I tiptoed into Lizette’s darkened bedroom, my mother’s room, one more chamber where she wrote and slept and wept away day after day of sorrow. I opened the bottom drawer of the dresser and pulled out one of her sweaters. It was wine-red, not black like the short-sleeved crepe shift I was wearing. That’s when I saw them: three slim, little leather-bound volumes, their gold-printed covers worn ragged, their pages nearly transparent. They were old and musty, but as I held them up to my face, I smelled the faint scent of my mother’s perfume . . . just as the sweater had her smell upon it. I thrust my arms into the scratchy wine-dark sleeves of the sweater, tucked the three books under its ample folds, and transported them to my room where I slid them into one of the drawers of my nightstand.
The books would go with me to Geneva, then to France, then to Ireland, from one school to the next, until they would be forgotten somewhere in the long succession of moves. By then I would know them, not by the content, which was dull, but by a few curious entries and my mother’s penciled notes in the margins. Of these the most provocative were a few passages on the Djinn, from the Arabic junna, meaning angry or possessed. Some of the text was complex, full of fragments from the Qur´an* and other mystical references. They spoke of the Djinn as creatures of smoke and fire that preceded humans in creation but who were without material form, though they could assume a shape or identity if desired. These were the first beings, creatures of great power, uninhibited by physical constraints and invested with vast energies, sentience and ferocity. Like humans, they possessed free will. Among the choices they were allowed to make was whether or not to serve mankind. Some agreed; others did not, and some, fascinated by humankind, found ways to dominate, succor or suppress us.
Next to one of the passages, Lizette had penciled what read like a poem. Her handwriting was shaky, the spidery letters so hard to read: Human or Djinn? One is love, the other life. I choose love. I am forsaken. The passage next to which my mother had written these lines explained the six major tribes of Djinn: the Jinn (this is where the term, genie, comes from; they chose to serve); the Jann; the Marid; the Shaitan (non-servers, enemies, in fact, and the tribe that gives us the serpent, Satan); the Ifrit; and finally, that stalker of the necropolis, ghost of the graveyard, irreverent and decidedly unsubservient low-life lover of the dead, the Ghul .
—DEAD LOVE/Chapter 8.3/Ghul-ish Thoughts
*Allah Almighty says: “And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans, except they should worship Me (Alone).” (Adh-Dhariyat: 56)