Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women – A Book Review

January 23, 2012

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Deeply touching and intimate, the 25 stories in Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, reveal the elegance and universality of love and faith. Written by American Muslim women of all ages, races and nationalities, many of them first generation Americans struggling to bridge the cultural gap, they tell of love found and love lost, of arranged marriages that work and those that do not, of coming out and  staying in the closet; the full range of human experience for women of every country and religion, and no doubt shocking for more orthodox Muslims.

It is above all an honest book of  love stories that transcend religion, a perfect book to upend the stereotypical Western misconceptions of veiled and abused Muslim women. These tales are filled with hope and humor and life, and I confess that I laughed and cried by turns with these brave and amazing women. Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, who collected and edited the stories and wrote two of them, are owed a debt of gratitude, and I pray that the day will soon come when love stories by the millions of American Muslim women will be less a secret and just another part of everyday American life. I loved it!

Ya Haqq!

Note:  To pre-order the book, read more reviews and interviews with the writers, or to find future book-signing events, visit the Love, InshAllah website HERE.

Note:  To read the New York Times article on the backstory of Love, InshAllah, click HERE.


10 Methods of the Heavenly Dragon – Book Review!

January 9, 2012

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

A truly remarkable book, Ten Methods of the Heavenly Dragon is profound and deeply moving! This first person account of a lifelong seeker Robert Sheaffer’s apprenticeship with Shun Yuan, a gentle, Western-born Adept of the Tao and Taiji martial arts, enthralls the reader both as a teaching story and an introduction to as remarkable a man as any hero out of fiction. In the end, though I did not want it to end, I was left with a sublime sense of inevitability and peace. A truly amazing achievement!

The unfolding of the 10 Methods of the Heavenly Dragon are beautifully told within the intricacies of Bagua, the “eight symbols” used in Taoist cosmology and the elegant, deadly forms of Chinese martial arts, each method translated into hard learned lessons of everyday life. The Tao emphasizes getting past your preconceptions and your ego; in effect, getting out of your own way. I for one am very grateful for the lesson.

Ya Haqq!

Note:  The book has also won the Gold Medal in the Living Now Book Awards for 2013.  Congratulation!

 

 


New Review of Master of the Jinn

February 5, 2011

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

There is a new and very good review of Master of the Jinn on Amazon.com, written by Debora McNichol.  It reads:

I enjoyed reading Master of the Jinn in spite of myself. I am an impatient and busy person, and don’t usually have a chance to pick up a book until 1/2 hour past bedtime. So color me pleasantly surprised when I found myself staying up to the wee hours to finish this book over a couple nights. The story moves quickly, yet stimulates the imagination. This might be a good book choice for adolescent boys, who don’t have many *clean* and interesting choices. MotJ is an action packed adventure, yet spiritual, too. Karchmar’s respect for the human condition is apparent in the nobility and dignity of his characters. I recommend this book.

To read all the Amazon reviews of Master of the Jinn, click HERE.

Ya Haqq!


Book Review – Deserts and Mountains by Yilmaz Alimoglu

October 5, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Deserts and Mountains, the debut novel by Yilmaz Alimoglu, is a lovingly told tale, and an adventure of self-discovery that is also a Sufi journey, all written with warmth and wisdom, tenderness and real affection for the characters.

Ali Dogan is a expatriate Turk living in Canada who in the first chapter has separated from his wife and two children. He is also a new dervish on the Sufi path, and when he asks his Sheikh for advice, he is told (in a truly beautiful, descriptive way) to seek knowledge, so as to understand what his heart is telling him. This sage advice begins his journey, which takes him literally to deserts and mountains in both a physical and spiritual way.

From Canada to Turkey (and his mother and father who still live in the same village), with side trips to the Acropolis in Greece and the Alhambra in Spain, he takes the reader on his journey of knowledge – from the new world to the old, from the freedom of Canada to the repressive state in Turkey, where primitive and cruel customs still prevail, to Greece and the beginnings of real civilization, the “birthplace” of Western knowledge, to the Alhambra, a symbol of the golden age of Islamic knowledge.

