Knowledge of God in Classical Sufism Foundations of Islamic Mystical Theology By John Renard, S.J., trans. and introduced (New York: Paulist Press, 2004. 434 pages.)

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Kiki Kennedy-Day



A new collection of Sufi writings is, of course, greatly welcome. This book,
geared to discussing gnosis (ma`rifah), features selections by al-Hujwiri,
Suhrawardi, and al-Qushayri, among others, although with the incomprehensible
omission of Ibn al-`Arabi. The idea for this collection is to present
works by important Sufi authors on the knowledge of God, both exoteric
(`ilm) and esoteric (ma`rifah). The introduction gives a brief snapshot of
non-Sufi literature, brief biographies of Sufi authors, and a short review of
the “post-classical” age. Part 2 features a selection of translations from the
works of nine authors. The biographies are separated from the works of their
authors, which may lead to a certain amount of flipping back and forth.
For al-Ghazali, Renard translates book 21 of Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din. For
Suhrawardi, he gives us three chapters of `Awarif al-Ma`arif. Renard has,
however, selectively edited the texts: that is, he omits the honorifics and
polite exclamations after the name of God and the Prophet. Although he
states that he does this to save space and smooth out the reading (p. 5), the
omission is distracting, because (a) you know the words should be there and ...

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