The Sufis

( 5 )


A unique and little-known religion, Sufism follows a mystical teaching and a way of life that has had an enormous though largely unrecognized impact on both the East and West for four thousand years.  This authoritative book fills a colossal gap in Western documentation of Eastern subjects.

Read More Show Less
... See more details below
$13.41 price
(Save 21%)$17.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (37) from $1.99   
  • New (10) from $9.49   
  • Used (27) from $1.99   
Sending request ...


A unique and little-known religion, Sufism follows a mystical teaching and a way of life that has had an enormous though largely unrecognized impact on both the East and West for four thousand years.  This authoritative book fills a colossal gap in Western documentation of Eastern subjects.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Idries Shah's The Sufis is a seminal, benchmark publication revealing a rich and varied compendium of Sufi thought and insights to both the dedicated student of Sufism and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the contributions of Sufism to religion and spirituality. The "reader friendly" text is replete with examples and stories showcasing Sufi spiritual and psychological traditions and insights. Idries Shah's The Sufis is an essential, core title for any personal, academic, or community library world religion reference collections in general, and Sufi studies reading lists in particular.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385079662
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1971
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 230,635
  • Product dimensions: 5.14 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Idries Shah specializes in Sufism and is the author of The Commanding Self, Learning How to Learn, Seeker After Truth, and Tales of the Dervishes.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction vii
Author's Preface xxiii
The Islanders-A Fable 1
The Background: I. The Travelers and the Grapes 12
The Background: II. The Elephant in the Dark 38
The Subtleties of Mulla Nasrudin 63
Sheikh Saadi of Shiraz 111
Fariduddin Attar, the Chemist 117
Our Master Jalaluddin Rumi 130
Ibn El-Arabi: The Greatest Sheikh 155
El-Ghazali of Persia 166
Omar Khayyam 185
The Secret Language: I. The Coalmen 194
The Secret Language: II. The Builders 205
The Secret Language: III. The Philosopher's Stone 216
Mysteries in the West: I. Strange Rites 232
Mysteries in the West: II. The Chivalric Circle 245
Mysteries in the West: III. The Head of Wisdom 254
Mysteries in the West: IV. Francis of Assisi 257
Mysteries in the West: V. The Secret Doctrine 265
The Higher Law 281
The Book of the Dervishes 294
The Dervish Orders 322
Seeker After Knowledge 347
The Creed of Love 357
Miracles and Magic 367
The Teacher, the Teaching, the Taught 389
The Far East 401
Appendix I Esoteric Interpretation of the Koran 412
Appendix II The Rapidness 415
Annotations 416
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2006

    The Innocent Tinsmith

    A tinsmith is unjustly imprisoned, and while languishing in jail receives a prayer carpet sent by his wife. Sometime later, he suggests to his low-paid jailers that if they can provide him tools for working metal, he can make items of value that they can sell, with all parties sharing the profits. The jailers agree, and are soon benefiting from the new business arrangement. Then, one day, they find their prisoner's cell open, and the tinsmith gone. Years later, one of the guards encounters the smith, who has been found innocent of any crime, and asks him how he managed to escape. 'The prayer carpet woven by my wife contained the design of the cell locks. When I realized that, I enlisted your support to acquire the tools and metal I needed to fashion a key. When I had the design and the means, my freedom depended only on my own persistence and patience.' One of the contentions of the Sufis is that humans are in a very real sense 'imprisoned,' and have a captive self that instinctively seeks freedom and self-expression. A related contention is that, since this real self is kept captive by 'jealous guards,' the means to freedom have to be communicated in a way that can be deciphered by an alert prisoner, but not intercepted or filtered by the guards: rather like an 'open secret' that can slip past (and even be delivered by) the jailers, but be recognized and applied by those who are looking for and capable of using those means effectively. In 'The Sufis,' you'll find many things: Information that seems clearly false, dubious, slanted, confusing, trivial, and irrelevant--or possibly lively, entertaining, engagingly 'strange,' and even useful to you as you struggle with the conundrums of 'your,' and humankind's, existence. Depending on your mindset, you may dismiss it, and its author, as uninteresting, uninformed, self-promoting--even contemptible--and/or find it to some extent unique, provocative and challenging. The book itself notes that Sufic communications often evoke both scorn and praise, irritation and delight--even in the same reader--but that superficial reactions such as these are irrelevant, since the practical question is, 'Can the reader make use of, and gain from, the material?' As the tinsmith said, 'My jailers thought they were bringing only prayer carpets and tinker's tools, but in reality gave me the means of escape.'

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2001

    an encyclopedic coverage of wisdom systems

    My first reading of this book back in the late 1960s, was a revelation. It tied together in a most lucid style various systems of spiritual instruction, spanning the East and the West, and time frames down through through the millennia. It described connections between the Ancients of the mid-East, Christian mysticism, the cultural wealth of the Moorish society of Spain, the Troubadors, the court jester, Shakespeare, Rosicrucians, Knights Templars, Jewish mysticism, Masonry, to touch on only some of the links revealed. It gave an entirely new way to look at history, particularly our European heritage. If you want an all en-compassing, authoritative review of the Sufi phenomenon this is the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2001


    Very interesting discussion of the Arabic language appears in this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 1999

    Unparallelled Lucidity

    Nobody writes about the intersection of psychology, religion and spirituality with the lucidity which Idries Shah brings to the task. Revealing traces of Sufi thought and activity in the West, he shows that our 'Western' heritage is something other than we have assumed. Describing the Sufis, he tells us about human nature. Here are keys to understanding the purposes of religion, and why religious organizations always run down. Here, too, are psychological concepts, such as how beliefs can be indoctrinated, attitudes socially conditioned, and perceptions distorted by motivations. This knowledge, only recently discovered in our society, has been part of Sufi teaching for over 1000 years. It has helped many to avoid confusing emotional experiences with spiritual ones, or groups serving social needs with groups serving developmental ones. Nor do the Sufis criticize emotional experiences or social groups as such, but they insist that metaphysical ('higher') truth has its own integrity, and that the experiences, activities and relationships that conduce toward it must be guided by that integrity.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)