Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kamran Pasha and Muslims vs. Mormons


I went to a workshop called “One A’isha, Two Lives” where two authors discussed writing about the same woman: Aisha, the favorite wife of Muhammad. Sherry Jones wrote The Jewel of Medina and The Sword of Medina, and Kamran Pasha wrote The Mother of the Believers.

I went because when I first started Sacred Fire, I was terrified someone would write about the Vestal Virgins before me. I wondered how someone would handle that.

I got there early and sat in the second row. Kamran saw me, pounced into the chair in front of me, and said, “Hello! Are you here for the Aisha panel?”

Geez, I thought, It's like famous people are falling out of the sky.

I told him how much I adored his book. I connected with it because the rise of Muslims reminded me of the rise of my own faith (I’m a Mormon). Both religions started with a prophet: Muhammad and Joseph Smith. They both centered around a book: the Quran and the Book of Mormon. There were only a handful of believers at first, they suffered intense persecution, and they eventually gained worldwide recognition.

To my surprise, he said the similarities between Muslims and Mormons has been extensively studied. He’d even read about it. He mentioned a connection I hadn’t thought of before; because of persecution, both groups had to escape and start their own community: the Mormons to Salt Lake, and the Muslims to Medina.

As the conversation progressed, he told me why he wrote that Muhammad and Aisha consummated their marriage when she was nine (see the author’s note in his book for more details) when we contemporary folks look down on their age difference.

He thinks she was actually older – in fact, Sherry said during the panel there’s evidence she and Muhammad were betrothed when Aisha was 16 and consummated the marriage when she was 19, but the 1 got erased in historical records. Despite this evidence, Kamran wanted to write the book the way historians say the events happened.

"I agree," I told him. "I think it's disresepectful to second-guess historians all the time."

He talked about how Muhammad is criticized for being a pedophile and why that’s unfair. Muhammad’s enemies were critical of everything he did, but they never complained about his marriage to Aisha. This means whatever age she was, their marriage was culturally acceptable. We shouldn’t judge people by the standards of our own culture.

Both his book and Sherry’s made me interested in learning more about Muslimism. But more on that tomorrow.

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