The Repose of the Spirits: A Sufi Commentary on the Divine Names

SUNY Press
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Major new translation of a unique and important Persian treatise on divine names in the Islamic tradition.


The Repose of the Spirits is a translation of one of the earliest and most comprehensive treatises on Sufism in the Persian language. Written by Aḥmad Sam‘ānī, an expert in Islamic law from a famous Central Asian scholarly family in about the year 1135, it is one of the handful of early Sufi texts available in English and is by far the most accessible. It also may well be the longest and the most accurately translated. Ostensibly a commentary on the divine names, it avoids the abstract discourse of theological nitpicking and explains the human significance of the names with a delightful mix of Quranic verses and sayings of the Prophet and various past teachers, interspersed with original interpretations of the received wisdom. Unlike the usual books on the divine names (such as that of al-Ghazali), The Repose of the Spirits reminds the reader of the later poetical tradition, especially the work of Rumi. The prose is richly embroidered with imagery and interspersed with a great variety of Arabic and Persian poetry. What is especially remarkable is the manner in which the author speaks to his readers about their own personal situations, explaining why they are driven by a love affair with God, a God who is full of compassion and good humor, whether they know it or not. William C. Chittick’s masterful new translation brings this work to an English-language audience for the first time.


“This is a wonderful introduction to the particular style, imagery, terminology, and worldview of Sufism, as well as to the ways in which the Persian cultural milieu added important elements to the Arabic intellectual and spiritual tradition in Islam.” — Maria Massi Dakake, author of The Charismatic Community: Shi‘ite Identity in Early Islam

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About the author

William C. Chittick is SUNY Distinguished Professor at Stony Brook University, State University of New York. He is the author of several books, including Faith and Practice of Islam: Three Thirteenth Century Sufi Texts and The Self-Disclosure of God: Principles of Ibn al-‘Arabī’s Cosmology, both also published by SUNY Press.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
Oct 1, 2019
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Pages
708
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ISBN
9781438473352
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Islam / Sufi
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Between 1300 and 1500 C.E. a new form of Sufi Islam took hold among central Islamic peoples, joining individuals through widespread networks resembling today's prominent paths and orders. Understanding contemporary Sufism requires a sophisticated analysis of these formative years. Moving beyond a straight account of leaders and movements, Shahzad Bashir weaves a rich history around the depiction of bodily actions by Sufi masters and disciples, primarily in Sufi literature and Persian miniature paintings of the period.

Focusing on the Persianate societies of Iran and Central Asia, Bashir explores medieval Sufis' conception of the human body as the primary shuttle between interior (batin) and exterior (zahir) realities. Drawing on literary, historical, and anthropological approaches to corporeality, he studies representations of Sufi bodies in three personal and communal arenas: religious activity in the form of ritual, asceticism, rules of etiquette, and a universal hierarchy of saints; the deep imprint of Persian poetic paradigms on the articulation of love, desire, and gender; and the reputation of Sufi masters for working miracles, which empowered them in all domains of social activity.

Bashir's novel perspective illuminates complex relationships between body and soul, body and gender, body and society, and body and cosmos. It highlights love as an overarching, powerful emotion in the making of Sufi communities and situates the body as a critical concern in Sufi thought and practice. Bashir's work ultimately offers a new methodology for extracting historical information from religious narratives, especially those depicting extraordinary and miraculous events.

