The Sufis is one of the best known books on Sufism by the writer Idries Shah. First published in with an introduction by Robert Graves , it introduced Sufi ideas to the West in a format acceptable to non-specialists at a time when the study of Sufism had largely become the reserve of Orientalists. Shortly before he died, Shah stated that his books form a complete course that could fulfil the function he had fulfilled while alive. As such, The Sufis can be read as part of a whole course of study. Eschewing a purely academic approach, Shah gave an overview of Sufi concepts, with potted biographies of some of the most important Sufis over the ages, including Rumi and Ibn al-Arabi , while simultaneously presenting the reader with Sufi teaching materials, such as traditional stories or the jokes from the Mullah Nasrudin corpus. The book also gave details of previously unsuspected Sufic influences on Western culture.
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The Sufis is one of the best known books on Sufism by the writer Idries Shah. First published in with an introduction by Robert Graves , it introduced Sufi ideas to the West in a format acceptable to non-specialists at a time when the study of Sufism had largely become the reserve of Orientalists.
Shortly before he died, Shah stated that his books form a complete course that could fulfil the function he had fulfilled while alive. As such, The Sufis can be read as part of a whole course of study. Eschewing a purely academic approach, Shah gave an overview of Sufi concepts, with potted biographies of some of the most important Sufis over the ages, including Rumi and Ibn al-Arabi , while simultaneously presenting the reader with Sufi teaching materials, such as traditional stories or the jokes from the Mullah Nasrudin corpus.
The book also gave details of previously unsuspected Sufic influences on Western culture. According to Shah, the Freemasons , Cervantes , Western chivalry , alchemy and Saint Francis of Assisi , amongst others, were all influenced directly or indirectly by Sufis and Sufi ideas, often as a result of contact between East and West in the Middle Ages in places such as Spain or Sicily.
The book had a powerful impact on many thinkers and artists when it appeared, including the Nobel Prize winning author Doris Lessing , the poet Ted Hughes , and the writers Geoffrey Grigson  and J. She went on to call it "a seminal book of the century, even a watershed. Richard Smoley and Jay Kinney , writing in Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions , pronounced The Sufis an "extremely readable and wide-ranging introduction to Sufism", adding that "Shah's own slant is evident throughout, and some historical assertions are debatable none are footnoted , but no other book is as successful as this one in provoking interest in Sufism for the general reader.
Richard C. Munn, reviewing the book in the Journal of the American Oriental Society , concluded that "One cannot approach this book either in the role of scholar or in the role of seeker nut , for the author has cleverly blocked both these 'postural' approaches, much in the same way, one suspects, as a Sufi shaikh would. If the Sufi essence is untranslatable into book form, it naturally remains so, but Idries Shah, by 'playing' with the reader, and 'scattering' his points of information, has perhaps given the reader an inkling of Sufi 'experience'.
New paperback and ebook editions of the work were published that year by the newly-formed ISF Publishing, in association with The Idries Shah Foundation , to coincide with that event. Part of a wider initiative, The Idries Shah Foundation had begun to make available new paperback and ebook editions of Shah's many books in English, along with translations into other Western languages, and also into Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Turkish.
Explaining the historical, rich and diverse background of the tolerant Sufi tradition, the authors suggest that the material in Shah's book provides a useful and most-timely counterpoint and antidote to such extremism in the East; to consumerism in the West; and to intolerance, dogmatism and closed thinking, which they and Shah see as material, mental and emotional "prisons". In an article in The Guardian , Jason Webster is also of the opinion that the Sufi Way, as it is known, is a natural antidote to fanaticism.
Salinger and Geoffrey Grigson. The poet Ted Hughes also described it as "astonishing" and wrote that "The Sufis must be the biggest society of sensible men on Earth. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The Sufis First edition US. New York, NY: Bantam. The Guardian. Retrieved 23 October The Washington Post.
Retrieved 28 November January—March Journal of the American Oriental Society. American Oriental Society. Al Jazeera. Retrieved 6 October The Idries Shah Foundation.
Sufism: ‘a natural antidote to fanaticism’
Idries Shah's definitive work, The Sufis , completely overturned Western misconceptions of Sufism, revealing a great spiritual and psychological tradition encompassing many of the world's greatest thinkers: Rumi, Omar Khayyam, Ibn El-Arabi, Al-Ghazzali, Saadi, Attar, Francis of Assisi and many others. The astonishing impact of Sufism on the development of Western civilizatio. The astonishing impact of Sufism on the development of Western civilization from the seventh century is traced through the work of Roger Bacon, John of the Cross, Raymond Lully, Chaucer and others. Many of the greatest traditions, ideas and discoveries of the West are traced to the teachings and writings of Sufi masters working centuries ago. But The Sufis is far more than an historical account. In the tradition of the great Sufi classics, the deeper appeal of this remarkable book is in its ability to function as an active instrument of instruction, in a way that is so clearly relevant to our time and culture. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Now, the Idries Shah Foundation is bringing out new editions in English and commissioning translations of his work into Persian, Arabic and Urdu — the very cultures where much of his material originated. So what is Sufism? Though dictionaries usually define it as the mystical current in Islam, Sufis themselves will tell you that it is an ancient organisation that has embraced free thinkers and people concerned with human development from many cultures throughout history. People from all walks of life — including poets, scientists and politicians — have been Sufis. From the outset, Sufism has been concerned with building bridges, not least between communities whose contact can be of mutual benefit. Though there had been previous studies of Sufism in western languages, they had taken a largely academic approach. Shah, who died in , broke new ground by explaining it in a more accessible way, often employing psychological terminology to do so.
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