I have compiled this guide for two groups: the general reader wishing to do personal research on the subject, and the college undergraduate wishing to supplement his reading for a course on Sufism, Islam, or comparative mysticism. As such, it contains only works written in English. A bibliography for graduate level research would need to contain works in European languages such as French and German, as well as oriental languages such as Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. Overly technical works, as well as those on highly specialized topics, of interest to only a few scholars, have also been passed over.
Part I - Background and Intended Use
Sufism has been described in many different ways by scholars writing in English throughout this century, but they all agree on its essential character as being the inner, esoteric, mystical, or purely spiritual dimension of the religion of Islam. R. A. Nicholson in his little introduction to Sufism, The Mystics of Islam (1914), remarks: “Sufism, the religious philosophy of Islam, is described in the oldest extant definition as `the apprehension of divine realities’,” and although referring to it as “Islamic mysticism,” he still maintains the popular idea that Sufism was largely the product of diverse philosophical and spiritual influences, including Christian, Neoplatonic, and others. He further states that it is “a subject so vast and many-sided that several large volumes would be required to do it anything like justice”.
More than 35 years later his student, A.J. Arberry, in his brief introduction to the subject, Sufism (1950), similarly states that Sufism is “the name given to the mysticism of Islam” and “the mystical movement of an uncompromising Monotheism”. It was this author that first maintained that although Sufism was the recipient of many influences from Neoplatonic and other sources, that it was in essence derived from the Qur’an and Prophetic (Muhammadan) tradition, and attempted to view “the movement from within as an aspect of Islam, as though these other factors which certainly determined its growth did not exist”. This approach became generally accepted and was echoed by later scholars.
Martin Lings, writing in an article on Sufism in the 14th edition of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica (1968), defined Sufism as “the name by which Islamic mysticism came to be known in the 8th or 9th century A.D.” and stated: “It is only in secondary respects that there can be said to have been any development in Sufism, or for that matter in Islam as a whole, since the time of the Prophet”. Taking this idea one step further, he writes: “The influences on Sufism from outside have been enormously exaggerated. Probably the chief influence was Neoplatonism, but even this was confined mostly to terminology and to methods of doctrinal exposition”.
In something of a departure from previous definitions, Victor Danner, in his introduction to his translation of Ibn `Ata’illah’s Book of Wisdom (1978), writes: “When dealing with Sufism, it is best to leave to one side such terms as `mystic’ and `mysticism,’ if only because in the modern Western world such words nowadays often lead to confusion”. He prefers to identify it operatively and institutionally, as he does in his book The Islamic Tradition (1988):
Sufism is the spiritual Path (tariqah) of Islam and has been identified with it for well over a thousand years…It has been called `Islamic mysticism’ by Western scholars because of its resemblance to Christian and other forms of mysticism elsewhere. Unlike Christian mysticism, however, Sufism is a continuous historical and even institutionalized phenomenon in the Muslim world that has had millions of adherents down to the present day. Indeed, if we look over the Muslim world, there is hardly a region that does not have Sufi orders still functioning there.
Such is his estimation of the importance, within Islam, of Sufism that he says: “Sufism has influenced the spiritual life of the religion to an extraordinary degree; there is no important domain in the civilization of Islam that has remained unaffected by it”. It is in the spirit of the above quote by Victor Danner that I have compiled this annotated resource guide.
Concerning its intended use, I have compiled this guide for two groups: the general reader wishing to do personal research on the subject, and the college undergraduate wishing to supplement his reading for a course on Sufism, Islam, or comparative mysticism. As such, it contains only works written in English. A bibliography for graduate level research would need to contain works in European languages such as French and German, as well as oriental languages such as Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. Overly technical works, as well as those on highly specialized topics, of interest to only a few scholars, have also been passed over. This guide may be used to aid in collection development in a large public library, undergraduate university library, or small college library.
