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
Professor Ehrman writes in a highly accessible and entertaining style. The message is profound: forgery was a widespread practice in Early ChristianitProfessor Ehrman writes in a highly accessible and entertaining style. The message is profound: forgery was a widespread practice in Early Christianity - so widespread that in one way or another, it found its way into almost half of the books of the New Testament. But as it is not a new claim, I got the book to serve as a comparison between the canonization of Christian scripture and hadith authentication. With that aim in mind, I appreciate Ehrman's focus on the discipline of textual criticism and how it applies to Christian religious literature. He purposely avoided duplicating his previous works, only mentioning their content as needed to provide examples to demonstrate his contentions.
Having not entirely read his previous works (this is all the local library had in stock at the time), I would imagine it is not as profound or have the shock value of something like Jesus Interrupted or Misquoting Jesus for a general audience. I would also assume that it was written in part as an answer to his critics and for that reason, it will probably not be as well received.
All I can think of when reading this book is the Prophetic curse, "Whoever lies on me, let him take his seat in the Hell-fire" and how fearful the early Muslim community was of making even unintentional mistakes. Much could be said on that topic... Giving the more academic nature of this particular work, I would recommend this as a companion piece to his previous publications. It would be more readily appreciated by people concerned with methodology and jurisprudence - two subjects which bore most people. ...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