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Mother of the Believers: A Novel of the Birth of Islam Paperback – April 14, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Original edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416579915
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416579915
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 6.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #394,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Superbly written, brilliantly realized." -- Steven Pressfield

"With insight and sensitivity, and in a beautiful balance of research and imagination, Kamran Pasha sheds light not only on the seminal figure of Aisha but on the origins of Islam. Mother of the Believers is both timely and timeless." -- Karen Essex, author of Leonardo's Swans

"With incredible scholarship and sensitivity, Kamran Pasha has crafted a remarkable tale and one that is long overdue. From the early days of persecution and enmity to the triumph of what will be one of the world's great religions, Aisha describes the struggle of a small band of believers to survive and ultimately to flourish in an environment that is by turns unforgiving and breathtakingly beautiful. This is a book of inspired and heartfelt imagination to be savored and enjoyed and an achievement of the first order." -- Frederick J. Chiaventone, author of Moon of Bitter Cold

"Both epic and intimate, a glorious story." -- Amy Tan

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1 Mecca -- AD 613

I was born in blood, and its terrible taint would follow me all my life.

My mother, Umm Ruman, cried out in agony as the contractions increased in severity. The midwife, a stout woman from the tribe of Bani Nawfal named Amal, leaned closer to examine the pregnant woman's abdomen. And then she saw it. The line of blood that was running down her patient's thigh.

Amal looked over to the young girl standing nervously to the side of the wooden birthing chair where her stepmother was struggling to bring forth life.

"Asma," she said in a soft voice, trying to mask the fear that was growing in her chest. "Get your father."

Your mother, Abdallah, was no more than ten years old at the time, and she paled at Amal's words. Asma knew what they meant. So did Umm Ruman.

"I am dying," Umm Ruman gasped, her teeth grinding against the pain. She had known something was wrong the moment her water broke. It had been dark and mottled with blood, and the subsequent horror of the contractions was far beyond anything she had experienced at the birth of her son, Abdal Kaaba, so many years before.

At the age of thirty-eight, she had known that she was too old to bear another child safely and had greeted the news of her pregnancy with trepidation. In the Days of Ignorance before the Revelation, perhaps she would have turned to Amal or the other midwives of Mecca for their secret draft that was said to poison the womb. But the Messenger of God had made it clear to his small band of followers that the life of a child was sacred, despite the many pagan Arab customs to the contrary. She had sworn an oath of allegiance to his hand, and she would not go against his teachings, even if they meant her demise. Unlike most of her neighbors and friends still clinging to the old ways, Umm Ruman no longer feared death. But she grieved to think that her child, the first to be born into the new faith of Islam, might not survive to see the sunrise.

Amal took her hand and squeezed it gently.

"Do not despair. We will get through this together." Her voice was kind, but Umm Ruman could see in the stern lines around her mouth that Amal had reached her professional conclusion. The end was nigh for mother and child.

Umm Ruman managed to turn her head to her stepdaughter, Asma, who stood frozen at her side, tears welling in her dark eyes.

"Go. Bring Abu Bakr to me," she said, her voice growing faint. She stroked the girl's still plump cheeks. "If I die before you return, tell him my last request was that the Prophet pray at my funeral."

Asma shook her head, refusing to face that possibility. "You can't die! I won't let you!"

The girl was not of Umm Ruman's flesh, but the bond between them was as strong as that of any mother and daughter. Perhaps stronger, for Asma had chosen her over her actual mother, Qutaila, who had refused to accept the new faith. Abu Bakr had divorced his first wife, for it was forbidden for a believer to share a bed with an idol worshiper. The proud Qutaila had left their home in a furious rage, vowing to return to her tribe, but Asma had refused to go with her. The girl had chosen the Straight Path, the way of the Messenger and her father, Abu Bakr. That had been three years ago, and Asma had not seen her mother since. Umm Ruman had felt sorry for the abandoned child, still too young to understand the enormity of her choice, and had raised the girl as her own.

She wondered what would happen to Asma once she was gone. Abu Bakr would likely look for a new wife, but there were only a handful of believers, and the Message was spreading slowly because of the need for secrecy. If the pagan leaders of Mecca learned the truth of what the Prophet was teaching, their wrath would be kindled, and the tiny community the believers had founded in the shadows would be exposed and destroyed. In all likelihood, Asma would be alone, without any foster mother to guide her through the journey of womanhood. The girl was past due for her cycles, which usually began at the age of ten or eleven for those born under the harsh Arabian sun. The menstrual flow would erupt any day now, but Umm Ruman would not be there to comfort her through the shock of first blood.

