa.
gak ada riuh tepuk tangan saat selesai baca novel sejarah ini.

Nabi Muhammad saw yang kukenal dari buku-buku dan ceramah adalah seorang rasul yang sangat gagah berani dan lembut hati (bukan lebay cenderung feminim seperti yang digambarkan buku ini).

Beliau seorang jagoan perang, bukan komandan berada di barisan paling belakang atau berdiam diri di tenda dan membutuhkan orang lain untuk melindungi dari tebasan pedang para musuh.

Muhammad saw yang kutahu menikah dengan janda-janda perang tua renta, bukan janda-janda cantik nan ranum.

Dari awal buku ini menyiratkan permusuhan antara Siti Aisyah dan Ali Bin Abu Thalib. Juga percekcokan gak penting antara istri - istri nabi.

Juga pemberontakan (dalam hati) para istri ketika munculnya ayat-ayat Al-qur'an tentang jilbab.

Errrrrgghhh.... sekelas Nabi dan keluarga seharusnya levelnya sudah "Kami mendengar dan Kami taat".

Bukan buku yang akan kurekomendasikan kepada siapa pun. Terutama yang ingin mengenal Islam lebih dekat.

Berapa bintang? Minus!
Geram sama penulis bukunya. Sumpah!
Profile Image for Abigail.
510 reviews11 followers
October 16, 2017
So this book sounded cool in theory. I first heard it described as a book told from the point of view of Muhammed's favorite wife, Aisha. I'm like "cool, this sounds interesting."

What this book actually is, is the story of the birth of Islam where Aisha is kind of a minor character in her own life. That was my takeaway. This book essentially outlines the major events of Islam (I think, I honestly knew nothing about this history of Islam before reading this book.) with some (fictional I think?) dialogue and maybe some suppositions about why things turned out the way they are. I will say, if you know nothing about Islam going into this book, you might not want to start with this, it was some what confusing at times.

Anyway, my main issue with this book is it read more like a military history. Which is fine, I understand (now) that there was a lot of politics and war during Islam's early days. However, I think I was expecting this to be like some of the Christian fiction books I've read that are about Biblical women. You know, those fictional stories that try to flesh out a woman of the Bible and give you insight into her life and the culture of the time and how she was feeling? Yeah, this is not the Muslim equivalent to those books.

As I mentioned, Aisha recounts what happened yet I feel like I never really got to know her, or her sister-wives. I felt like there was an opportunity to really get into Aisha's head and see how things affected her and really get to know her, but even the events that directly affected her weren't really all that interesting. There was a lot of telling, and not very much showing at all. And thus, the book kind of dragged on for me, and it was with relief that I finished it.
Profile Image for Ziyy.
533 reviews22 followers
May 2, 2011
Ini novel ketiga, sebuah fiksi berbasis sirah Nabawiyah, yang saya baca. Fiksi pertama semacam ini yang saya lahap adalah Muhammad: Lelaki Penggenggam Hujan (kemudian akan saya singkat menjadi MLPH) karya Tasaro GK. Fiksi kedua yang juga berbasis sirah Nabawiyah yang saya baca sebelumnya adalah Pengikat Surga karya Hisani Bent Soe. (saya kagum kepada penulis yang bisa berdedikasi dengan cara seperti ini, pasti membutuhkan keberanian dan bekal literasi yang banyak juga menajamkan kehati-hatian dalam menyajikan sirah Nabawiyah secara fiksi)

MLPH, mengambil sudut pandang seorang nonmuslim yang menceritakan sosok Muhammad. Pengikat Surga mendudukkan Asma’ sebagai narator secara keseluruhan. Novel ini, Humaira, adalah tentang ‘Aisyah yang menuliskan kehidupannya kepada ‘Abdullah putra Asma’ yang tidak lain merupakan kemenakannya.

