By celebrated poet, Paul Abdul Wadud Sutherland

The Hidden Ones, Novid Shaid, 2014, 151pp, ISBN 9780993044809- available on Amazon

‘Revealing of Inner Light’

There is much to commend this novelette by poet Novid Shaid. The author uses a modest language, readable for young people in most cases from age ten, to disclose secrets of The Hidden Ones, their special gifts and influence on others.

The book has a harmonious ‘feel good’ quality, conveying a feeling that all will turn out well in the end, truth, justice and love will prevail. The writing communicates esoteric wisdom, primarily via Islamic sources. To reinforce this purpose there is a 5 page glossary to help the reader understand the meaning of Arabic phrases and references. As much as a novel this book is a manual on Islamic mysticism and its power to alter lives and situations in a peaceful way.

Normally occult information is veiled or coded within elaborate plots like in Harry Potter. The Hidden Ones offers no Platform 9½. The action occurs in an everyday contemporary British setting: a Care Home, a Housing Estate, a Take-a-way and streets between. The Hidden Oneslive in everyday circumstances.

Layla, key Shaykhah, elderly infirmed, over weight, owes powers acquired since a child. The aged lady has matured her light until sensitive and powerful to the point of disarming a would-be assassin. Her holiness has won honour in her native Sudan, but her bother a chief politician wants her killed. The sacred attracts love and hate. Layla is well versed in the Qu’ran but largely stays quiet, accepting the moods of carers and the indignities of her dependence.

Rose, the second introduced Hidden One, ten and fatherless, caring for her invalid mother on a council estate, is bullied at school. She has transcendent dreams. Shaid doesn’t claim the esoteric is available to a particular culture or age group. He characterises through Rose that a particular soul may have no training and be unaware of what is subtly working in their lives. The carrier might try to reject it. Roses discloses nothing of her hidden status. Later when she meets Layla the youngster bows to and recognises the former’s light. Layla instructs Rose to say the shahada 100 times each morning and each evening for protection from danger. The author guides the reader to see practical application of hidden mysteries in a modern western context. The exchange between Rose and Layla doesn’t happen among celestial clouds or in secret gardens, but in a harsh sterile environment.  

Thinking its down-to-earth-ness I wish this book was as popular as Harry Potter or Lord of Rings. Magic in these narratives is displaced to symbolic fantasy lands. In the Hidden Ones the miraculous is on show under the glare of a patient’s room or the florescence of a Take-a-way.

Khadim the third Hidden One, an immigrant from Pakistan finally finds a job in a Kebab House. He, a young man, trained by a shaykh, demonstrates the light can be ripened and developed within formal teaching. Coming to the UK to accept a parent-guided arranged marriage to an educated woman, proves for Khadim to be a challenge to his manhood and secret spirituality. He’s rejected by his wife. Shaid shows the tensions between traditional Islamic cultures and western attitudes towards education and individual freedom. His wife Aisha has absorbed the latter. His shaykh warned Khadim that he would experience a tunnel of darkness. The author presents a set of conflicts between cultures within internecine frictions. He avoids the bias of claiming all that’s western is bad and what’s eastward is good. To Khadim’s wife, working in a Take-a-way is a job below the status she expects from her husband. Khadim’s humility to undertake this task leads to events which illustrate the young man’s character as a Hidden One of light. In time Aisha recognises the excellence in the man she’s married reconciling her need for independence with respect for her parents’ traditions. The author shows that understanding is possible across cultures and peace in complex families.

Violence erupts in the stories but Shaid writes in a manner neither graphic nor gothic. His straightforward speaking keeps the book focused on its main theme, exploring qualities of the Hidden Ones with a style suitable for the young. The prospect that good conquers evil is continued throughout but also the potential for transforming a character which comes about at the least expected moment and to the most dangerous persona illustrating that the mystery remains and that Allah works in ways beyond human understanding but that those who become his devoted servants (like Layla, Rose and Khadim) will have a hand in destiny.