A word should be said on the organization of the bibliographical section. A number of organizational schemes might have been used. However, certain categories, useful for the new student of Sufism, naturally suggested themselves. Firstly, I have divided the material into primary and secondary works. Primary works are translations of those written by the Sufis themselves, including those of a scholarly or historical nature. Secondary works are those written by modern scholars. I have placed the secondary works first because it is by and large those that will form an introduction to the subject to the new reader, and which s/he may wish to look at first. Secondary works are subdivided into four broad types: general works, doctrinal works, studies of poetry, and studies of individual Sufis. Primary works are similarly subdivided into four broad categories: compendiums and manuals, doctrinal works and teachings, poetical works, and biographical works, including those by Sufis on other Sufis, and collections of letters. These categories are not mutually exclusive, (since among secondary sources, a general work may contain doctrine, and among primary sources, a compendium may contain doctrine and biography, etc.) but correspond to basic types, regarding format, style, and purpose. Furthermore, secondary works by modern scholars may well contain some, even a great deal of primary material. This will be indicated in the annotations, where appropriate.
Part II - Annotated Bibliography
A. Secondary Works: General
1. Arberry, A. J. Sufism: An Account of the Mystics of Islam. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1950.
Good, brief introduction by a leading scholar and translator, covering historical, doctrinal, organizational, and literary dimensions, containing many original translations of texts.
2. Danner, Victor. “The Necessity for the Rise of the Term Sufi,” Studies in Comparative Religion vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 71-77.
Fascinating account of developments in Islam which necessitated the rise and use of a separate term, “Sufi,” beginning in the 2nd century of Islam, to denote the category of spiritual adepts as distinct from other followers of the religion.
3. Danner, Victor. Ch. 4 “The Spiritual Path of Sufism,” pp. 84-109 in The Islamic Tradition. Amity, NY: Amity House, 1988.
Excellent chapter, touching on all the major aspects of Sufism, seen in the context of Islam as a whole, as well as that of other spiritual traditions.
4. Danner, Victor. “Islamic Mysticism,” Studies in Comparative Religion vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 25-37.
Good overview of the nature of Sufism and the character of the Sufis. Sufism’s relationship to Islam and other religions, its goals, beliefs, and practices.
5. Elwell-Sutton, L. P. “Sufism & Pseudo-Sufism,” Encounter vol. 44, no. 5, pp. 9-17.
Excellent article which seeks to make the important distinction between authentic Sufism and pseudo-Sufism, through an analysis of the teachings of the leading pseudo-Sufi writer Idries Shah.
6. Nicholson, Reynold A. The Mystics of Islam. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963.
A general, introductory work, covering the essentials of the spiritual path, the major Sufis, and their doctrines of knowledge and the spiritual states and stations of the wayfarer. First published in 1914, it is somewhat dated, but contains many good translations.
7. Padwick, Constance E. Muslim Devotions: A Study of Prayer Manuals in Common Use. London: SPCK, 1961.
Since the prayer manuals studied largely come from one or the other of the Sufi orders, this book comprises an interesting account of “popular” Sufism. Thematically arranged, covering subjects like praise, refuge-taking, stillness, calling down of blessing, penitence, and petition.
8. Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1975.
Excellent, thorough-going, and highly readable introduction to Sufism by one of the best-known scholars in the field. Contains a lot of historical material, as well as material on the spiritual path, doctrines, poetry, and the Sufi orders, incorporating many translations from the writings of the Sufis.
9. Trimingham, J. Spencer. The Sufi Orders of Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971.
Detailed account of the formation and development of the Sufi schools and orders (tariqahs) from the second century of Islam up until modern times. The best work of its type.
B. Secondary Works: Doctrine and Teachings
10. Chittick, William C. The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn al-`Arabi’s Metaphysics of Imagination. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989.
In-depth study of the doctrine of Ibn al-`Arabi (1165-1240), known as the “Shaikh al-Akbar”, the “Greatest Sheikh”, arranged by topic. This work is valuable for the translations from Ibn al-`Arabi’s works alone, which take up more than half the book.
11. Chodkiewicz, Michel. An Ocean Without Shore: Ibn Arabi, The Book, and the Law. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.