Kamran Pasha, penulis Humaira, menderaskan novel ini dengan penginderaan yang kuat. Ruqayyah, Putri Rasulullah digambarkan sangat cantik dan memiliki kulit mulus yang lebih terang dari Rasulullah. Fatimah digambarkan sebagai seorang yang pendiam dan serius. ‘Ali memiliki mata yang hijau, pandangannya yang menusuk dan kata-katanya yang mengandung ramalan (mirip Rasulullah). Lalu Ummu Salamah, Ummul Mukminin yang dicemburui ‘Aisyah, adalah perempuan yang memiliki mata yang cemerlang dan senyum yang menawan. Ummu Salamah adalah seorang yang sabar dan memiliki kepribadian yang menyenangkan. Muawiyah, diceritakan terlahir saat bintang Zuhal bersinar. Dimana Muawiyah dilahirkan dengan firasat tajam dalam mencapai tujuan.

Atau penggambaran Zulfikar, pedang Rasulullah. Sebilah pedang, yang adalah dua bilah pedang (sebenarnya) karena pedang itu terbagi menjadi dua saat pedang itu meruncing ke ujungnya, membuatnya kelihatan bagaikan lidah ular yang bercabang. Pangkalnya terbuat dari perak yang diperhalus dan benang emas tertanam di pedang kembar itu. Pedang itu berkemilau kehitaman seolah-olah menegaskan bahwa dirinya tidak ditempa dari baja tapi dari bahan besi lain

Penginderaan yang kuat, yang dilancarkan oleh Kamran Pasha ini yang membuat tiap karakter yang disebutkan dalam novel ini tidak hanya berlalu-lalang seumpama figuran, tetapi mereka menjadi lebih jelas dan membuat saya lebih lekat mencirikan mereka. Bahkan kadang membuat saya meyakini betapa manusiawinya mereka. (not to mention clearly, saya menjadi benci sekaligus jengkel dengan karakter Hindun- melalui penggambaran Kamran Pasha)

Awal novel ini beritme lambat, tetapi setelah fragmen meninggalnya Rasulullah, cerita dalam novel ini jadi terasa bergegas. Dan itu wajar, menurut saya.

Kamran Pasha beberapa kali, dan bisa dikatakan sering, menyelipkan sekelebat kejadian masa depan (ramalan) disela-sela ceritanya sehingga membuat saya (sebagai pembaca) penasaran. Seperti ketika ia menceritakan gambaran akan adanya jurang yang selalu bisa memisahkan ‘Ali dengan Muawiyah. Hal tersebut ia selipkan dalam fragmen awal masuk Islamnya Muawiyah. Atau ketika ia menyelipkan gambaran kelemahlembutan Utsman yang akan berakibat fatal bagi umat Muslim dibawah pimpinannya kelak. Atau tentang keberadaan ‘Aisyah, yang kelak berlaku seperti Hindun yang mampu menggiring pendapat dan memiliki andilnya dalam perang saudara Aisyah-Thalhah-Zubair dengan ‘Ali.

Sayangnya, dalam fragmen yang menyertakan keadaan turunnya wahyu, tidak diberikan catatan ayat yang turun. Tidak seperti di novel Pengikat Surga. Lalu, seperti novel luar lainnya, ada beberapa fragmen secara terbuka digambarkan intim (entahlah, itu menurut saya). Hal ini ada pada fragmen-fragmen rumah tangga Rasulullah. InsyaAllah, masih dalam kondisi yang wajar.

Awalnya saya tidak melihat daftar pustaka dibagian belakang novel ini. Membuat saya menyayangkan kekurangan itu. Tapi kemudian, Kamran Pasha justru menyembutkan literatur yang membantu penyusunan novel itu secara narasi dibagian catatan pengarang.

Overall, novel ini cemerlang. Saya menyukainya. Dari tiga fiksi berbasis sirah Nabawiyan yang saya baca, Humaira menjadi yang paling indah. Meski diksi indah dari MLPH terasa lebih deras, tapi secara proporsi, novel ini terasa pas.

