Maybe I’m biased, but one of the things I love about Ayesha Dean, the heroine of my preteen novel, is that she provides an example of how a Muslim can be great friends with people of different faiths and backgrounds, yet not let it get in the way of practicing her own beliefs. The way Ayesha interacts with her family, friends, and acquaintances is relatable for many Muslims living in places where Muslims are a minority, and where most of the people we come into contact with don’t necessarily share the same beliefs. Ayesha’s interactions and the close relationships she forms with people of different faiths and backgrounds are nothing new to the Muslim experience.
We are given many examples in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that provide guidance and a reminder for all of us living in a more globalised world today. Muhammad (SAW) always maintained his relationships with family members who had not accepted his own faith. He loved, and relied greatly on his uncle Abu Talib who supported his nephew throughout the period where there was no-one in society who was able to protect him. Abu Talib continued to protect his beloved nephew through intense times of social stigma and persecution, even though he never himself subscribed to his nephew’s beliefs. Throughout the three harsh years in Mecca during which the ruling leaders of the Quraish boycotted and ostracised the Prophet’s tribe of Banu Hashim from all trade or assistance, Abu Talib spent all of his wealth in support of his nephew and the new followers of Islam. For everything he had done, Abu Talib earned the love, trust and loyalty of Muhammad (SAW), who didn’t hesitate to confide in him and seek his counsel in relation to the new community. The relationship was one of love, trust, and mutual respect, and Muhammad (SAW) deeply grieved for his uncle after the older man’s death.
Another of the Prophet’s uncles, Abbas, remained very close with Muhammad (SAW) throughout his life, including during the time when Abbas had not yet accepted Islam. The Prophet placed immense trust in his uncle and kept him informed of highly confidential preparations for his planned emigration to Yathrib (Medina) at a time when the Prophet’s life was in danger, and other members of his family were outwardly persecuting the new Muslims.
Living in a time when it was dangerous to be known as a Muslim, there were many other instances when Muhammad (SAW) would put his complete trust and faith in someone who didn’t necessarily share his worldview.
Around the time of the Hijrah, the epic migration of the first Muslims from Mecca to Medina, the situation was becoming increasingly untenable for Muslims in Mecca. The Quraish were growing more violent in their approach towards the new community, culminating in a plot to murder the Prophet. The leaders of the city planned to appoint a person from each clan to work together to kill the Prophet, so that no separate clan could be blamed for the murder. The result of course is well known, that Muhammad’s young cousin Ali (RA) acted as a decoy, and the Prophet escaped unharmed from Mecca with his best friend Abu Bakr (RA). The two friends were assisted by a non-Muslim Bedouin who the Prophet trusted with his life to lead him through the desert, and to not be tempted by the high reward that was advertised for alerting the authorities to Muhammad’s whereabouts or killing him.
Then of course there are examples of how the Prophet dealt with people who showed hatred towards him and what he stood for. The infamous example of the Prophet’s neighbour, an old woman who threw rubbish in his path each day to show her disapproval, is a favourite. One day the Prophet noticed the non-existence of the rubbish that was usually thrown in his path. His enquiries as to why this was the case led him to learn that the old woman who hated him was sick. So he did what each one of us would do, right? No? Well, maybe Ayesha Dean would follow in his footsteps, especially if there was something out of the ordinary that needed to be investigated, but in all seriousness what did Muhammad (SAW) do? He went to visit the old woman, who hated him so much that she went out of her way to throw rubbish in his path every day, to see if he could assist her in any way during her sickness. The Prophet’s genuine concern had such a profound impact on the old woman that she eventually accepted Islam!
There are countless other examples that can be drawn from our Prophet’s life in relation to how we should manage our relationships with others. While Ayesha Dean is a (semi) normal teenager who has some flaws (I say semi-normal, because she is a really kick-butt, teenage sleuth), she is essentially guided by her beliefs in the Prophet and principles in the Qur’an. I guess not all teenagers will find themselves in the same types of situations Ayesha gets into, but I hope that Ayesha Dean, in her own way, will contribute towards bringing some timeless principles to preteen readers in a modern context.
Papatia Feauxzar enjoys a smart and worldly new young adult Muslim title.
Melati Lum is a lawyer, former prosecutor of serious crimes, and an Australian/Malay/Chinese Muslim mum. She has previously worked for the United Nations in the prosecution of war crimes and currently lives in Adelaide, Australia with her family. Her book for preteen readers, “Ayesha Dean- The Istanbul Intrigue” is available to order at amazon: bit.ly/TheIstanbulIntrigue, The Book Depository: bit.ly/AyeshaDeanBookDep and other retailers.
For more information, visit www.melatilum.com.au