In this study, the author demonstrates that Ibn al-`Arabi (1165-1240), considered by some to be the greatest heretic in Islam and by others to be the greatest spiritual teacher, is indeed the most influential thinker in Islam in the last 700 years, and demonstrates that his writings are grounded in the Qur’an. An excellent introduction to this great figure.
12. Chodkiewicz, Michel. Seal of the Saints: Prophethood and Sainthood in the Doctrine of Ibn `Arabi. Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1993.
Fascinating study of the concepts of prophethood and sainthood in the work of Ibn al-`Arabi (1165-1240), themes central to his work and to Sufism in general.
13. Izutsu, Toshihiko. Sufism and Taoism: A Comparative Study of Key Philosophical Concepts. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.
A landmark in comparative religious studies. The first half of this book constitutes a masterful study of the philosophical side of the writings of Ibn al-`Arabi (1165-1240). This is followed by a similar section on the writings of the Taoist, Chuang Tzu. Two short chapters bring all the material together.
14. Valiuddin, Mir. Love of God: A Sufic Approach. Farnham, England: Sufi Publishing Company, 1972.
Poetically written treatment of the theme of Love of God in the writings of the great Sufis. Contains extracts of Sufi poetry, translated from many languages.
15. Valiuddin, Mir. The Quranic Sufism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1977.
The author ably demonstrates, through textual analysis, the Quranic roots and essentially Islamic nature of the practices and doctrines of Sufism. At the same time, this work serves as a useful introduction to the subject.
C. Secondary Works: Poetry
16. Chittick, William C. The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983.
Thematic study of the work of the Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273) the greatest of the Sufi poets, and probably the Sufi whose works are best known to contemporary readers. Contains extensive passages of Rumi’s poetry arranged by topic and linked together by commentary.
17. Schimmel, Annemarie. As Through a Veil: Mystical Poetry in Islam. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.
Historical and thematic study of the entire breadth of Sufi poetry written in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Indian languages.
D. Secondary Works: Studies of Individual Sufis
18. Abdel-Kader, Dr. Ali Hassan. The Life, Personality and Writings of Al-Junayd. London: Luzac & Company, 1976.
Excellent study of one of the leading figures in 9th century Baghdad, one of the most important early Sufi centers. The life, sources, personality, writings, and doctrine of al-Junayd (d. 910), as well as background material on the Sufi School of Baghdad. Contains a translation of his Rasa’il (letters).
19. Addas, Claude. The Quest for the Red Sulphur: The Life of Ibn `Arabi. Translated by Peter Kingsley. Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1993.
Unique chronological account of Ibn al-`Arabi’s life and travels, based on a detailed analysis of his writings, as well as a vast amount of secondary literature in Arabic and Persian. Brings to life his spiritual quest, and places his work within that context.
20. Cornell, Vincent. The Way of Abu Madyan. Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, forthcoming.
A long biographical section precedes what is essentially an annotated anthology of all the known writings of the illustrious and influential North African shaikh, Abu Madyan (1126-98), including his aphorisms and all his poetry.
21. Homerin, Th. Emil. From Arab Poet to Muslim Saint: Ibn al-Farid, His Verse, and His Shrine. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.
The only full-length study in English of the life and work of the greatest of the Arab Sufi poets, the Egyptian, Ibn al-Farid (1182-1235), known as the “Sultan of the Lovers”. Well researched, it contains material translated into English for the first time.
22. Khushaim, Dr. Ali Fahmi. Zarruq the Sufi: A Guide in the Way and a Leader to the Truth. Tripoli: General Company for Publication, 1976.
A biographical and critical study of the North African Sufi sheikh, Ahmad Zarruq (1442-1493), founder of one of the most important branches of the Shadhili Sufi order, itself the most important tariqah in North Africa. His life, influence, doctrine, and spiritual practice.
23. Lings, Martin. A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century: Shaikh Ahmad al-Alawi. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1971.
Superb mixture of biographical recollections, autobiography, analysis of the teachings of Shaikh al-Alawi (1869-1934), and translations from his doctrinal works and poetry. One of the best Sufi studies.
