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Islamic Mysticism: A Secular Perspective
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Islamic Mysticism: A Secular Perspective [Kindle Edition]

Ibn Al-Rawandi

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Product Description

Beneath the battle cries of the jihad and an Islamic politics that draws attention to a religion of rigid rules and obsessive devotion, lies the mystical Islam, known as Sufism. What attracts so many Westerners to the faith, says former convert Ibn al-Rawandi, is its "heart made of poetry and art, vision and devotion, that can only be known fully from within." Enchanted by the metaphysics of Sufism, Rawandi studied and worshiped in Cyprus, convinced he had found the answers to life's questions. When doubts emerged for which the traditionalist authors had no answers and the Salman Rushdie affair divided Islam, Rawandi sought to critically evaluate Sufism by reviewing its origins and the best arguments for its views.
In Islamic Mysticism, Rawandi contends that unreliable sources seriously undermine the classical account of Islam and Sufism. His detailed study of the philosophy of religion -especially the work of traditionalists such as RenT Guenon and Frithjof Schuon - helps to develop a critical analysis of Islam from the inside out. Particular attention is given to great Islamic mystic Ibn Arabi, who is taken as representative of Sufism in its highest development. Rawandi offers a critical, secular perspective on Sufism and concludes that mystical experience is not a trustworthy validation of religion.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3496 KB
  • Print Length: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (30 April 2000)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003XYFLY0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #559,478 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
24 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars False Reporting 13 Mar 2005
By Barry C. Mcdonald - Published on
One of the most biased aspects of this book is found in the recounting the l991 legal ordeal of Frithjof Schuon, known as the pre-eminent spokesman for the Religio Perennis in the 20th century. The author states that as a result of the allegations of Mark Koslow, Schuon was indicted by grand jury, which is true. However, the author goes on to state that the charges were "mysteriously dropped" even though there was "an abundance of evidence". As a resident of Bloomington, Indiana where these events occured I would like to correct the false information reported in Mr. al-Rawandi's book. Shortly after the formal charges were filed, as soon as the chief prosecutor began to review the evidence, the assistant prosecutor who was in charge of the investigation was fired. The charges were immediately dropped and a formal public apology issued to Schuon. The prosecutor publicly stated that "there is not one shred of evidence" to support the charges against Schuon; that a "miscarriage has occured"; and that Koslow "has come under a very large cloud of credibility". All of these statements may be found in the November 21, l991 edition of the Bloomington Herald-Times newspaper. Further, the same newspaper in its November 26 lead editorial "Schuon Case a Travesty" sharply criticized the prosecutor's inattention to the case while he was out of town running for a state-wide political office. Either Mr. al-Rawandi did not bother to research the facts before falsely supporting this attack on Schuon, or he purposely distorted the facts to support his case. In either case, it seriously calls the credibility of the rest of his book into question.
27 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Waste of Time 18 Jan 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Written by a failed spiritual seeker turned anti-spiritual polemical secularist, this book lacks the substance and insight possessed by a vaguely similar but nevertheless far superior work of disenchantment, Jeffrey Masson's *My Father's Guru*. Having spent three years attempting without success to follow the Sufi path, Ibn al-Rawandi in this book returns to Sufism but weakly flails about in his efforts to exact from it his revenge. Ultimately his message is that if you are a rationalist and do not believe in spiritual transformation, do not get involved in Sufism. Sound advice--but isn't this obvious?! The bottom line, though, is that a good piece of yellow journalism should at least be a juicy and engaging read. Sadly, this work is by and large flat. So if you want a book on spiritual disenchantment, read Masson. If you want something on Sufism, read anything but Ibn al-Rawandi.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and quite useful 1 April 2010
By Alyssa A. Lappen - Published on
Let me disabuse Fred Donner of the notion that author Ibn al-Rawandi is the same person as Ibn Warraq (author of Why I Am Not a Muslim and Quest for the Historical Muhammad, among innumerable other scholarly titles on Islam). The assertion is false, even preposterous --- and a good indication that Fred Donner has read neither of these authors.

Ibn Warraq (whom I'm honored to call friend) has never claimed any association with Sufism, and in each of his many volumes takes a much tougher and more agnostic view of central Islamic theological points than Ibn Al-Rawandi. Ibn Warraq frequently focuses on the violent and warlike features of Islam, and passages in sacred texts that incite such jihad and violence. Al-Rawandi, while skeptical, is also nostalgic.

There are some similarities between the two: both were horrified by Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 Islamic fatwa seeking Salman Rushdie's death for having written his novel Satanic Verses. Both are self-described ex-Muslims. And obviously, since Ibn al-Rawandi thanks Ibn Warraq for his encouragement, they do know one another and converse.

