You may have already heard the buzz around the 40 Hadith of our Mother ‘Aisha (ra), but you’ve got an interview with the author here first! The book has just been released on Amazon in the US, and we’re dying to get our hands on it here in the UK too!
The book, authored by the beautiful Nuriddeen Knight, is an English compilation of 40 sayings from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), narrated by his wife ‘Aisha (ra).
Despite being among the greatest of hadith narrators, our mother of the believers ‘Aisha (ra) rarely shares the spotlight with some of her male scholar counterparts.
We were fortunate enough to get in touch Noor and ask her some questions about the book, female Muslim scholarship, her beautiful blog Fig & Olive and her connection with the Qur’an and Hadith. A beautiful read this Ramadan.
Thank you to Barnes and Noble for allowing our book @40HadithofAisha on your shelf. Today we signed a few copies (available at 106 Court St. Brooklyn, NY). I feel immensely blessed. Thank you to all who have supported the book so far.
And all praise truly belongs to God alone. pic.twitter.com/31jOiAlXbE
— Noor (@figandoliveblog) June 14, 2018
AMALIAH: Salaam Noor! Thank you for taking some time to answer some of our questions about 40 Hadith of our Mother ‘Aisha! Before we get started on the book, could you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
NOOR: Well, I think most people who know of me know me through my blog, bythefigandtheolive.com, where I’ve been writing for the past four years. After graduate school, I started blogging as a way to discuss the myriad of issues I was concerned with and interested in. It wasn’t my first blog, I started blogging some time in my teenage years, but I’d say it was the first time I took blogging “seriously”. Also, because I was leaving the country after grad school to spend some time in Jordan, I felt it was a good way to stay connected to everything that was happening back home.
AMALIAH: Your blog is called ‘Fig and Olive’, which makes reference to the verse about the Fig and the Olive in the holy Qur’an – why is the verse so important to you?
NOOR: For readers reference, the short Surah is, “By the fig and the olive. And [by] Mount Sinai. And [by] this secure city [Makkah], We have certainly created man in the best of stature; Then We return him to the lowest of the low, Except for those who believe and do righteous deeds, for they will have a reward uninterrupted. So what yet causes you to deny the Recompense? Is not Allah the most just of judges?” 95, 1-8
When I first started my blog I actually just named it ‘nuriddeenknight.com‘ but it didn’t feel appropriate for long because the blog wasn’t really about me. The surah is such a great reminder of everything that’s important, it’s a warning and a condemnation but it also, immediately, provides us with a way out. Whatever craziness is happening with us or the world around us we have to remember ‘where we came from’ and ‘who we are’, we have to stop an ask ourselves what we’re heading towards and we have to remind ourselves that ultimately our life is from God and back to Him, I hope my blog aides as a reminder for myself and others of these timeless truths.
AMALIAH: What kind of things can we find on your blog?
NOOR: I speak about a lot of different things, what comes up most is Islam, gender issues and minimalism.
— 40 Hadith of 'Aisha (@40HadithofAisha) March 12, 2018
AMALIAH: Your blog is exceptional! You’re big on minimalism… what about that lifestyle speaks most to you and how has it manifested in other areas of your life?
NOOR: Thanks. In one of my posts on minimalism, Minimalism vs. Versatility, I begin by quoting Surah Zalzalah, “When the earth is shaken with its [final] earthquake. And the earth discharges its burdens. And man says, “What is with it?” —That Day, it will report its news. Because your Lord has commanded it. That Day, the people will depart separated [into categories] to be shown [the result of] their deeds. So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it, And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.” 99, 1-8
I think when it comes to doing good deeds we sometimes limit it to how we treat other people —which is of course important, but we see in the prophet’s life his goodness was not limited to how he treated people, he also treated animals and the environment well. He even warned us not to use too much water in wudu. He ate light and didn’t own much material wealth. When I read minimalist blogs, the message resonates with me because it is the way of our beloved messenger, peace be upon him, it feels like somehow as Muslims we’ve forgotten that aspect of his life. I’m certainly not *there* yet, but it’s an important goal for me.
AMALIAH: Your blog is where you first surfaced the idea for your new book, ’40 Hadith of Aisha (ra)’,can you tell our readers a bit more about that?
Yes, in fact three years ago when I wrote the first version of the book it wasn’t a book at all, just a PDF available for free download on my blog.
AMALIAH: Where were you when the idea to pursue the project came to you? What inspired you to push hadith from Aisha (ra) into the spotlight?
NOOR: I was in an Islamic class and one of our teachers told us about the reward for gathering 40 hadith, it seemed like such an easy way to do something beneficial, so I made my intention to do so. Of course, the hadith I gathered are in English, but maybe we’ll get a small reward anyway —inshaAllah!
