The Yellow Dog

November 15, 2007

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

A yellow dog came to visit today. He was friendly and young and full of energy, perhaps a year old, a Labrador retriever, his nose to the ground sniffing for a familiar scent. He circled the house and my wife saw him through a window out of the corner of her eye; a lean, hungry yellow dog by the look of him, his ribs plainly visible.

Fortunately, the previous tenant had left a couple of cans of dog food, and as my wife enticed him with a piece of bread, I opened both for him, along with a big bowl of water. He ran up onto the porch without any prompting, being obviously used to people, and ate it all happily and drank most of the water. He seemed so happy to see us, and to be treated like a welcome guest. He sniffed us both and circled the house again, and then was off, following whatever scent he had picked up. I thought he was lost, or got separated from his owners, and was making his way back to them. He looked as if he had been on the road many days. I have read that lost dogs sometimes travel hundreds of miles to their old home.

We were happy to help him on his journey. My wife grew up on a farm and has an affinity with all creatures great and small. And ever since his appearance, my heart has had such a feeling of love and gratitude that I can hardly describe it.

I think it came from the yellow dog.

Even though we didn’t do anything extraordinary, this chance encounter, if chance it was, was a blessing for us. We had in a small way helped one of God’s creatures on his journey home, inshallah. There is an old Persian saying: “A guest is God’s friend.”

It may have come from this old Sufi tale:

There was a darvish who one day sought a guest from God. “O Lord of the World,” he said in his heart, “may a guest come from You tomorrow, so that I may treat him as befits one of Your friends.” The following day he made preparations for his guest. The darvish cleaned his small home and prepared a meal fit for a Friend of God.

As he was keeping a lookout in all directions while waiting outside for the guest to arrive, a thin and hungry mongrel dog wandered by and, smelling the food, begged for a morsel. The darvish chased him away, not out of meanness, but in his anxiety that nothing should spoil this occasion. And so he waited and waited, but despite all his expectations, no one came. He finally fell asleep in a heartbroken and agitated state.

“O self-absorbed one,” said God in a dream, “I sent along a dog as one of My own, so that you might make him your guest, but you heedlessly sent him away.”

Alhamdulillah! That the friend of the Friend was made welcome here, and our hearts were gladdened by his visit.

Ya Haqq!

NOTE: The Sufi tale is originally from Fariduddin Attar’s Mosibat-Nama (Book of Adversity), and can be found in Dogs from a Sufi Point of View by Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh. It is also told in a slightly different version, about Moses and the beggar, in the first chapter of Master of the Jinn, which you can read as an excerpt on the book’s website by clicking HERE.


King Solomon and the Jinn

July 13, 2006

And now listen, those that have ears, to a tale of Solomon the King. Yes, Solomon, the mightiest and wisest ruler of the earth that ever was or shall be. Wealthy beyond measure was Solomon, and with such wisdom as only Allah may bestow. And lo, he commanded the wind, and both men and Jinn, birds and animals. All were servants unto him. Yet he lost favor in the sight of God, for neither wealth nor power nor wisdom brought him enlightenment.

His true name was Jedidiah, the ‘friend of God’ but was
later made Shelomo, Solomon, the ‘King of Peace,’ because of the peace that prevailed during the greater part of his reign. And other names he had also: Ben, because he was the builder of the Temple; Jekeh because he was the ruler of the known world; and Ithiel, because God was with him.

It is written that at the time Solomon began the building of the Temple, Assaf, the Vizir of Solomon, complained that someone was stealing precious jewels from his rooms, and from other courtiers as well. Even the royal treasury was not immune. Now Assaf was also renowned for his wisdom and knew that no ordinary thief could have done these deeds. ‘Some evil spirit causes this mischief,’ he counseled the King.

Solomon then prayed fervently to God to deliver the wicked spirit into his hands for punishment. At once his prayer was answered. The archangel Michael appeared before the
King, and put into his hand the mightiest power that ever was or shall be in this world…a small, golden ring, inset with a seal of engraved stone.

And Michael said: ‘ Take this ring, O Solomon King, son of
David, the gift which the Lord God hath sent unto thee. Wear this ring, and all the demons of the earth, both male and female, thou wilt command.’

Now, many medieval sources claim that the pentalpha, or
pentacle, the ancient sign of sorcery, was engraved on the ring, because Solomon was said to have been a master of the magic arts. But the pentacle is older than Solomon,
first seen on pottery from Ur of the Chaldees, in ancient Babylon.