Even in Istanbul, that ancient metropolis that is the bridge between East and West, there lingers what he calls the corrupt remains of the Ottoman Empire, and the old and ugly patriarchal ways women are treated like property. He encounter this first hand when he develops a crush on Nour, a brilliant Turkish co-worker who cannot escape the fate of being a divorced woman with a jealous ex-husband.

Onward the journey continues, to Germany where the emotional stress of Nour takes its toll, then to Mali and the Sahara, and at last coming to terms with the vulnerable and confused man that Ali is, and of the soul seeking knowledge, balance, peace of heart and mind, which in the end he finds where he began.

Deserts and Mountains is as much a Sufi journey as a human journey, made by each of us in our own way, and Ali finally discovers the truth of the words the great Persian poet wrote 800 years ago:

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.

-Jalaluddin Rumi

Ya Haqq!


Review of Meister der Jinn – the German Translation

September 26, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Here is an old review (June, 2009) a friend was kind enough to finally translate of Meister der Jinn, the German translation of Master of the Jinn, from the magazine Spirit Connection. To order the book, click HERE.

Sufism in the Form of a Novel

This Sufi novel leads the reader into the desert, in a sandstorm, which brings the hidden into the light, into a night out of the limits of time and into the city of the Jinn. The Jinn are, like humans and angels, creatures fashioned by God; they possess free will and their fortunes/destiny lie at the core of this story.

The external journey is at the same time an inner spiritual one. The adventure of a Master and his Dervishes (Sufi apprentices) is very vividly described, so that one can easily empathize with its images. The rhythm of the novel alternates between slow passages and intensive climactic moments, thus ensuring suspense. As in the novels of Paulo Coehlo, the characters, adventures and spiritual notions are kneaded into a mixture; one is so riveted by the events of the book that one wants to read the book very quickly to the end. Through the statements of the main character of the novel and the interspersed citations of Sufi Masters, the reader is brought closer to an understanding of Sufi Philosophy.  Not only is the Terminology of the Sufis explained in a glossary at the end of the book, but also short and concise elucidations are given in the text itself so that one does not always need to leaf back and forth through the pages of the book.

It is possible that some will feel that there is a lack of philosophical depth; however, that is not necessarily the purpose of a novel. In any case, emotionally sensitive people will not be shortchanged and will be able to be deeply touched. But then again, the end was too sweet for my personal taste with its Hollywood-type happy conclusion.

Readers who are easily stimulated into reflection will find in this book enough opportunities to do so, for example when the Master asks: “And do you also think that they do not know what you think of them now”?  If this had been the case in our own reality, how differently we would feel inwardly and how differently we would all live together outwardly.

In all, this is a felicitous book that presents a good change from the many spiritual “non-fiction books”.

- Alfred Groff

Ya Haqq!


Book Review – The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson

September 12, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

G. Willow Wilson is honest to the bone, and I laughed and cried by turns at the vivid and poetic account of her life’s journey in The Butterfly Mosque.

From a student’s philosophic interest in Islam to a religious awakening in the hospital while suffering from what she calls adrenal distress, to Egypt, where she accepted a teaching position for a year, to meeting Omar, her adored and adoring soon-to-be Sufi husband and his extended family—all against the backdrop of the Middle Eastern way of life in Cairo, that overcrowded, overhot, overdusty great city of the Nile.

Willow’s descriptive and analytical powers are at once affectionate and insightful. The Middle Eastern way of life, with its emphasis on family and community interdependence instead of independence, its Islamic tradition of courtesy and hospitality,  and its foundation of religion woven into every aspect of daily living, is something few in the secular West seem to appreciate.

Indeed, the Middle East division of the State Department as well as Western Think Tanks and Islamic Studies seminars would benefit greatly if The Butterfly Mosque were required reading.

Her candor is both refreshing and thoughtfully intelligent, and her bravery in forging a common ground, a space in which to live with her husband and within Islam the way her heart beckoned, is to glimpse what is left unsaid, but there between the lines—those that accept their calling and follow their heart are on the Divine path, no matter their religion.

