In the name of Allāh,
the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Peace and Blessings of Allāh on Mohammad.
Allāh–the Glorious and the High,
Lord of the worlds
Mohammad–who brought the world
to our feet and eternity to our arms.
‘AISHA–THE JEWEL OF MEDINA
The Jewel of Medina is a novel by Sherry Jones. It is a fictionalized account of the life of ‘Aisha, the wife of the Prophet Mohammad.
When I first heard about The Jewel of Medina I was eager to know what truth could be written about ‘Aisha that would displease Muslims. After all, one can write either the truth about Islam, or fallacy. If the former, it has to be accepted; if the latter the writer can be called to substantiate his/her claim/charge or it can be refuted in which event he/she will be shown to be a liar. There is no charge against Allāh, Islam, the Qur’an, and the Prophet Mohammad that is not refutable. (In fact even charges against Muslims have been refuted). Islam, the religion of wisdom, reason, argument and examples does not seek to silence voices: Islam seeks to enhance mentality.
When I read the fine print that the book was a work of fiction the only drive that impelled me to wade into it was curiosity. After a few pages I tossed the book aside (to return it to the library). I understood why one individual referred to it as a “stupid book.”
Why would anyone want to write fiction about ‘Aisha, (and Mohammad and ‘Ali) when facts about her are available? The bigger question is why would anyone want to read fiction about ‘Aisha (and Mohammad and ‘Ali) when facts about her are available?
Why write “fiction” about historical personalities which would have the potential to mislead the uninformed into believing that they are reading fact/truth?
As The Jewel of Medina is a fictionalized account of ‘Aisha, naturally the words and actions of those who are involved in the story –‘Aisha, the Prophet Mohammad, the Caliphs Abu Bakr, ‘Aisha’s father, ‘Umar and ‘Ali etc– are also, at least to some extent, an invention. How then can the reader who is a stranger to the actual incident distinguish fact from fiction?
We do not need a fictionalized account of ‘Aisha’s life to tell us that ‘Aisha was/is The Jewel of Medina. In fact. ‘Aisha is more than The Jewel of Medina she is a spiritual Mother of Muslims; honored by more than a billion Muslims; and counting as Islam, blessed with the Divine allure of reason, spirits on inexorably and invincibly as decreed by Allāh to prevail over all religions–(Qur’an 9:33; 48:28; 61:9).
Whether one views Ms. Jones’ presentation as merit or as mischief the reality is that fabrications around historical figures can become enshrined as truth/fact. A classical example of this monumental and grotesque distortion is that of the case of Mary, the mother of Jesus, noted by Khwaja Nazir Ahmad in his revealing book Jesus in Heaven on Earth:
“So long as the early Christians did not assert the virgin birth of Jesus, none of his contemporaries challenged his legitimacy. But the moment Jesus was raised to the pedestal of Godhead, the imaginations of the hagiographers had full scope to indulge in the most affecting or foolish fabrications accorded to their literary skill. In the second century they attributed supernatural birth to Jesus. The Pagans retorted with the charge of illegitimacy. The Christian legendary cult has to thank itself for this calumny against Jesus and Mary. Josephus had provided the Pagans with a parallel–(Josephus, Antiq; XVIII: 3-4) for he records that Mundus, a Roman knight, won Paulina, the chaste knight of a Roman noble, to his wishes by causing her to be invited by a priest of Isis into the temple of the goddess under a pretext that the god Anubis desired to embrace her. In the innocence of faith Paulina resigned herself and would perhaps have afterwards believed that she gave birth to the son of this god had not the intriguer, with bitter scorn, soon after disclosed to her the true state of affairs.
The Pagans substituted Mary for Paulina and Joseph (for) Pandera, a soldier, for the Roman knight mentioned by Josephus.
This calumny was taken up by the Jews of the second century, and found a place in the Talmud. Jesus was then styled as ben Pandera. (i.e. son of Pandera). It is this calumny of which Celsus accuses Jews and which is referred to by Origen–(Orig; C: Celsus, I:32) but of which the Jews of the time of Jesus were ignorant and innocent.” (Highlights added). (See Jesus-birth miracle or mechanix).
