Heather's Reviews > Mother of the Believers

Mother of the Believers by Kamran Pasha
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's review
Mar 24, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: recommended
Read in October, 2009

** spoiler alert ** 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!
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Sheila It is important to note that all religions have under gone very similar issues. Any recount of the Crudades demonstrates the violent and abominable acts of individuals in the name of God as well. It use true that politics had a heavy hand in informing these actions and as humans this us simply a component of civilization in which we all participate. It is unfortunate that your opinion of Islam has changed in a negative way. Though I am Muslim and yet disagree with the reverance attributed to Aisha as a Shia in the party of Ali, I think Pasha does a commendable job of yelling a story that admits the negative and often skimmed over elements of our history and provides the voice of intention which often turns the black and white into an area of gray.

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