24. Massignon, Louis. The Passion of Al-Hallaj: Mystic and Martyr of Islam. 4 vols. Translated by Herbert Mason. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.
Monumental work on the life and teachings of Mansur al-Hallaj (d. 922), who was condemned to death by the religious authorities in Baghdad for his unrestrained ecstatic utterances. Copious background material on Sufism and Islam of the time make this work something of a mini-encyclopedia. Contains extensive translations of poetry. Volume 4 is an exhaustive bibliography and index.
25. Nicholson, Reynold A. Studies in Islamic Mysticism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967.
This work, first published in 1921, is composed of three separate studies of three of the most important of the early Sufis: the Persians Abu Sa`id (967-1049) and Al-Jili (1365-1406) and the Arab poet Ibn al-Farid (1182-1235). Contains valuable translations from works previously unavailable in English.
26. Smith, Margaret. Rabi’a the Mystic and Her Fellow Saints in Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1928.
Important study of the life and teachings of Rabi’a al-‘Adawiyya (717-801) and her fellow Sufis in Basra, one of the most important of the early Sufi centers. One of the only works on the role of women in Sufism.
E. Primary Works: Compendiums and Manuals
27. Hujwiri, Ali B. Uthman al-Jullabi al-. Kashf Al-Mahjub of Al Hujwiri: The Oldest Persian Treatise on Sufism. Translated by Reynold A. Nicholson. London: Luzac & Company, 1976.
This 11th century compendium is an excellent source book, which deals with all the major aspects of Sufism - its history and leading figures, doctrines, rules and principles of Sufi orders, and technical terminology - using the words of the early Sufis. The author attempts to reconcile Sufism with theology.
28. Ibn al-`Arabi, Muhyi ad-Din. Journey to the Lord of Power: A Sufi Manual on Retreat. Translated by Rabia Terri Harris. New York: Inner Traditions International, 1981
This manual of instruction on khalwah, or spiritual retreat, by the great spiritual master, Ibn al-`Arabi (1165-1240), provides unique insight into this important Sufi practice.
29. Kalibadhi, Abu Bakr al-. The Doctrine of the Sufis. Translated by A.J. Arberry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.
This 10th century work is a concise summarization of the major Sufi doctrines on such subjects as unity, the attributes and names of God, the Qur’an, vision, gnosis, faith, repentance, abstinence, patience, poverty, humility, fear, piety, sincerity, gratitude, trust, certainty, union, love, and much more, taken from the writings of the early Sufis.
30. Qushayri, Abd al-Karim ibn Hawazin al-. Principles of Sufism. Translated by B. R. Von Schlegell. Berkeley: Mizan Press, 1990.
Fine translation of the core chapters of al-Qushayri’s (986-1072) famous compendium of Sufi practice and knowledge, the Risalah. This selection translates all the chapters on the various “stations” of the Sufi path: repentance, fear, hope, contentment, trust in God, thankfulness, certainty, patience, sincerity, and 34 others.
31. Razi, Najm al-Din. The Path of God’s Bondsmen From Origin To Return. Translated by Hamid Algar. Delmar, NY: Caravan Books, 1980.
This excellent 13th century Persian compendium of Sufi belief and practice, is one of the most complete works of its type, dealing with subjects as diverse as the creation of the world and mankind, the function of the Prophets, the status of previous religions, the conditions and attributes of spiritual masters and their disciples, and the spiritual methods and doctrines of the Sufis. Each chapter begins with a quote from the Qur’an and from the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, demonstrating the essentially Islamic character of Sufism.
32. Suhrawardi, Shahb-Ud-Din Umar B. Muhammad. The `Awarif-Ul-Ma`arif. Translated by Lieut.-Col. H. Wilberforce Clarke. Lahore: Ashraf, 1979.
19th century translation of more than half of a manual on the Sufi path by Suhrawardi (1144-1234), the famous spiritual master and founder of the Suhrawardiyyah tariqah. Deals with all aspects of the spiritual way: the function of the shaikh, behavior, customs, and rules of the disciples, songs and dancing, attire, knowledge, mystical states, prayer, and many other subjects.
