I'm too close to this particular publication to give it a proper rating or review, but in a word: it is awesome. The original text is an important staI'm too close to this particular publication to give it a proper rating or review, but in a word: it is awesome. The original text is an important statement, ranking up there with his Fayasl al-tafriqa which Dr. Sherman Jackson recently translated and published under the title On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam: Abu Hamid Al Ghazali's Faysal Al Tafriqa. They both serve similar ends, though the intent differs.
A Return to Purity in Creed is a cautionary text that sought to remove the unnecessary confusion and complication that colored the discipline of ilm al-kalam in his time. The original title of the work is actually Iljam al-Awwam an Ilm al-Kalam (Restraining the Laity from [Endulging in] Speculative Theology) and it is precisely that. As a polemical treatise, it is important in that this work is considered among Imam al-Ghazali's last and although praised by none other than Ibn Taymiyyah - it nonetheless makes clear what Imam al-Ghazali's final stance on certain matters was. In this, Imam al-Ghazali attempted to reconcile the Traditionalists and Theologians in re-establishing and re-affirming the proper role that ilm al-kalam is supposed to play.
If people in our times would listen to the wisdom and advice that Imam al-Ghazali conveys in both of these works, much of the unnecessary argumentation that ordinary people have no business getting involved in would be resolved (let alone the wreckless takfir). And given those who have praised it, I am only left to wonder if they had in fact read it themselves or are simply parroting the praise of the book by Ibn Taymiyyah - as the claim that this work represents his "repentance" from Ash'ari creed is clearly dubious and they themselves violate many of his injunctions. The Iljaam is a slap on the wrist to both camps and reading it as only as a repudiation of the theologians is a clear mistake.
I am left wondering if part of the problem between the two camps is that the battle-lines were drawn, the gauntlet thrown and sectarian emotion would not allow either side reconcile. Though Ibn Taymiyyah is on record for saying, "After that he (al-Ghazzali) came back to the path of the scholars of hadeeth and wrote Iljaam al-Awwaam an Ilm al-Kalaam", A Return to Purity in Creed reflects clearly the same tenets expressed in the Ihya Ulum al-Din. Thus, this praise by Ibn Taymiyyah is something that I do not believe has been properly explored. But that is a discussion for another day. ...more
Cover to cover, this is an indispensable translation of an indispensable classical text that Sh. Hamza Yusuf spent years tweaking. The straight-forwarCover to cover, this is an indispensable translation of an indispensable classical text that Sh. Hamza Yusuf spent years tweaking. The straight-forwardness of the translation and the minimalist commentary makes this work extremely practical and extremely useful as a reference work - the first of Zaytuna's curriculum series. Sh. Hamza did a tremendous service to the English-speaking world with this publication. And my copy is autographed ;)
Because of the similarities, I would highly recommend Imam Abu Hanifa's Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar Explained as an advanced "commentary" on this particular translation. Though they are of two different works, the historical role that Imam al-Tahawi played in the Hanafi school makes them complementary.
UPDATE: After scanning another translation of this wonderful work, I felt the need to add the following:
The notes that Sh. Hamza Yusuf includes are very beneficial and are free of the partisan attacks unfortunately found in most other English translations of Tahawi's creed. It is quite a shame that in spite of the fact that Sh. Hamza has attempted to avoid controversy with this translation (making it universally useful as a textbook in Islamic studies), the individuals who have appropriated Imam Tahawi's creed as their own (while they deny many of its implications) have nonetheless have attacked Sh. Hamza for not reflecting their Anthropomorphic leanings. They condemn mainstream scholarship for their "interpretations" and "distortions" while they themselves are guilty of what they accuse their opponents of. This is nothing but the manifestation of the sickness that is within their own hearts:
It is He who has sent down to you, [O Muhammad], the Book; in it are verses [that are] precise - they are the foundation of the Book - and others unspecific. As for those in whose hearts is deviation [from truth], they will follow that of it which is unspecific, seeking discord and seeking an interpretation [suitable to them]. And no one knows its [true] interpretation except Allah . But those firm in knowledge say, "We believe in it. All [of it] is from our Lord." And no one will be reminded except those of understanding. (Qur'an 3:7)
After reading both sets of translations (and you can pick any translations funded or approved by Saudi Arabia) and the attitudes of each "party", it is obvious whose approach the Qur'an Itself is condemning.
