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Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam Paperback – 1993
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From Library Journal
Given the popular American misperception of Islam as monolithic and harsh, the timeliness of studies like Sacred Drift cannot be overstressed. Wilson presents a collection of well-researched essays on the heterodox beliefs and practices of Islam. The poet and historian, who is also a convert, is widely versed in Islamic history and spirituality. The first essay, which would be of interest to students of black American history, is an enlightening study of the life and work of Noble Drew Ali (1886-1929), an early founder of Black Islamic congregations. The four essays on spirituality, however, tend toward an ornamented style, and Wilson is sometimes strident in criticizing his ideological foes. Moreover, he presupposes a wide knowledge of Islam. This book will reward specialists in history and esoteric spirituality but will not appeal to casual readers. Recommended for academic libraries and large public libraries with interest in Islamic and black studies.
- James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, Va.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From the Back Cover
Peter Lamborn Wilson proposes a set of heresies, a culture of resistance, that dispels the false image of Islam as monolithic, puritan, and two-dimensional. Here is the story of the African-American noble Drew Ali, the founder of "Black Islam" in this country, and of the violent end of his struggle for "love, truth, peace, freedom, and justice". Another essay deals with Satan and "Satanism" in esoteric Islam; and another offers a scathing critique of "authority" and sexual misery in modern puritanist Islam. "The Anti-Caliph" evokes a hot mix of Ibn Arabi's tantric mysticism and the revolutionary teachings of the "Assassins". The title essay, "Sacred Drift", roves through the history and poetics of Sufi travel, from Ibn Khaldun to Rimbaud in Abyssinia to the situationists. A "romantic" view of Islam is taken to radical extremes; the exotic may not be "true", but it's certainly a relief from academic propaganda and the obscene banality of simulation.
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Top customer reviews
Peter Lamborn Wilson, often writing under the pseudonym `Hakim Bey' is a social theorist, essayist and poet, best known for first proposing the concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone (the `TAZ'), based on his historical review of pirate society. After studying at Columbia University, he traveled extensively in the mideast, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal whilst studying Tantra in West Bengal and visiting many Sufi shrines and masters. In 1971 he undertook extensive research on the Nimatullahi Sufi order funded by the Marsden Foundation of New York. During 1974 and 1975 he was consultant in London and Tehran for the World of Islam Festival and in 1974 became director of English language publications at the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy in Tehran, and was editor of Sophia Perennis, the academy's journal.
His writings include "The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry" and "Scandal: Essays in Islamic Heresy."
In "Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam" ("SDEMI"), Wilson demolishes Islam's image as monolithic, reactionary, fundamentalist, puritanical, and superficial, postulating a collection of heresies, heterodox subsects, cultures of resistance, reform and renewal that exist, and have since the beginning existed, within Islam's ambit.
The reader is presented with the fascinating story of "Black Islam" in this country: readers interested in African-American religion will especially enjoy the essay "Lost/Found Moorish Time Lines: In the Wilderness of North America." The author offers what may be the best essay to date on Noble Drew Ali (and of his assassination at the hands of American law enforcement, the violent reward for his struggle for "love, truth, peace, freedom, and justice"), the Moorish Science Temple of America and the Moorish Orthodox Church, along with newly acquired information on the relationship between Moorish Science, Elijah Muhammed (founder the Nation of Islam) and Freemasonry.
One superbly written essay deals with the place of "Iblis" (Satan) and the role of Satanism in esoteric Islam while another offers a scathing critique of the nature of authority and the place of sexual oppression and misery in modern puritanical Islam. The title essay, "Sacred Drift," beautifully elaborates the history of Sufi peripateticism from Kabir to Ibn Khaldun and beyond. This work takes on a romantic view of Islam and that view is taken to exotic extremes, but it offers a much-needed relief from the usual academic propaganda and the banality of most Western views of Islam as elaborated in the media.
The tone of SDEMI is scholarly with copious footnotes and references and a complete bibliography, but it is far from an overly-technical or laborious read: it is, rather, a pure pleasure and Lamborn's writing style engages the reader thoroughly.
SDEMI is a great book and a very important one - one of several by a truly towering intellect and almost peerlessly talented writer: Peter Lamborn Wilson will surely distinguish himself as one of the `beautiful minds' of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. SDEMI holds fast to the author's notion that it is the margins that mold the shape of the world.
From the mind of the philosopher Hakim Bey, this brilliant work. On the surface, a collection of essays on heresies of Islam, rebellious subcultures, from the Black Muslims to Sufism with a good bit of history from afar and near not commonly in history books. Under the surface...a jihad for a more powerful yet subtle Islam to reach the "West" but at the same time crack the foundations of the fanatics who are used to give it a bad name.
I'm paraphrasing a popular comedian as much as Hakim Bey. We make a sh-tty "Christian Nation" but we just might make a halfway decent "Liberal Muslim" nation.
Though just a collection of amusing reads speckled with interesting composite art and Rumic poetry, this book is ten times as subversive as "Steal this book!". I hope more people get it and that there is a second, updated printing...
As a note to anyone with a specific interest in African-American religious figures in U.S. history, the essay "Lost/Found Moorish Time Lines: In the Wilderness of North America", Wilson offers what may be the best essay to date in ANY publication, on the Noble Drew Ali and the Moorish Science Temple of America. Included is information about the relationship between the Moorish Science Temple, and Elijah Muhammed, who founded the Nation of Islam. Lots of NEW information in this essay alone, as with the others in this book...did you know about the connection between Islam, Masonry, Shriners, and Moorish Science? Wilson includes footnotes and references with his work, and there is a complete bibliography at the end of this volume.
The tone of this book is scholarly, it is by no means a sordid "tell all" work. You won't find proselytizing or propaganda in this volume. If you're tired of the same old repetitive drivel from the same old droning finger-wagging sources, give this book a read. I suspect you will appreciate the time you spend while journeying through its pages.
I picked this book up in a second hand bookstore on a whim. I have revisited it several times and continue to do so often. At first it appeared dark, mysterious, foreign, pointless. But as I continued to explore it became more and more obvious that the light of the Divine makes its way through these pages and this Divine light I swear is grinning like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland.
Islam is diverse, vast, deep and this book explores some of those areas in the remote regions of both the physical and the spiritual world with style and wit and just a bit of a knowing smile. Well worth the adventure.