No One Veils You But Yourself

April 21, 2014

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

My friend no one veils you but yourself.
No thorns, no weeds in your path but you.
Well then, shall I reach the Beloved or not?
Between you and Him lies nothing but yourself.


‘…sustain the flow of a sacred Name.”

April 10, 2014

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“Whenever you possibly can, sustain the flow of a sacred Name. To repeat His name is to be in His presence. If you associate with the Supreme Friend, He will reveal His true being to you.”

- Sri Anandmayi Ma

 


The Prayer before Prayer

March 30, 2014

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“O Allah, place within my heart light, and upon my tongue light, and within my ears light, and within my eyes light, and place behind me light and in front of me light and above me light and beneath me light. O Allah, bestow upon me light.”

- Du’a (prayer) before going to the Mosque (Masjid).

Ya Haqq!


The Gate of Repentence

March 17, 2014

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

A man once came to Ibn Mas‘ud and asked him: “I have repeatedly committed a major sin – can there be any repentance for me?” Ibn Mas‘ud turned away, and the man saw that his eyes had filled with tears. He said: “Paradise has eight gates, and each one of them is sometimes open and sometimes shut, with the exception of the Gate of Repentance, which is held open eternally by an angel who never leaves that place. So do not despair!’”

Ya Haqq!

Note: Also, see post on The Eight Gates of Paradise.


Interview on the Writing of Master of the Jinn

March 7, 2014

MOJcoverSalaam and Greetings of Peace:

Below is an interview with me on the writing of Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel.  It was conducted by Ambrose Musiyiwa and published in various online venues in 2006.  New readers of the novel have been asking about my backround and what led me to write it, so I post this as a good answer to many questions. It has been updated for accuracy. If you have other questions about the novel, ask them in the comments and I will try to answer them :)

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I have always been an avid reader, and began writing poetry in my early teens. From there it progressed to working for magazine publishing companies as an editor and writer, continuing to write poetry, and after a few awkward attempts at my own fiction, getting the idea for Master of the Jinn.

I did not decide to be a writer; it was a gradual evolution and confluence of work opportunities and practice that led me to it.

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

The Sufi path of love has been my greatest influence, as you can tell by Master of the Jinn, but my love of good writing, and for certain genres, such as science-fiction, fantasy, and Persian and Arabic fiction and Sufi stories, all seemed to mesh together to influence me. And of course, the love and support of my beloved family, friends and darvishes, all fellow travelers on life’s journey.

What are darvishes?

A darvish is the same as a dervish, which is a disciple in a Sufi Order, or more accurately, a disciple of a Sufi Master. Darvish is the Persian way of spelling and pronouncing it.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My only concern as a writer is to tell the truth as best I can, in the best way I am able. On the Sufi path this is a lifelong task. Also, to hone my writing skills, which to me is not only telling a story on paper, but adding some iota of understanding to the human experience.

How have your personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

The most influential personal experience was almost dying in 1986, and the out of body experience I had because of it. I was in the hospital for six weeks, and after I came out, by the grace of God, I had a new outlook and also many unanswered questions. I found the place to ask those questions on the Sufi path, and so that is what I write about — those eternal questions and way in which I am finding the answers to them, or finding how to ask better questions.

What would you say are the biggest challenges that you face?

As far as personal challenges, advancing on the path, as to professional challenges, finding publishers and agents that believe in my work. And always to find better and more specific ways to tell the truth.

How do you deal with these?

One day at a time. I can’t do anything about the relentless commercialism of modern publishing, especially since it is a Sufi novel, about Muslims, published after 9/11, that no one wanted to touch. So after a couple of years of sending it out to agents and publishers, I decided to publish it myself.

As for telling the truth, it is a matter of finding what truth there is within myself, and my knowledge of the path and the world, and telling a story in that framework. Since I personally am deficient in knowledge and the path, all that is good in the book was God-inspired; all the rest is my own doing.

What is Master of the Jinn about?

It is a mystical adventure tale on the Sufi path of Love, wherein a modern-day Sufi Master sends seven companions on a quest for the greatest treasure of the ancient world – King Solomon’s ring. The legendary seal ring is said to control the Jinn, those terrifying demons of living fire, and in seeking it the companions discover not only the truth of the Jinn, but also the path of Love and the infinite mercy of God. That’s from the Amazon description, and fits nicely.

