Essential Sufism

Essential Sufism


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The definitive compendium of Sufi wisdom, 'Essential Sufism' draws together more than three hundred fables, poems and prayers that reveal the luminous spirit of Islamic mysticism. Embracing all eras and highlighting the many faces of Sufism, this colle

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062514752
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/17/1999
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 317,760
Product dimensions: 7.94(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

Robert Fager, Ph.D., is a psychologist, Sufi teacher, and author of two other books on Sufism, Love Is the Wine, and Heart, Self, and Soul: The Sufi Psychology of Growth, Balance, and Harmony.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Sufi way is not a path of retreat from the world but a way of seeking the Divine while still actively engaged in the world. Engagement in the world provides opportunities for spiritual growth, opportunities to practice love, awareness, generosity, and nonattachment. The Sufi approach is summarized by Sheikh Muzaffer, a modern Sufi teacher. "Keep your hands busy with your duties in this world, and your heart busy with God."

Our hearts have become frozen, armored against the pain and suffering we have all experienced in this world. With the help of a devoted teacher and sincere brothers and sisters along the path, we can defrost them.

Love, service, and compassion help us reopen our hearts and come closer to God. One of the greatest services we can perform is to help heal the injured hearts of others. Our hands are made to lift up those who have fallen, to wipe the tears of those who are suffering from the trials of this world. Sheikh Muzaffer also said, 'A kind word or glance softens your heart, and every hurtful word or act closes or hardens your heart."

There is a wisdom of the heart far different from the wisdom of the head. The head can be misled by appearances; the wise heart sees beyond outer forms to inner reality. As one Sufi master explained Sufism, "Anyone can learn the outer forms of prayer and worship. Sufism seeks to develop a heart that can pray." The stories, poetry, and prose that follow are from those who developed heart's wisdom. May their words touch our hearts as well.

The Sufi is absent from himself and present withGod.


The Sufis are those who have preferred God to everything, so that God has preferred them to everything.


We Sufis are lovers of beauty. Because we have renounced the world, it does not mean that we should look miserable. But neither do we want to stand out and attract undue attention....We behave like others, we dress like others. We are ordinary people, living ordinary lives. We will always obey the law of the land in which we live; but in reality we are beyond the laws of men, for we obey only the law of God. We surrendered somewhere: we are completely free!
Irina Tweedie      

If you are possessed of discernment joined with knowledge, seek the company of the dervishes and become one with them.
Associate with none but them.
Love of the dervishes is the key that opens the door of Paradise.
Those who walk on the Path have no longing after fine palaces and fair gardens.
In their hearts is nothing but the pain of yearning love for God.


The Sufis do not abandon this world, nor do they hold that human appetites must be done away with. They only discipline those desires that are in discordance with the religious life and the dictates of sound reason.

They don't throw away all things of this world, nor do they go after them with a vengeance. Rather, they know the true value and function of everything upon the earth. They save as much as is necessary. They eat as much as they need to stay healthy.

They nourish their bodies and simultaneously set their hearts free. God becomes the focal point toward which their whole being leans. God becomes the object of their continual adoration and contemplation.


The thing we tell of can never be found by seeking, yet only seekers find it.

Bayazid Bistami      

Whatever you have in your mind — forget it; whatever you have in your hand — give it; whatever is to be your fate — face it!

Abu Sa'id      

The Sufi acts according to whatever is most fitting to the moment.

Amr ibn Uthman al-Makki      

The Sufi is he whose thought keeps pace with his foot.

He is entirely present; his soul is where his body is, and his body where his soul is, and his soul where his foot is, and his foot where his soul is.


Today I am in such a shape
That I can't differentiate
The load from the donkey.
I am in such shape today,
That I don't know which is the thorn
And which is the rose.

My Love put me in this shape today.
I don't know who is the Lover
Or who is the Beloved.

Yesterday, drunkenness led me
To the door of the Love.
But today I can't find
The door or the house.

Last year I had two wings.
Fear and hope.
Today, I don't know of wings,
Don't know how to fly,
Don't know of my lost fears.


The journey from this world to the next (to give up worldly things for spiritual things) is easy for the believer. The journey from the creatures to the Creator is hard. The journey from the self to God is very hard. And to be able to abide in God is harder still.


Although there are some differences in the way things are done in the lodges of other Sufi orders, in essence they are not very different. There is no lack of love or respect between these various orders. They do not reject each other, or criticize each other. Nor do they claim to be closer to the Truth. Sometimes it is said, "The fountain from which I drank was here, and there are many other fountains if you are thirsty."

