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!


“Leave yourself and come.”

December 29, 2013

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“I stood with the pious and I didn’t find any progress with them. I stood with the warriors in the cause and I didn’t find a single step of progress with them. I stood with those who pray excessively and those who fast excessively and I didn’t make a footstep of progress. Then I said, ‘O Allah, what is the way to You?’ and Allah said, ‘Leave yourself and come.’”

- Bayazid Bastami

Ya Haqq!


The Democracy of Love

December 2, 2013

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Whenever I do my one magic trick to entertain young children, making a coin disappear, they always look astonished and squeal with delight. When Quinn, my six year old granddaughter who loves the Harry Potter books and movies, insisted on knowing how I made the coin disappear, I made the mistake of showing her. A magician should never reveal his secrets, especially to children.

She said indignantly, “That’s a trick! It’s not magic!”

And I, like a pompous fool, said, “Sweetheart, there is no such thing as magic. The only real magic is love.” She turned on her heel and walked away angrily. I don’t blame her. To a six year old, the world is a magical place, and should be. And children always look for magic in their lives and stories, which to them is a source of power in a world in which they feel powerless.

But I also meant what I said, though she is too young to understand. All true magic, by which I mean the source of all mystery and miracles, is Love.

Here is another trick in two steps:

1. Take a glass and fill it with water, then empty half. You now have a glass half full, or half empty. Now empty the remaining half. You now have an empty glass.

2. Now hug your child, or mother, or wife, and tell them you love them with all your heart, and pour all your love into them. Are you empty now, like the glass? Or are you a vessel overflowing with love from an infinite Source that never ends?

Jesus (pbuh) kissed the leper, the whore, and the thief, out of love and forgiveness and healing. Because of the great expansiveness of his heart, miracles were possible. In the same way, three loaves and five fishes can feed a multitude out of that love made manifest.

That is how God loves us, without condition, without beginning, without end, overflowing our lives, if only our eyes and heart are open to it. Guilt, shame, despair, are all responses to not living this absolute truth.

It is the source of the Chi, the Ka, the Force, which are all names of the energy of the universe flowing around us, between us, and in us. Its source is Love.

This all-encompassing Love, which is the real name of God, is also the source of all love between one human being and another; between man and woman, parent and child, man and man, woman and woman. It makes no difference who loves who. It is all love, touching all human beings, all life on earth and in the universe.

Love is the only true democracy.

Ya Haqq!


Thanksgiving Prayer

November 27, 2013

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

O Lord, we humbly thank Thee for the bounty of our table, when so many in the world go hungry. And we thank Thee for our family and friends, when so many in the world walk alone.

O God, grant that we who are filled with good things from Your open hand, may never close our hearts to the hungry, the homeless, and the poor.

Amen! Ameen!

Happy Thanksgiving to all :)

Ya Haqq!


El Maestro de los Jinn is Now a Paperback :)

October 28, 2013

Master-of-the-Jinn-Cover-Spanish-WebSalaam and Greetings of Peace:

The Spanish translation of Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel, El Maestro de los Jinn, is now a paperback on Amazon.com :) And it would make a nice gift for your Spanish speaking friends for the Holidays :)

Ya Haqq!


What Love Demands – Eid al-Adha Mubarak :)

October 14, 2013

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Eid Mubarak!

May Allah bless you all this Eid al-Adha, dear Brothers and Sisters, with generosity of hand, sincerity of speech, kindness in action, and love and joy in remembrance of HU, the Source of all Generosity, Sincerity, Kindness, Joy, and Love.  Ameen!

“O Lord! Let not our hearts deviate now after You have guided us, but grant us mercy from Your own Presence; for You are the Grantor of bounties without measure.” (Quran: 3:9)

This is the time of Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, which celebrates the faith of Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice even his beloved son as God had commanded.

Now what are we willing to sacrifice in order that our prayers may be accepted?

That is the question I ask myself every year. Jesus (as) kissed the leper, the whore, and the thief, out of love and forgiveness and healing. Because of the great expansiveness of his heart, miracles were possible. What have we done, what can we still do, to be worthy of the love and forgiveness and healing we ask of God? The answer that comes to my heart is always the same:

Do what love demands.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. -1 Corinthians 13:4-8

According to a hadith, the Prophet (peace be unto him) once said, “A true believer is one with whom others feel secure. One who returns love for hatred.”