How long did it take you to write the novel?

Master of the Jinn took five years to write, another few years of sending it out, having it rejected, re-editing it, sending it out again, etc, until technology caught up with my intention and I could publish it inexpensively. After 9/11 it was impossible to publish any novel that portrayed Muslims as kind, generous and noble, even Sufis.

Where and when was it published?

It was published in the English edition in Sept. 2004 by Bay Street Press through Booksurge, a print on demand publisher in the U.S.A. They are now called Createspace and are owned by Amazon. It is also in seven other languages.

Master of the Jinn has been translated and published in Indonesian (Sang Raja Jin), Turkish (Cinlerin Efendisi)Russian (Povelitel dzhinnov), German (Meister der Jinn), Croatian (Gospodar demona), Spanish (El Maestro de los Jinn), and Malayalam, the language of the Kerala state of India (Jinnukalude Nadhan).

The Russian-language edition was published in 2001 by Sophia Publishing of Moscow. The Indonesian edition (in Bahasa, the national language) will be out in 2007, published in Jakarta by Prenada Media, as will the 2007 Turkish edition, published in Turkey by Inlan Yayinlari Publishing.

The Indian edition is under contract, to be published in Kerala State, in Malayalam, the language there. It will be out in 2008. I am in negotiations for a Dutch edition, and one in Hebrew, Arabic, and Farsi, God willing.

Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult?

Of course, the most difficult part of writing the book was what comes next. And also being true to the Sufi path and myself, as well as the story.

Being a darvish of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, I could not make up wise sayings, for instance. I am not wise. All that the Sufi Master in the book says as dialogue are actual words of Sufi masters of the past. And I wanted to start each chapter with a quote that fit the chapter. That was fun too.

Researching the story of King Solomon and early Hebrew life and culture, as well as the Taureg culture of the Sahara, was also a learning experience. All of what is written about it is factual, though woven into a fictional story.

Sometimes I would wait for six months between inspirations, until I read enough or learned enough, or something happened in my life and meditation that led me to the next sentence. It was a process of learning and becoming, of growing with the book.

Which did you enjoy most?

Honestly, the entire experience was the best time in my life. Writing a book you love with characters you love, or just writing and then reading a sentence or paragraph that works, that conveys what you have in your heart, of love and hope and God’s mercy, is one of the joys of being a writer. I could have kept working on it forever, and sometimes wish I was still working on it.

What sets the book apart from the other things you have written?

This is nothing like I have ever written, since it is my first book, but looking back over my poems and stories, I see a pattern emerging of a romantic nature to my writings. Perhaps the book is just an extension of that, with the influence of the Sufi path leading the way. The Sufi also consider God the Beloved.

What will your next book be about?

I am writing a sequel entitled Tale of Jinn. It will pick up where Master of the Jinn left off, and be a cosmology and a history as well as extend the tale into the future. It may turn out to be three or four books, I don’t know. The tale has taken on a life of its own. I am also working on a non-fiction book compiling my writings and poetry from the Darvish blog.  The tentative title is Lessons in Love.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

I don’t know that I have achieved anything significant as a writer. I loved writing the book, and many readers seem to love it also, rereading it multiple times. One reader told me she can’t wait to have children so she can read the book to them. That may be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to a writer, as least to this writer.

How did you get there?

With the love and teaching of Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, the late Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, and now Dr. Alireza Nurbakhsh, the present Master, and by the grace and mercy of God. There is no other way to get anywhere.

Ya Haqq!


Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2014

I do not know what it is which opens and closes
yet every fiber of my being understands
the fragrance of your presence is sweeter than a thousand roses
nobody, not even the rain, has such tiny hands
- e.e. cummings


Jesus and the Leper

January 27, 2014

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“It is related that Jesus (on him be peace) passed by a blind man who was a leper and lame of both feet because of paralysis, and his flesh was consumed by leprosy, and he was saying: ‘Praise be to God who has kept me in good health and saved me from many things which have befallen others of his creatures.’ Then Jesus said to him: ‘O thou friend, from what kind of affliction do I see that you are free ‘ ; and he replied : ‘ O spirit of God, I am better than those in whose heart God has not put anything of his knowledge and his grace.’ And Jesus said : ‘You have spoken truly. Stretch forth your hand,’ and he stretched forth his hand and became of perfect health both as to his body and his appearance, for God had taken away all his sickness. So he accompanied Jesus and worshipped with him.”

