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Book: Sufism: The Essentials

Sufism: The Essentials ( Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2000. New edition, 2003 ).

For more than a millennium, Sufism has been the core of the spiritual experience of countless Muslims. As the chief mystical tradition of Islam, it has helped to shape the history of Islamic societies.

Although it is the Sufi face of Islam that has often appealed to Westerners, Sufis and Sufism remain mysterious to many in the West, and are still widely misunderstood. In this new book a scholar with long experience of Sufism in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Europe succinctly presents the essentials of Sufism and shows how Sufis live and worship, and why.
As well as what Sufism is and where it comes from, the book discusses Sufi orders not only in the Islamic world but also in the West. The political, social, and economic significance of Sufism are outlined, and the question of how and why Sufism has become one of the more controversial aspects of contemporary Islamic religious life is addressed.
This book assumes no prior knowledge of the subject. It is a penetrating and concise introduction for everyone interested in Islam and Islamic societies.

USA $12.89 order
UK / Europe £10.95 order

ISBN 977 424 823 6

Table of contents

1. What is Sufism and where does it come from?
The origins of Sufism
Sufism as a practical program
Orthodoxy, exotericism, and esotericism
The first shaykh
Two great Sufi theorists
2. How to be a Sufi
Sufism and social class
Sufism and gender
The shaykh as exemplar
Range of participation
Essential practices
The majdhub
3. The orders
The archetypal Friend of God
The role of Sufism in the spread of Islam
The organization of an order
Some of the great orders and their shaykhs
Sufism in the West today
4. Friends, warriors, and merchants
Sufism and jihad
Sufism and commerce
Sufism and sociability
5. Whose orthodoxy?
From Ibn Taymiyya to the Wahhabis
Sufi 'renewers' of Islam
The impact of modernity
Sufism in partial eclipse
Some of the Hikam of Ibn 'Ata Allah



  • "A great introduction"  -- Nevine Ali in Cleo (Cairo)

  • "There is much good to be found in this pithy volume" -- David W. Damrel in Middle East and Southeast Asia Folklore Bulletin
  • "Ce précis, qui présente les ordres... avec un souci d’accessibilité, offre aussi des clefs de compréhension des autres grands mouvements de la pensée islamique"  -- Le Monde
  • "Un ouvrage pédagogique agréable à lire, nourri de la connaissance des textes soufis, de l’islam, et de l’expérience vécue par l’auteur dans les sociétés islamiques" -- Institut européen en sciences des religions
  • Un "excellent petit livre, simple, pédagogique" -- Lettre du S.R.I. (Organisme de la Conférence Episcopale Française)
  • "Una buona guida per i non specialisti che vogliono informarsi sulle componenti spirituali, culturali e sociali del fenomeno sufi ." G. Mucci, La Civilita' cattolica