Out with the Old, In with the New

I’ve been working the equivalent of two jobs lately: Trying to get the word out that “The Sword of Medina,” the sequel to “The Jewel of Medina” has been published, and writing the partial manuscript and outline for my new book, “Queens of the World,” which has thrust me into a new era but, in many respects, not a new subject. I am still writing about women in history whose contributions have largely been forgotten or ignored. Set in the 13th century, this book will provide a critique of religion, as well as report on the Crusades through the eyes of women.

As I research and write, I am struck anew by how little has changed. Women have more power now, but we struggle still for equality and for legitimacy in a largely male world. How else to explain the recently released reports regarding the high rate of female sexual assault on college campuses — one in five women will be raped or sexually assaulted during her college career! — and the high number of men who escape punishment with a mere slap on the wrist? And how, I wonder, can the Christian world continue to claim superiority to that of Muslims when fundamentalists circumvent the law with their own extremist acts of violence and efforts to oppress others’ freedom of choice where their own bodies and lives are concerned? Now, as in the 13th century, religion is invoked not in the name of love, but in the name of hatred.

Some have asked me if I intend to write contemporary fiction, if I don’t have commentary on our current culture instead of dwelling in the past. The more I read and the more I write, the more I become convinced that the two are the same. By writing historical fiction, I aim to open eyes to the fact that we humans have been maddeningly, dishearteningly slow to evolve, and that the future of our entire species may hinge on our ability to move forward. To do so, we must reject the craziness and internalize the wisdom that spiritual practices have provided for us — such as the Qur’anic revelation that “You are created from a single soul” and the Biblical assertion that “God is love.”

2 replies on “Out with the Old, In with the New”

  1. To Ms. Sherry Jones

    I am a Muslim woman. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) and Aisha (peace and blessings be upon her) are extremely important to Muslims. They are an example of piety, intelligence and honor. I believe a fictional account of their lives is inappropriate.

    How do you feel about Muslims? What was your intention when you decided to write “The Jewel of Medina”?

    1. Dear Velvet,

      I wrote “The Jewel of Medina” out of a desire to share A’isha’s story with the world, especially with those who had not heard of her before. I also wanted to show that women in the early Islamic umma, during Muhammad’s time, were not oppressed or hidden away or veiled or denied equal access to mosques or education or anything else that men had. Women even fought in battles with Muhammad. This shows that men, not God and certainly not Muhammad, are the reason why so many women in Muslim countries live oppressed lives. It is cultural, not religious.

      I met last week with a young woman from Saudi Arabia who recently moved to the United States. She read “The Jewel of Medina” and “The Sword of Medina.” When she started reading “Jewel,” she said, she felt very uncomfortable. She had to put the book down for a little while. It made her anxious to read about Muhammad, A’isha, Ali, and other figures from Islamic history depicted as real human beings who make decisions, who make mistakes, who love and hate and fear. “I was afraid it would change my life,” she said. But she finished the books and, yes, it changed her life. She loved the stories, many of which even she, as a Muslim, had not been told in school. They are right there in the historical record, but she was not given the full picture of A’isha. I felt very happy to have enriched her life and her understanding of Islam. So, although you think it is inappropriate, please know that I never wrote to offend, but only to empower.

Comments are closed.