Master of the Jinn, by Irving Karchmar, is an epic tale of self realization woven delicately through the intricate strands of religion. Though ultimately dealing with grand religious themes, the strong foundations of the fictional novel lie in the human experiences surrounding the main characters and their physical and spiritual journeys.
The book is set in modern day Jerusalem, where there is a circle of darvishes led by a renowned Sufi master. Among this learned spiritual group is a young man named Ishaq who is an apprentice of the Sufi Master. The spiritual journey begins when the Master is visited by an Israeli professor of archeology and an Israeli intelligence officer who has been having strange dreams after discovering a ring while on a sting operation in the desert. Professor Shlomeh Freeman, unable to divulge the secrets of the ring using science, and Captain Simach wanting to know the meanings of his visions, come to the Sufi Master to seek guidance. Upon examining the ring, the Master confirms that it is in fact the legendary ring of the Jewish Prophet-King, Solomon, who was able to control the fiery race of Jinn with it.
The book follows three Jews, three Muslims and a guide as they embark on a journey that transcends the grips of time, space and reality, and ultimately helps them to realize the universal magnanimity of God. And this is where the strength of Master of the Jinn lies – in portraying
the over-compassing power that God has on all human beings. Karchmar goes further and ties
the threads of traditional Judaic and Islamic theology together, an area that has been discussed
For all of The Master of the Jinn’s impressiveness, I could not help drawing similarities with the controversial Da Vinci Code. Although a more superior piece of literature than the Da Vinci Code, there are brief instances within the Master of the Jinn where one cannot help but draw plot and character similarities. However, Irving Karchmar puts forth a more respectful, contemplative tone in the Master of the Jinn, repeatedly reinforcing the idea that human knowledge is at the very best incomplete and should be constantly scrutinized and revised.
At last, a piece of literature by a Muslim writer that challenges readers to read between the lines and find their own special place among the characters. Master of the Jinn boasts vivid imagery boldly accented with turquoise, icy greens, blinding yellows, and fiery reds. Irving Karchmar has delicately pressed flowers of religion into the storyline, and perfumed it with religious, scientific and philosophical knowledge. Master of the Jinn is a must read for those who love fiction and non fiction and wondered when someone would combine the two in a tasteful manner.
- Salma Mohiuddin, Editor, The Western Muslim Magazine
Call him Ishaq. that is the name of the narrator in Irving Karchmar's debut Sufi novel, "Master of the Jinn," which has already been translated into two languages. The novel heralds the arrival of a
fresh literary voice to Islam and America. It also signals the revival of Sufism, such that in addition to associating Sufism with the long-dead such as Rumi and Hafiz, we may now find cogent expositors of the ways of the heart in our midst today.
The premise of the book is astounding. A Sufi master in Jerusalem, to whom Ishaq is an apprentice, is paid a visit by an Israeli archaeologist, his daughter, and an Israeli intelligence officer who has been having something akin to paranormal visions. The officer, Captain Simach, is convinced that his visions are, in fact, actual events. He seems to be suggesting that in a far flung mission to the Sahara, he has come across the ring of the Jewish Prophet-King, Solomon. The archaeologist, Dr. Freeman, is unable to solve the matter using his scientific methods, and brings it before his friend, the Sufi Master.
The Master confirms that the ring is real; that it is imbued with immense mystical powers; and that it must be salvaged. He asks the three Israelis, accompanied by three of his apprentices, to go after the ring, and in the quest they are to be led by a beggar, who is as mysterious as Khizr, and equally cryptic. Prior to their departure, it is revealed that Solomon's ring was given to him by God, to command the spirits of smokeless fire, the Jinn. This revelation casts a certain fright over the group. As the chosen go to the desert, visions, dreams and painful memories enter their heart. They become humanized and vulnerable. In addition, they suffer unearthly storms, nights that don't end, and temporal shifts. In the end they find themselves in a lost city and there the mystery of Solomon's ring begins to be revealed to them, setting up a resolution of this magical-mythical-Islamic-Jewish mystery of such subtlety that it left me smiling. It is plausible to suggest that Karchmar has actually managed to lay before us what all others have simply suggested: the intertwined threads of theology and faith that link Judaism and Islam.