F. Primary Works: Doctrine and Teachings
33. Abd al-Kader, Amir. The Spiritual Writings of Amir Abd al-Kader. Edited by Michel Chodkiewicz. Translated by a team under the direction of James Christensen and Tom Manning. Albany: State University of New York Press, forthcoming 1995.
Short doctrinal treatises, which read like summarizations of the teachings of Ibn al-`Arabi, by the great Algerian amir and shaikh, Abd el-Kader (1807-1883).
34. Ghazzali, Abu Hamid Muhammad al-. The Book of Knowledge. Translated by Nabih Amin Faris. New Delhi: International Islamic Publishers, n.d.
The first book of al-Ghazzali’s (1058-1111) magnum opus, Revival of the Religious Sciences, is essentially a Sufi treatise on knowledge, its categories, properties, value, and means of acquisition.
35. Ghazzali, Abu Hamid Muhammad al-. Mishkat Al-Anwar (The Niche for Lights). Translated by W. H. T. Gairdner. Lahore: Ashraf, 1952.
Al-Ghazzali’s (1058-1111) famous esoteric treatise on the “Light Verse” of the Qur’an. Provides great insight into the Sufi doctrine of knowledge.
36. Ghazzali, Abu Hamid Muhammad al-. O Disciple. Translated by George H. Scherer. Beirut: Catholic Press, 1951.
Short work, in the form of an epistle, by al-Ghazzali (1058-1111) to a disciple, containing all the essential information needed by the novice on the spiritual path. An interesting glimpse into the master-disciple relationship.
37. Ghazzali, Ahmad. Sawanih: Inspirations from the World of Pure Spirits. Translated by Nasrollah Pourjavady. London: KPI, 1986.
Overshadowed by his illustrious brother Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali, Ahmad Ghazzali (d. 1126) was a great Sufi master in his own right. This work makes his most important work, a philosophical Persian treatise on mystical love, accessible to readers of English. Contains commentary and notes by the translator.
38. Ibn al-`Arabi, Muhyi ad-Din. The Bezels of Wisdom. Translated by R. W. J. Austin. Ramsey, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980.
Ibn al-`Arabi’s (1165-1240) famous work of prophetology. Allegorically represents the Prophets as dimensions of man’s inner being. Difficult but rewarding.
39. Ibn al-`Arabi, Muhyi ad-Din. What the Seeker Needs. Translated by Shaikh Tosun Bayrak al- Jerrahi and Rabia Terri Harris al-Jerrahi. Putney, VT: Threshold Books, 1992.
Three short treatises by the great master. The first is an important essay on the essentials necessary for the spiritual aspirant to embark on the path, the second is a discourse on the divine unity, and the third is an analysis of the polar dimensions of Divine Majesty and Beauty. Contains an excellent glossary of Sufi technical terms.
40. Ibn `Ata’Illah. The Book of Wisdom. Translated by Victor Danner. Ramsey, NJ: Paulist Press, 1978.
A collection of spiritual aphorisms by the important shaikh of the Shadhili Order, Ibn `Ata’Illah (d. 1309), which is one of the most widely read Sufi works, down to this day. Spiritual teachings are expressed in terse, poetic formulations, whose meanings deepen with reflection.
41. Ibn `Ata’Illah. The Key of Salvation and the Lamp of Souls. Translated by Mary Ann K. Danner. Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, forthcoming.
A concise and comprehensive exposition of the Sufi method of recollection (dhikr). The first work wholly on this subject, it incorporates many citations from the Qur’an, hadiths (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad), and the early Sufis.
42. Jami, Nur-Ud-Din Abd-Ur-Rahman. Lawa’ih: A Treatise on Sufism. Translated by E. H. Whinfield. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1978.
A short treatise on divine reality, knowledge, and the spiritual states and stations, by the celebrated Persian poet Jami (1414-1492), in a mixture of prose and verse. The author was an influential member of the Naqshbandiyyah Order, which still exists today.
