Book Review – Aisha: The Wife, the Companion, the Scholar

Book Review – Aisha: The Wife, the Companion, the Scholar November 11, 2014

Aisha_bookBy Amanda Quraishi

Aisha: The Wife, the Companion, the Scholar
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: Tughra Books

Aisha bint Abi Bakr remains one of the most compelling figures in Islamic history.  Not only was she one of the wives of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), but her contributions to Islamic scholarship and her influence on the foundation of the first Islamic state cannot be overstated.  In a new book titled Aisha: The Wife, the Companion, the Scholar, author Resit Haylamaz takes a closer look at the life of this fascinating woman.

When questioned about why he thought Aisha was a compelling enough figure to write about, Haylamaz said, “Aisha has a historically critical role in the transmission of Prophet’s knowledge and practice to the Muslim world. She is perhaps one of the most important links or bridges between the Prophet (pbuh) and the Muslims. Her place in the history of Islam is vital particularly with regard to the way Islam addressed the issue of women in the society. The Prophet showed through Aisha how Islam raised woman and made her equal partner to the message of God. During her life with the Prophet, Aisha was like the representative, or the deputy, of women before the Prophet. In other words, she was directly instrumental to the embodiment of the message of the Qur’an the Prophet in the real life.”

Indeed, Aisha is often held up as evidence of Islam’s progressive stance on women’s rights by today’s Muslim feminists.  Far from embodying the popular ‘oppressed Muslim woman’  trope found in contemporary dialogue, Islamic scholars have thoroughly documented Aisha’s dedication to rights of education for women and girls, and her powerful influence on Islamic jurisprudence through authentic hadith and historical accounts.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of this book, however, was the manner in which it has been written.  Obviously the stories of Aisha’s life are all derived from hadith.  However, Haylamaz has retold these stories in a narrative style making it more like reading a story than reading scholarly exegesis.  Muslims of all ages will enjoy reading the book in both formal and informal settings and will appreciate the artful storytelling that makes it entertaining, as well as educational.

Non-Muslims will also find this an accessible path to learning about one of the Sahabah, especially one who has been maligned and misrepresented in so many ways. Haylamaz does not shy away from any of the controversy and even addresses the age of Aisha, which his research reveals to be older than that claimed by some of the most extreme scholarly interpretations (as well as by religious critics).

Haylamaz also believes that “non-Muslims will see in Aisha a real life example of the way Islam handled the subject of woman at the time and for the centuries to come. They would be impressed with her intelligence, her relation with the Prophet and love of the Prophet, how she as a woman educated and inspired many scholars to come. When the conditions of the time considered, Aisha’s life provides a very strong and compelling example to how Islam empowered women.”

While there is certainly no end to authentic hadith and scholarly works about her life, Aisha: The Wife, the Companion, the Scholar sets itself apart by bringing the stories about Aisha to contemporary audiences, particularly those with little or no background knowledge of her life and work.

Amanda Quraishi is a writer, interfaith activist and technology professional living in Austin, Texas.  She currently works full time for Charity Dynamics, a marketing and technology consulting agency that works with non-profit organizations.  She also leads a populist-based interfaith initiative at InterfaithActivism.org, and blogs about the American Muslim experience at muslimahMERICAN.com.

 

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