Letters and Politics, for June 22, 2011 - 10:00am
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Last week you and a guest discussed the early history of Islam. I was very much impressed by your questions. You are obviously interested and interesting.
There is however an aspect of the early events that shaped the house of the Prophet Mohamed who was not mentioned by your guest. It is the bitterness that existed between Mohamed's daughter (Fatima) and Abu Baker's daughter (Ayesha). Fatima was much older than Ayesha and felt that Mohamed's attention to her was hijacked by Ayesha who became Mohamed's bride as a teenager. Fatima herself was married to Ali, the nephew and cousin of Mohamed.
Ayesha became very close to the prophet. She collected the revelations when he was in "receiving" mode. When the prophet died, she was merely eighteen years old, but she lived to be eighty. Through her adult life, she commanded political authority to the level of a states person. Her knowledge of the prophet's sayings and revelations was first rank.
The animosity between her and Fatima was transferred to the followers of Ali, and it became a crisis that culminated into war. The conflict shifted from Arabia to Iraq, where Ali was very popular and all hell broke lose at Kufa into what is described as the Battle of the Camel. Ayesha's camel became cripled by her enemies, which meant her defeat.
That was the Shi'ite movement first victory. To this day, the chi'ites curse Ayesha, while the Sunnis rank her among the highest authorities of Islam.
This story is important because it gives a human dimension to the development of Islam and a crucial explaination to the schism. Best regards.
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