Studies in Comparative Religion
The First English Journal on Traditional Studies - established 1963
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This is a translation into English blank verse of the great Sufi poet Ibn al-Farid's "Wine Ode" or "Wine-Song" (al-Khamriyyah). Translator Martin Lings renders what is perhaps Ibn al-Farid's most famous poem into a highly poetic English, though without rhyme. Lings sparingly adds some notes, which are very useful, to help modern readers understand the allegory of wine and mystical attraction to God, and the symbols often used in Sufi poetry.
The Wine-Song (al-Khamriyyah) of ‘Umar Ibn al-FaridLings, Martin Vol. 14, No. 3 and 4. ( Summer-Autumn, 1980) Islam
Sufi Answers to Questions on Ultimate RealityLings, Martin Vol. 13, No. 3 and 4. ( Summer-Autumn, 1979) Islam
Aspects of Islamic EsoterismStoddart, William Vol. 13, No. 3 and 4. ( Summer-Autumn, 1979) Islam
Muslim Religious Conservatism and Dissent in the USSRBennigsen, Alexandre Lemercier-Quelquejay, Chantal Vol. 13, No. 1 and 2. ( Winter-Spring, 1979) Islam
The Prayer of Ibn MashishBurckhardt, Titus Vol. 12, No. 1 and 2. ( Winter-Spring, 1978) Islam
Schuon examines at multiple levels the traditional Sufi ternary of Fear-Love-Knowledge as the three dimensions or stations of the Sufi path. They are viewed in universal terms, applicable to the human being in general, and as "vocational" tendencies for various spiritual temperments, and then as successive degrees in a seeker's spiritual development.
The Three Dimensions of SufismSchuon, Frithjof Vol. 10, No. 1. ( Winter, 1976) Islam
The message of Muhammad can be described in terms of two key elements: a Law of conduct which governs all Muslims, and a contemplative Path by which one achieves spiritual union with God. It is this Path which constitutes Sufism, the mystical dimension of Islam. Throughout the course of this introductory overview, Victor Danner discusses Sufism’s relationship to Islam as a whole, the function of the Sufi master, and the many attempts by Muslims and non-Muslims alike to marginalize its practice throughout the world.
Islamic MysticismDanner, Victor Vol. 10, No. 1. ( Winter, 1976) Islam
For centuries, the poems of Rūmī have remained one of the most influential forces within the Sufi tradition. The son of an accomplished Sufi practitioner, Rūmī became highly skilled in the fields of philsophy, Quaranic science, and the various exoteric sciences before taking an interest in Sufism himself. He became initiated into Sufism at the age of twenty-five and composed nearly sixty-thousand verses throughout the course of his lifetime. Seyyed Hossein Nasr explores several of the themes found throughout Rūmī's work and provides historical information regarding the life and the influence of this spiritual master.
Rumi and the Sufi TraditionNasr, Seyyed Hossein Vol. 8, No. 2. ( Spring, 1974) Islam
A Letter to Disciples in PrisonAustin, Ralph Vol. 8, No. 1. ( Winter, 1974) Islam
Schuon’s treatment of the Sunnah (“ways of acting, customs and examples of Muhammad…[which are] precedents [that] constitute the norm, at all levels, of Moslem life”) notes that the Sunnah “comprises several dimensions: physical, moral, social, spiritual, and others besides,” and then focuses upon an inner Sunnah. As is his custom, the author addresses all these dimensions and then turns special attention to those of the most elevated spiritual value. He shows that “the spiritual Sunnah, concerning the ‘remembrance of God’ (dhikr) and the principles of the ‘journey’… is very parsimonious as regards what is truly essential in it. Basically, it contains all the [prophetic] traditions referring to the relationship between God and man.…” Schuon notes that there is “another domain which must be rigorously distinguished from this spiritual Sunnah, although it may sometimes seem to overlap with it, and this is the moral Sunnah.” He helps the reader separate the two, which are often confused, and enables the reader to discover what is most universal and essential in the Sunnah of the Prophet of Islam.
Remarks on the SunnahSchuon, Frithjof Vol. 6, No. 4. ( Autumn, 1972) Islam
Music has a unique place among the traditional arts because unlike the visual arts, it lacks material form, thus enabling man to forget his earthly body and recall the original state of being which preceded it. The ability to forget one’s self is essential in order to perform traditional Persian music. Nasr analyses the various aspect of this music, showing how they each help to bring about a spiritual ascent that is characteristic of Sufi practice. He also relates performance of traditional music to the concept of the neverending “spiritual concert” to which the perfect gnostic is always listening.