If you have not yet read this wise and intimate memoir, buy a copy now, or order it online here, or check it out of your local library.  Willow’s is a life worth knowing.

Highly Recommended!

Ya Haqq!


Book Notes, a Review – Master of the Jinn

August 13, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

New Review:

An intricate and excellent new review of Master of the Jinn has been added to its page on Amazon.com. You can read it in its entirety HERE.

Master of the Jinn in INDIA.

Alhamdulillah! Master of the Jinn will be published in India.

Ebooks:

Amazon.com has reported that it sold more Ebooks in 2010 than hardback books. I can see Ebooks also outselling paperbacks in the future, especially since the Kindle book reader has been discounted to $114.00. And Master of the Jinn has sold as many or more Kindle Ebooks than paperbacks in the last few months.

Ramadan Mubarak!

Ya Haqq!


Book Review – Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan by Ali Eteraz

January 20, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Ali Eteraz is a thoughtful, intelligent, and at times, bitingly funny writer.  His very popular, now defunct blog, in which he wrote both comic and serious essays about Pakistani politics, Islamic sexuality, and extremist militancy, led to his eventually becoming a contributor to The Guardian UK and writing articles for such mainstream venues as Dissent, Foreign Policy, and The Huffington Post.

In Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan, Eteraz reveals his true gifts as a storyteller. It is a delight to read and utterly charming, lyrically written with exuberant good humor and insightful remembrances. It is also a brave book, driven by a keen and sardonic intelligence, and as he grows and gropes for personal and cosmic answers, one cannot but admire his daring. We root for him to succeed.

The book is broken into five parts, each signified by a different name he takes for himself, each identity a stage of his coming to terms with Pakistan, Islam, America, and his place in each.

The first part of the book, The Promised – Abir ul Islam, (literally, Perfume of Islam), evokes his parents’ hopes for him of a pious life; his father made a mannat, a Covenant with God, before he was born:“Ya Allah! If you should give me a son, I promise that we will become a great leader and servant of Islam.” His mother then went on Hajj with him as a baby and rubbed his chest on the wall of the Ka’ba in Mecca, so that Allah might bless him with reverence and resolve for his religion.  And this covenant did indeed guide his life for the next thirty years.

As a boy growing up in a Pakistan desert village, he joyfully embraces the sweetness of his youth and young manhood among his mother and father, Ammi and Pops, with all the love and strictness of a Muslim family in a Muslim country, surrounded by various grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I especially loved his descriptions of life in rural Pakistan and of his wonderful mother Ammi, weaving lessons from the Koran with folk stories of Islam and the Jinn into daily living, which inhabited both reality and imagination in his young world. After a short and rather brutal madrassa education, that part of his life ends when his medical doctor father, Pops, gets a visa to work in America, and the family departs for every immigrant’s dream destination, Alabama.

In the second section, The American – Amir, the family moves repeatedly seeking opportunity, finally settling in the Bible Belt. In Alabama (Allahbama) he enters High School and decides to legally change his name to Amir to distance himself from his parents’ growing fundamentalism amid his teenage shyness and sexual angst.  It is the shortest section in the book, but beautifully captures the growing tension between him and his family and him and his loins.

In book three, The Fundamentalist – Abu Bakr Ramaq, he is off to college in Manhattan, his name changed once again after discovering he is descended from Abu Bakr Siddiq, the truthteller, a companion of the Prophet and the first Caliph of Islam (peace and blessings be upon them both). This revelation spurs his own fundamentalism, and he becomes Abu Bakr Ramaq (“spark of light”), representing the passion he now feels for Islam. One of the most intriguing parts of this section is his exploration of his faith, and confronting two of its greatest opponents – extremism and secularism. He dismisses Osama bin Laden as an opportunist and another in a long line of messianic pretenders. And his reading of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses juxtaposed with Islamic thinkers such as Zaid Shakir, who claims that secularism is un-Islamic, convinces him that the real battle is between Islam (and by extension all religions) and reason. The liberating freedom that reason gives is a curse that separates the here from the hereafter, the creation from the Creator.

