Sunday, May 7, 2006

Sufism A Beginner Guide

Sufism A Beginner Guide Cover

Book: Sufism A Beginner Guide by William Chittick

Sufism, although specific to Islam, is in reality the unifying meaning beneath all of God's religions. Chittick's introduction is a great survey of the Sufi way of looking at reality especially since he takes the perspective of the great masters and mostly lets them tell us what Sufism is all about. Translations of Rumi and Ibn 'Arabi and some lesser know masters such as Sam'ani are included. I found reading these translations very enjoyable. I also found the bibliography very helpful since it lists some excellent sources for further study of Sufism. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested to learn about Sufism's reality, as it was known traditionally rather than the modern misconceptions of it.

Sufism is often regarded as the mystical branch of Islam, but to Sufis it has always been considered the heart of Islam. In this brief but dense introduction, one of the foremost scholars on Sufism opens up the tradition of the Sufis themselves. While many introductions to Sufism reveal only the "intoxicated" Sufism of paradoxical parables and poets drunken with love for God, Sufism is also balanced by a sober side. William Chittick presents both sides, touching on the major beliefs and practices of Sufis through the ages. What distinguishes Chittick's work is that he draws directly from his vast knowledge of original Sufi writings. He introduces us to Arabic terms, which if merely translated into English would mislead the reader. Instead, he describes the nuances of a few key terms that deliver the reader beyond our usual understanding and into the minds and hearts of Sufi mystics, philosophers, and theologians. Chittick's writing can be difficult, tossing off words like "supererogatory" and "deracinated," but a patient reading will reward you with an understanding of the subtlety and dynamism that Sufism brings to the Islamic tradition.

A fascinating, lucid and illuminating book full of memorable quotes and images. A profound journey into the heart of Islam and a rewarding read. Merits repeated study and reflection. Contains a concise, but penetrating and constructive comparison of Ibn Arabi and Rumi leading to a deeper understanding of both. The opening chapter on the three fundamental aspects of religion: action, mind and heart, corresponding to islam, iman and ihsan, is itself worth the purchase of the book and provides an essential key to understanding and appreciating the nature of Sufism. The final chapter on the paradox and symbolism of the veil is a revelation. A book to be savoured, both educational and inspirational.

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Sufism A Beginner Guide

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