Ever had the feeling of coming across a particular passage in a book and thinking..wow..that's really good? Well, I thought that, rather than be labelled 'that raving lit student who's forever quoting from a book' I'll silently put them in the 'Allow me to quote..' sections of my blog for those individuals whose great minds think like mine ;-)
To begin with, an extract from Amitav Ghosh's In An Antique Land. Great book-more history than fiction, but don't be put off! To set the scene, an Indian (Mr Ghosh himself) finds himself in a village in Egypt at the very start of his journey and encounters a certain 'Ustaz Mustafa' who is shocked that Ghosh has no belief in Allah…
' "Tomorrow I will take you with me to the graveyard, and you can watch me reciting the Qur'an over my father's grave. You will see then how much better Islam is than this 'Hinduki' of yours."
At the door he turned back for a moment. "I am hoping," he said, "that you will convert and become a Muslim. You must not disaapoint me."
Then he was gone. A moment later I heard the distant voice of a muezzin, chanting the call to prayer.
He had meant what he said.
He came back the next evening, his Qur'an in his hands, and said: "Come, let's go to the graveyard."
"I can't," I said quickly. "I have to go out to the fields."
He hesitated, and then, not without some reluctance, decided to accompany me. The truth was that walking in the fields was something of a trial for Ustaz Mustafa. It demanded ceaseless vigilance on his part to keep particles of impure matter, like goat's droppings and cow dung from touching his jallabeyya, since he would otherwise be obliged to change his clothes before going to the mosque again. This meant that he had to walk with extreme care in those liberally manured fields…..
….We walked in silence for a while, and then he said: "I am giving up hope that you will become a Muslim." Then an idea occurred to him and he turned to face me. "Tell me," he said, "would your father be upset if you were to change your religion?"
"Maybe," I said.
He relapsed into thoughtful silence for a few minutes. "Has your father read the holy books of Islam?" he asked eagerly.
"I don't know," I answered.
"He must read them," said Ustaz Mustafa. "If he did he would surely convert himself."
"I don't know," I said. "He is accustomed to his own ways."
He mulled the issue over in his mind, and when we turned back towards Lataifa he said: "Well, it would not be right for you to upset your father. That is true."
After that the heart went out of his efforts to covert me: he had a son himself and it went against his deepest instincts to urge a man against his father. And so, as the rival moralities of religion and kinship gradually played themselves to a standstill within him, Ustaz Mustafa and I came to an understanding.'