Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri: The Elements of Sufism

Dr. Dietrich Kuhl

Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri. The Elements of Sufism. (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1999. 118 pp., app. 14.95 €).

Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri grew up in a family of wellknown Shaykhs in Kerbala in Iraq. He studied natural sciences and technology in Europe and USA and was long employed as an industrial consultant. Having found his way back to the roots of Islam, he is now actively involved in philosophy and writing. At the same time, he travels and teaches exten-sively.

His books and articles claim to make Western readers understand original Islam. It is this very claim which makes this book to be so fascinating. On the other hand we may be permitted to suggest that the book glamorizes the facts for the predominantly Western reader.

After defining Sufism Haeri goes on to describe the early developments of Islam which let Sufism evolve. He explains fundamental concepts of Sufism, describes different Sufi brotherhoods and the spiritual way of the Sufi. Sufi exercises are illustrated as Sufis experience ecstasies (i.e. different stages of expansion of awareness like dreams, visions, miracles).

Haeri deals with theological controversies between orthodox Islam and Sufism as well as with the role of Sufis as the conscience and a challenge to the ruling class. In two fur-ther chapters, the author concentrates on the issues of Sufism’s role in and the possibilities of reconciliation between Sufism and modern life. 16 short biographies of famous Sufis mark the end of the book.

Some facts are only shortly hinted at, at other points one would have liked the author to go more into details. Any bibliographical references are missing as well as a bibliography about Sufism. Nevertheless, the book is a good introduction to the subject.