Reviews

This book by the best expert on Sufism in the Uighur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang is a manual on Sufi studies.  His six main chapters treat successively the history and doctrines of Sufism, its philosophy and ethics, its social and aesthetics aspects, the problems met in the study of Sufism and the works done on this topic all over the world.  However, contrary to the titles given to some chapter of this book, the author’s approach is more that of a specialist of literature than that of an historian.  Chapters 1, 2 and 3 detail the origin and development of Sufism, its intellectual foundations and investigate some major Sufi concepts, expression and trends: e.g., the divine love (ilahi ishq), the wisdom (märifät), the unity (täwhid), the examining (muhasibä), the extinction (fäna), the expression “I am the Truth (änäl häq),” Ghazali’s contribution to Muslim mysticism, the Ishraq movement, the theory of the Unicity of Being (wähdätül vüjüt), the theory of the Unicity of the testimony (wähdäti shühüd).  There are substantial chapters dedicated to the wähdätül vüjüt and to the question of pantheism (and panentheism), to the philosophy of Mawlana Jalal al-Din, and to ethics (äkhlaq) in Sufism.  Chapter 4 deals with the social and philosophical aspects of Sufism in Central Asia exemplified by the life, ideas and writings of some major figureheads: Yusuf Khass Hajib, Ahmad Yasawi, and ‘Ali Shir Nawa’i.  Chapter 5 points to some problems faced by researchers working on Sufism: the reading of Sufi poetry and the understanding of ambiguous words; the question of the Sufi shaykhs (ishâns) and of the decline of Sufism in Eastern Turkistan and in Xinjiang; the expansion of the mystical paths (tariqas) in this area, in particular that of the Khwaja movement and of the Naqshbandiyya.  Chapter 6 provides a thorough survey of Sufi studies in European, Russian, Turkish and Arabic languages.  Particularly interesting are the paragraphs on the state of these studies in China with point to the publications on Hui and Uighur Sufism and tariqas.

Thierry Zarcone, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-5.1.B-402