English Title: Encyclopedic dictionary of Sufism
Author: John Renard
Translated by: Akhlaq Ahmed Qadri
Publisher: Book Time
Sufism, a term derived from the woolen garments of early ascetics, may not be the most exact expression to cover the mystical movements within Islam, but it is the best we have. And it would be hard to come up with another that is more precise, because the phenomenon itself has taken on such a variety of forms during the 1,200 or so years it has already existed. Under this heading come many different orders, established at many different times and in many different places, by many different spiritual directors. They did not always agree on all points—indeed, they occasionally quarreled and certainly rivaled one another—and this is still valid today. But their ultimate goals were the same, and they drew inspiration from the same holy Qur’a¯n and the awesome figure of the Prophet Muh.ammad. It is this diversity that often confuses outsiders, and it is this diversity that makes a work of this sort so useful, since rather than trying to impose uniformity and order where none exist it can show the impressive variety of origins, structures and organizations, rules and creeds, and practices and concepts. It can also delve into the cultural wealth of art, music, dance, and literature. This is facilitated by the format of a historical dictionary. First, the chronology traces the long and venerable list of spiritual directors, poets and philosophers, and also political leaders who created and enriched the movement. Then, the introduction, vital given the diversity, can bring the salient aspects together in a broad and ordered whole. But it is the dictionary that again allows a multitude of aspects, persons, places, events, institutions, and concepts to be considered individually. Since terminology is so important, and virtually all of it is in Arabic, Persian, and other languages unfamiliar to most English speakers, the glossary is particularly precious. For those who want to take the study of Sufism further, and there will be more and more with time, the bibliography points to other sources of information.