After growing a scanty beard, and following a series of truly hilarious misadventures with the opposite sex, he finally journeys back to his desert village in Pakistan with his mother and younger brother to find a pious Muslim wife and trace his noble lineage. But he finds out that he is not only unrelated to Abu Bakr, but is in fact descended from a Hindu convert that changed his name from Savekhi to the close sounding Siddique. He is then threatened by Taliban-style thugs just for being an American, and the family must be hastily escorted out of town and out of the country by his uncle’s military unit.

The fourth book, The Postmodern – Amir ul Islam, (literally, Prince of Islam), a combination of the his assumed and given name, suggests that he is reclaiming Islam only so that he can internalize it into something more manageable. He is crestfallen at his failure in Pakistan, blaming its backwardness and close mindedness on not being recognized for the pious Muslim he thinks himself to be. He willfully transfers to a Christian university in Atlanta and sets out to study Philosophy, especially Postmodernism, the bane of Islam and religion in general.  He is admirably honest in exposing his failure as the result of his own ego trying to impress others with his piety, a common young pretension, concluding that Islam and its most ardent followers in the mother country have failed him. Postmodernism is his revenge. And sex.

Yet he still carries the weight of the covenant made before he was born, so to accomplish this double and conflicting task, he strives for and becomes President of the MSA, the Muslim Students Association. He becomes BMOC, Big Muslim on Campus. Leading the Friday prayer, lecturing and give advice as an imam, taking up the Palestinian cause at the start of the second Intifada, he desperately tries to convince himself and everyone else of his Islamic credentials. In still seeking his own Islamic reflection in the mirrored approval of other Muslims, his religion becomes not a sacred obligation between himself and Allah, but a status conscious mirage between himself and every other Muslim on the planet.

Finally, he has had enough. After graduation, he moves to Washington DC, having obtained a fellowship for aspiring lawyers with the US Department of Justice.  A few months later, the planes hit the Pentagon and the Twin Towers on 9/11.

At last we come to The Reformer – Ali Eteraz, the fifth book, wherein he takes his final name, which means “Noble Protest”.  After 9/11, he ignored his work as a legal associate, and wrote, researched, and formed friendships on the internet in preparation of his obsessive drive to save Islam from it “idiots.” In the process, he loses his job, his apartment, his money and his family. He abandons his faith and moves to Las Vegas, Sin City, an almost perfect metaphor. After a few months of despondency, the reenergized reformer travels to Kuwait to convince Arabs to be part of the reformation of Islam. While staying with his friend Ziad, he plans an Islamic think tank of brave and accomplished Muslims to combat the loud militancy of the extremists; he schemes to reinvent Islam as a religion of equality, peace, and justice to fulfill his covenant. Ziad is a modern Muslim who couldn’t care less about such reformist ideas, and acts as his alter ego. Their brotherly back and forth finally breaks through the cycles of transformation and allows him to start over.

While visiting his mother back in California, Ali Eteraz comes full circle:  “My little Abir,“ she say. “You grew up all these years, just to become innocent again.”

Ya Haqq!


New Master of the Jinn Review

December 18, 2008

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Our darvish brother David has written a very good review of Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel on his Caravan of Dreams blog.  You can read it HERE.

David is also suffering from a bout of Sickle Cell Anemia, so please visit his blog and send him your prayers and blessings.

Ya Haqq!


New Book Review of Master of the Jinn

June 3, 2008

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Alhamdulillah! I have returned from my beloved daughter’s wedding, and now she, the new bride, and her new (and really wonderful) husband are on their honeymoon :) May Allah bless them with all good in this life and the next. Ameen.

And what a delight to return and find a new review of the Sufi novel, Master of the Jinn, on Sister Marahm’s blog :) Read it by clicking HERE.

And… Sister Widad of the Islamic Writers Alliance has chosen Master of the Jinn as the topic of discussion in her book club at the Islamic Fiction Books Yahoo group.  You can join in the discussion by joining her Yahoo group at this link. IslamicFictionBooks@yahoogroups.com

Ya Haqq!

PS: More on the wedding soon :)


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