Huma Rashid's Reviews > I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali
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Aug 16, 12

Read in August, 2012

Deeply, deeply compelling. The story of a girl with amazing courage and resilience and such a full, generous heart.

No girl should ever have to live through what Nujood lived through, but far too many do all over the world. This child's journey - finding a way to leave her abusive home, get to Sana'a, track down a judge, and tell her story - is a testament to the power of the human spirit.

It is important to remember when reading this book that domestic violence, sexual abuse, and child marriages are NOT problems that belong exclusively to the Islamic world. In fact, the traditions that governed Nujood's life and her marriage are decidedly anti-Islamic. Islam came to abolish these practices, which are markers of ancient cultures, and are thus CULTURAL practices, not religious ones.

It is important to remember that Muhammad (S) was very clear in saying that a woman must consent verbally to her marriage. No one else is allowed to consent for her, even if the woman is too shy to verbally consent. Forcing a woman to marry someone she does not want to - whether this coercion is explicit, like saying "You must marry this man," or implicit, as in "you will shame us deeply if you don't marry him, so please agre" - is a blatant violation of Islamic teachings and Islamic law.

About the veils that Nujood writes about - it is important to remember that while many Muslims believe that Muslim women must cover their hair (with hijab, a veil worn over the hair, leaving the face bare), not all Muslims believe it. And not all Muslim women (hey, look at my profile picture) do cover their hair. Furthermore, the Quran and Muhammad (S) were both very clear: There is to be no compulsion in religion. A woman should not be FORCED to wear the hijab if she does not want to, if she is not ready, if she doesn't believe in it, and so on. Furthermore, the niqab is not mentioned anywhere in the Quran and is instead a cultural practice. Indeed, the Quran advises Muslim women about covering and states that Muslim women may keep their hands and faces bare. There is no Quranic textual support for having to wear a niqab. It is a cultural practice. Many Muslim women wear niqab and feel that they need to do this in order to follow God's rules - that's their choice, their interpretation of their religion, and there is nothing wrong with that.

The point here is that there is not to be any compulsion in religion. (We're not very good at following that. And I'm referring to all adherents of any religion, not just us Muslims. There's plenty of religious coercion in other faiths, too, even though the religion itself may forbid that kind of coercion.)

And finally, it is repeated many times that Muhammad (S) (referred to as the Prophet) married his wife Aisha (R) when she was nine.

THIS IS FALSE.

This is a common misconception - unfortunately, many Muslims believe this, too. Let me explain.

Based on authenticated narrations, Fatima (R), Muhammad (S)'s daughter, was five years older than Aisha (R). Fatima was born about 5 years before the Call, and then Aisha was born around the time of the Call, so Fatima was five years older, approximately. This would place the age of Aisha upon her betrothal (not marriage, but a mere betrothal, an agreement) at about 10, not 6.

Further, Aisha herself revealed that when the 54th chapter of the Quran, The Moon, was revealed, she was a child, playing about, and remembered the verses as they were newly revealed. The 54th chapter undoubtedly came down around the 6th year after the call, which puts her age around 10, roughly.

And this was just the betrothal. She did not get married at this time - marriage meaning consummation, etc. She lived with her parents, and nothing about her daily life changed.

It is agreed by Islamic scholars that Aisha did not get married until the tenth year after the Call in the month of Shawwal. This means that about five years had passed between the nikkah and the actual marriage (referring to consummation) which means that Aisha was roughly fifteen, which was quite a common age for Arab women at the time to marry.

(Don't forget, women got married around this age, and sometimes younger, in Europe at this time, too. And even in the US today, the legal age of consent for marriage is around 15-16 in many states.)

Some accounts, based on other figures in authenticated ahadeeth, place Aisha's age at the time of nikkah 14 or 15, and the age of consummation around 19 or 20. It's not uncommon for hadith, even authenticated ones, to differ slightly. Among the whole body of hadith, many hadith have been revealed to be weak, inauthentic, slightly mistaken, or outright forgeries. Parsing through them is a real challenge. But the accounts stating that Aisha was 9 or 10 when she had sex have been revealed to be completely incorrect. Some scholars hold that she was 15, some hold that she was 19 or 20, based on the ages - of Aisha as well as her relatives, used as benchmarks, as it were - mentioned in other ahadeeth.

Anyone who tells you that Aisha (R) was 9 when she had sex for the first time is WRONG.

None of this is to dismiss any of the horrors that Nujood faced. NONE of it. I would never, ever seek to do that.

But the misconception that Muhammad (S) married and slept with a girl of only 6 and 9 (referring first to the nikkah and then the consummation) is a frighteningly common misconception among Muslims AND nonMuslims, and is used by ignorant men like Nujood's father to justify these crimes. It must stop. Aisha (R) was not 9 when she was sexually penetrated. She was roughly fifteen or sixteen, according to authenticated records that have survived in Islamic scholarship.

As a Muslim who has painstakingly researched various aspects of her faith (and continues to do so daily), it really hurts and scares me to see these misconceptions about Islam used to justify horrible, horrible things, whether it's domestic violence (Muhammad (S) never once beat his wives or his daughters, and this was at a time when women worldwide - excepting matriarchal societies - were seen as nothing more than property to be bartered or sold), or suicide bombings (both Muhammad and the Quran are clear that you can only harm people when in battle, on the battlefield, and harming innocent civilians is a very very serious crime against god), child marriages (see above), and so on.

This book has been on my To Read list forever. I'm so glad I finally got a chance to pick it up (through Overdrive on my Ipad!). It's a short read, and a deeply moving one. Pick it up if you have a spare hour or two, and be sure to have the Kleenex handy.

The end of the book made me really wish that Shada Nasser, Nujood's lawyer, had written a book about her ordeal with this case. I would have loved to have read this through the eyes of an adult, and a female Yemeni lawyer at that.
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