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Irving Karchmar. Publisher: Bay Street Press , The women seated around me stared openly, their mouths gaping. His red hair had been turned nearly bronze by the sun, and he had brown eyes set deep into the angular planes of cheek and jawline. Another Joseph for some fortunate Zulaikha, as the old tale goes. Apparently, the women agreed.

A heart stopper, one of them whispered to another. The Master, however, seemed oblivious to the reaction of the women and turned to introduce the new arrivals. The darvishes 32 THE MASTER stood immediately, perhaps a bit suspicious at the seemingly contrived drama of their arrival, but acting at once with all courtesy, as the adab, the etiquette of the Path, required.

Chivalry began as a Sufi virtue, it is said. Chairs were ordered, but each of our guests chose to sit upon the grass with us. Both men took a glass, but the young woman declined. The Master ordered her served the coffee bought that morning, much to her surprise, and more tea was brought for the others and sweets for all. He was a large, clean-shaven man with closely cropped hair, over six feet tall and somewhat portly from the sedentary life of a scholar. The young woman was Rebecca, his daughter, perhaps twentyfive years of age.

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With her sharp features and large brown eyes, she might have been called beautiful, but the hard line of her mouth warned of an intractable nature. Ah, and the heart stopper, who introduced himself quietly as Aaron Simach, a friend and colleague of the Professor, could not disguise even from my untutored eye, the look and bearing of a soldier. Laila, one of the older darvishes, then entered carrying an ewer and basin, a white towel draped over one arm.

I remember her warm, dark eyes as she bowed before the Master and proceeded to pour water into the basin so that he could wash his hands. She then 33 Master of the Jinn repeated her bow and helped our three guests to also wash their hands. The Professor bowed formally in gratitude, his hand over his heart. And the young man and woman, who until then had been stiff and unsmiling, also appeared to relax somewhat at this gentle courtesy. The sweets were then passed, and we all sat silent and amazed while Professor Solomon Freeman and Shaykh Amir al-Haadi exchanged stories about their university days long ago.

No, I cannot tell of their younger years. Even as my pen strokes ink to paper, the bits of recollection fall away like leaves into a river, swept off as if by some swift current of telepathic waters. It is said that the Master's secrets keep themselves. I do not doubt it. Our guests responded, to their credit, by also rising and waiting. Then he stood and led them into the main room of the khaniqah as we followed. Over the Persian carpets that covered the floor, a long white sufreh had been set with plates and spoons and glasses already filled with water.


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Those chosen to serve that night were setting 34 THE MASTER down the dishes of the feast, many of which came from the garden we had just left; oranges and grapes, apricots and lemon slices, almonds, chick-peas and bread out of the oven. Also bowls of green parsley and cucumbers in yogurt, cold kabob, steaming lamb pilaf, and chicken in pomegranate sauce. A special sweet waited in the kitchen for dessert. We divide foods into sardi, cold, and garmi, hot, depending on the cooling or warming effects they have on the body. This distinction is an expression of their inherent attributes, not their temperature.

Since it was early summer and very warm, sardi dishes were served. The Master, as is our custom, was the first to be seated, and as always on formal occasions he sat on the white sheepskin rug of his station and rank; at his back a large, ornate pillow embroidered by his late wife with one of the ninety-nine names of God.

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Above him was set a plain kashkul and crossed axes, symbols of the order, with which the darvish chops away desire for this world with one, and hope of the next world with the other, so that only God remains. This is the heart of the Path.

The Master motioned for Professor Freeman to sit on his right and Mr. Simach on his left. He asked Rebecca to sit across from him. Rebecca, caught off guard by his graciousness, smiled self-consciously and blushed.

Master of the Jinn

His daughters giggled. When they were seated he turned his attention to the rest of us, who stood at place, waiting. Most he left where they were, a few he rearranged, then motioned for all to sit. I was placed on the right of Rebecca, Ali on her left, and Rami next to Ali.

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The Master does nothing without purpose, and many times will position us in ways meant to produce or balance certain energies; 35 Master of the Jinn young and old, male and female, or by levels of advancement. What his intention was in this arrangement I cannot say, although I believe the two cousins enjoyed being placed close to her, as did I. Perhaps it was that we three were the only unmarried men there, but she did exude a certain guarded sensuality from within the severity of her look and manner.

I felt it even though she had not spoken ten words all evening.

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The various dishes were passed first to the Master, who filled the plates of his guests before his own, then passed them around the sufreh until all were filled. No one had yet begun to eat.

The newcomers must have been instructed in the adab, for they also sat with folded hands and bowed heads. We say no formal grace, but consider food that is eaten without remembrance to be shared with the devil. It is also our custom that the Master begin and end each meal, but he eats little and so eats slowly that everyone may have their fill. I noticed Rebecca glancing at him, and she also ate sparingly.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched her strong hands hold bread and spoon. Soon all were finished except Professor Freeman. We usually eat in silence, but the Master had asked him a question at the beginning of the meal, pitching his voice so that no other could hear, and the answer, also unheard, was of such length that he had neglected the plate before him. The Master now nibbled a bit of bread until the Professor finished and put his spoon aside. We all stood at once, the Master rising and leading his guests and the darvishes out of the room and once more into the garden. Professor Freeman and Mr.

Simach walked out speaking quietly to each other, but Rebecca stood in the doorway for a moment, watching those selected to clean as they bent quickly to the task. First, the long white tablecloth was wiped and folded, foot by foot, then halved again until only a small square remained. He then kissed the sufreh as a sign of respect and submission, and finally stood and walked backwards through the doorway.

Also out of respect, our backs are never turned to the Master or his symbolic seat. Rebecca said nothing. She seemed quite taken by the ritual. I remembered finding it equally as charming the first time I witnessed it, but it would not be courteous to keep the Master or his guests waiting.

I gently touched her arm and led her into the garden. When all were seated, tea was served, and the special sweet, flaky and filled with almonds. The moon was lower in the sky, but could still be seen over the wall of the garden.

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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. Facts are few, and even those are open to much speculation.


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  • And yet, as Shaykh Haadi so often pointed out when I was his student, facts are distinguishable by their coldness, truth by its warmth. There are many tales of Solomon, and almost all are used to illustrate a moral. One story in particular, however, may warm you. He drew the star. It contains the six powers of motion; above, below, front, back, right, left. It contains the six directions; up, down, front, back, left, and right. It is said to be the perfect number because the days of creation were six. It contains the first even number, 2, and the first odd number, 3. And the interlocking triangles represent not only the masculine 38 THE MASTER and feminine duality of nature, but also the active intellect and the passive soul manifested from the one God.

    The product of their union is creation, and the harmony of the universe. Together they form the Seal of Solomon: The synthesis of all the elements, the tendencies of all forms, where all opposites come into union.