She ran her hand through Asma's brown curls, hoping to bequeath a soft memory with her touch that would comfort the child in the days to come. And then a shock of pain tore through Umm Ruman's womb and she screamed.

Asma broke free of her stepmother's grasp. She fell back, stumbling over one of the bricks that the midwife had placed at Umm Ruman's swollen feet. As Amal searched desperately through her midwife's stores for a salve to ease her patient's agony, the girl turned and ran in search of her father.

Umm Ruman closed her eyes and said silent prayer even as her body burned from within.

As her uterus contracted with increasing urgency, she could feel the baby shifting, preparing to emerge into the world. A process that in all likelihood would lead to her death, and possibly the baby's as well.

It was the beginning of the end, she thought sadly.

Umm Ruman was right. But in ways she could not have expected.

My father, Abu Bakr, walked through the quiet streets of Mecca, his head bowed low, his back hunched slightly, as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. Which, of course, it was.

Tonight everything had changed. And he needed to tell someone. Normally he would have gone straight home after emerging from the Prophet's house, as their dwellings were next door to each other. But after what he had seen and heard tonight, he needed to take a walk.

And besides, his wife had entered labor earlier that day, and his home was now the exclusive domain of the midwife. Abu Bakr had learned through the birth of two sons and a daughter to give the tribe of women its privacy at such moments. A man could only serve as a bumbling annoyance or a dangerous distraction to the sacred rituals of birth. And the safe delivery of this child, the first to be born into the Revelation, was important not just to him, but to the entire Muslim community.

All twenty of them.

His child. Abu Bakr wondered for a moment what kind of world the baby would grow into. For years he had hoped that the Truth would spread discreetly and in secret until the masters of Mecca were surprised to see that their tribal religion had died in its sleep, to be replaced quietly with the worship of the One God. But tonight had shown him that whatever path Islam would take among these people, it would not be a quiet one.

He paused to look up at the heavens. There was no moon tonight and the sky was aflame with a legion of stars, the sparkling strands of a cosmic web that testified to the glory of the Lord. The foolish among his people believed that the future could be discerned in the shimmering patterns that played across the heavens. But Abu Bakr knew that such superstitions were a delusion. Only God knew the future. The greatest of storytellers, every day He surprised man with a new tale. Those who thought they could encompass His grand plan with their puny calculations were always humbled.

Turning a corner in the walled district of Mecca where many of the chieftains of the city lived, he found himself looking out past the hills that surrounded the desert valley to Mount Hira -- the place where God had spoken to a man, even as He did to Moses at Mount Sinai to the north. The mountain, which soared two thousand feet above the desert floor, tapered into a rocky plateau, at the pinnacle of which was hidden a tiny cave. A small, cramped space where no light could enter. And from which Light itself had sprung forth.

When his childhood friend Muhammad, the orphan son of Abdallah of the clan of Bani Hashim, had emerged from that cave three years ago, he was transformed. He had seen a vision of an angel named Gabriel who had proclaimed him to be God's Messenger to mankind, the final Prophet sent to bring the world out of darkness into light. It was an audacious claim, one that would understandably invite ridicule had it been made by any other man. But Muhammad was different.

Abu Bakr had known him since they were excited boys traveling with a caravan to the markets of Palestine and Syria. And from the first day he had set eyes on the young Muhammad, Abu Bakr had known that his friend had a destiny. Raised in poverty and humiliation, the boy nonetheless exuded a dignity, a power, that seemed to emanate from another realm. While other youths quickly embraced the sharp business tactics of the Meccan traders as a means of getting ahead in the harsh world of the desert, Muhammad had gained a reputation as Al-Amin -- the Honest One. His reputation for fair dealing brought him respect but little profit, and Abu Bakr had been heartbroken to see his friend live in destitution while less scrupulous young men advanced rapidly.

And he had been overjoyed as Muhammad's luck finally turned, when he won the heart of Khadija, a lovely -- and wealthy -- widow who had employed the youth to manage her caravans. Khadija had proposed to the penniless Muhammad, and Abu Bakr took great pleasure in seeing his boyhood comrade finally living in affluence among the nobles of Mecca. But Muhammad had never seemed comfortable around wealth, and his sudden prosperity and entry into elite society had only increased his concern for the many who remained poor in the desert valley.

Abu Bakr had spent many nights talking with his friend through the years as he expressed agitation over the worsening plight of the lower classes of the city. Women and children starved in the valley of Mecca, even as flourishing trade with the Byzantine and Persian empires to the north enriched its tribal chiefs. Muhammad had become increasingly distraught at the daily injustices he witnessed, as the strong preyed on the weak and men used and discarded women, leaving their bastard children to fend for themselves -- in the worst cases, killing infant girls, whose birth was seen as socially undesirable.

