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What is Sufism? (Islamic Texts Society) Paperback – December 1, 1999
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"The mood of Sufism is conveyed ... with a clarity that is rare, even unique ... done in a responsible, non-proselytizing manner." -- Review of Books and Religion
'The discussion of Sufi aims, psychology, doctrine and method is original (many previously untranslated texts are cited), sensitive and readable. The mood of Sufism is conveyed here with a clarity that is rare, even unique, yet it is done in a responsible, non-proselytizing manner.' -- Review of Books and Religion
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As Dr. Lings shows--and he later converted to Islam as Dr. Abu Bakr Siraj ud Deen--Sufism is an integral part of Islam; a part which has always been accepted as the heart of Islam. As a famous Sufi [Islamic saint who has reached the highest spiritual station] once said, "Shariat is the body and tariqat [another name for Sufism] is the soul".
This book looks at the origins of Sufism, its historical development, its branching into various brotherhoods, its importance in Islamic history as well as the various aspects of sufi methodology and worship. Most importantly, this book puts Sufism where it belongs: at the heart of Islam and it shows that Sufism is not, as some have argued, extraneous to the Islamic belief. In other words, though it has some similarities with other mystical aspects of other religions, it is totally a product of Islam and it's orthodox teachings. There is no such thing as a non-Muslim Sufi.
This book is thus a superb introduction to the inner-mystical--aspects of Islamic worship and the best one i've seen so far in English for the beginner. Highly recommended.
The Reviewer's comments below were totaly misleading and show complete ignorance of Islam. There are authentic hadiths that make references to the higher states for example. Sufism is a very islamic concept that was recognized by al 4 of the great imams(3 of which me mentioned) Shafi, Malik, Ahmad, Hanafi. Sufism was also recognized as valid by ibn Tamiyaa himself. ibn Tamiyaa was a shayk in the Qadiri tariqat. Shayk Ghazzali was not credited with being the "founder of Sufism." He however standardized and made it popular with his tremendous influence. There is absoutely no proof that he changed any of his ideas. At the end of his life he moved to Palestine and totaly put aside public life.He made no writings or speechs at all then. There are many mystical stories from the region today about his last years there. Also Islam DOES recognize sainthood. Even ibn Tamiyaa recognized it. ibn Tamiyaa was a contraversial scholar and labelled heretical by mainstream sunni islam. This critic's views reflect that of the Wahabi fundementalists who dumb down religion and show extreme intolerence to others.
I would not recommend this book over, say Arberry, Schimmel, or Idries Shah -- but I would recommend it over books by Ernst, Harvey, or Sedgewick.
As is stated, “Sufism today is a name without a reality that was once a reality without a name." It is simply the esoteric, the inner kernel of Islam. The problem with creating names/ideas around the idea of "Sufism" is that it immediately polarizes and creates divisions. That is not the intent of original sufi's, who were simply the mystics (including Muhammad عليه السلام, Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib and others who are well quoted in making very "Sufi" statements about union, oneness of being, etc.) well before there was ever a name associated with their devotional philosophies.
This book does a beautiful job of keeping the reality of Sufism firmly anchored in the lineage of Islam, maintaining the importance of exoteric Islamic practices, all while exploring different thoughts, ideas and figures of its deeply meaningful history.