Oia, buat teman-teman yang agak berhati-hati membaca sirah (apalagi ini fiksi berbasis sirah) dan menandai sekali latar belakang pengarang, saya kutipkan catatan pengarang yang mungkin berguna untuk

Sebagai catatan, saya sendiri adalah seorang muslim. Secara teologis saya menganggap diri saya sebagai seorang Sunni dan secara spiritual saya tertarik pada tasawuf. Secara silsilah, saya adalah seorang Sayyid, keturunan langsung Nabi Muhammad melalui putri beliau Fatimah dan cucunya Hussain.

Maksud saya menulis novel ini adalah untuk membuka pandangan orang-orang Barat akan kekayaan yang ada dalam tradisi sejarah muslim dan mengundang semua pembaca untuk mengetahui lebih banyak tentang Islam dan menarik kesimpulan masing-masing

Berikut literatur yang menjadi referensi Kamran Pasha:

Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources (Martin Lings); The Prophet Muhammad: A Biography dan Heirs of Muhammad (Barnaby Rogerson); Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman (Montgomery Walt); Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet (Karen Armstrong); The Scimitar and The Veil: Extraordinary Women of Islam (Jennifer Heath); Muhammad, Islam’s First General. The Great Arab Conquest (Richard A. Gabriel); No god But God (Reza Aslan); Islam and Destiny of Man (Charles Le Gai Eaton); The Secret of Islam (Henry Bayman); The Vision of Islam (Sachiko Murata & William Chittick); Understanding Islam (Fritjof Schuon); The Qur’an: Text, Translation and Commentary (Abdullah Yusuf Ali); The Message of The Holy Qur’an (Muhammad Asad).
Profile Image for Linda C..
Author 4 books34 followers
May 16, 2009
Good historical fiction transports readers to a different time and place. Wonderful novels immerse their readership in worlds so realistic that it is disorienting to stop reading and re-enter day-to-day life. Kamran Pasha takes his readers to the seventh century in the Arabian peninsula. It is an uncommon time and place for novels, but one that provides rich dramatic material.

The subtitle accurately describes this as “a novel of the birth of Islam.” Pasha tells his tale through the eyes of Aisha one of Muhammad’s wives and who had been born into a family of believers. The followers of Muhammad and his faith were still quite small at the beginning of the story, but they were being watched closely by the powerful families in Mecca.

This small band of followers were viewed first as an amusement, later as an annoyance, and finally as a threat by the power elite. There were assassination attempts, plots to isolate and oppress them economically, and later outright declarations of war against the Companions of Muhammad.

Pasha wove a beautiful tale showing the humanity of these historical figures. This novel is designed to be enjoyed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike as the customs of Islam are subtly explained in the text. It is a wonderful story detailing the history and culture of one of the great religions of the world.

In these troubled times, it is important to remember that what unites us is greater than that which divides us.

I recommend this book highly.
Profile Image for sumaiyya.
12 reviews1 follower
June 8, 2009
It's not a piece of sophisticated literature, however, it's doing a great service to us by humanizing the Prophet (s) and his Companions. Instead of making their lives sound like a myth or legend (which we always hear it as) he presents them and their life as a real human story which is truly inspirational and thought provoking. I recommend it to anyone who's ok with stomaching that...
Profile Image for Cindy.
338 reviews
June 23, 2009
I really liked this book! I had a hard time putting it down - in fact I started reading this on an airplane trip and I was disapointed that the flight was over and I had to put down my book!

This book offers an insight into a very important time and place in world history. The author, Pasha, claims this to be a work of fiction but the particulars of this period in history must be accurate - or the author would be in a lot of trouble with the Islamic world.

The story is told from the point of view of Aisha, the youngest wife of Muhammad. At times the commentary is a big heavy handed - when Aisha alludes to events that occur later in the book. But Pasha had a difficult time since many readers probably already know the outline of these events - the flight from Mecca, the success in Medina and return to Mecca. And of course the Sunni/Shia split of the Islamic world. (Well I knew that and of course, assume others do too!)

