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The Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam's Mystical Tradition Paperback – 12 Nov 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (12 Nov. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006162599X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061625992
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 281,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


“Despite the popularity of Sufism, few books provide an overview of this mystical branch of Islam— a void Nasr fills nicely with this concise primer. . . . a wise and tantalizing overview.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Sufi mystical heart of Islam is one of the few antidotes to fundamentalism in the Muslim world, and here Nasr looks at the human spiritual quest for the paradisiacal divine garden from a Sufi perspective . . . Eloquent, elegant, and lucid. (Library Journal)

About the Author

Seyyed Hossein Nasr is university professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University. Author of over fifty books, Professor Nasr is a well-known and highly respected intellectual figure both in the West and in the Islamic world. Born in Tehran, raised from the age of twelve in the United States, and a graduate of MIT and Harvard University, Nasr is well qualified to explain Islam to a Western audience. He appears frequently on Meet the Press, as well as other national news shows.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By MAH on 26 Sept. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are a lot of books about Islam and Sufism. Some of them are dry and academic while others go to the other extreme of being cultish and 'new age'. This book by a respected figure gives us a thorough look into the subject. It is well researched without being dull and covers the esoteric aspects with maturity. He makes the effort to explain the translations of the sayings of well known historical figures from Arabic or Persian into English - thereby helping the reader get a clearer idea about the intentions behind the words. There are many books out there that put in a token effort to do so. Reading this, you get an idea of what can fall between the gaps. A little research on the author will make it clear that this is someone with a solid background in his subject matter. It is also a useful point of reference for information about other authors / figures and publications in this field. Nasr expands on areas that you might find touched on by other writers, as well as giving you some ideas about which sources to use in future.
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I have not read this book as yet but just a look through confirms that it will be useful to me. Many thanks.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Mashud on 9 Jan. 2015
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Great book.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful By E. L. Wisty TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 17 April 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The first half of Nasr's book comprises a description of the more mystical elements of Sufism, gnosis and love of the divine. This is well written and makes good use of parallelism with Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, but perhaps verges a little on the New Age-y side in its lyricism and lack of theological rigour. Though apparently being in some sense open to other religions, Nasr is however adamant that Sufism can only be practised as part of Islam in its entirety, alongside shari'ah.

The second half consists of appendices which describe the history of schools of Sufism (Nasr almost sniffily concedes to having to add such a section with a dig at Western historicism, when the underlying theology is supposedly timeless), followed by a section entitled "The Tradition of Theoretical Sufism and Gnosis" which despite the title describes nothing of the theory and theology but is yet more history. This second half of the book is dry and adds nothing to the reader's understanding of Sufi doctrine.

There are a couple of annoyances in the Kindle edition - the superscript references are not hyperlinked, and the Arabic transliteration where using dotted consonants uses graphic elements which can be quite hard to read (especially the dotted s representing the letter 'sad').

I'm not sure who this book is really aimed at. Because of the lack of systematic theology herein I feel that I have not gained much knowledge of Sufism by having read it. I'll be having to look elsewhere.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 13 reviews
61 of 65 people found the following review helpful
The Premier Compendium of Sufism in the English Language 30 Sept. 2007
By Indusophos - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Seyyed Hossein Nasr is a rare phenomena in these days of religious decadence, earth-ravaging materialism, and all around despair. Nasr's sober call to return to our religions, not to the truncated and diseased state into which we've reduced them, but to their still beating hearts which are everywhere the same, is the driving force behind this latest title "The Garden of Truth", which is a sort of inner sequel to his "The Heart of Islam" published in 2002. This 'still beating heart' is not other than the esoteric or inner dimension of religion which informs its outer practices and doctrines, and it is this that communicates most directly the religion's presiding idea. In Islam this 'beating heart' is what we call in the West Sufism, but which is also known as Tasawwuf in Arabic, and 'Irfan in Persian. This living tradition, which goes back to the noble Prophet Muhammad, consists of many disciplines, all of which seek to purify our soul and render it transparent vis-à-vis the Divine Attributes. And while tomes have been written on the myriad aspects of this tradition it is incredibly difficult to give a concise summary that does even the least bit of justice to it. In fact I can think of no one better qualified to undertake such a task than Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Over the past four decades Nasr has, more than any other Muslim scholar, informed the Western world about not only the Islamic tradition, but its central virtues, which are preserved most succinctly in Sufism. Covering Nasr's qualifications for this is beyond the scope of this humble review, but suffice it to say that he has lived the reality of Sufism for over fifty years, has studied under traditional masters of Islamic philosophy/gnosis, and is recognized as a peerless scholar of Islamic civilization, its arts, and its philosophical tradition.

