Thinly Veiled

LORRAINE ADAMS reviews The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones in The New York Times:

Medina Sherry Jones, a Montana and Idaho correspondent for the Bureau of National Affairs, a specialty news service covering legislative and regulatory issues, has written a novel from the point of view of Muhammad’s third and youngest wife, A’isha. Most accounts agree that she was 6 at their engagement, 9 at their wedding and 14 when publicly accused of adultery. The novel’s story line coincides with a pivotal time in Islamic history — the 10 years beginning with Muhammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina in A.D. 622 and ending with his death at age 62. His actions during that period have also been seized upon by Western commentators and poets as proof of Muhammad’s unmanageable sexual appetite and self-serving declaration of divine revelation. Among the most contested criticisms of Muhammad are his taking of many more than the four wives he decreed as the limit for other men and his edict, supposedly inspired by Allah, requiring his wives to be placed behind a curtain, the basis for the veiling of Muslim women. Both matters are fictionalized in Jones’s novel, which was scheduled to be published by the Random House imprint Ballantine until controversy intervened.

The most authoritative contemporary English-language account of A’isha — “Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of A’isha Bint Abi Bakr” — is not listed as one of Jones’s sources. But its author, Denise Spellberg, played a role in Random House’s decision to abandon the book.

More here.