Alhamdulillah! Indeed, Love is the greatest miracle of God. There have been Spiritual Masters who would not let an aspirant be initiated until they had gone to everyone whom they had wronged in their life, and begged forgiveness, making amends in any way that was required. And until they had gone to everyone that had wronged them in their lives, and granted them forgiveness without asking, and with a whole heart. Only then could such a one be initiated on the mystic path.

And so we come to the great task of our lives, brought into focus on this day of Eid al-Adha: To sacrifice our fear and hatred, our envy and greed and all the other works of the fearful and self-absorbed nafs, in the certain knowledge that anyone who forgives a debt will be repaid tenfold by God, and anyone who forgives a wrong will be forgiven by God a hundredfold, and anyone who returns love for hatred will make of this life a paradise. That is what love demands.

Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find
all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.
- Rumi

Ya Haqq!


SANG RAJA JIN, the Indonesian translation of Master of the Jinn, is now a Google Ebook for only $2.51

October 8, 2013

cover SANG RAJA JIN curve-frontSalaam and Greetings of Peace:

Sang Raja Jin, the Indonesian translation of Master of the Jinn, in now a Google Ebook for only $2.51 which is 28,905 rupiah, I think. Click HERE to order.

Please tell your Indonesian friends on Twitter, and share the news on your Facebook status and on your blog if you have one :)

Ya Haqq!

Note: Buy the paperback wherever books are sold, or order from the publisher HERE.


Muslim Prayer in the Bible

October 6, 2013

prostrationSalaam and Greetings of Peace:

“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” – James 4:10

Some Christians may find the Muslim method of prayer odd…but if they were to pray as described in the Bible then they would find themselves praying much like Muslims…for example:

ABLUTION:

“Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped…”
(2 Samuel 12:20)

“So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.”
(Exodus 30:21)

“And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet…”
(Exodus 40:31)

RAISING OF THE HANDS:

“Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.” (Psalms 63:4)

ALLAHU AKBAR:

“Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise…”
(Psalms 48:1)

PROSTRATION:

“And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him…”
(Genesis 17:3)

“…and they (Moses and Aaron) fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.”
(Numbers 20:6)

“And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads.”
(Joshua 7:6)

“…they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD…”
(2 Chronicles 7:3)

“…and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.”
(Nehemiah 8:6)

“And he (Jesus) went a little farther and fell on his face, and prayed…”
(Matthew 26:39)

“And when the disciples heard it,they fell on their faces…”
(Matthew 17:6)

“…and he (Elijah) cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees…”
(1 Kings 18:42)

“…and (all the angels) fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God…”
(Revelations 7:11)

“O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.”
(Psalms 95:6)

“…all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.”
(Psalms 22:29)

“…And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.”
(Judges 13:20)

“And when all the people saw it,they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, He is the God; the LORD, He is the God.”
(1 Kings 18:39)

“I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord GOD!”
(Ezekiel 9:8)

“David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times…”
(1 Samuel 20:41)

“And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship…”
(Joshua 5:14)

“And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth…”  (Genesis 24:52)

Ya Haqq!

Note: See also this previous post, The Upward Glance and the Lowest Bow.


Google Ebook of Master of the Jinn now in Thirty-Three Countries and Four Languages!

September 25, 2013

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

The Google EBook of Master of the Jinn is being sold in English, as well as translations in Russian and Croatian for only $3.82. It is also sold in Indonesian for only $2.51

Click HERE to order.

What’s more, it is now available in THIRTY-THREE countries – the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany,  Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan.

Ya Haqq!

MOJcover


I have given up religion

May 21, 2013
I have given up religion
and follow only Love

Mullahs, Priests and Rabbis
Imams, Buddhists, Zoroastrians,
All laugh at my naivete
But my ears hear only You

Beards and robes and cassocks
outward signs of piety

Mean nothing, are worthless
without a heart of love

Heaven and hell are empty
tales to frighten children

Only to You do we return
home at last, home at last

Good and evil counterbalance
men and women, all that live 

drops falling into the Ocean
Home at last, home at last

- Irving Karchmar, 2013

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