From Publishers Weekly
The Christian author of A Baptist Among the Jews
continues her walk through the Abrahamic religious traditions with this spiritual memoir of her introduction to and practice of Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam. Sufism in America is known to many through the poetry of Rumi, and Howe's experience reflects this; she quotes the popular poet frequently as she tells her own story, which begins with a retreat in Texas that introduced her to Sufism's prayers and rituals. Her narrative paints Sufism in lively action, including the whirling ecstatic dance known as sema
and the repetitive chanting prayer known as zhikr
. Howe says her Christian journey began at a point of "spiritual rigidity" but evolved to make room for ritual and mystery, which she found first in Judaism and subsequently in devotional Sufism. The insights and practices she has learned in these traditions that are related to Christianity serve to deepen and intensify her relationship with God. Those curious about the content, history or structure of Sufism and its many sects will need another book that more specifically addresses Sufi beliefs and practices. However, those seeking to affirm the universalism of core teachings of different religions, and those drawn to the mystical religious path, will welcome this small memoir. (Mar.)
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Equal-opportunity believer Howe thinks there are many truths. She regularly attends Christian services, observing the religion of her family and childhood, but she also attends prayer services at a local synagogue. Indeed, Judaism, which she fell in love with as an adult, is her religion of choice. Further complicating things, she has a Sufi spiritual teacher, who guides her into the deeper mysteries of faith. Her journey into Sufism began when, pursuing a degree in philosophy and anthropology, she took a class on Neoplatonism, with its belief in mystical union. Thereafter she attended a Sufi retreat in Austin, Texas; read about Sufism and its rituals; and grew to admire and respect its expansive nature and worldwide embrace. She finds no contradiction among her choices, feels no tension when new information challenges current beliefs. Rather, she sees her various expressions of spirituality as complementary. Howe's very personal spiritual memoir, a lovely read, is evidence that a lived spiritual pluralism, if not for everyone, can work, given an open mind and an open heart. June SawyersCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved