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Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam¿s Mystical Tradition


The headlines are filled with the politics of Islam, but there is another side to the world's fastest-growing religion. Sufism is the poetry and mysticism of Islam. This mystical movement from the early ninth century rejects worship motivated by the desire for heavenly reward or the fear of punishment, insisting rather on the love of God as the only valid form of adoration. Sufism has made significant contributions to Islamic civilization in music and philosophy, dance and literature. The Sufi poet Rumi is the ...

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The Garden of Truth: Knowledge, Love, and Action

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The headlines are filled with the politics of Islam, but there is another side to the world's fastest-growing religion. Sufism is the poetry and mysticism of Islam. This mystical movement from the early ninth century rejects worship motivated by the desire for heavenly reward or the fear of punishment, insisting rather on the love of God as the only valid form of adoration. Sufism has made significant contributions to Islamic civilization in music and philosophy, dance and literature. The Sufi poet Rumi is the bestselling poet in America. But in recent centuries Sufism has been a target for some extremist Islamic movements as well as many modernists. The Garden of Truth presents the beliefs and vision of the mystical heart of Islam, along with a history of Sufi saints and schools of thought.

In a world threatened by religious wars, depleting natural resources, a crumbling ecosystem, and alienation and isolation, what has happened to our humanity? Who are we and what are we doing here? The Sufi path offers a journey toward truth, to a knowledge that transcends our mundane concerns, selfish desires, and fears. In Sufism we find a wisdom that brings peace and a relationship with God that nurtures the best in us and in others.

Noted scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr helps you learn the secret wisdom tradition of Islam and enter what the ancient mystics call the "garden of truth." Here, liberate your mind, experience peace, discover your purpose, fall in love with the Divine, and find your true, best self.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Despite the popularity of Sufism, few books provide an overview of this mystical branch of Islam- a void Nasr, professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University, fills nicely, albeit briefly, with this concise primer. Sufism teaches that all aspects of life-from nature to other people-are signs of God, and yet the grandeur of God is beyond human comprehension. The goal of each Sufi is to take an inner journey to transcend the human state, "to illuminate the dark corners of our soul" and reconnect with the inner divinity implanted by God at creation. Nasr's book is not a how-to introduction on removing the "veils" erected by imperfection, which manifest as evil and block our divine roots, but a wise and tantalizing overview. He also includes a detailed and rare history of the Sufi movement and a brief catalogue of the various Sufi orders. Although readers with no prior background in Sufism may struggle with this rather dense intellectual study of the movement, it provides valuable information about the often overlooked philosophical underpinnings of Sufism along with obscure details that will be fascinating to more advanced practitioners. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

This volume continues the prolific intellectual output of Nasr (Islamic studies, George Washington Univ.; The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity), one of Islam's most respected thinkers. The Sufi mystical heart of Islam is one of the few antidotes to fundamentalism in the Muslim world, and here Nasr looks at the human spiritual quest for Ridwan-the paradisiacal divine garden-from an orthodox Sufi perspective. Life is a journey from the heavenly primordial covenant through a physical experience to the pinnacle of choosing to become nothing and to experience God as the only true existence. To reach the truth, the disciple must follow divine law and walk a spiritual path guided by a master. While non-Muslims may borrow Sufi ideas, truly being a Sufi requires that one also be a Muslim. Nasr structures the journey to Ridwan in terms of what it means to be human, the nature of truth in essence and manifestation, love, beauty, goodness, the disciple's path, and what Sufism offers. He ends with a history and description of various Sufi orders and a glossary of terms. Eloquent, elegant, and lucid, this work should be on the shelves of university, public, and religious libraries.
—William P. Collins

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060797225
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/18/2007
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,244,754
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Seyyed Hossein Nasr is university professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University. Author of over fifty books, Professor Nasr is a well-known and highly respected intellectual figure both in the West and in the Islamic world. Born in Tehran, raised from the age of twelve in the United States, and a graduate of MIT and Harvard University, Nasr is well qualified to explain Islam to a Western audience. He appears frequently on Meet the Press, as well as other national news shows.

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Read an Excerpt

The Garden of Truth
The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam’s Mystical Tradition

Chapter One

The Unavoidable Question

Wherever we are and in whatever time we happen to live, we cannot avoid asking the basic questions of who we are, where we came from, what we are doing here, and where we are going. In everyone's life, especially when one is young, these basic questions arise in the mind, often with force, and demand answers from us. Many simply push them aside or remain satisfied with established answers provided by others in their family or community. In traditional societies such answers always came from the teachings of religion, and to a great extent they still do for the majority ofpeople in many parts of the world. But there have always been and still are today the few who take the question "who am I?" seriously and existentially and who are not satisfied with answers provided by others. Rather, they seek to find the answers by themselves, trying with their whole being to delve into the inner meaning of religion and wisdom. They continue until they reach the goal and receive a response that provides for them certitude and removes from them the clouds of doubt. In any case, how we choose to live in this world—how we act and think and how we develop the latent possibilities within us—depends totally on the answer we provide for ourselves to this basic question of who we are, for human beings live and act for the most part according to the image they have of themselves.

Sufism addresses the few who yearn for an answer on the deepest level to the question of who they are and in a manner that would touch and transform theirwhole being. The Sufi path is the means within the Islamic tradition of finding the ultimate answer to this basic question and of discovering our real identity. Throughout the ages religions have sought to teach us who we are and through their inner teachings to provide the means of"becoming" our True Self. Islam is certainly no exception. It unveils the complete doctrine of our true nature and also the nature of the levels of reality issuing from the One, who alone is ultimately Real, and provides teachings that, if put into practice, lead us back to the One through a path of spiritual effort combined with joy and felicity. The Quran asserts majestically, "Verily we come from God and to Him is our returning"(2:156). The One is of course that Supreme Source and End of all things whom Abraham, Moses, and Christ addressed as the One God and whom the Quran calls by His Name in Arabic, Allah.

It is no accident that the Sacred Law of Islam is called the Shari'ah, which means road. It is a road that all Muslims are obliged to travel if they are to die in a blessed state. For most, however, the journey on this road is limited to the plane of action, the performance of good acts, and faith in the reality of God. Few wish to take a step further to discover the ultimate nature of who they are and carry self-knowledge to its end. Sufism, which is the inner or esoteric dimension of Islam, while beginning with the Shari'ah as the basis of the religious life, seeks to take a further step toward that Truth (Haqiqah), which is also the source of the Shari'ah. Sufism, which is also called the Tariqah, or the spiritual path, is the divinely ordained means of providing an answer to that ultimate question and leading us to the Truth or Haqiqah contained within that answer. The Shari'ah is the circumference of a circle whose radii are the Turuq (plural of Tariqah) and whose Center is the Haqiqah or Truth, that is, the Source of both the Law and Way as well as the Center for one who begins on the circumference, journeys along one of the radii, and finally reaches the Center, which is also his or her own center. To reach the Center means not only being in a blessed state but also reaching the state to which various mysticisms refer as union with God.

The Prophet of Islam said, "Whosoever knows his self, knows his Lord"; that is, self-knowledge leads to knowledge of the Divine. Sufism takes this saying (hadith) very seriously and also puts it into practice. It provides, within the spiritual universe of the Islamic tradition, the light necessary to illuminate the dark corners of our soul and the keys to open the doors to the hidden recesses of our being so that we can journey within and know ourselves, this knowledge leading ultimately to the knowledge of God, who resides in our heart/center.

Not only were we created by God, but we have the root of our existence here and now in Him. When we bore witness to His Lordship as mentioned in the Quranic verse, "Am I not your Lord?" the world and all that is in it were not as yet created. Even now we have our pre-eternal existence in the Divine Presence, and we have made an eternal covenant with God, which remains valid beyond the contingencies of our earthly life and beyond the realm of space and time in which we now find ourselves.

The answer to the question "who are we?" is related in a principial manner to our ultimate reality in God, a reality that we have now forgotten as a result of the fall from our original and primordial state and the subsequent decay in the human condition caused by the downward flow of time. We have become forgetful beings, no longer knowing who we are and therefore what our purpose is in this life. But our reality in God, who resides at the depth of our being, is still there. We need to awaken to this reality and to realize our true identity, that is, to know who we really are.

The Garden of Truth
The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam’s Mystical Tradition
. Copyright © by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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