This eye-opening, insightful exploration of Sufism, the spiritual tradition that has supported Islam for more than a thousand years, shows why it offers a promising foundation for reconciliation between the Western and Muslim worlds.
Many Americans today identify Islam with maniacal hatred of the West. The Other Islam transforms this image and opens the way to finding common ground in our troubled times. Sufism, a blend of the mystical and rational tendencies within Islam, emerged soon after the revelation of Muhammad. A reforming movement against the increasing worldliness of Muslim society, it focuses on Islam’s spiritual dimension. Described as “Islam of the Heart,” Sufism has attracted adherents among both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, as well as Jews, Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists.
In The Other Islam, Stephen Schwartz traces the origins and history of Sufism, elucidates its teachings, and illustrates its links to the other religions. He comments on such celebrated Sufi poets and philosophers as Rumi and Al-Ghazali, and narrates their influence on the Kabbalah, on the descendants of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides, and on Christian mystics like Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Ávila as well as the American transcendentalists.
Furthermore, Schwartz presents a fresh survey of Sufism in today’s Islamic world, anticipating an intellectual renaissance of the faith and alternatives to fundamentalism and tyranny in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran.
Schwartz, a journalist and convert to Islam, offers Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, as an aid to the United States' efforts to fight extremism. He provides an incomparable history of Sufism, covering in one short book all the major Sufi saints, schools, and the persecution of Sufis by Wahhabis. Deeply anti-Wahhabi, Schwartz encourages U.S. policymakers to ally with Sufis to undermine the Wahhabi influence. Schwartz believes the Wahhabi philosophy, which is literal and extreme in its interpretation of the Islamic faith, to be the motivation behind Muslim terrorism, with Wahhabi Saudis providing the financing. Wahhabis abhor Sufis for centuries-old traditions they label as idolatrous. Schwartz critiques the Western media for inaccurately dismissing Wahhabi attacks on Sufis, including the insurgency in Iraq, as Sunni-Shia disputes. In reality, Schwartz argues, they are part of the centuries-long Wahhabi campaign to destroy Sufism and moderate Islam. Schwartz's opinion that Sufis are the natural allies of the U.S. in the ongoing war on terror is well presented and worth considering.