Abu Bakr had not been surprised to see his tormented friend embark on a spiritual path, meditating e... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Kamran Pasha's writing is deeply respectful of traditional Islamic values.
Henna
If you want to learn more about Islam you should read this book, if you want a good read you should read this book!
M. Mahmood
Instead I discovered a thoroughly engaging book with three dimensional characters and a well-paced story.
B. Pandey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Heather Mac Mamma on June 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
Ohhh....so good! What an amazing Epic; fiction based on fact. This book was excellent and enlightening. I'm so glad I read it. I am a Catholic and know little about the Islamic faith with exception to the basics. This book opened my mind to the belief system of millions around the world. I am more sympathetic to Muslims. I now have a greater understanding of where the fighting stems from with the Sunnis and Shiites. I've learned so much while enjoying a great story and fun read. I couldn't put it down. You will not be disappointed!
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Tony Samadani on April 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
Pasha's book is a true page-turner! His style of writing is captivating and engaging from beginning to end! His ability to bring to life the story of Islam through the eyes of Aisha is creative, bold and intentionally strategic.

I respect and admire his disclosure at the beginning of the book that it is purely a fiction novel. That his intent was to shed light upon such a passionate and uplifting story of struggle, patience, persistence, trust and love for humanity and most importantly God.

His reference to non-fiction works from Islamic scholars and of course the original reference the Quran is not only smart but responsible. Kamran makes it very clear that he wrote a fiction which is only made to inspire others to learn more about Islam - rather then turn them away.

I applaud his efforts and hope that millions of people get a chance to read such a wonderful novel.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on April 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
In the seventh century in the Arabian Desert, Muhammad has surfaced as a prophet who is gaining a loyal following. He envisions a woman as his wife and arranges with her father to marry Aisha, who may be his youngest wife, but by far the most intelligent and spirited of Muhammad's dozen. She is his favorite, but loses her place when the other wives accuse her of adultery to the Prophet. She tries to prove her innocence, but he receives a revelation from God that regains her position. When Medina is attacked, Aisha's bravery and leadership help save the day, but the Muslim men prefer docile women so she earns some respect but also perhaps more loathing. Muhammad becomes more than just a prophet as he becomes the Prophet uniting the Arabian tribes. However, God works in mysterious ways as soon after he succeeds in conquering the holy city of Mecca, Muhammad dies.

His nineteen year old youngest widow Aisha earns a position as advisor to the Caliph of Islam pushing for universal civil rights. Aisha becomes a teacher and a commander as perhaps the most powerful known female in the Muslim Empire. However, her efforts for the rights of women lead to civil war.

This work of biographical fiction is a great historical tale that brings insight to the early growth of Islam, the Muslim Empire, and the role of women in that society. Aisha is a brave person who does what she believed is morally right; which led to the "least" wife becoming the most spouse through conviction and courage. Ironically as Islamic women placed her on a pedestal as their champion, Aisha had become less confident that she chose right and suffered remorse for those who died for her cause. Readers will appreciate this excellent historical fiction that depicts the key Muslim woman during the cradle years of Islam.

Harriet Klausner
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Linda C. McCabe on May 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
Good historical fiction transports readers to a different time and place. Wonderful novels immerse their readership in worlds so realistic that it is disorienting to stop reading and re-enter day-to-day life. Kamran Pasha takes his readers to the seventh century in the Arabian peninsula. It is an uncommon time and place for novels, but one that provides rich dramatic material.

The subtitle accurately describes this as "a novel of the birth of Islam." Pasha tells his tale through the eyes of Aisha one of Muhammad's wives and who had been born into a family of believers. The followers of Muhammad and his faith were still quite small at the beginning of the story, but they were being watched closely by the powerful families in Mecca.

This small band of followers were viewed first as an amusement, later as an annoyance, and finally as a threat by the power elite. There were assassination attempts, plots to isolate and oppress them economically, and later outright declarations of war against the Companions of Muhammad.

Pasha wove a beautiful tale showing the humanity of these historical figures. This novel is designed to be enjoyed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike as the customs of Islam are subtly explained in the text. It is a wonderful story detailing the history and culture of one of the great religions of the world.

In these troubled times, it is important to remember that what unites us is greater than that which divides us.

I recommend this book highly.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By B. Pandey on May 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
I approached this book with skepticism, as I am not a religious person and was expecting a "puff piece" for Islam. Instead I discovered a thoroughly engaging book with three dimensional characters and a well-paced story. The historical references were plentiful, elucidating but never plodding. This was an enjoyable read, and I will be watching for this author's next book.
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