MYSTICAL DIMENSIONS OF ISLAM – Book Sample
Foreword – MYSTICAL DIMENSIONS OF ISLAM
To write about Sufism, or Islamic mysticism, is an almost impossible task. At the first step, a wide mountain range appears before the eye—and the longer the seeker pursues the path, the more difficult it seems to reach any goal at all.
He may dwell in the rose gardens of Persian mystical poetry or try to reach the icy peaks of theosophic speculations; he may dwell in the lowlands of popular saint worship or drive his camel through the endless deserts of theoretical discourses about the nature of Sufism, of God, and of the world;
or he may be content to have an all-around glimpse of the landscape, enjoying the beauty of some of the highest peaks bathed in the sunlight of early morning, or colored by the violet haze of a cool evening. In any case, only the elect few will reach the farthest mountain on which the mythical bird, Simurgh, lives —to understand that they have reached only what was already in themselves.
Thus, to set out and delineate some main features of Sufism, both historically and phenomenologically, will yield no result that satisfies everybody: it is easy to overlook certain aspects and give too much weight to others. The amount of oriental and occidental literature existent in print and in manuscript is beyond counting, so that even from this viewpoint a full account is not to be achieved.
Yet, my students at Harvard have urged me to put together the notes that formed the basis of several courses on Sufism—notes that consist both of literary evidence and of personal experiences with numerous friends in the Islamic East, mainly in Turkey and in Pakistan. My thanks are due to all of those who have helped me—be it only by casual remarks—to formulate my ideas about Sufism and to those who took part in the growth of this book.
I wish to thank especially Dr. Charles Forman of Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts, who was kind enough to go through the manuscript to polish it from the linguistic standpoint and to suggest some simplifications. With special gratitude I acknowledge a generous subsidy from the Ozai-Durrani Funds, Harvard University, which was given in support of the exploration of Indo-Muslim culture contained in this book.
My mother has, during many years, and especially during the period of final typing, shown the virtues of patience and love, which are so typical of the true Sufi; she never failed to encourage me in my work.
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