While "The Garden of Truth" is a summary it is not simply another academic appraisal. Instead this was written as a Sufi treatise for Western seekers. While summarizing the basic doctrines of Sufism, its historical unfolding, its luminaries and prerogatives Nasr also draws a basic map of the Path for the potential wayfarer. Obviously a book can never take the place of a living Master, but books can be useful supports for embracing the spiritual life. Also, it should be noted that although this is a summary it is by no means a light read. Since Nasr's perspective is informed by Islam's long tradition of knowledge-based mysticism his interpretations of Sufi doctrine, symbolism, and rites are tempered with that principial knowledge associated with speculative metaphysics. It is this edge that allows Nasr to communicate the sublimity of the Islamic vision, and of Sufism in particular, to a Western audience with all of the nuance necessary to make its central doctrines and practices intelligible.

As the destructive and hedonistic culture of the secularized West dominates more and more of the globe, crushing indigenous cultures, erasing the traces of their religions, and subordinating their economies, one wonders what could curb the sheer madness such a domination entails. For the spiritual man the only answer is inwardness, self-reform, and trust in God. For some of us Islam, and Sufism, are the means whereby these goals are sought, and I can think of no better a guide than Seyyed Hossein Nasr.
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
A beautiful Book 15 Jan. 2008
By Bryan Wittine - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This review was originally written for this book, but somehow found itself linked to Dr. Nasr's collected papers, edited by Chittick. "The Garden of Truth" is an absolutely beautiful book. Although it might be called a primer, it is deep and rich and filled with sentences that make you stop and ponder and contemplate the wonders of the inward and outward aspects of the Divine. The chapter on love and beauty alone is pure gold. What I also liked about Dr. Nasr's narrative is his respect and appreciation for other mystical traditions, both East and West. His is no narrow view. I am a Jungian analyst by profession, but an amateur Sufi, amateur meaning one who does something for the sheer love of it. This book has deepend that love.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
A Review By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat 2 Jan. 2008
By A. M. Haqq - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Seyyed Hossein Nasr is professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University and the author of many books including The Heart of Islam. This erudite, enlightening, and wide-ranging overview of Sufism is the result of 50 years of both scholarly study and existential participation in Islam's mystical tradition. He notes at the start of this survey:

"The Sufi tradition contains a vast metaphysical and cosmological set of doctrines elaborated over a long period by masters of gnosis. It contains methods of spiritual realization that address nearly all the different spiritual possibilities on the levels of action, love, and knowledge. It has preserved over many centuries going back to the Prophet a regular chain of transmission of initiatic power (walayah/wilayah) and the grace (al-barakah) necessary for the spiritual journey. And above all, it can enable men and women to reach a state of sanctity."

Nasr believes that Sufism is uniquely qualified to help spiritual seekers in the West appreciate other religions and to serve as an antidote to Islamic fundamentalism. With its rich blend of mystical poetry, its diverse literature, its spiritual ethics, and its many musical masterworks, this path of the heart speaks to all those who yearn for a closer intimacy with God, a richer interior life, and a spiritual repertoire of practices that give life depth and meaning.

The book is divided into sections on:

* What It Means to Be Human (Who Are We and What Are We Doing Here?)
* Truth (The Knowledge That Illuminates and Delivers from the Bondage of Ignorance)
* Love and Beauty (The Fire That Attracts and Consumes, the Peace That Calms and Liberates)
* Goodness and Human Action (To Do His Will, to Conform to the Divine Norm)
* How Do We Reach the Garden of Truth? (The Path to the One)
* Access to the Center (Sufism Here and Now)
* The Sufi Tradition and the Sufi Orders (Reflections on the Manifestation of Sufism in Time and Space)
* The Tradition of Theoretical Sufism and Gnosis

The Sufi path leads from the deserts of forgetfulness, selfishness, and separation to the Garden of Truth where individuals can realize their true identity. According to Nasr, followers of the path are expected to be God's servant and always grateful, no matter what the circumstances. The author acknowledges that the road to the Garden of Truth involves acquiring and realizing unitive knowledge and being immersed in love and beauty. Sufis are known as "people of the heart," and intimacy with God means acting with humility, charity, nobility, sincerity, and truthfulness. Another practice is imitation of the Prophet Muhammad, who modeled a glorious way to live. Sufi masters talk about the importance of adab, a form of courtesy and kindness which pervades everything one does, from greeting people to eating to sitting in a gathering. Shaykhs help dervishes learn the spiritual disciplines and virtues, which are the ornaments of the soul.

