The Prophet’s life story has been told from the earliest days of Islam to the present, by both Muslims and non-Muslims, in myriad ways. Since the nineteenth century, hagiographic and polemical writings have merged into a single, contentious, story, usually devoting substantial attention to Muhammad’s relationships with women, especially his first wife, Khadija, and his young favorite, Aisha. Modern Muslim accounts of these marriages arose in tandem and in tension with Western depictions, and were shaped by new ideas about religion, sexuality, and marriage. Exploring these contested images of Muhammad as a husband illuminates key forces at play in contemporary thinking about this vital figure and serves as a corrective to simplistic depictions of a timeless clash between Islam and the West.
Kecia Ali (Ph.D. Duke University) is Professor of Religion and Chair of the Religion Department at Boston University. Her research ranges from Islam’s formative period to the present and focuses on Islamic law; gender and sexuality; and religious biography. She is the author of several books including Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam and Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence. Her current projects include an introductory book on Women in Muslim Traditions and a study of the gender politics of academic Islamic Studies. She recently completed a term as Status Committee Director for the American Academy of Religion and is a past president of the Society for the Study of Muslim Ethics. You can read more about her work at www.keciaali.com.