Passing through the dream is a collection of short stories by Rebecca Masterton blending esoteric Islam with the culture of Western Europe; meeting the twenty-first century with humour and hope.
Beginning with Donald Rumsfeld’s conversion to Islam after he is taken for a visit to the spirit realm, these short stories overturn the tired stereotypes and rigid definitions of what many imagine to be the scenario of ‘Islam and the West’ today. We find ourselves in a world where Muslims of the spiritual path avoid commenting on the political; and Muslims of the political path have no time for the spiritual. Secular literature has become the platform for a critique on the Islamic way of life; classical Islamic texts do not always reach English-speaking readers.
These stories blend spirituality and politics; they are written both from within the secular literary tradition and the Islamic tradition; they open a window to the inner realms of experience for all readers, of all backgrounds. Below are some snippets from Masterton’s new book which signals the “coming of age” of Islam in the West by slowly producing indigenous literature.
In which Donald Rumsfeld journeys to the barzakh and converts to Islam...
Somebody spotted Donald Rumsfeld at a stall in an outdoor market, in Dakar, Senegal. We had given him some money, but by the time he was seen, he had spent it all, since he had taken a liking to jollof rice and plantain, and enjoyed sitting on the steps of the local mosque in the evenings, sharing a plateful with the imam and a few of the Tijani brothers. A reporter for The Washington Post, who was in town to research Senegal’s new zakāt law, saw a tall, white man with mousy brown hair, round glasses and a fairly long beard. He was wearing a long white jubba and wide trousers. As the reporter passed this man, he heard his voice, and instantly recognised the slightly high-pitched twang, as Rumsfeld begged the market woman to spare him a few plantains.
Chubsy and the Rose of Qamsar
In which Chubsy, a staunch member of the British National Party, finds himself on a mountainside in Iran face to face with three mystics...
Uncle Mudassar looked at him, puzzled, contemplating. He turned to the samovar in front of him, underneath which a short candle warmed the tea. There were also four glasses, a large bowl of sugar lumps and a plate of cream cakes. Uncle Mudassar picked up the plate and offered the cakes to Chubsy.
'What are they?' demanded Chubsy.
'Cream cakes', said Uncle Mudassar. 'Iran is famous for its cakes.’
'Yeah I know what cream cakes are. I have seen cream cakes before', Chubsy retorted defensively, irrelevantly.
Affecting a kind of nonchalance, he reached out and took one, although Arifa could see that he was not sure if he should eat it.
'Eat it', said Uncle Mudassar, and he smiled.
Without returning the smile, Chubsy put the whole cake in his mouth. >Uncle Mudassar poured him some tea and placed the glass on a saucer, accompanied by two sugar lumps. He held the saucer out to Chubsy, who took it while still negotiating the cream cake, which at last he swallowed. Uncle Mudassar then poured tea for Arifa and, likewise, offered her a cream cake. After that, the two elderly gentlemen helped themselves. Uncle Mudassar sat with nothing.
'So where’s your nuclear bomb?' Chubsy suddenly asked, raising a curious eyebrow.
The Prophet’s Birthday
In which a jolly day was had by all...
'Darling', Jeremy called out, putting down his newspaper, 'they’ve just reported the arrest of another chap suspected of terrorist activities. Awful business this...'
His wife, known affectionately as Biddy, was in the hall, arranging a beautiful bunch of roses which she had just picked from the garden.
'Well', she called back,'‘our noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, has mentioned all the signs. Don’t be too downhearted. Remember that Imam Mahdi will bring justice in the end.'
'Yes, but in the meantime, all these chaps keep getting arrested', said Jeremy gloomily.
He got up from his armchair and went out of his study, to where Biddy was putting the finishing touches to the bunch of roses.
'There', she said brightly. 'Aren’t they lovely?'
'Splendid', replied Jeremy. 'Our Prophet’s favourite flower, and you can understand why.'
He bent to inhale their scent.
'Aaah, what a perfect reminder of Heaven.'
They had already arranged the great hall in preparation for the mawlid, the celebration of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. A large tapestry which had been in the family since the fourteenth century was hung across the room, so that men and women could sit separately when they arrived. Carpets were laid out and cushions were placed around the walls, for those who needed to lean back. Incense, brought from Zanzibar by one of their friends, was gently burning in different places throughout the manor house, calming the heart and inspiring the imagination. Tall, glass jugs of freshly-squeezed lemonade were placed on wooden trays painted with flowers, and about forty glasses were arranged next to one another. Homemade shortbread and biscuits sprinkled with lavender were laid out on large plates and covered with glass lids to keep them fresh. The prayer room, next to the great hall, had been cleaned from top to bottom, extra prayer rugs and tasbihs brought in, and again, another tapestry hung so that men and women could pray separately in private.
'That Martin Shamus has been writing about Muslims again', said Jeremy. He tended to worry more than Biddy and always mentioned what was on his mind. 'Says that when we were confronted with modernity we took a wrong turn.'
'Well', said Biddy, 'I must say I can’t figure out all the nobs on the new washing machine, if that’s what he means.'