What is Sufism? (Islamic Texts Society), Essential Sufism, The Sufis, Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East Heart, Self, and Soul: The Sufi Psychology of Growth, Balance, and Harmony, Irshad: Wisdom of a Sufi Master (Ashki Book), The Name and the Named, The Hundred Tales of Wisdom: Life, Teachings and Miracles of Jalaludin Rumi from Aflaki's Munaqib, Tales of the Dervishes: Teaching Stories of the Sufi Masters over the Past Thousand Years (Compass), The Conference of the Birds (Penguin Classics), Delicious Laughter: Rambunctious Teaching Stories from the Mathnawi of Jelaluddin Rumi, Revelations of the Unseen (Futuh al-Ghaib), First Among Sufis: The Life and Thought of Rabia al-Adawiyya, the Woman Saint of Basra
What is Sufism;
Sufism is simply Islamic traditions of mysticism. The word Sufi, according to Greek etymologies, means 'wisdom,' while in Arabic, it symbolizes 'purity' of natural wool. Sufi wisdom is found when the mind is purified of all ideas, dogmatic beliefs, and burdens of conscience. The word Sufi means also, dressed in wool (Arabic) which may well express the importance of tradition in the ways of the Sufis which originally espoused the insight by the grace of Knowledge. Most of the present Sufi orders could be traced back to the eleventh century, and some reformist moves as far as the nineteenth. Even if Syrian mystics, were of vital importance to the move, illustrated in their adopted "doxology" of Asma'a Allah Elhosna (Beatific Names of the Almighty) from (The Divine Names), a treatise by Dionysius the Areopagite (6th century), origin of Sufism, have always been the inspiration of contemplative prayers, all down the ages.
Mystical roots of Sufism:
Sufism does not reflect the mainstream Bedouin culture of Islam, which claims it the religion of 'fetrah'or nature of primitive self. When Islam came into contact with Syriac and Egyptian cultures, and later Persian philosophy, it had to protect itself from the advanced Byzantine theology by adopting and modifying mystical monastic tradition.
The spiritual and Mystical tradition of Sufism was regarded as the preserve of ecstatic Islamic religio-meniacs and few Oriental scholars, treated Sufism as a minority cult. Sufism, as recently revealed to the Western intellect displays genuine spiritual and mystical tradition of some of the world's most original thinkers: AlGhazzali, AlSadi, alAttar, Ibn Arabi, Omar ElKhayyam, and Jalal al Din Rumi, whose masters are said to be Isaac of Nineveh, Ephraem the Syrian, and John Saba (the Spiritual Sheik).
The impact of Sufism;
The alleged development of Western mystical thought from the seventh century and its indebtedness to Sufism is overtoned if not debatable. A main source was the Syrian, Coptic and other mystical tradition, that Islam came in contact in the late seventh century, following Byzantine presence. In Iran, a similar Nestorian piety was the common denominator for Shiite mysticism. What is different in Islamic Sufism was its inclusion of different style parables and wisdom stories that are humorous and symbolic mental teasers! We must turn the stone over and examine its several allegorical sides.
Models of mystical Growth:
Mystical growth in Sufi traditions, follows different patterns and dynamics, not necessarily absolute, but share three common esoteric ways. Each order stresses one or two among them.
In the model of the heart, you grow by going deeper, by going inward (Desert Fathers mysticism). In the model of the self, you develop through cleansing and refining the personality, to achieve the pure self (Neoplatonism, evident in Enneads, by Plotinus), a state in which the barrier between the individual and the Divine vanishes (equivalent to Theosis). In the model of the soul, you balance the different aspects of the soul (the via media in many traditions).
Sufi way of Salvation:
It is not uncommon to find similar guide posts in earlier monastic ascetism and prescriptions common with the Desert fathers of Schetes and Thebes.
1.Al Tauba: repentance, conversion (change of thought: metanoia)
2.Al Sab're wal Shukr (Fortitude and Gratitude)
3.Al Khauwf wal Raja'a (Fear and Hope)
4.Al Faqru wal Zuhd (Poverty and self mortifying)
5.Al Tawheed wal Tawakul (Monotheism, of no god but God: and Trust in Allah)
6.Al mahabbah wal Reda (Love and Satisfaction) through yearning to Allah.
7.Al Murakabah, Muhasabah& Tafakur(Contemplation, Self Examination, Meditation)8.Sedk al Neyyah wal Ikhlas (Resolve in truthfulness and abiding sencerity)
Excerpts of Sufi Wisdom:
The miracle of life, existence: The true seed was made in Adam's time.
The miracle of growth, rescue, survival: It germinated in the period of Noah.
The miracle of spreading, sustaining and fellowship: By Abraham's epoch it developed branches.
The miracle of Yielding crop: The time of Moses saw the making of the fruit.
The miracle of tasting, enjoying: The days of Jesus; the ripening of the yield.
The miracle of reforming, attainment: Mohammed's era, pressing of clear wine.
(Al shaikh Al Bistami)
*'What is Sufism' is an introduction to the western mind pondering into Eastern mystical domain, by a long time Orientalist, who wrote many Islamic books, and eventually converted to Islam.
*'Essential Sufism' is a good approach by a Harvard scholar, to a living tradition. Sufi spiritual path and discipline through discourse, dialogue, story, scriptural commentary, prayer and mystical teachings in contemplative and active living, are explained to the Western mind.
*'Irshad', or instruction; by a Sufi master, addresses not only Sufis, but those who are attracted to the spiritual life and the truths which constitute the ultimate substance of the human soul.
*'The Sufis', in spite of the concern of many learned skeptics about the self promoted author Idries Shah, this is a pivotal introductory work which heralded the revelation of the Oriental richness and variety of Sufi thought and its contribution to human culture, reiterated in many of his books on the subject. He has assembled and interpreted in his books, both Sufi literature and practice, even if their transliteration render them in elliptical English. Both his: "The Sufis" and the 'Way' are entertaining, and Enlightening.
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