43. Jilani, Abd al-Qadir. Revelations of the Unseen. Translated by Muhtar Holland. Houston: Al-Baz Publishing, 1992.
44. Jilani, Abd al-Qadir. The Sublime Revelation. Translated by Muhtar Holland. Houston: Al-Baz Publishing, 1992.
45. Jilani, Abd al-Qadir. Utterances of Shaikh Abd al-Qadir Jilani. Translated by Muhtar Holland. Houston: Al-Baz Publishing, 1992.
Superb translations of three collections of discourses given by the illustrious shaikh from Baghdad, Abd al-Qadir Jilani (1077-1166). The talks cover a wide range of topics of interest to the spiritual seeker. These volumes convey, better than most works, the flavor of the spiritual education found in Sufism.
46. Rumi, Jalal ad-Din. Signs of the Unseen: The Discourses of Jalaluddin Rumi. Translated by W. M. Thackston. Putney, VT: Threshold Books, 1994.
New translation of Rumi’s (1207-1273) discourses, previously translated by Arberry. Rumi is known as the greatest of the Sufi poets. This work brings out a largely unknown side of the poet in his role as spiritual teacher.
47. Smith Margaret. Readings from the Mystics of Islam. London: Luzac and Company, 1972.
Selected translations from Arabic and Persian of mostly doctrinal Sufi writings from the 8th to 19th centuries. An excellent introduction to Sufi Literature. Contains biographical notes on each writer.
G. Primary Works: Poetry
48. Attar, Farid ad-Din. Conference of the Birds. Translated by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis. London: Penguin Books, 1984.
Attar’s (c. 1120-c. 1220) epic poem tells of a conference attended by all types of birds, who pose a series of questions to their leader, the hoopoe. The stories he tells in reply are allegories for the spiritual quest and its pitfalls.
49. Attar, Farid ad-Din. The Ilahi-Nama: or, Book of God of Farid al-Din Attar. Translated by John Andrew Boyle. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1976.
This epic poem symbolically describes the spiritual journey of the Sufis in terms of the heavenly journey of the Prophet Muhammad, a story which was well known to all Muslims at the time.
50. Ibn al-`Arabi, Muhyi ad-Din. The Tarjuman Al-Ashwaq: A Collection of Mystical Odes. Translated by Reynold A. Nicholson. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1978.
A highly regarded collection of mystical love poems by the great master of Sufi doctrine, Ibn al-`Arabi. The difficult imagery is rendered intelligible by the author’s own commentary.
51. Ibn al-Farid. The Mystical Poems of Ibn al-Farid. Translated by A. J. Arberry. Dublin: Emery Walker, 1956.
52. Ibn al-Farid. The Poem of the Way. Translated by A. J. Arberry. London: Emery Walker, 1952.
Two volumes of poems by the Egyptian poet Ibn al-Farid (1182-1235), called the “sultan of the lovers”. Considered the greatest Sufi poet writing in Arabic.
53. Rumi, Jalal ad-Din. Mystical Poems of Rumi. Translated by A. J. Arberry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.
54. Rumi, Jalal ad-Din. Mystical Poems of Rumi: Second Selection, Poems 201-400. Translated by A. J. Arberry. Boulder: Westview Press, 1979.
These two volumes contain 200 poems each, carefully selected from the various works by Rumi, universally acknowledged as the greatest Persian poet, and translated, by a master translator. Gives a better sense, than any other collection of Rumi’s poems, of the scope and breadth of his themes and literary styles.
55. Rumi, Jalal ad-Din. The Mathnawi of Jalalu’ddin Rumi. 6 vols. Translated by Reynold A. Nicholson. London: Gibb Memorial Trust, 1926.
Volumes 2, 4, and 6 provide the complete translation (vols. 1, 3, and 5 being commentary and notes) of Rumi’s (1207-1273) epic poem and undisputed masterpiece. One of the great works of world literature.
56. Wilson, Peter Lamborn and Nasrollah Pourjavady. The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry. Grand Rapids, MI: Phanes Press, 1987.