The Jewel of Medina begins with the historical story of ‘Aisha, which came to be known as the ‘Aisha scandal (as noted in Qur’an 24:11-20). Sherry Jones fictionalizes this account as “the tale (‘Aisha) and Safwan had fashioned” to tell their people, so as to conceal the fact that the two had planned to be intimate. Though ‘Aisha did not go through with this “betrayal” of her husband.
This account of why ‘Aisha came into camp in the company of Safwan is documented in Bokhari (Vol. 6, #274) and narrated by ‘Aisha. Briefly:
It was nighttime. ‘Aisha, on a military expedition with the Prophet, left their camp to answer the call of nature. On her way back to camp she realized her necklace had broken and missing. She retraced her steps to where she had gone, looking for it. Meanwhile, at the camp, the people, thinking ‘Aisha was in her howdah –covered canopied seat– placed the seat onto her camel and left. Upon her return to camp ‘Aisha decided to wait, hoping her people would miss her and return for her. Safwan, a Muslim soldier, trailing behind the army, found and escorted ‘Aisha to their people, who were now resting from the midday heat. Aishah’s and Safwan’s togetherness during the night gave rise to the slander that ‘Aisha had intimate relations with Safwan. When the gossip reached the Prophet he became greatly troubled. The gossip placed a strain between the Prophet and the grieving ‘Aisha. (In ‘Aisha’s words now):
“Allāh’s Apostle (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) called ‘Ali bin Abi Talib and Usama bin Zaid (Allāh be pleased with them)….in order to consult with them as to the idea of divorcing his wife. Usama bin Zaid told Allāh’s Apostle (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) of what he knew about the innocence of his wife and of his affection he kept for her. He said, “O Allāh’s Apostle! She is your wife, and we do not know anything about her except good.” But ‘Ali bin Abi Talib said, “O Allāh’s Apostle! Allāh does not impose restrictions on you; and there are plenty of women other than her. If you however, ask (her) slave girl, she will tell you the truth.” ‘Aisha added: So Allāh’s Apostle (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) called for Barira and said, “O Barira! Did you ever see anything which might have aroused your suspicion? (as regards ‘Aisha). Barira said, “By Allāh Who has sent you with the truth, I have never seen anything regarding ‘Aisha which I would blame her for except that she is a girl of immature age who sometimes sleeps and leaves the dough of her family unprotected so that the domestic goats come and eat it.”–(Bokhari Vol. 6, #274). Allāh sent revelation confirming ‘Aisha’s innocence–(Qur’an 24:11-20).
As stated, Sherry Jones began her book that ‘Aisha and Safwan had fabricated this event so that they could be intimate. But that ‘Aisha avoided the lure of the “trickster” Safwan. (Perhaps in concocting this “fictional” account of ‘Aisha the author was hoping/expecting that Muslims would react the way they did over Salman Rushdie’s satanic verses –which would result in mega sales of her book– and make her wealthy/wealthier).
The most laughable “praise” for The Jewel of Medina is that from the pen of Irshad Manji –author of The Trouble With Islam– who knows nothing about Islam and is projecting herself as an authority (unfortunately there are unlearned Muslims giving ear to her). Manji wrote (as noted on the outside back cover of the book): “Sherry Jones does an extraordinary service to Islam in popularizing –and humanizing– a Muslim heroine. It’s the kind of history that I never learned in my mosque or madressa. As a faithful, feminist Muslim, I say ‘mashallah’ for this riveting novel.”
Surely a fictional account on ‘Aisha can hardly be crowned “history” and “an extraordinary service to Islam.” You never learned it in your “mosque or madressa” because these do not teach FICTION. You may be a “faithful” Muslim (though this is contradicted by your writings) now please be a “learned” Muslim: ‘The superiority of the learned scholar over the pious worshipper is as the superiority of the (full) moon over the stars’–Prophet Mohammad.