- al-Ghazali, The Revival of the Religious Sciences

Ya Haqq!

Note:  See also the old post Isa ibn Mariyam, Jesus, the Son of Mary.


Celebrating the Birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 20, 2014

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Monday, January 20, 2014 is the National Holiday to celebrate the 85th birthday of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, (born January 15, 1929). I do not have the words to do justice to his life and work, and so I will quote only two paragraphs that may help explain why he is one of this nation’s exemplary heroes.

“The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.”  Pilgrimage to Non-Violence, 1960

“Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Stockholm, Sweden, December 11, 1964.

God bless his soul and memory, and may we as a people learn from his example.  Amen!

Ya Haqq!


Mawlid Un-Nabi – Birthday of the Prophet (saw) 2014

January 10, 2014

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“You have indeed in the Messenger of God a beautiful pattern of conduct for anyone whose hope is God and the Final Day.” (Al-Ahzab 33:21)

Alhamdulillah! This is Rabi a-Awwal, by the Lunar calendar the month of the blessed birthday (Mawlidd Un-Nabi) of the Prophet Muhammad (the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

According to Sunni scholars, the Prophet’s birthday is observed on 12th Rabi al-Awwal, which falls this year on Monday,  January 13, 2014, and 17th Rabi al-Awwal (January 18th this year) according to Shia scholars.

Since the best historical estimate is that the Prophet (saw) was born in March or April of 570 CE, he would be  1444 years old this year.

It is celebrated as a time to read the Qur’an, fast, pray, and remember the life, teachings, and example of the Prophet (saw) with good deeds.

When praising the Prophet (saw), we are warned, however, not to exaggerate in his praise. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Do not overpraise me as Christians overpraised Jesus, son of Mary. Say [when referring to me], ‘Servant of Allah and His messenger.’

Servant of Allah and His messenger!

Surely that is a title that needs no embellishment. And so, may Allah bless you all, gentle readers, and guide you to the best of his noble qualities on the straight path of love, compassion, mercy, generosity, and kindness.  Amin!

The Names of the Prophet (saw)

In the same way that Muhammad(un) rasul Allah(Muhammad is the Messenger of God) follows La Ilaha ill Allah, the names of the Prophet (saw) flow from those of God and are a ladder that leads to Him. The Prophet (saw) has even been honored by God by having some of the Divine Names such as Ta Ha and Nur also bestowed upon him. The chanting of the litanies of the names of the Prophet (saw) is an important practice in Sufism and on a more external level in the everyday activity of many pious Muslims.

Not only is the Prophet (saw) called Muhammad, the most praised one, but he is also Ahmad, the most praiseworthy of those who praise God. He is Wahid, the unique one; Mahi, the annihilator of darkness and ignorance; and Aqib, the last of the prophets. He is Tahir, the pure and clean one; Tayyib, he who possesses beauty and fragrance; and Sayyid, prince and master of the universe. He is, of course, Rasul, messenger, but also Rasul al-Rahmah, the messenger of mercy; and Khatim al rusul, the seal of prophets. He is Abd Allahl, the perfect servant of God, but also Habib Allah, the beloved of God; and Safi Allah, the one chosen by God. He is both Nasir, the victorious helper of men, and Mansur, the one who is made triumphant in this world.

The Prophet (saw) is Muhyi, the vivifier of the dead hearts of men, and Munji, he who delivers man from sin. He is Nur, light, as well as Siraj, the torch that illuminates the path in man’s life;Misbah, the lamp that contains the light of faith, and Huda, the guide to God and paradise. He isDhu quwwah, the possessor of strength; Dhu hurmah, possessor of sacred reverence; andDhu makanah, the possessor of integrity. He is both Amin, trustworthy, and Sadiq, truthful. He is Miftah, or key to paradise, and Miftah al-rahmah, the key to God’s mercy. The love of the Prophet (saw) is in fact both a sign of the love of God and the gate to that Mercy from which the very substance of the universe was created.

- From Islamic Spirituality, edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Ya Haqq!

Note:  For a list of Major Events in the Life of the Prophet (pbuh), click HERE.

Ya Haqq!


The Peace of Wild Things

January 6, 2014

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry 


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