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Mother of the Believers: A Novel of the Birth of Islam
by Kamran Pasha

Published: 2009-04-14
Paperback : 560 pages
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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 ...
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Introduction

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.

Editorial Review

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Excerpt

PROLOGUE – THE BEGINNING OF THE END

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate

What is faith?

It is a question I have asked myself over the years, dear nephew, and I am no closer to the answer now then I was when my hair was still crimson like the rising dawn, not the pale silver of moonlight as it is today. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. “God had chosen me to marry His Messenger. It sounded laughable, but somehow it felt right. As if some part of my soul had always known that was my purpose.” To what extent does Aisha feel conflicted about her sudden transformation from child to Mother of the Believers? In what ways does her betrothal and marriage to the Prophet challenge some of his most faithful believers? What accounts for the unique nature of Aisha and Muhammad’s emotional connection with each other?

2. How do the climactic events of the Battle of Badr—particularly the deaths of many prominent Quraysh leaders—serve to galvanize the Muslims in their efforts to rally future believers? What does the defeat of the Meccan army by the vastly outnumbered followers of the Messenger represent to leaders of the Assembly? How does the Meccan defeat further empower Hind, the lascivious wife of Abu Sufyan, to incite further violence against the Muslims?

3. Aisha finds herself in trouble with the Messenger and her faith when she ventures places she shouldn’t go, such as when she comes to the assistance of Salim ibn Qusay, a thief, who attempts to rape her; or when a young Jewish goldsmith, Yacub, is punished with death for insulting her honor; or when she is suspected of infidelity for having gotten lost in the desert. To what extent can these mishaps can be attributed to Aisha’s youth and inexperience? What role does her personality play in leading her into these morally compromising situations?

4. “The whole ceremony seemed appropriately ethereal for this enigmatic couple and I was glad when the Prophet rose and kissed them, signaling that we had returned to the world I knew and understood.” Why does the marriage of Ali to Fatima seem symbolic to Aisha of some more momentous alliance than a customary wedding ceremony? How would you describe the roles Ali and Fatima play in the life of Muhammad, and in the history of Islam? What accounts for Aisha’s troubled relationship with Ali?

5. What role does a young Jewish woman named Safiya, the daughter of the prominent Jewish leader Huyayy ibn Akhtab, play in alerting Aisha to an assassination plot against Muhammad by the Bani Nadir? How does the treachery of the Bani Nadir lead to an affiliation between the Arab and Jewish forces against the Muslims? What does Muhammad’s later marriage to Safiya suggest about his ability to accommodate marriage to his politically advantage?

6. “You should not leave your houses unless necessary. It is for your good and for the good of the Ummah, he said…We were now expected to stay inside our homes like prisoners.” What does Muhammad’s commandment to his wives to veil themselves to strangers and to stay confined to their homes reflect about his culture and society? How would you describe the modern-day impact of this commandment for faithful Muslim men and women?

7. Why does Muhammad’s death after several days of illness lead to unrest and uncertainty in his immediate circle? How does his lack of an immediate male heir complicate his succession? What does his death, as witnessed by Aisha, reveal about his spiritual nature?

8. “And so, for the first time in centuries, the Children of Israel returned to the Holy Land from which they had been expelled, ironically at the generosity of a religious they had rejected.” How do the actions and policies of Muslims, even in the midst of conquering territories and transforming regions, reflect the tenets of their faith? To what extent does the spread of Islam across the Middle East region unite former enemies and transform the city of Medina?

9. How does Aisha’s political alignment with her brother, Muhammad, challenge the rule of the Caliph Uthman and lead to his death? To what extent does Aisha’s subsequent rejection of Ali as Muslim leader stem from her longstanding grudge against him for suggesting to the Prophet that she was an expendable wife? How does the civil war that arises between Muslims lead directly to Aisha’s renunciation of involvement in politics, and how does it connect to a foreboding prediction made by her husband?

10. At the opening of Mother of the Believers, Aisha poses the rhetorical question, “What is faith?” But by the end of her memoir of her life, she has answered her own question in her letter to her nephew. How does her answer relate to her experiences as the beloved wife of Muhammad? Based on what you know about her faith, how would you characterize its role in her life?


Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Mother of the Believers is the tale of Aisha, the youngest and most beloved wife of Islam's prophet Muhammad. The story follows the birth of the new religion from Aisha's point of view and shows the remarkable tale of how a small, persecuted community managed to survive and thrive in the desert wastes of Arabia, and went on to become a global civilization, all within her lifetime. Aisha is one of the most remarkable women in history, and yet little is known about her in the West. She was a scholar, a poet, a statesman and warrior who led armies. Aisha's life single-handedly shatters the prevalent stereotype of the oppressed Muslim women, and she remains an inspiration to Muslim feminists today. I wrote this book in order to give Aisha her due place in the annals of history and literature, along with otehr great women such as Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth. And I hope that my novel will serve to create bridges of understanding between the Islamic world and the West at a time when we are facing a clash of civilizations that threatens the security of the world.

Book Club Recommendations

Get the author to call in
by suebooksri (see profile) 10/29/09
This author will call in or skype into your book club. We found it make a huge difference in our discussion having him there. We had a lot of questions and he was so great about answering everything.

Member Reviews

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  "Great Discussion Book"by suebooksri (see profile) 10/29/09

This book was not too well written, but the story was excellent. The information in the book was very informative and really was great for a discussion. The author called into our book club and that... (read more)

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