I enjoy reading books which help me gain a better understanding of our world. This certainly did that. The description of life in Arabia was very informative. I had not known much about the history of that part of the world. Now I'd like to check out a more thorough history of the Middle East. Why were Jews not allowed to live in their ancestral homeland? Was it a result of the revolt in 70 AD? Who ordered it and enforced it so many years later? How far did the control of the Byzatine Empire extend into Arabia? I'd also love to learn more about the years immediately following Muhammad's death. The only complaint I have for this book is that the level of detail after Muhammad's death is so much less than the details of his life. The first 4/5 of the book deals with Muhammad's life. I just wish the same level of detail about Aisha's life after his death had been included. Why did some believers think that Ali and his sons were the best leaders? Why did some think otherwise? I don't understand that even now and don't really know where to look for those answers.

One of my favorite classes from my undergraduate days was a history of the Middle East - which started at Napolean's invasion of Egypt in the 1790s. After reading this book of fiction, I want to know the earlier history of the Middle East. Why did Iran become Shia while other areas became Sunni?

This book is terrific and I definitely want to learn more!! Given the misunderstandings that exist between the Islamic world and the West, I think it's important for more of us (Westerners) learn about the history and culture of the Islamic world.
Profile Image for Hani Alshakhss.
11 reviews
July 2, 2017
my review will consist of two parts. first the writing style. second historical accuracy and portrayal of some of its figures.

so, writing style. remeber the annoyed feeling you get when your online browsing is suddenly interrupted by pop ups. well that was exactly how I felt when reading the endless stream of metaphors which thankfully taper down as the book progresses. but seriously you would think the author's contract makes it compulsary to throw in a metaphor after every paragraph! with that said, I cant find anything else substantial to complain about regarding style. still it was annoying enough to merit a one star deduction.

now for the second part. please note that Iam a muslim who is subscribed to the Shia school of thought. as such, the book has many of what the sunni school historically believes to be fact and the Shia school do not. Moreover, the portraial of the Messenger, Imam Ali and Lady Fatima in many aspects as to their characters leaves much to be desired. to be fair i understand that the author was trying to humanise the Messenger and did so using a mixture of Sunni sources and his own imagination. However, i simply can not understand how the author would permit himself to take liberties with the Messengers intimacies. When it comes to Imam Ali and his followers i find it very disrespectful to your fellow muslims who happen to be Shia to state "they would become a powerful voice whose message would tear apart our nation." this is no place for debate but lets just say the same can be easily said regarding the oppositing side. Also describing Imam Ali as a distant individual whom the people find awkward and difficult to interact with is purely from the authors imagination. No sources Sunni, Shia or otherwise give such a description. the same can be said regarding lady fatima.

I gave four stars primarly in refrance to the story telling. the book overall was very engaging and paints a vivd picture of the events and characters regardless of which school iam subscribed to. besides giving a review based on my bias would be similar to those people on amazon who give one star due to shipping issues instead of the product short comings, ultimately the story is categorised as historical fiction and should be read and reviewed as such.
Profile Image for Nely.
511 reviews53 followers
May 13, 2009
Mother of the Believers is the story of Aisha bint Abi Bakr - the youngest and most beloved wife of the Prophet Muhammed. When the story commences Aisha is in her deathbed and is recounting this epic tale to her nephew. As Aisha reflects on her life we learn of her cursed birth, her marriage to Muhammed at the age of nine, his other wives and their feuding harem, as well as his death and how she eventually grows to become a teacher, political leader and warrior. Set in seventh century Arabia this story takes you on a journey through hot deserts, epic battles and the understanding of what becoming a believer entailed.

Mr. Pasha's story is purely fictional, but it is one of those stories that you can’t help but devour in big, heaping gulps. I was a little hesitant to read it at first (a- it's 560 pages long) and (b- it's not a topic I would normally read about), but I was drawn in from the start and read the whole thing in just a couple of sittings. Mr. Pasha has a vivid and fluid style of writing that I really enjoyed and his imagery lights up the pages of his book. This was my first exposure to the Muslim culture/religion and I found it to be a very enlightening experience.

This is a beautiful tale - one that I highly recommend to believers and non-believers alike.
Profile Image for biblio_mom (Aiza).
587 reviews201 followers
June 13, 2020
This is my first time reading an Islamic historical fiction. It is a wonderful story detailing the history and culture of Islam and Arabs. interesting and gripping. Though I have read many times of the Prophet's story and biography, I still like this fiction version nonetheless. The author presents Muhammad Pbuh as a human that is perfect in many ways but still made some mistakes in his life. The story is told as real as it is instead of sounding like a myth.