The "criticisms" of this translation greatly annoyed me - particularly when Sh. Hamza is the one who completely avoided the specific points of contention in his translation (while the footnotes of others are rife with accusations and condemnations). This is especially so when you compare this translation to another translation entitled "The Muslim Creed", which is clearly more guilty of the translation choices that Sh. Hamza was condemned for (assuming they are even correct in their nitpicking), but for which no criticism is given.
I usually avoiding such discussions in my reviews, but I had to make an exception with this one....more
DISCLAIMER: Because of my own personal affinity to the author and what this book means to me practically, I was hesitant to write anything at all. WhaDISCLAIMER: Because of my own personal affinity to the author and what this book means to me practically, I was hesitant to write anything at all. What follows, therefore, is more of a devotional summary than a literary review.
Shaykh Nuh said this book is part of his legacy and that is indeed what it is. It is composed of three parts, which he titles: Men of the Path, The Way and Bearings.
"Men of the Path" is composed of five original biographies of five Sufis that the author personally met and spent much time in the company of. The first is of his own mentor, Shaykh Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri. He then gives the biographies of three other Shadhilis connected to Shaykh al-Hashimi (Shaykh Abd al-Wakil Durubi, Shaykh Yunus and Shaykh Adel) and concludes with a biography of his wife's shaykh, Hajji Baba, a traditional old school Turkish Naqshbandi whom he affectionately refers to as "The Last Ottoman". Far from being a simple biography, it contains personal insights and reflections that reveal a level of humanity of the author that is quite refreshing and unusual, though just as instructive.
"The Way" is a re-write of Tariqa Notes and serves a general manual of the Sufi life that the author teaches and lives himself. In addition to the previous material, the author included chapters on family life, past times (i.e. internet usage, restaurants, music, etc.) and friends, each giving injunctions relating directly to one's suluk (spiritual progress). That being said, perhaps the most brilliant aspect of the book is a chapter called "The Shadhili Rule" which is an original point-by-point summary of the path along the lines of Sidi Ahmad Zarruq's Usul al-Tariqa and rivals anything like it that has been written. It is in brief, a code of ethics, simplified and refined, summarizing the entire spiritual travel of the author that is able to be penned. As to the importance and practicality of this section, the author states:
These usul are the basis of tawfiq in this path, and whoever exalts them will find they exalt him. Simply put, the tariqa is a means to raise the veil between the slave and Allah. Its condition is the above rule, which comprises the validity of one's Islamic faith and practice; the traditional Sufi method of knowledge ('ilm), practice ('amal), and resultant spiritual state (hal); and the three great aims of suluk: repentance (tawba), nonattachment to other than Allah (zuhd), and tahqiq al-'ubudiyya or realizing one's slavehood. Allah has created the path, the sheikh and the salik to allow this to happen.
This entire section for aspirants delineates the expectations and goals one should have and for those unfamiliar with the Hashimi Order, lays out what exactly this tariqa thing is all about from an insiders perspective.
Lasty, "Bearings" is a collection of articles that answer what are perhaps the most important (and perhaps most controversial) contemporary theological questions relating to the spiritual life. Of this section perhaps the most profound is a 30-page answer to the issue of theodicy (the problem of evil) from a practical perspective.
In summary, anyone who is interested in what Orthodox Sufism looks like in the 20th century, one could do a lot worse. As for those already connected to the author, it is a manual for what we should be doing and a model of what we should eventually become....more
One of the best and most comprehensive statements of Islamic creed currently in the English language. As such, it may be a bit much for those who haveOne of the best and most comprehensive statements of Islamic creed currently in the English language. As such, it may be a bit much for those who have not already studied the basics of creed and rational thought. It also is one of the best testimonies of Abu Hanifa's true beliefs and the subsequent faithfulness and orthodoxy of the Maturidi school of thought. For a more introductory exposition of mainstream Islamic creed according to Abu Hanifa's school, please see: The Creed of Imam al-Tahawi....more