The Influence of Sufism on Traditional Persian MusicNasr, Seyyed Hossein Vol. 6, No. 4. ( Autumn, 1972) Islam
A renowned scholar of Arabic and Sufism, Victor Danner, applies an historical and linguistic approach to illustrate various aspects of Sufism, the esoteric domain of Islam. The terms "Sufi" and its derivative, "Sufism," have for many years enticed scholars to offer a variety of opinions that, ultimately, tend to elucidate little other than one's powers of speculation. In this essay Danner sums up the research and tells a fascinating story of the development of the term and of Islamic mysticism. Danner's thesis centers around the point that the term "Sufi" came into use "because of the readaptation that the Islamic tradition had to make in view of a decline that threatened its spiritual bases." Thus, a return to the original interiorizing spirit of Islam was employed to neutralize centuries of exteriorizing ritual and dogma, and this through the return to the simple purity of the symbol of the wearing of wool ("suf" in Arabic).
The Necessity for the Rise of the Term SufiDanner, Victor Vol. 6, No. 2. ( Spring, 1972) Islam
Dr. Ralph (W.J.) Austin presents sixty-four selected sayings from the Hikam of the great Sufi shaykh Ibn ‘Atā’ Allāh al-Iskandarī (d. 1309). Austin himself has translated these sayings of spiritual counsel intended for the Shaykh's disciples. He comments that the Shaykh's Hikam "must rank among the finest works of spiritual counsel, not only in Islam, but in the world." The importance of Ibn ‘Atā’ Allāh's book is well known in Sufi studies, but it should have a general appeal because, as Austin writes, "the central theme of the Hikam is undoubtedly the continuous and all-pervading contemplation or consciousness of God." This is clear in the well-chosen verses translated and selected for this essay.
Counsels of a Sufi MasterAustin, Ralph Vol. 5, No. 4. ( Autumn, 1971) Islam
In this lecture Seyyed Hossein Nasr shows how Islam portrays man as both being of the very best stature and the very lowest of the low – a situation which demands that man is perennially, albeit often unconsciously, searching for his lost self. In normal traditional society the quest for one’s true self is contained and accommodated within that society in a revealed religion and the mystical path within it. Nasr traces the role of Sufism as one such mystical path that reunites man with his true self in any age and any place. Further, one who is able to realize the inner truths of religion as such may be able to understand other paths and religions profoundly, as long as one is able “to go from the phenomena to the noumena, from the form to the essence wherein resides the truths of all religions and where alone a religion can be really understood and accepted.”
Sufism and the Perennity of the Mystical QuestNasr, Seyyed Hossein Vol. 4, No. 4. ( Autumn, 1970) Islam
Seyyed Hossein Nasr explains the essential role of the sheikh in Sufism as it is illustrated in Persian literature. The sheikh is responsible for initiating his disciples into the spiritual world. By possessing a connection to the Divine, the sheikh has the means to direct a disciple on the Path to paradise. Nasr emphasizes the importance of discernment as a disciple seeks to be guided and initiated by a sheikh, as there is corruption and deceit among many who claim to have this spiritual power. Quoting numerous passages, particularly from Rumi, Nasr illustrates various aspects of the spiritual master as the door through which a sincere aspirant can access mysteries of the Divine.
The Sufi Master as Exemplified in Persian Sufi LiteratureNasr, Seyyed Hossein Vol. 4, No. 3. ( Summer, 1970) Islam
Book Review
In this review, The Book of the Book is dismissed as “a publisher’s gimmick” with its fifteen pages of print and 250 blank pages following. Idries Shah gives his new teachings on Sufism which are claimed to rid Sufism of the incorrect assumption that it is a practice based on magic, but this review suggests that because of Shah’s supposedly “bold insights” and “fascinating revelations” that this is exactly the way in which Sufism will be characterized. The reviewer notes that Shah’s writings may encourage some readers to undertake a search for true Sufism, but they encourage others to walk away from it as mere “hocus pocus”.
The Book of the BookShah, Idries *R.N.J.A, . Vol. 4, No. 3. ( Summer, 1970) Islam
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