According to Nasr, the integration of the contemplative life and the active life is the hallmark of Sufi spirituality. In these uncivil times, we need more people who have been trained in the spiritual efficacy of loving actions. A life of beauty is a life where attention, being present, gratitude, peace, and compassion are manifested at home and at work. Sufism also nurtures the spiritual arts which in turn can transform our lives both privately and publicly. The Garden of Truth by Seyyed Hossein Nasr is a very helpful illumination of this beautiful path.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Parabola Magazine Review 33:2 (Summer 2008) 11 Sept. 2008
By Peter Samsel - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If the garden of truth is symbolic of that paradise proximal to the Divine Essence, then Sufism is that multifaceted way within the Islamic tradition that preeminently reaches to that garden. Among those in the West, Sufism is often thought of as a kind of quasi-universalistic mysticism, as with Hazrat Inayat Khan or Idries Shah, as a kind of "mystical dancing", as with the famous whirling dervishes, or as a way of ecstatic passion, as with the various translations and mistranslations of the poetry of Rumi. Among contemporary Muslims, Sufism, while quietly embraced by many, is too often rejected by the more strident voices of that community: by puritanical fundamentalists as an "innovation" and deviation from their understanding of pure Islam, by modernist reformers as an embarrassing medievalism best buried and forgotten. Like the blessed tree "neither of the east nor of the west" (Qur'an 24:35), the reality of Sufism is something quite different from either of these understandings. Moreover, this reality, far from being a mere historical curiosity, is one that speaks to our essential human condition, here and now. It is, simply, a way leading back to the Eternal, one that shall remain open until the end of historical time.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr is one of the world's leading scholars of Sufism, Islam and world philosophy. Now in his seventy-fifth year, he has authored more than fifty works and hundreds of articles and has received numerous honors in the fields of religion and philosophy. He has also been, since his boyhood in Tehran, intimately involved in the spiritual reality of Sufism. The present work may be understood as the seamless conjoining of both these threads of concern: at once scholarly and vitally engaged, it is not so much a book about Sufism as a book of Sufism, a Sufi treatise in the tradition of classical Sufi works, but composed in a contemporary language. The result is an elegant, accessible summary of the Sufi way, by turns deeply informative and profoundly moving.

The work is composed in six movements: leading with the fundamental existential question of our present situation and possibilities, it moves to a consideration in turns of the ways of knowledge, love and action as they manifest within the context of Sufism, then to a detailed description of the various facets of Sufi life, and finally, coming full circle, to a discussion of what Sufism may offer to the contemporary individual in search of a path of return to the Divine. Two capping appendices detail both the historical manifestation of Sufism as well as the tradition of theoretical Sufism in the context of realized gnosis. Ultimately, in what could well be taken as a Sufi epigram, everything comes back to Divine Unity: that which we are called to know and to realize is the One, that Divine beauty that calls us to love is that of the One, the virtues that we are called to embody are those of the One. To return to the One is to become one oneself, and in that wholeness is the garden.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Living in the Garden of Truth 25 Jan. 2008
By Cliff Mikkelson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book by the renowned Sufi scholar, Seyyed Hossein Nasr. It is a book I wish many fundamentalist Christian and Muslims would read because it is a lucid and loving explanation of the inner religion of truth where both Muslims and Christian could find harmony in the oneness of God.

Sufism is the mystical part of Islam and its deepest truths correspond to the truths put forth by mystics of other religions. When people go beyond the outer religious practices and rituals they find the oneness of Life.

Nasr covers the subject of Sufism brillantly as he is more than an outer scholar. There is too much to review, but some of the topics he writes about are the role of love and beauty in the spiritual life, the goal of Sufi practices, and spiritual masters and disciples. He also writes about various Sufi saints and schools of thought in different areas of the world.

He also writes some about jihad, which is a worrisome subject to many because some fundamentalists use it to justify violent actions including killing others. Nasr makes it clear that the greater jihad is to conquer one's one ego and to become spiritually victorious by reaching the garden of truth. If you see everyone as part of the oneness, why would you want to hurt anyone else? Violence only begets violence, but love can amplify itself and is eternally satisfying.

What I like about Sufism are the explanations of the oneness of God. For example, Only God can say "I", everyone else should say "we", as in we are the body of God.

There is too much profound thought in this book to summarize here. I just highly recommend this book to everyone who is interested in helping Christians and Muslims to understand each other as beings who are part of the same, one and only, Creator of the universe. Clifford J Mikkelson, the onenessguy. Gospel of One, Letters of Aul
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