Κυριακή, 17 Φεβρουαρίου 2013

John Renard - The A to Z of Sufism


John Renard - The A to Z of Sufism
 The Scarecrow Press, Inc. Lanham • Toronto • Plymouth, UK 2009
Editor’s Foreword

Sufism, a term derived from the woolen garments of early ascetics, may not be the most exact expression to cover the mystical movements within Islam, but it is the best we have. And it would be hard to come up with another that is more precise, because the phenomenon itself has taken on such a variety of forms during the 1,200 or so years it has already existed. Under this heading come many different orders, established at many different times and in many different places, by many different spiritual directors. They did not always agree on all points—indeed, they occasionally quarreled and certainly rivaled one another—and this is still valid today. But their ultimate goals were the same, and they drew inspiration from the same holy Qur’an and the awesome figure of the Prophet Muhammad. It is this diversity that often confuses outsiders, and it is this diversity that makes a work of this sort so useful, since rather than trying to impose uniformity and order where none exist it can show the impressive variety of origins, structures and organizations, rules and creeds, and practices and concepts. It can also delve into the cultural wealth of art, music, dance, and literature.

This is facilitated by the format of a historical dictionary. First, the chronology traces the long and venerable list of spiritual directors, poets and philosophers, and also political leaders who created and enriched the movement. Then, the introduction, vital given the diversity, can bring the salient aspects together in a broad and ordered whole. But it is the dictionary that again allows a multitude of aspects, persons, places, events, institutions, and concepts to be considered individually. Since terminology is so important, and virtually all of it is in Arabic, Persian, and other languages unfamiliar to most English speakers, the glossary is particularly precious. For those who want to take the study of Sufism further, and there will be more and more with time, the bibliography points to other sources of information.

The A to Z of Sufism was written by John Renard, an eminent student and teacher of the subject. His doctoral dissertation dealt with the renowned Sufi Rumı, and since then he has written a dozen books, mostly on Islam and Sufism. Since 1978, he has been teaching at the Department of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University. 
He is well aware of the diversity and variety, and, if anything, appreciates it, and over the past quarter century of writing and teaching he has become accustomed to explaining the many twists and turns, the highways and also the byways, the theological and legal aspects, and the rich culture that has grown up around it. Since Dr. Renard deals not only with scholars and initiates but also students and outsiders, he knows how to present Sufism to a more general public as well. So let us take advantage.
Jon Woronoff Series Editor

SOUL.Ahuman faculty (generally referred to by the Arabic term nafs) whose status and function varies according to context. According to the Qur’a¯n, the nafs can function as an obstreperous ego (an-nafs alamma¯ra, the overweening soul) with its selfish and even downright evil designs that contend with spirit for the attentions of the heart. In that role, the soul stands as the prime enemy against which the seeker must struggle. 
It can also act as a moral compass, calling the individual to act justly; an-nafs al-lawwa¯ma, the blaming soul, is akin to conscience. There is also the tranquil soul, an-nafs almut ma’inna, representing a condition occurring in the presence of God. The various aspects of soul each suggest different features of the Sufi psychological analysis of spiritual experience.

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