Tastefully selected poems from the classical Persian Sufi poets, including Rumi, Attar, Ahmad Ghazzali, Abu Sa`id Abul Khayr, Hafiz, Sana’i, and others. Includes brief, but helpful, commentary.
H. Primary Works: Biography and Letters
57. Attar, Farid ad-Din. Muslim Saints and Mystics: Episodes From the Tadhkirat al-Auliya (Memorial of the Saints). Translated by A. J. Arberry. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966.
Inspirational stories from the lives of the earliest Sufis by the great 13th century Persian Sufi poet, Farid ad-Din Attar. The most famous work of its type.
58. Darqawi, Mulay al-`Arabi ad-. The Darqawi Way: Letters from the Shaykh to the Fuqara. Translated by Aisha Abd ar-Rahman at-Tarjumana. Norwich: Diwan Press, 1979.
59. Darqawi, Mulay al-`Arabi ad-. Letters of a Sufi Master. Translated by Titus Burckhardt. London: Perennial Books, 1973.
The first of these titles is a complete translation of the letters of the influential Sufi shaikh, Mulay al-`Arabi ad-Darqawi (d. 1823), founder of the Darqawi branch of the Shadhili order. Provides unique insights into the day-to-day aspects of the Sufi way, but is somewhat marred by a mediocre translation. The second title provides a much clearer translation of several short excerpts from the letters.
60. El Eflaki, Shemsu-d-Din Ahmed. Legends of the Sufis: Selected Anecdotes from the Work Entitled the Acts of the Adepts. Translated by James W. Redhouse. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1976.
Flavorful anecdotes from the lives of Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273) and other Sufis associated with him, written by a disciple of his grandson.
61. Ghazzali, Abu Hamid Muhammad al-. The Faith and Practice of Al-Ghazali. Translated by W. Montgomery Watt. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1953.
The bulk of this translation is a highly personal, autobiographical work by the great jurist, theologian, and Sufi master, al-Ghazzali (1058-1111), which tells of his travels in pursuit of truth, taking him from skepticism regarding his pursuit of philosophy and theology to his embracing of the Sufi way. Includes another short work on the practices necessary for the spiritual aspirant.
62. Ibn Abbad of Ronda. Letters on the Sufi Path. Translated by John Renard. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1986.
Letters of instruction, written to his disciples, by the Shadhili master Ibn Abbad (1332-1390), who lived in Ronda in Muslim Spain. They cover a wide variety of subjects, including spiritual companionship, sins and vices to be avoided by the seeker, patience and resignation towards trials, spiritual states, the role of books and the role of the spiritual guide, and many other matters.
63. Ibn al-`Arabi, Muhyi ad-Din. Sufis of Andalusia: The Ruh al-quds and al-Durrat al-fakhirah of Ibn `Arabi. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1971.
In this fascinating compilation from two collections of biographical sketches, Ibn al-`Arabi tells of the many spiritual masters he met on his travels through Muslim Spain in the 12th and 13th centuries.
64. Ibn al-Sabbagh, Muhammad ibn Abi al-Qasim. The Mystical Teachings of Al-Shadhili: Including His Life, Prayers, Letters, and Followers. Translated by Elmer H. Douglas. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.
A complete translation of this famous work on the life and teachings of the influential Sufi master, Abu’l-Hasan al-Shadhili (1196-1258), compiled within a century after his death. Gathers together all known material on the shaikh, his life, prayers, discourses, and letters. The Shadhili Order, which he founded, is one of the most important Sufi orders, down to this day.
65. Munavvar, Muhammad ibn al-. The secrets of God’s Mystical Oneness, or, The Spiritual Stations of Abu Sa`id. Translated by John O’Kane. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1992.
This work on the early Persian Sufi, Abu Sacid ibn Abu’l-Khayr (967-1049), written by his great-great-grandson, is one of the most comprehensive and engaging biographies in the annals of Sufism. His life and teachings are vividly captured, conveying an authentic portrait of early Sufism.
Copyright 1997 Paul Yachnes