- Series: University of Pennsylvania Publications in Conduct and Communication
- Hardcover: 200 pages
- Publisher: Univ of Pennsylvania Pr (January 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812231651
- ISBN-13: 978-0812231656
- Package Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,898,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Spiritual Discourse: Learning With an Islamic Master (University of Pennsylvania Publications in Conduct and Communication) Hardcover – January, 1993
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A previous reviewer was disappointed with this book as I was too but for entirely different reasons. First of all I certainly would not say that the Sheikh this book is about is one of the most famous Sufi Sheikhs in the United States I would doubt that he is even known outside of his small circle (Which is probably a great pity) However this book is far less a biography of the Sheikh but rather a book about lessons the author took with the Sheikh in Sufism.
My main complaints with this book are that for one the author seems to get far too bogged down with flowery language, over technical linguistic terms, odd analogies and basically using half a page to explain something that could be told in about 3 lines. There are a number of books written in English about Sufi Sheikhs which fall into this category often giving the impression that the author is simply trying to make Sufism appear something of an elitist club rather than an interpretation of a world religion.
While it may be an attempt to appeal to the university educated class in the west or to try and adapt Sufism to an almost elitist clique it just doesnt meet the form of what Sufism actually is in well, Muslim majority countries.
The second problem with the book is its sometimes muddles understanding of Islam and history. For example the author says that the names of the 1st 4 Caliphs of Sunni Islam are often found on the corners of Qurans! That aside from Ali none of the 4 Caliphs have a Sufi chain descending back to them (The Naqshbandi order goes back to Abu Bakr, the Bektashi order also has a chain that goes back to Abu Bakr!) She seems to have this idea that the 2 largest Sufi orders in the Ottoman empire were the Mevlevi and Bektashi (Possibly miss-read from the level of Rumi books currently in the west in particular in the US) She also has this idea that there is Sunni Islam, Sufi Islam and Shi'ism, well its not quite clear here if she equates Sufism with Shia Islam its all very muddled. She seems to think that the Ottoman Empire were (Being Sunni Muslims) Were somehow opposed to Sufism (Nothing could be further from the truth) and this was the reason for the destruction of Bektashi tekkes in Turkey (Is she not aware that Ottoman Sultans and their families were Bektashi?)
The book itself at least for the first couple of chapters is laborious to read and I quickly found myself brushing through pages avoiding where she goes off onto various tangents that dont really have much relevance to Sufism. The discussions however between her and the Sheikh are quite fascinating and give remarkable insight into Sufi teachings and the relationship between teacher and pupil. The book is filled with Turkish dialect (Which a non Turkish speaker may begin to find tiresome even if there is a translation below) And someone not particularly acquainted with Sufism may find the whole thing confusing.
All in all I would say this is a fine effort at bringing the discourse between Sheikh and student to a wider audience I only wish that she had researched Sufisms general history first and avoided trying to make the book sound like a lesson in psychology. For these reasons I give the book 4 stars.
Author Frances Trix was for many years a student of Baba Rexheb, and this book promised to be an inside look at the teachings and methods of a modern spiritual master. Unfortunately, the man and his teachings remain largely a mystery as Trix instead focuses on the phenomenology of the interaction between student and teacher. We thus find Trix going to great lengths in order to state the obvious, such as that Rexheb sometimes expressed himself with facial expressions or gestures rather than via the spoken word! Time and again, Trix narrowly focuses on the minutiae of a particular teaching moment, describing everyday verbal and gestural patterns as if they point to something profound or revealing. The effect is like those old Cotton Dockers commercials where we see the pants up-close, we hear various witty comments from a "bull" session, but we don't know who those people are, we never see their faces, and we ultimately don't give a rip one way or the other.
This is the kind of book that gives scholarship a bad name - dry and pedantic, unable to see the forest for the trees, and draining the life out of a topic which had shown so much promise. My only hope is that someday, unencumbered by the need to prove her academic bona fides, Trix will write the book that she should have written already, and that Baba Rexheb and his teachings will come alive for those who were not fortunate enough to know him.