A work of fiction and one that sensationalizes a beloved “Mother of the Believers” is not “mashallah” –a good from Allāh or what Allāh desires or wishes.
Islam does not need any “feminist” to champion the rights of women. Whereas at the appearance of Islam women were subjugated, Islam does not subjugate women. Islam liberated women and gave her rights alongside man from birth all the way to Jannah!
You need to talk/write less and use your head more. Every time you open your mouth or set your pen on matters of Islam you are submerging yourself deeper into Hell-Fire!
Marsha Mehran wrote: “Enthralling from its first sand-swept pages, The Jewel of Medina is a story at once modern in its telling and ancient in its wisdom. A’isha’s blossoming into a woman of passion and fortitude in the midst of the birth of Islam captures the imagination as well as the heart.”
Clearly, whether ancient or modern, a make-believe story on ‘Aisha could not be a “blossoming” of ‘Aisha.
Amulya Malladi penned: “A wonderfully entertaining and informative novel, The Jewel of Medina is a revelation. The politics of the time, the treatment of women, the sand in the desert, all the aspects of living in seventh-century Arabia are vividly brought to life by Sherry Jones. A remarkable debut.”
Really? A work of fiction is a “revelation” and “informative” of ‘Aisha? a “remarkable debut”? And how did Islam treat women in the Seventh century? In fact whereas from the Seventh century Islam liberated woman and gave her rights alongside man, Twentieth-century American women were yet burning their brassieres for equality with her "male chauvinist pig."
And (as Sherry Jones notes in her Afterword) Shahed Amanullah said that “the best response to free speech is simply more speech in return. Anyone should have the right to publish whatever he or she wants about Islam or Muslims –even if their views are offensive– without fear of censorship or retribution… In an ideal world, both parties would open their minds enough to understand the other point of view.”
(How about advocating and coming to the defence of Wiki-leaks’ right to publish whatever he/it likes, and without being hounded into court). How can “fiction” have a “point of view”? How can one open his mind to a “fictional” account and/or baseless vilification of a historical figure? While truth is not “offense” perhaps all individuals would agree that intelligent people do not offend; they enlighten.
Islam does allow people to make derogatory statements without fear of censorship or human retribution:
-“when you hear the Signs of God being denied and mocked at, sit not with them until they enter into some other talk”–(4:140; 6:68);
–“And you will certainly hear from those who have been given the Book before you and from the idolaters much abuse. And if you are patient and keep your duty, surely this is an affair of great resolution”–(3:186);
-“And of them are those who molest the Prophet and say, He is (all) ear. Say: A hearer of good for you — he believes in Allāh and believes the faithful, and is a mercy for those of you who believe. And those who molest the Messenger of Allāh for them is a painful chastisement (in the Hereafter)–(9:61);
-“Surely those who annoy Allāh and His Messenger, Allāh has cursed them in this world and the Hereafter, and He has prepared for them an abasing chastisement. And those who annoy believing men and believing women undeservedly, they bear the guilt of slander and manifest sin–(33:57-58). (See Islam-blasphemy).
While Sherry Jones has the right to write whatever she likes how can one debate in the framework of Islam an item that is fiction?
The worrisome part of The Jewel of Medina is that uninformed people would not realize (or not pay attention to the disclosure) that this book is “FICTION” and would likely take it as truth (and perhaps this may be one of the author’s aim. Much like the Christian smearing of Mohammad in their Zainab Scandal).
Muslims especially need to keep in mind that Sherry Jones’ book The Jewel of Medina is mere FICTION. And in the realm of make-believe it is “stupid” FICTION.
Whereas historical events and personalities can be used as a back-drop for fictional presentations, to wrap historical events and personalities in the garb of fiction is arrogance and audacity.
Unless the intent is to mislead readers, in all decency the notice “THIS STORY IS FICTION” in large bold red letters is to be plastered across the front cover of The Jewel of Medina.