I bought a book, a book that had great recommendations on Amazon, Good Reads, and from a friend. I was excited…a book about Islam that the general population, and not just Muslims are reading — and I thought I might use it as a book club to interact with the followers of IHiP. So what book was this, you ask, what is this “fantastic” book? It’s called Mother of the Believers: A Novel of the Birth of Islam by Kamran Pasha….but I have a lot to say about it, and not much of it is good.
First of all – it’s not fantastic. It’s horrible. It started out okay, I liked his introduction, I liked his rationale for choosing to do some of the things he did in the book…and within the first 100 pages, I was brought to tears. I was really excited. Then it just went all to hell. His story telling is weak at best, he has really horrible foreshadowing…at least once in every chapter you read something like “If only I knew of the darkness that was to come…” Okay, I get it, something bad is going to happen. On the whole, I think his writing is rather shallow and immature. Maybe my standards are too high…but I just don’t like it.
That’s the extent of my critique on his writing…now to get to the story. I must preface this with the fact that when I bought this book, I thought that it was going to be a story about the birth of Islam akin to the film, “The Message” with Anthony Quinn (which is a great movie by the way! Watch it!). I thought it was going to be retelling of this story but from Aisha’s (ra) point of view. Boy was I wrong. This is a story that is loosely based on the rise of Islam but filled with all kinds of additions, omissions and what I personally feel is an anti-Islam agenda.
Some my reasoning for this opinion:
- Throughout the book, Pasha seems to forget that Islam gave women the right to choose who they marry. Not once is it mentioned in this book – in fact, it’s quite the opposite – women are married off left and right to people without even a consultation on her part.
- As we know, the wives of the Prophet (pbuh) all lived together, each with their own room. Pasha, however, doesn’t choose to call it a room…nor a dorm, not even an apartment. No, the word that Pasha chooses to use for the places where the wives of the Prophet lived — CELLS. Yes, that’s right…cells…like a jail cell.
- Pasha explains why he choose Aisha’s age of marriage as 9. It makes sense: at that time, girls were considered women once they began to menstruate. BUT – he also plays on this youth, in a way that makes it repulsive. On page 179 he writes, “Not knowing what else to do, I crawled up beside him and put my arms around his chest. I pressed my small breasts against his chest, hoping the nurturing comfort of my budding womanhood would bring him some peace.”
- If that isn’t enough – after the verse is revealed that the Prophet’s (pbuh) wives are not like other women….they begin to wear face veils…the author has Aisha think “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.”
There are many, many, MANY other issues I have with this book, but I don’t want to say anything more than I have. When it comes down to it, the further I got into this book, the more I felt as if I was doing something wrong. I have never been one to give up on a book….but I have on this one. I have only 40 pages left, and I cannot finish it; I’ve tried, but I just can’t do it. I was talking with Nye last night on skype and told her that this book is so bad, I feel that I need to repent after reading what I have. I feel like this is a chic-lit story written about Islam. I’d compare it to a Harlequin Romance writer choosing to tell the story of WWII – seriously, how good of a job can they do?
In the end it all comes down to this: The story of the birth of Islam is already greater than any human could ever attempt to tell. Stay with your original, and best of source (the Quran) and don’t bother with this book.