The Woman Who Named God
Author: Charlotte Gordon
ISBN: 978-0-316-11474-5, Pages: 416, $27.99, Publication Date: July 28, 2009, Hardcover, Biblical Interpretation, Published by Hachette Book Group, Little, Brown and Company
The Woman Who Named God is the direct opposite of what you would expect when you examine the foundations of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Charlotte Gordon has written a clear, concise, and exciting recital of biblical patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah. Many texts have been written about their lives and how they have evolved creating the three major religions in the world.
The importance of Abraham in the Koran is brought to light with factual clarity by Gordon when she footnotes all of her work, showing her meticulous research. She points out that Abraham was mentioned more in the Koran by only one other person, and that person was Moses, showing the importance of these two patriarchs in the world of Islam. His wife Sarah is known to have born a son Isaac at the age of 90 when Abraham was 137.
Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, was a handmaiden in the camp of Abraham. They were banished from the camp by Sarah. Gordon’s excellent skills vividly depict the story of Hagar’s tribulations in the desert which ultimately led her to the site now known as Mecca. Mohammad called Hagar, “the most blessed of women”.
Islam considers Ishmael a prophet and tradition holds that the Kaaba in Mecca (the holiest site in Islam) was rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael on the foundation of a building erected by Adam. Conversely, Jewish and Christian traditions believe Ishmael was exiled and would not inherit God’s covenant of the Promised Land.
It is the belief of Judaism and Christianity that Sarah was the cornerstone of their religions because Isaac, her son, was the father of Jacob whose children became the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
Many of the recitations of ritual in all of the religions are explored by Gordon. She clarifies some of the aspects of the Jewish New Year and how prayers relate to Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. Islam’s celebrations of Hagar and Ishmael finding Mecca and their discovery of water are described in equal detail.
Further concepts are explored by Gordon showing the foundation of Jewish and Christian beliefs and how God chose Isaac to be Abraham’s heir. However, according to Islam, Ishmael, the eldest son, is the one who receives his father’s blessing. Each religion has found it difficult to recognize the other’s blessings.
The chapters in this book are short and for good reason. Reading a segment about a given event or recitation of events, demonstrates that pause needs to be taken to reflect upon what has been presented by Gordon. When you realize this is not a story which can be read quickly from cover to cover, more enjoyment and enlightenment are achieved. This book is highly recommended for all religions. A book club or reader’s group will find great enjoyment in discussing many of the chapters, especially if representatives from different religions are present. We may find ecumenical differences in how we view religion, but the reality is they all stem from the same source. How we interpret the writings are probably the only major difference.