Its hard to come across any novels set back in the seventh century, Arabia. His writing skills transported me into the time and place where all the events are happening. Its a wonderful piece of literature that could be indulge not only by Muslims, but non-Muslims too.

Rich in plots, characters are based on real people's names and sets in many historical places that are preserved until now to be visited.
Profile Image for Talat.
22 reviews35 followers
June 10, 2009
Though I'm now only up to p. 280 (out of 526), I must express my gratitude to Kamnran Pasha for bringing to life some of the main events of the early history of the Prophet Muhammad's community so vividly and meaningfully. Pasha stays true to the history and the personalities of the community while also making sense of the motivations of the actors and their interactions. "Mother of the Believers" has proven to be a most rewarding read, as both a novel and as a credible and creative historical reconstruction.
Profile Image for Amanda Hasan.
40 reviews12 followers
October 22, 2021
Read with careful consideration. While the book is full of characters that were real-life people, the stories are elaborated versions of Islamic history and ahadith. It’s written very well and in such a compelling manner that it was difficult at times to remember that I was not reading an actual autobiography of Aisha (ra), but a fairytale version of her life as a wife to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It took me a long time to finish this text but it was worth it.

Profile Image for The Reader.
48 reviews
February 2, 2023
I really enjoyed reading Mother of the Believers, Aisha was a character who I found really easy to relate to, and I enjoyed watching her growth. I didn’t really like Muhammad or Ali as characters, Muhammad was using Revelations as a reason to get married to women under the guise of protecting them. The fact that he punished Aisha and the others because they got mad at him for sleeping with a slave. I like how detailed Aisha’s childhood was but the time seemed to fly by or slow down, and I had difficulty tracking how old Aisha was every chapter. This is decent book for those looking to go a bit more in detail about the birth of Islam.
Profile Image for Heather.
250 reviews56 followers
March 26, 2010
Let me preface this "review" of my thoughts by stating that there were times when I had personal religious "issues" with this book, but had to tell myself to put all of that aside and simply read this as just a good story. So that's what I tried to do.

The story is told by the central character Aisha, who is known as the "Mother of the Believers", as she was the wife of the prophet Muhammad, the founder of the Muslim religion.

Aisha is an intelligent and strong-willed young child when we are introduced to her. Her father is one of the first followers of Muhammad, The Messenger of God who brought the Muslim religion to the world. The Messenger has a vision that reveals to him that Aisha is to be his wife. By their cultural "rules", Aisha cannot be married to him until she begins her cycles, which is at the tender age of nine.

The story goes on to follow the early years of the Muslim religion-- the battles that occurred, both on the field and in the private lives of The Messenger and his family and followers.

Moments of this book were very difficult to read. There were moments of incredible brutality, and most disturbing is knowing that this is not fantastical brutality, but that these are the types of things that do commonly occur in some other countries, especially areas like Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Aisha's character is strong, courageous and full of life. As just a child, her older half-sister Asma chose the new religion over her own mother.

Aisha and Asma's father, Abu Bakr, is one of the first followers of Islam. He is an honorable man and a loving father who expects a lot of his children.

The Messenger, Muhammad, is a strange mixture. Generally just and peaceable, he can exhibit great cruelty and heartlessness in the name of God.

I know that I prefaced this by saying that I tried to put my own religious views aside and view this simply as a good story. However I have to say that the things that I couldn't get past were the contradictions. You have men professing their faith in God, and using violence and murder to push their agenda. Not simply in defense of themselves, but in offense to gain ground with their religion and to garner more power. This bothered me.

