Abraham could be considered the first geniune Muslim, according to a lecture given at King's College in London, where I recently attended the Biblical Society of Literature with my husband. Of course, as a novelist writing Middle East thrillers, I was keenly interested in the section called "Quran and the Islamic Tradition." A fine young scholar read his paper on "The Milla of Abraham: An Inquiry into Pre-Quranic Muslim Faith and Practice." I held my peace and said nothing, when this personable fellow suggested, without irony or dubiously raised eyebrows, that Abraham, affectionately called Avraham Avenu by the Jews, was now being called the first "pure" Muslim.
On to the next lecture titled "A Study in an Early Shi'ite Apocalyptic Typology." To most people that would not appear to be an exciting topic, but because I have written two novels, with a third in progress on the subject of the Muslim messiah, the Mahdi, this was like finding a gold nugget in a sandy riverbed.
The premise of this lecture implied that Ali, the heir apparent of Mohammed, and much revered by the Shi'ites, could indeed be this Twelfth Imam, who will reappear in the end times to bring peace and tranquility to the world. I scribbled notes to be later pondered and amplified as only writers of fiction have the opportunity and desire to do. At the end of this lecture, I asked the scholar if he thought that Ali could be the long awaited Twelfth Imam. He replied that many personages throughout history have thought themselves to be the Mahdi. A wise and prudent answer, I thought.
After the conference in London, we took a train to the countryside to visit the Jane Austen house in Chawton. My husband and I stayed in a Benedictine Monastery in nearby Alton. My husband, by the way, is the Janite, as devotees of Jane Austen's novels are affectionately called. It was a perfect end to two lovely weeks in England.