Murat Yagan      

A seeker went to ask a sage for guidance on the Sufi way. The sage counseled, "If you have never trodden the path of love, go away and fall in love; then come back and see us."


"I" and "you" are but the lattices,
In the niches of a lamp
Through which the One Light shines.
"I" and "you" are the veil
Between heaven and earth;
Lift this veil and you will see
No longer the bonds of sects and creeds.


Essential Sufism. Copyright © by Robert Frager. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

Part 1The Many Faces of Sufism
Chapter 1The Sufi Way35
Part 2Living in the World
Chapter 2Daily Life45
Chapter 3Self-Deception and Self-Knowledge57
Chapter 4The Lower Self65
Chapter 5The World, Mirror of the Divine73
Chapter 6Wisdom79
Chapter 7Hadith, the Words of the Prophet87
Part 3Love and an Open Heart
Chapter 8Spiritual Experience95
Chapter 9Opening the Heart101
Chapter 10Contemplation and Knowledge107
Chapter 11Love113
Part 4Sufi Teachers
Chapter 12Teachers and Students127
Part 5Sufism in Action
Chapter 13Practices151
Chapter 14Sufi Humor161
Part 6In Touch with the Divine
Chapter 16How to Know God197
Chapter 17Prayer203
Chapter 18Remembrance of God209
Chapter 19Service217
Part 7Faces of the One
Chapter 20God227
Chapter 21Satan235
Part 8Transformation
Chapter 22Self-Transformation243
Chapter 23Death251
A Note on the Texts and Calligraphy257
Permission Acknowledgments263

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Essential Sufism 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
DarkWater on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this compilation, Fadiman and Frager present to us the many faces of Islamic mysticism. They remind us that the spiritual path is different from the intellectual path, that a difference exists between contemplation and knowledge, that "the gnawing hunger of lonely men, is not appeased by information or facts". Paradoxically, as Bayazid Bistami affirms, "The thing we tell of can never be found by seeking, yet only seekers find it." In their aphorisms and anecdotes, the Sufis explain how, through the blessings of submission, faith, and love, one may come to know the face of the unknown.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JDawson More than 1 year ago
For those who have a casual interest in Sufism (and aren't yet ready to dive into a more scholarly-oriented publication), this is a great introduction that allows the reader to become familiar with some of the better-known Sufi masters. While many of the anecdotes come from classic Sufis like Rabi'a and Bastami, probably the most prolific contributor is the mentor of one of the two editors. An added plus is the beautiful Arabic calligraphy that precedes each section.
DancingPalmtrees More than 1 year ago
May 29, 2009 Just started reading this book. I want to learn more about Sufism since it is a theme echoed over a over by Gibran, Pamuk and of course its founder the great poet Rumi. I love the concept of becoming "One with the Beloved". Of course as a Christian my ultimate Spiritual Goal is to become one with Jesus Christ. Over the years as I think back I believe I have found elements of Sufism in the writings of Deepak Chopra, the Dalai Lama and I'm sure that as I read more of Dr. Edward Said I will find it there also. Perhaps it is also in Buddhism, I must look at my Buddhist scriptures. The theme of Being One with the Beloved resonates with me as a Christian because you find this concept in the Bible. Jesus spoke that He and the Father were One. The Epistles constantly speak about being reunited with God, being more like the Father, losing yourself in Him. I'm the type of Christian who believes one can incorporate the best of other faiths without losing or rejecting one's own belief system. As I get older I lean towards to the Gospel of Inclusion. Besides on Judgement Day we will all answer to God no matter what our faith or belief. Saturday, May 30, 2009 The aphorisms in this book remind me very much of the Book of Proverbs in the Bible. Proverbs is known as the book of Wisdom. I keep referring to the Bible because this is my faith and my frame of reference. As I read about the Sufis and Dervishes I think about Jesus disciples and how he sent them out to preach the gospel and heal the sick. Jesus told them to take nothing with them except the clothes on their back. I believe the scripture states that the workman is worthy of his hire. The went from town to town, house to house spreading the Good News. Whoever had ears to hear received it, those who did not Jesus told them to shake the dust off their sandals as they left that particular village. I am just speculating but maybe Rumi and other Sufis were inspired by Jesus, his disciples and the apostles.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Yes a very inspiring book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read several books, but non gave a complete picture of Sufism. The book takes the reader from the basic definition of Sufism, stages of Sufis' training, to the results that are achieved. It is a must read for those who like to comprehend who are sufis and what challenges they go through.