Other sources describe the ring as made of pure gold, set
with a single shamir stone; a diamond perhaps, or the same heavenly green shamir stone said to have been part of the Temple. The stone was cut and set in the form of an eight-rayed star. On it was engraved the hexagon seal, and within that the four letters of the ineffable name of God.

No stone was ever so renowned as the stone in the ring of Solomon. For with it the whole earth came under his sway. Only death was beyond his power to control. Yes, death is beyond all power, save the One. There is no remedy for death other than to look it constantly in the face. We who are born will die; we must submit. Even he who held the world under the seal of his ring is now only a mineral in the earth.

Armed with the ring, Solomon commanded the guilty spirit
to appear. He wore the ring on the mid-finger of the right hand, and pointed it at the foot of his high throne,
saying, ‘By the power of the seal of the one God, I command thee, troublesome spirit, to come forth.’

A roaring column of flame instantly appeared, reaching
nearly to the high ceiling of the throne room many cubits above, and just as quickly was gone. Whether the flame itself took shape, or merely preceded him, could not be seen, but where the flame had been, the demon stood, caught in his mischief; for he still clutched in his hands a great many jewels just stolen from the royal vaults.

So great was his surprise that he dropped the gems, which scattered like pebbles on the marble floor, and his red eyes darted back and forth like twin flames in that broad,
swarthy face. And wide wonder came into those terrible eyes that some power existed among mortal men that was greater than his will.

Twice the height of the King he was and more, greater even than Goliath that David slew, the King’s father. And of so dark and menacing a countenance was the demon that even Assaf the wise drew back in horror. Only Solomon stood firm, and a light shone before him.

Then the demon saw the face of the King, whose arm pointed toward him, and beheld the seal of the ring. The demon’s cruel, lidless eyes went wide, and he let out such a ghastly, howling shriek that the very stones of the palace trembled to their foundation. It was so horrible a sound that all the people of the kingdom who heard it covered their ears and cast themselves on the ground in fear. Oxen died of terror in the fields and birds fell from the sky, for it was like unto the cry of a soul newly plunged into the flames of hell.

But the power of God was within the ring, so that even the
demon was helpless. He fell to his knees and prostrated himself before the King.

‘Mercy, Master!’ cried the Jinni.

‘Name thyself, demon.’ commanded Solomon.

‘I am called Ornias, O Great King!’

‘Why hast thou done such mischief to my household? Speak truly!’

‘Hunger, Lord of the World! Hunger insatiable!’ And he
revealed himself as a vampire spirit, who with fangs harder than adamant pierces the gems of the earth to drink their light.

‘Why dost thou drink the light of earthly jewels?’ demanded
Assaf the Vizir, ‘It is a thing unheard of among the wise.’

But the Jinni was silent.

Speak the answer,’ said the King, ‘I command it.’

‘Thou knowest my answer, King of Wisdom,’ said the demon.

Then Solomon looked into his heart, for the forty-nine
gates of wisdom were open to him, as they had been to Moses. This derives from the belief that each word of the Torah has forty-nine meanings. And he discerned there the answer, and it amazed him, so that he looked on the creature before him with a new understanding and pity.

Know then the sorrow of the demon. For the gems
of the earth were born at the dawn of the world, created by the death of ancient forests buried beneath the weight of mountains. It was a time of upheaval when both Jinn and Angels were cast out and the world was broken. The light of the new sun was still in the green life of those forests as slowly they were transformed, crystallized
by the long years into the light that sparkles from the cut and polished jewels. And so Ornias the demon, denied the light of heaven, drinks the light of the first morning, feeding his sorrow and his loss.

And so, Solomon burned the seal into the neck of Ornias as a brand of his sovereignty, and the Jinni from that moment did his bidding, and was given the task of cutting stones for the building of the Temple.

And other of the Jinn who were causing mischief within the
realm were also commanded to come forth: Onoskelis, who had the shape and skin of a fair-hued woman; Asmodeus, who professed the Hebrew faith and was said to observe the Torah; Tephros, the demon of the Ashes, and after him a group of seven females spirits who declared themselves to be the thirty-six elements of the darkness; and Rabdos, a ravenous, hound-like spirit. All were branded with the seal of the ring.

Others there were also for another tale, but one more for
this: A demon having all the limbs of a man, but without a head. The demon said, ‘I am called Envy, for I delight in
devouring heads. But I hunger always, and desire YOUR HEAD NOW.’

The Master smiled. “Indeed, envy is the prison of the spirit,” he said.

Adapted from Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel


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