I wanted to focus on ‘Aisha because she’s such an important figure in Islam and I really connected to her story. I also wanted women, in particular, to realize that we have a rich scholarly tradition in Islam that we should be proud of and inspired by.
AMALIAH: You include a brief biography of Aisha (ra) in your book. What about her story inspires you the most?
NOOR: She was so inspiring in so many ways. I think I loved her ‘tawwakul’, trust in Allah, most of all. It’s the worst part of her story but shows the strength of her character, which is when she was accused of adultery. Her words in that moment really touched me, when she said,
“Should I tell you I am innocent, and God knows that I am surely innocent, you will not believe me; and if I were to admit something of which, God knows, I am innocent, you will believe me, then I will have nothing to make recourse to except the words of the father of Prophet Yūsuf (i.e. Yaᶜqūb): ‘So [for me] patience is most fitting. And it is only God whose help can be sought against that which you assert.’” (Quran 12:18)
This is one of the worse things any woman —especially a believing woman, could be accused of and it also threatened her most sacred relationship with a man who was both the messenger of God and the love of her life. Her strength in that moment is enough to get any of us through much less than that.
AMALIAH: Are there other female scholars/inspirational women in Islam we should look to?
NOOR: There are a lot of amazing women in the past and I suggest anyone pick up a copy of Aisha Bewley’s Muslim Women: A Biographical Dictionary. But there are also amazing modern day female scholars and teachers like Anse Tamara Grey, Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, Ustadha Aisha Prime and others who have dedicated a portion of their life to studying Islam and are now teaching. There are lots of amazing women and Alhumdulilah slowly more of them are having a more public presence and that’s an immense blessing for all of us.
— 40 Hadith of 'Aisha (@40HadithofAisha) December 10, 2017
AMALIAH: Do you believe there’s an issue in the Muslim community with female scholarship?
NOOR: It’s funny, I think there definitely was even just 5 or so years ago. The last time I wrote about the need for female scholarship on my blog was three years ago and even now it doesn’t feel as relevant to me. Women have definitely made their voices heard and a change seems to be happening, it just needs to continue.
AMALIAH: In your opinion as a student, what can we do proactively to overcome challenges in the pursuit of sound knowledge?
NOOR: That’s a great question, I wrote a really long essay about this that I’ll publish one day! But it’s not an easy issue. The shortest answer I can give is that we always try to find teachers that are connected. When it comes to sound Islamic knowledge we don’t want self-made teachers, Allah’s protection is over the group and so on most issues if you find a teacher saying something that disagrees with mainstream opinions, be cautious. If you don’t mind, I can specifically say that sites like seekersguidance.org and kiflayn.com are trustworthy sites with teachers I’ve had the privilege of learning with myself.
Besides where to learn and who to learn with, we should also ask the question of how, and I’d advise anyone to work within their own time and realize there’s no race. Learning Islam is primarily to better our own lives, not to become scholars. Take your time, even if it’s just an hour a week taking a class at your local Islamic center or online. And when you have the opportunity —like a summer off or a few weeks off of work, do an intensive like the amazing ones offered by Rihla.
Maybe most importantly, make the intention, even if you don’t have the time or the money now, or it seems too overwhelming, with good intention inshaAllah, Allah will make the journey much easier.
AMALIAH: What benefit do you hope people will derive from the content?
NOOR: I hope people will fall in love with the person of ‘Aisha. I know any Muslim would say they love ‘Aisha, may God be pleased with her, or any other companion, but I don’t think you can truly love them if you don’t know them. I want people to fall in love with the messenger of God. Of course as Muslims we love the messenger of God, but reading his biography, sayings, and constantly being reminded of his person deepens. Lastly, I hope it will inspire anyone who is still unconvinced, of the power and importance of female scholarship.
AMALIAH: Which is your favourite hadith in the book? Lastly, where can we find the book!?
NOOR: Different ones rotate as my favourite but I’d say one that I love the most is when a (poor) woman comes to ‘Aisha for food, and ‘Aisha watches as this mother splits three dates between her children and saves none for herself. ‘Aisha is so moved by this that she tells the prophet, peace to him and he replies that this action will be a means to paradise. One short exchange, so rich with meaning, there’s so much one could take from that single hadith —the character of ‘Aisha, her relationship with the prophet, peace to him, and the small ways in which we can gain nearness to Allah.
The book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and Indiebound. InshaAllah with time more local stores will begin to carry it as well, follow us on social media @40hadithofaisha to stay up to date. And thank you so much for allowing me to speak about these important issues with your readers.