One enlightening difference, however, is Al-Rawandi's effort to explain, albeit sometimes in the quotations of others, how it is that Muslims perceive their belief and that of others. According to a citation of Frithjof Schuon (the subject of subsequent criminal prosecution and much controversy) --- which comes closest to anything I've seen to describing the "reality" --- is the "curious tendency [of the average Muslim] to believe that non-Muslims either know that Islam is the truth and reject it out of pure obstinacy, or else are simply ignorant of it and can be converted by elementary explanations..." The idea that anyone can in good conscience oppose Islam "quite exceeds the Muslim's imagination precisely because," to him, Islam is entirely coincident with "the irresistible logic of things."

To average Muslims, then, "no explanations are necessary," and indeed, no probing or doubtful questions are allowed or to be tolerated. To Islamic believers, not believing is "not like failing to turn up in church on Sunday," but rather akin to "a traitorous act in time of war." It's making an alliance with an enemy "for whom no good word can be said, an act for which the only appropriate penalty is death."

Furthermore, by way of explaining the appeal of Islam to some conservative intellectual Westerners (who take a romantic view of "The East" and Arabs) "Islam is in fact the last refuge," as they wish "that the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, in short the 'modern world,' had never come about."

Al-Rawandi is also refreshingly skeptical about Sufism, which far too many Westerners believe to be a "kinder, gentler" form of Islam. This supposedly mystical counter-movement, however, is in the author's words "as much a late construct resulting from the Arabs' acquiring an empire as Islam itself." And like Islam itself, Sufism is also "heavily dependent on hadith qudsi, supposedly direct sayings of God not included in the Koran," That is to say, it is antithetical to logical reasoning and fully dependent on total acceptance of Islamic doctrine and an entire tradition without definitive evidence of any kind.

This book is not at all like the works of Ibn Warraq, except that it offers the willing reader much additional material as to encourage healthy skepticism of Islam, and particularly its mystical incarnations.

--- Alyssa A. Lappen
5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rational Anti-mysticism: Healthy debunking 24 Mar 2004
By P. Nagy - Published on
Islamic Mysticism: A Secular Perspective by Ibn Al-Rawandi (Prometheus Books) Any believer needs to fairly read some debunking views of one's beliefs. First it is always important to know other points of view, even if they do not persuade or even tend to subvert the truth of the positions one holds as true and life-saving. This book offers a critique of the Sufi path of transformation by a former seeker who feels there is serious deception and self-deception on the spiritual path and it is better to be rational and consistent in one's views than to seek fantastical delusions. Now such a position is unlikely to appeal to the mystic but if one wants to mature in one's mysticism one should give such nay-sayers a careful hearing, concede their good points and carefully critique the limitations of their point of view. Otherwise perhaps such rationalists are correct and such pursuits are bunk.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars could have been titled Why I Am Not a Muslim II 9 Jan 2009
By Christopher K. Philippo - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author provides very little information about himself; he joined a sufi order in Cyprus in 1985 and left them three years later, he has written for Philosophy Now and New Humanist and now lives in London. His pseudonym is taken from a famous historical skeptic of Islam; it makes it hard to Google him without getting results for the well-known one. Chapter two of this book appears in another form as chapter two of the pseudonymous Ibn Warraq's The Quest for the Historical Muhammad. A reviewer of that book, Fred McGraw Donner, speculates they're the same person. Well, in a sense they might as well be: two unknown writers critical of Islam who don't appear to have any original ideas of their own.

I liked the first two parts of the book. He does a decent job of summarizing the origins of Islam from the Islamic standpoint, and then the criticism of the sources hits the mark, I think. However, he lacks the same skepticism regarding some of the works providing a different account of the origins of Islam. He completely accepts Hagarism:The Making of the Islamic World, for example (maybe Prometheus Press should simply reprint that book?).

I found the chapter on Islamic mysticism to be almost totally incomprehensible, even though the book is supposed to be aimed at "the general reader" as he says. Most of it focuses on ibn Arabi. Maybe the ideas are just so irrational and esoteric they make no sense (quite possible), or perhaps he's just really bad at explaining mystical Islam. I found the following chapter on the secular perspective of sufism to be just barely more comprehensible. The short chapter "Islam's View of Itself in the Modern World" was odd, didn't seem to be about that at all. The following secular perspective was much more readable, but instead of being about "Islam in the Modern World" in general as titled, it's primarily about perennialism and Sheikh Nazim's Naqshbandi Sufi order. Since Nazim lived in Cyprus and did outreach to non-Muslims in London, it's easy to infer that the author had been a student of his, but oddly he doesn't say.

In the end, he writes "the aim of the book" was to "offer arguments for [leaving Islam] and provide the intellectual basis on which it can be done." It's disingenuous, I think, not to have said that in the introduction (or title). I would have liked the book to have been entirely about what the title promised.

There's also an appendix on the number 19 theory of Rashad Khalifa, late founder of the Quran-only/anti-Hadith sect now called "The Submitters." This is somewhat interesting, but seems to have been included not so much because of any thematic relation than because he feels it's an argument in favor of the human creation of the Quran. More information about Khalifa can be found in Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?: Debunking Pseudoscience.
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