For the mystics and the metaphysicians, this story is, through and through, a meditation on Love, the mercy of God, and spiritual discipline... The journey can be read allegorically, and many secrets meanings may be unearthed in later reads. Occasionally, Karchmar gives a hint of the matter being touched upon by dropping quotes from the poetry of innumerable Sufi poets. He also brings in quotations from Plato and the Psalms of David. These quotes were a favorite part of the experience.
However, in my opinion, this novel contains far more. I should like to posit that in an age where the primary association of Islam is with rage, Karchmar's novel is a conscious counterbalance to the Zarqawis and al-Sadrs of the world. It seems no accident that the novel is set in Jerusalem, or that the chosen is a former agent of the Mossad (that bugaboo that haunts radical Islam), or that the archaeologist is a holocaust survivor, or that the star of David is a part of the mystery. Karchmar seems to be using theology to open doors. Bin Laden's theology is one of banishment; Karchmar's one of balance. One is put down our throats by way of Kalishinkov's; Karchmar's dribbles onto our hearts like cool spilled ink. Sufis are irrelevant outsiders in Islam? Seems to me that Karchmar has made them central.
There is an added social component in the novel: the modernization of Sufism. At the beginning of the 20th century, Muhammad Iqbal wrote Asrar-e-Khudi (The Secrets of Selflessness), a Sufi love poem which argued that negation (fana'), the longstanding obsession of the mystic, had to be replaced with affirmation (khudi). Without it, Sufism would become irrelevant in the modern world. Karchmar has taken that theory and done something with it. I dare not reveal what. His dervishes eat; rejoice; dance in order to laugh; they laugh in order to affirm; and they drive Land Rovers. Yet his characters retain the characteristic humility, piety and likeability one associates with mystics.
I will go back again and again to hear Ishaq speak. At the moment my understanding of the adventure is of the zahir (external) components. I will read it again to find the batin (hidden). That assurance, that there is something beyond what we can't see with our eyes, has always been Sufism's calling card. In "The Master of the Jinn" that mystery is on every page.
Ali Eteraz review in Alt.Muslim online magazine
"Master of the Jinn is a captivating story told through the eyes of Ishaq, a scribe and faithful student to his Master on the Path. The story revolves around a journey that begins when Ishaq's modern-day Sufi Master sends seven companions on a quest for King Solomon's ring...said to control the Jinn, often described as terrifying demons of living fire. As the companions venture forward on their journey seeking the ring, they discover not only the truth of the Jinn, but each one learns many lessons about the Path of Love. The story combines elements of adventure, fantasy, and mysticism, along with profound teachings about the teacher-student relationship.
On one level, the plot develops the story of how the seven companions lives intersect to be called to the journey. The author weaves together the stories of their lives as seen through the eyes of the narrator, Ishaq, who brings his devotion to his Sufi Master and his vulnerable humanity together in a compelling story that will resonate deeply with any reader familiar with the Path of Love and will be compelling to readers interested in the Path of Sufism. The story not only has an action-packed plot, but weaves together hidden meanings along with traditional storytelling. The elements of fantasy and mysticism are also compelling and transform the story from simply a fantasy adventure to one of profound meanings and hidden messages about the Path of Love; the story also teaches about the demands and rewards to those who strive to follow the Path."
Mary Granick - SUFISM: An Inquiry Magazine (Vol. XII, No. 2), 2005
"Take a healthy dose of spiritual reflection, infuse some elements of fantasy, sprinkle in some extra-Biblical legends, and you might have something like Master of the Jinn...Yet Master of the Jinn is didactic without being preachy--a rare accomplishment--and its spiritual parables have something to offer Jew, Christian, and Muslim alike...If you are looking for a novel with both substance and a tale to tell, Master of the Jinn is worth your time."
Skylar Burris, Editor, Ancient Paths Christian Literary Magazine
"We found this book heartwarming...The author gives definition to Sufi terminology, and uses it to bring the reader into the experience. Rekindling the heart's remembrance for the glory of service to a master and God. Any faith can enjoy this book and benefit from the main character's journey."
Dave Bennett, Dharma-Talks.com
I found this book to be extremely well-written. The book captures the Sufi way of telling a story and managed to make me feel the emotions that the main character felt throughout the book. It is a superbly done story and is true to the tradition in which it was written... People do not have to know anything about the Sufi philosophy to enjoy this book about spiritual journeys. I would seriously recommend this book to anyone who enjoys philosophical writings, or spirituality.
Catchild - BookFetish.org
Comments, criticisms, praise, and great thoughts are always welcome.