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The Other Islam: Sufism and the Road to Global Harmony [Kindle Edition]

Stephen Schwartz
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $11.99
Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

This eye-opening, insightful exploration of Sufism, the spiritual tradition that has supported Islam for more than a thousand years, shows why it offers a promising foundation for reconciliation between the Western and Muslim worlds.
Many Americans today identify Islam with maniacal hatred of the West. The Other Islam transforms this image and opens the way to finding common ground in our troubled times. Sufism, a blend of the mystical and rational tendencies within Islam, emerged soon after the revelation of Muhammad. A reforming movement against the increasing worldliness of Muslim society, it focuses on Islam’s spiritual dimension. Described as “Islam of the Heart,” Sufism has attracted adherents among both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, as well as Jews, Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists.
In The Other Islam, Stephen Schwartz traces the origins and history of Sufism, elucidates its teachings, and illustrates its links to the other religions. He comments on such celebrated Sufi poets and philosophers as Rumi and Al-Ghazali, and narrates their influence on the Kabbalah, on the descendants of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides, and on Christian mystics like Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Ávila as well as the American transcendentalists. 
Furthermore, Schwartz presents a fresh survey of Sufism in today’s Islamic world, anticipating an intellectual renaissance of the faith and alternatives to fundamentalism and tyranny in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Schwartz, a journalist and convert to Islam, offers Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, as an aid to the United States' efforts to fight extremism. He provides an incomparable history of Sufism, covering in one short book all the major Sufi saints, schools, and the persecution of Sufis by Wahhabis. Deeply anti-Wahhabi, Schwartz encourages U.S. policymakers to ally with Sufis to undermine the Wahhabi influence. Schwartz believes the Wahhabi philosophy, which is literal and extreme in its interpretation of the Islamic faith, to be the motivation behind Muslim terrorism, with Wahhabi Saudis providing the financing. Wahhabis abhor Sufis for centuries-old traditions they label as idolatrous. Schwartz critiques the Western media for inaccurately dismissing Wahhabi attacks on Sufis, including the insurgency in Iraq, as Sunni-Shia disputes. In reality, Schwartz argues, they are part of the centuries-long Wahhabi campaign to destroy Sufism and moderate Islam. Schwartz's opinion—that Sufis are the natural allies of the U.S. in the ongoing war on terror—is well presented and worth considering. (Sept. 16) ""
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."


Advance Praise for The Other Islam

Stephen Schwartz is internationally known as a serious student of Islam and its mysticism and as a special friend of the Bektashi Sufi order. The Other Islam is an important work that will, I sincerely hope, open the minds of non-Muslims as well as Muslims to the heritage and present reality of spiritual Islam. Let this book help spread the message and enlightenment of Hajji Bektash Veli throughout the world. —H.E. Hajji Dedebaba Reshat Bardhi, World Supreme Head of the Bektashi community

The Other Islam is more than an engaging introduction to Sufism in full. Stephen Schwartz has also sketched a suggestive roadmap for the kind of inter-religious dialogue that can move the world beyond the clash of civilizations to a mutually enriching encounter of noble religious traditions. Schwartz’s Sufi-inspired conviction that it is, finally, God’s world, not one in which nihilism married to distorted monotheism will have the final word, can and should be embraced by serious Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. —George S. Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center, and biographer of Pope John Paul II

The Other Islam presents a different side of the Muslim world and Islam, at a time when Islam is identified in the West with militancy, violence, radicalism, and terrorism. Stephen Schwartz gives readers a good picture of how we should look at Islam’s full spectrum of doctrines and interpretations, and understand that Jihad can be interpreted and implemented by peaceful and spiritual ways. His contribution to the understanding of the other dimensions of this worldwide religion and culture, especially now, is very significant. We should all wish for a greater role for the various Sufi orders in the socio-political culture of the Muslim world. —Reuven Paz, Director, Project for the Research of Islamist Movements (PRISM) of The Inte...

Product Details

  • File Size: 291 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony (September 16, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001EUTOX4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #752,221 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good Survey of Sufism in Islam January 4, 2009
By P. Nagy
Book reviews should be about what a book actually says, not what the reviewer wishes the book was about. Schwartz has written an illuminating survey of some modern trends in Sufism in the Balkans, central Asia and how it stands up to the notorious developments of radical Islam.
I have decided to update this review by appending a review by Gëzim Alpion
Illyria [New York], December 14, 2010. He is Lecturer in Sociology, Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham, UK, and his point-of-view fairly speaks to maligned minority Sufi and ethnic Islams that are so sorely attached by Islamicists and fundamentalistic trends well-financed by Saudi pertrodollars that pretend to speak for normative Islam.

