The Book of Ascension to the Essential Truths of Sufism: (Mi’raj al-tashawwuf ila haqa’iq al-tasawwuf)
A Lexicon of Sufic Terminology
by Ibn Ajiba, Mohamed Fouad Aresmouk
(Translation by Michael Abdurrahman Fitzgerald)
Published by Fons Vitae
The Book of Ascension to the Essential Truths of Sufism is a lexicon of Sufic terminology compiled by the Moroccan scholar and mystic, Aḥmad ibn ‘Ajība. It was first begun around the time he entered the Darqawī Order at the hand of its founder, in 1208/1793, and then re-written twelve to thirteen years later after he himself had travelled the Path and became one of its teachers.
The final work, dated 1220/1806 contains 143 Sufic terms for which Ibn ‘Ajība gives succinct but profound definitions, usually including what the term means for someone at the beginning, middle, and end of the spiritual journey.
The main text is enriched by twenty more passages from other works by the same author as well as by the complete text of al-Mirʿāj in vowelled Arabic text, extensive notes, and indices of persons, terms, Quranic verses, and ḥadīth mentioned.
Each of the Islamic sciences has developed a specific terminology. The Book of Ascension to the Essential Truths of Sufism, appearing for the first time in an English translation, is a clear concise exposition of more than one hundred and forty technical terms developed by the practitioners of Sufism dating from the ninth and tenth centuries as defined by Aḥmad Ibn ‘Ajība, a well-known scholar and Sufi master of eighteenth century Morocco.
At a time when Sufi shrines in India and Pakistan are being targeted by suicide bombers and numerous present-day Muslims see Sufism as a sectarian development owing little to the authoritative sources of Islam the appearance of such a work is a major event.
This well-annotated and meticulously worded translation refocuses attention upon Sufism as an important oral tradition that resonates with and elucidates the Qur’ānic and prophetic narratives that comprise the long tradition of intellectual discourse within the Islam sciences.
The vowelled Arabic text is included at the end of the book making it relevant to the student of Arabic as well as those drawn to the domains of Islamic studies, human spirituality and psychology; Muslim and non-Muslim, the specialist and non-specialist alike.
This work is a necessary addition to any university level course dealing with Sufism and Islamic thought. — Dr. Kenneth Honerkamp, University of Georgia, Athens
This toweringly profound book by the great Moroccan shaykh known as Ibn Ajiba is in its deep simplicity one of the most trusty and practical roadmaps of the plethora now available to us in English.
With this accurately nuanced and crystalline translation - its footnotes for each word defined, its appendices spiritually enthralling(with ecstatic undercurrents)- we know we are safe in treading and self-correcting as we immerse ourselves in its text. And Allah is our Help and Guide. — Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, poet and author
Aḥmad Ibn ‘Ajība was a Moroccan Sufi teacher with a vision which far surpassed many of his contemporaries. Being of the Path himself, he felt a deep compassion for those in need of a little illumination and wrote the concise work known as Mi‘rāj al-tashawwuf ilā ḥaqā’iq al-taṣawwuf.
Since Ibn ‘Ajība was not the first one to be writing a glossary of essential Sufi terms, he benefitted immensely from the wisdom and experience of his notable predecessors while adding his own in producing this useful work. Hence, this is more than a lexicon; it is accumulated wisdom from the reservoir of experiences; it provides a nuanced understanding of the terminology essential for mapping one’s journey toward God-realization.
The present translation - the first in English - is completed by two practitioners and scholars who not only are adept in navigating the path of piety; they are also highly knowledgeable of Moroccan Islam and culture. M. F. Aresmouk and M. A. Fitzgerald - whose command of the languages involved in this work is evident from their lucid translation - have produced a scholarly work which is at once accessible and innovative. It will be useful to an advanced seeker and gripping for a novice.
The book includes a helpful introduction which contextualizes the work, the author and his motivations, and the historical background necessary for a better understanding of Sufism.
It will be indispensable in courses on Islam and comparative mysticism, and a “must read” for those interested in Sufism and/or Islam in the Maghreb. — Irfan A. Omar, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Islam and World Religions Marquette University
And, on Goodreads This is a very welcome translation for Sufi studies. The text itself is important for those who wish to understand the technical terms of Sufism. Personally, I find it more useful than many of the earlier texts of Sufism, such as the Risalah of al-Qushayri, which in the interest of providing many different sayings from different Sufi masters regarding specific Sufi terms sacrifices clarity. Ibn Ajibah’s book of Sufi terms is far more straightforward. It is even inspiring.
The translation is of remarkable quality, true to the Arabic, smooth English style, excellent choice for technical terms, etc. Fitzgerald has proven himself to be among the best translators of Sufi texts. Also see his translation of “The Immense Ocean: Al-Bahr al-Madid: A Thirteenth Century Quranic Commentary on the Chapters of the All-Merciful, the Event, and Iron” (Fons Vitae Quranic Commentaries Series), which is probably the best translation of a classical Sufi commentary into English (I would love to see him do the whole commentary).
In addition to the excellent rendering of this important Sufi text, the appendices to this volume provide an excellent teaching tool. They compare the definitions of technical terms from several different Sufi handbooks. This is a text upon which I myself will draw when teaching Sufism. — Joseph Lumbard, Assistant Professor of Classical Islam, Brandeis University