You also had men "preaching" piousness, and at the same time taking young girls as slaves and raping them as war trophies, and keeping mistresses and such. None of this did much in gaining my sympathy. I always viewed the Muslim religion as a peaceful and pacifist and most assuredly pious religion (excluding the extremists who use terror for their own benefit), but this book has actually changed that. Now I'm not sure how I feel about it or what the true nature of the Muslim religion is. However, when it all boils down, it comes to this very basic fact: We're all human. And the author Kamran Pasha does a good job at portraying these characters as very human, just as flawed and vulnerable as the rest of us. Even The Messenger was really just a man.

The book also tells a story of what inspired the "law" that required women to be sheltered behind a veil-- one dealing with a wife of the Messenger of God flirting mercilessly with other men after she allows her jealousies get the best of her. There is a passage that says:

From now on, my life was to become a prison, even when I was not confined to the tiny apartment whose mud walls seemed to be closing in on me. For whenever I ventured out into the sun, my face would be hidden away behind a veil. The bars of my jail would follow me everywhere and were unbreakable, forged from a tiny strip of cotton that was stronger than the mightiest Byzantine steel.

This passage really drove it all home to me-- what it's like to be a woman of this culture. Previously when I saw the elaborate hijab that women are required to wear in many middle eastern areas, I would mainly think of the physical discomfort of doing so: the weight of it, the heat in a stifling climate, the claustrophobia of having cloth sitting on my face all of the time, etc. I don't think that I fully appreciated the psychological/emotional discomfort. How stifling, to never be able to walk down a street and feel the sun on my face. To always feel the weight of the fabric would feel like a straight-jacket to me. It would be psychologically crippling for me. I just don't know how the women do it.

All in all, this was a good book. It was very well-written-- I can't fault the author in that. Most of my issues with the book are personal religious issues or moral issues. The book itself is well thought out and put together, with an exciting storyline that just keeps going and going. Very nice!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
46 reviews2 followers
September 26, 2010
The author did not elaborate much on the marriages of those around the prophet. Two or three times there was mention of someone taking a second wife. But, bigamy did not seem to be a cultural norm.
The revelation from Allah regarding potential wives of Muhammad amused me. If Muhammad wanted to marry someone he shouldn’t be able to (son’s wife, 6 year old neighbor daughter) he would spasm and announce that it is Allah’s will.

One that was painfully transparent was when Allah wanted to marry a slave from Egypt, but his wives did not want him to. He promised that he would not but was annoyed that they tricked him. So he said that Allah told him he didn’t not need to keep his hasty promise and to punish his wives, and he proceeded to marry the slave girl, who had his son.

It made it difficult to believe that Allah was speaking through this man who was justifying things that shouldn’t be. Was he a man who was legitimately receiving revelations from God and then just faking a couple to let him do what he wanted? Or was he a fraud in entirety?
There were so many great messages arising from the Prophet’s conversion of Arabs to Muslims. Piety, generosity, freedom, and respect. But once those were established tenets of Islam, they were then turned on their head. For example – respect. Allah decreed that out of respect for a woman’s honor, she should be shrouded and separated from men by a curtain. Is a woman being respected if she required to lose her identity so that men aren’t tempted to disrespect (lust)? Can’t men just be in charge of reigning in their own urges? Why must women be punished in order to be respected?

Muslims freed slaves but enslaved others. I was confused about just how free people under Muslim rule actually were. Later in the book, Aisha talks about conquering Egypt and respecting the rights of the Coptic Christians. Yet other in other conquests, everyone was required to convert to Islam.

I was surprised at how focused it was on the Old Testament / Torah. My perception of Islam is that it is all about Mohommad and it is that way now. But when the religion was in its infancy, it drew off its ancient prophets. Much like Christianity, it has moved the center of its religion to the most recent messenger.

The rulers of Mecca (worshipers of pagan gods) were defeated and embraced Islam. When Mohhomad asked one of the fallen leaders why he had resisted so long, he responded, “…jealous that Allah had chosen you over me.” When Mohhamad commented that the man said Allah and not ‘the gods’, the man said, “If my gods were real, they would have helped me over the years. This is an interesting comment as it is not evidence that God does not exist, only that he has lost his faith in God. One must believe in what he can neither see, nor taste, nor feel, nor hear. Deciding that God (or gods) does not exist because it hasn’t intervened in your life is a loss of faith, not proof that God does not exist.