Women have traditionally played a vital part in Islam throughout Central Asia - the vast area from the Caspian Sea to Siberia. With this ground-breaking and original study, Razia Sultanova examines the experiences of Muslim women in the region and the ways in which religion has shaped their daily lives and continues to do so today. 'From Shamanism to Sufism' explores the fundamental interplay between religious belief and the cultural heritage of music and dance and is the first book to focus particularly on the role of women. Based on evidence derived from over fifteen years of field work, 'From Shamanism to Sufism' shows how women kept alive traditional Islamic religious culture in Central Asia, especially through Shamanism and Sufism, even under Soviet rule when all religion was banned. Nowhere was the role of women more important than in the Ferghana Valley in Uzbekistan, the cradle of female Islamic culture and a centre for women's poetry and music.
This area is home to the 'Otin-Oy', a sisterhood of religiously educated women and members of Sufi orders, who take a leading part in rituals, marking the pivotal moments in the Islamic calendar and maintaining religious practices through music and ritual dances. Sultanova shows how the practice of Islam in Uzbekistan has evolved over time: long underground, there was a religious resurgence at independence in 1991, boosting national Uzbek identity and nationalism - 500 new mosques were built - only to be followed by a return to persecution by a repressive state under the banner of the 'war against terror'. Now events have come full circle, and once again covert worship by women remains crucial to the survival of traditional Muslim culture. Ritual and music are at the heart of Central Asian and Islamic culture, not only at weddings and funerals but in all aspects of everyday life. Through her in-depth analysis of these facets of cultural life within Central Asian society, 'From Shamanism to Sufism' offers important insights into the lives of the societies in the region.
The role of women has often been neglected in studies of religious culture and this book fills an enormous gap, restoring women to their rightful historical and cultural context. It will be essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in the History or Religion of Central Asia or in Global Islam.
Inside A Lover's Heart There's Another World, And Yet Another

Rumi's masterpieces have inspired countless people throughout the centuries, and Coleman Barks's exquisite renderings of the thirteenth-century Persian mystic are widely considered the definitive versions for our time. Barks's translations capture the inward exploration and intensity that characterize Rumi's poetry, making this unique voice of mysticism and desire contemporary while remaining true to the original poems. In this volume readers will encounter the essence of Sufism's insights into the experience of divine love, wisdom, and the nature of both humanity and God.

While Barks's stamp on this collection is clear, it is Rumi's voice that leaps off these pages with a rapturous power that leaves readers breathless. These poems express our deepest yearning for the transcendent connection with the source of the divine: there are passionate outbursts about the torment of longing for the beloved and the sweet delight that comes from union; stories of sexual adventures and of loss; poems of love and fury, sadness and joy; and quiet truths about the beauty and variety of human emotion. For Rumi, soul and body and emotion are not separate but are rather part of the great mystery of mortal life, a riddle whose solution is love. Above all else, Rumi's poetry exposes us to the delight that comes from being fully alive, urging us always to put aside our fears and take the risk of discovering our core self:

No one knows what makes the soul wake up so happy! Maybe a dawn breeze has blown the veil from the face of God.

These fresh, original translations magnificently convey Rumi's insights into the human heart and its longings with his signature passion and daring, focusing on the ecstatic experience of the inseparability of human and divine love. The match between Rumi's sublime poetry and Coleman Barks's poetic art are unequaled, and here this artistic union is raised to new heights.

As the specter of religious extremism has become a fact of life today, the temptation is great to allow the evil actions and perspectives of a minority to represent an entire tradition. In the case of Islam, there has been much recent confusion in the Western world centered on distorted portrayals of its core values. Born of ignorance, such confusion feeds the very problem at hand.

In The Heart of Islam one of the great intellectual figures in Islamic history offers a timely presentation of the core spiritual and social values of Islam: peace, compassion, social justice, and respect for the other. Seizing this unique moment in history to reflect on the essence of his tradition, Seyyed Hossein Nasr seeks to "open a spiritual and intellectual space for mutual understanding." Exploring Islamic values in scripture, traditional sources, and history, he also shows their clear counterparts in the Jewish and Christian traditions, revealing the common ground of the Abrahamic faiths.

Nasr challenges members of the world's civilizations to stop demonizing others while identifying themselves with pure goodness and to turn instead to a deeper understanding of those shared values that can solve the acute problems facing humanity today. "Muslims must ask themselves what went wrong within their own societies," he writes, "but the West must also pose the same question about itself . . . whether we are Muslims, Jews, Christians, or even secularists, whether we live in the Islamic world or in the West, we are in need of meaning in our lives, of ethical norms to guide our actions, of a vision that would allow us to live at peace with each other and with the rest of God's creation." Such help, he believes, lies at the heart of every religion and can lead the followers of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) as well as other religious and spiritual traditions to a new future of mutual respect and common global purpose.

The Heart of Islam is a landmark presentation of enduring value that offers hope to humanity, and a compelling portrait of the beauty and appeal of the faith of 1.2 billion people.

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