Jason Webster on why the republication of Idries Shah book about Sufism – whose enthusiasts have included William Churchill, Ted Hughes and Doris Lessing – couldn’t be more timely: The Guardian
Fifty years ago this autumn, Idries Shah published The Sufis, with an introduction by Robert Graves. The Washington Post declared it “a seminal book of the century”, while writers such as Doris Lessing, JD Salinger and Geoffrey Grigson were all drawn to it. Ted Hughes described it as “astonishing”. “The Sufis must be the biggest society of sensible men on Earth,” he wrote.
Now, the Idries Shah Foundation is bringing out new editions in English and commissioning translations of his work into Persian, Arabic and Urdu – the very cultures where much of his material originated.
So what is Sufism? Though dictionaries usually define it as the mystical current in Islam, Sufis themselves will tell you that it is an ancient organisation that has embraced free thinkers and people concerned with human development from many cultures throughout history. People from all walks of life – including poets, scientists and politicians – have been Sufis.