It is apparent that Schwartz decided not to address trends in Sufism in the west that are non-Islamic and also not to bring up the so-called "Traditionalist" conceit of a universalist core of esoteric and elitist doctrines in all religions. Cliffu rankles on publicist hyperbole that The Other Islam is "an incomparable history of Sufism, covering in one short book all the major Sufi saints, schools." Because it does not mention Ahmad al-Alawi, of Algeria, whose life was handsomely chronicled in Martin Lings' classic, A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century: Shaikh Ahmad al-Alawi . I agree that al-Alawi was an interesting Sufi but Cliffu exaggerates his importance and the actual number of his followers.

Likewise by characterizing Sufism as "mostly about love and spiritual gnosis," Cliffu succumbs to normalizing western Traditionalist representations of Sufism as true Sufism. Schwartz at least allows for a wider scope to ethnic Sufisms than reducing it to elitist posturing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear-eyed and Informative April 2, 2010
By J-Mul
I find Stephen Schwartz's work compelling. He is a converted muslim sufi, yet he is clear-eyed and hard-headed in his criticisms of the Islamic world.

His earlier book, The Two Faces of Islam, came out less than a year after 9/11. It explained the bifurcation in the Islamic world between fundamentalists, particularly Wahhabists, and the manifold sufi sects. The Wahhabists and other fundamentalists are obsessed with combatting bida (innovation in Islam) and shirk (worshipping anyone or thing other than Allah). The sufi sects, who have intertwined their own cultures with Islam, and who explore the mysteries at the heart of all faiths, are regarded skeptically, even with hostility by fundamentalist sects.

The remarkable success of fundamentalists in expanding into foreign lands, largely aided by oil money, has put the sufi world on the defensive. This is a loss to the greater world, in that the sufi sects have much to offer re: faith and it's integration into the life of the individual and the community.

The Other Islam expands upon the message above with a survey of the sufi world.
The book is full of fascinating and informative stories of the principal sufi sects. Their histories and the roles they play currently in their respective countries are summarized. Moreover, Schwartz revisits the theme of aggression from the fundamentalists and how it plays out in the sufi world. There is no compunction among Wahhabists in employing violence to remedy what they see as unacceptable practices. This aggression is ongoing and virile in many nooks and crannies in the Balkans and elsewhere. This book is to be commended in highlighting such off-the-radar conflicts.
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26 of 37 people found the following review helpful
This book will have some value to people who know nothing about Sufism, and also for those who want to get some sense of what is happening in modern Sufism. But there are are better books out there for the former purpose, and for the latter, five minutes of googling will put you in touch with many book's worth of Sufi groups than you would have any idea existed if you relied on this book alone. This book seems especially weak in providing at least a minimally complete account of historical and modern Sufism, yet the publisher hypes this book as "an incomparable history of Sufism, covering in one short book all the major Sufi saints, schools." I don't think so. How could a book for which such grandiose claims be made completely omit any mention, for example, of the contemporary sheik, Ahmad al-Alawi, from Algeria, who died in 1934, and whose life is chronicled in Martin Lings' lovely book, A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century: Shaikh Ahmad al-Alawi (Golden Palm Series)? This particular Sufi master had hundreds of thousands of followers, and he spawned various Alawiyya tariqas whose followers trace their lineage back to him to this day? Anyone can find many other significant omissions by checking out this site: [...] or Professor Alan Godlas' very nice site: [...]

Another irritant in this book is the unending, vehement denunciation of Wahabi Islam. This highly literalist-fundamentalist form of Islam indeed has persecuted Sufis, and the Wahabis are indeed awful for various reasons, but does the reader have to be constantly reminded of this?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is more the author's personal experience through sufism with ...
This is more the author's personal experience through sufism with histories of some of the tariqa he had personally had contact with in the world as he seeks to preserve this jewel... Read more
Published 17 days ago by Christopher Serrone
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book
i did not know that Jewish Kabbalah borrowed from Islamic Sufism until i discovered this book... excellent reading. highly recommended.
Published 12 months ago by Rami Elias Cremesti
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Insight
As a long term member of several American Sufi Orders, one recognizes this text is an interesting compilation of history and facts stemming from an author who has first hand... Read more
Published on June 5, 2012 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A greatly Informative Read: Sufism and the Road To Global Harmony.
So very different!

So very instructive!

Simply a GREAT read...

One worthy of wider public distribution and personal attention.
Published on November 15, 2010 by Melvin L. Hollins
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a scholarly work, not even good journalism
I began reading this book with great expectations, but my hopes were quickly dashed. Halfway through, the book descends into rank and screed. Read more
Published on March 4, 2009 by Dan Boyd
4.0 out of 5 stars Sufism, and its histories
Does sufism exist? I was assured, years ago, by a known sufi that it doesn't, and that there are no sufis. Read more
Published on November 23, 2008 by John C. Landon
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