I really struggled with this book. I tried to overcome my own bias while reading this. I tried to keep telling myself that a lot of what I didn’t like was a function of the times, not specific to Islam. But I can’t help wonder, is this really God’s message or is he meting out messages, a little at a time, to mankind, slowly evolving humans to the righteous behavior? The Old Testament is rather wrathful. Then later in time, the message sent through Jesus was more about forgiveness. The message through Muhammad was about peace. But it seems like that message took a big step backwards for women. Was Muhammad not a true messenger? Or is God really trying to ‘devolve’ women’s rights?
The book may not have done much for me to change my view of Islam. I already knew that terrorists in the name of Allah were simply terrorists, not Islamists. But the book certainly made me (and will continue) think about Prophets – their legitimacy and their messages.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Foxglove.
432 reviews5 followers
January 20, 2015
It's a beautiful book. If one ignores the history and just reads the story, it's an incredibly beautiful and well written and exciting book. You feel Aisha is actually right next to you and telling her story, and it's a bit scary how modern this 7th century woman feels. If she had lived today, I believe she would have been the Muslim version of Oprah, running charitable projects and doing TED talks and having her own talk show where she would GRILL important people.

Some parts were hard for me. Reading the degradation of the Banu Quereyza made me swear in fury and made me put the book aside for a bit. I felt that the Jews could have been shown a bit less...back-stabbing but it';s hard to write someone who you believe is the Prophet of God, and then people rejecting him, without having to pick a side. What makes it different in the bible is that I don't have to face Caananites and Jebusites today.

And yes, the consumation of the wedding was a bit...hard for me. Yes, I know, Isabella of Valois was 6 when she married Richard II of England in the 1400s and no one batted an eye, but I'm still me.

The Karbala discussion made me cry a bit. Yeah, this book is violent and it's not shy about the horror of war.

Excellent, quick placed writing, Pasha doesn't linger for dramatic irony. And excellent, biting wit. A bit too fast paced, I checked and was right that this was originally two books. I'd have loved it split up, pre and post First Caliphate but such is life.

Highly reccomended.
Profile Image for Francis  Opila.
68 reviews4 followers
October 22, 2009
This is historical fiction, the story of the birth of Islam from the perspective of Aisha, the youngest and most beloved wife of Muhammad. It is reportedly well researched. Aisha becomes Muhammad's wife at age 9. Muhammad dies when Aisha is 19. The author, a man, tells the story through the eyes of Aisha, who is portrayed as beautiful, resourceful, petty, and jealous. I'm not sure if it really worked for me, but it was an easy, captivating way to get the tale of Islam.

Islam came to be with a lot of war, brought out quite melodramatically by Pasha. I wonder how much of that violence was really necessary, but historically there's been a lot of war in our world. Here are some dramatic excerpts:

"The battlefield smelled like a corpse that had been rotting for a week. The black volcanic ash mixed with the odor of disemboweled intestines, punctured hearts, and the rubbery gray slime of brain matter." (p. 260)
"And then, human blood still dripping from her plump lips, Hind began to dance and sing around the mutilated body of her enemy. She tore open her robes and smeared the blood of Hazma across her breasts. I could see the curve of her ample bosom as she stripped off her gold necklaces." (p. 262)
"And then, like the gift of rain coming down from the heavens after a long drought, the Holy Land of Abraham, David and Solomon, the land of the prophets and of Jesus the son of Mary, was now in the hands of Islam." (p. 484)
136 reviews4 followers
July 27, 2009
This was a long book. It made me realize how little I know about the Muslim faith. In the beginning I thought a lot about my own faith and our own origins. About plural marriage, a new christian religion and the trials and tribulations these people endured under the umbrella of faith and thier belief. Big difference is 600AD in Arabia and ours in the 1900 in the USA (home of religious freedom). I often forgot how young Aisha was. The jealousy, and blunt ways are common and understandable for when Mohammund died she was only. But her courage and devotion to her husband and their faith is astonishing. Her sense of loyality and her acceptance of her lot in life is admirable. She died barren. She cast blames on herself and her decisons how the Muslims faith split and battles each other even today. She makes reference to that even from the beginning but when it actually was time to reveal her part. I find it samller and just part of the whole misunderstanding. Another part that I was disappoined was for 475 pages was her life with Mohammud but for the 50 odd years without him was a blur infact after about 25 years there is just a few sentences. I do home that my legacy is made on my latter years and bases on my accomplishment over my life span. Although this too is similiar to my own religion. After Joseph Smith died Emma Smith was not mentioned in Chuch history.
Profile Image for Rodhiah Rahman.
57 reviews15 followers
July 25, 2016
Can't put into words how to review this book. Took me a year and half to finish it, because the facts, the emotions described most of the time were so strong that i had to stop for a while. At times, i even stared at it for so long, too afraid to begin reading again. I smiled, i cried, i wept brokenly, i felt the tightness in my heart at the regret and guilt and the chance of repentance. Indeed, as quoted from the book (page 527), 'God is Merciful and Compassionate and accepts the sincere repentance of His servants. That no matter how far they fall into darkness, He is always prepared to lead them back to light. And it is that knowledge that gives me hope for my people. For no matter how many false preachers arise to spread death and corruption in the name of Islam, the true message of our beloved teacher Muhammad ibn Abdallah, the Prophet of God, will never be lost. The message of unity and love for all mankind'. So true, indeed.
Profile Image for Mellissa.
12 reviews2 followers
March 26, 2021
DNF. Unfortunately this was like reading religious propaganda instead of the well-balanced historical novel I was hoping for.

The parts describing the consummation of Aischa and Mohammed's so-called marriage were shocking to me. 9 year old girl with no experience and very limited knowledge of sex isn't frightened at all to have sex with a grown man 2 years older than her father. In fact, she feels no pain at all and actually experiences her first stirrings of lust then.


Profile Image for Khairul Hezry.
688 reviews117 followers
October 15, 2010
A good primer on the early days of Islam from the eyes of Aisha, the Prophet's young wife. Though all the major events in Islam during the Prophet's lifetime is told in the book, Kamran Pasha chose to rush through the era of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs, all of four of whom Aisha outlived. This is unfortunate because it was the era of the first four Caliphs that the history of early Islam got really interesting.

Still, an enjoyable book to read.
Profile Image for Tamam.
11 reviews4 followers
May 6, 2009
I'm getting ready to review this on my blog: www.completeword.com I'm on page 187, and am very pleased with the smooth reading and, more importantly, the sensitivity to the history behind the novel - the life of Aisha, who was married to Muhammad in the 7th century. This is a history I've studied for the last decade, and Kamran Pasha did a good job!
Profile Image for Colette.
17 reviews3 followers
May 13, 2009
Really interesting book...it succeeds at what I consider important for historical fiction- I want to learn more about Aisha.
Profile Image for Amina.
11 reviews
June 28, 2009
Dreadful writing, but full of the stories from Islamiat class, so I couldn't put it down!
11 reviews2 followers
October 18, 2011
Currently, this book has been reshelved for a later date. I was so excited to read it, but just couldn't get into the story.
Profile Image for Jennifer Witt.
11 reviews1 follower
March 8, 2014
Some common mistakes as a first book (too much foreshadowing, redundancy), but overall I found it very captivating.
121 reviews
December 30, 2018
Didn't read. Couldn't get into it after first chapter.
Profile Image for hajrah ♡.
115 reviews19 followers
May 2, 2023
i got extremely bored with the tiresome accounts of battle and talk of strategy that this book could maybe have done without, supposedly being a more intimate story about the birth of Islam as told by one of its mothers. besides that, i really enjoyed it and especially appreciated the way in which the sahaba were written as faithful yet flawed human beings, which is most likely much closer to reality than the sugarcoated stories we usually get to hear about them. they are jealous, spiteful, and sometimes vindictive people, which makes us acknowledge their humanity and relate to them much more than we would have had they been painted as perfect personas capable of no wrong.
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