Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Beautiful One












By Ahmet Kurucan, "‘The Garden of Truth’ by Seyyed Hossein Nasr" - Today's Zaman - Istanbul, Turkey/New Jersey, USA
Monday, April 7, 2008

I had previously heard him talk about various subjects on a number of different occasions, but this time it was different. "I will surely continue with my scholarly studies, but I will no longer be open to offers about writing books on this or that subject.

"I don't think I will work on another book. This is my last book," he said as he was promoting "The Garden of Truth." His is the first name or one of the first names that come to mind in relation to Islamic scholars living in the Western world or in connection with Islam in general or Sufism in particular.

Think about the seriousness with which academic work is conducted in the West, particularly in social science. He has gradually climbed all these academic steps to attain this position.

Almost all of his works are translated into Turkish, even before they are put into Persian. Yes, we are talking about Seyyed Hossein Nasr and will review his book, "The Garden of Truth." The subheading of the book elaborates on its subject: "The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam's Mystical Tradition."

What is the meaning of being human? Who are we? Why are we here? These are the questions that have intrigued people since the beginning of mankind. Answers have been sought and according to them, lifestyles have been developed.

In plain language, Nasr tells us, "Everybody should ask this question to themselves." His entire book revolves around this centuries-long question and Nasr, together with readers, seeks an answer to it. Sometimes, he gives us encyclopedic information; at times, he holds the hands of his readers and takes them on a journey into long past corridors of time.

Time and again, he leads readers to the depths of the heart or ushers them into the domain of reason. The most striking fact is that whether you are guided by the heart or by reason, these journeys always take place in a state of sobriety, free from intoxication.

This is a short journey, but it is sufficient to disrupt our mental and intellectual patterns. In this respect, it is considerably exhausting. And eventually, this journey comes to an end at the point that one decides "to become someone or to become no one."

Actually, what makes this journey exhausting is that we tend to stray from the intrinsic line, i.e., the road which is created by God and delineated by divine books and prophets, he says, stressing the fact that truth does not change from one individual to another or from an era to another.

He explains that he voices this unchanging truth using the Sufism's language in the book. This also explains, though a bit indirectly, why the book is titled "Garden of Truth."

In his book, Nasr provides an explanation for why almost all distinguished people who created everlasting works of calligraphy, painting, music or other fine arts or literature in the Islamic world all emerged among Sufis.

He describes Sufis as the people who feel the manifestation of God's attribute of "Cemil" (the Beautiful One) deep in their minds, hearts, bodies and consciences. This manifestation is reflected first in thought and then in art.

Nasr suggests that those who do not think in a positive way, those who do not show the reflection of God's name of the Beautiful One or of the Face of God (Cemal) or who do not see everything in the micro to macro cosmos from the perspective of "what they denote" not from the perspective of "what they seem to be," as Bediuzzaman puts it, cannot produce such works.

"The degree of this manifestation is directly proportional to the level of the person's interest in Sufism and how s/he has progressed based on this interest, the ranks or states s/he has achieved," he notes.

The book has four parts and six chapters. The first chapter focuses on the meaning of being human and the questions of who we are and what we are doing here, as we have already stated.

Part two starts with the second chapter, which is titled "Truth." It consists of four chapters. The second chapter explains how knowledge illuminates and delivers us from the bondage of ignorance. The third chapter is titled "Love and Beauty," and discusses the liberating, calming, attractive, consuming and other qualities of love, beauty and peace with emphasis on their human and divine aspects. The fourth chapter is titled "Goodness and Human Action," and focuses on the human ability to conform to divine will and norms. Finally, the fifth chapter shows us how to reach the garden of truth. As you might guess, this is explained with the help of a number of Sufi terms.

Part three shows us how to access the center, i.e., Sufism, and gives an account of the progress Sufism has made over time and what it can offer us. Nasr makes comparisons between past and contemporary Sufi understanding and practices in the Islamic and Western worlds.

Part four actually consists of two appendices that aim to give a short summary of the history of Sufism to the uninitiated. These appendices contain good, concise information about Sufis, from the first to the contemporary. They are particularly useful in that they present all this information in neatly organized categories.

No doubt this book will be a leading reference for those who take an interest in mysticism and Sufism. Despite his insistence on not writing another book, we can hope that this prolific writer will change his mind and publish more in the future.

"The Garden of Truth -- The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam's Mystical Tradition" by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, HarperOne, hardcover, 256 pp, 11.84 pounds in hardcover, ISBN: 978-0060797225

2 comments:

Anemone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anemone said...

MashaAllah, sounds fantastic! Can't wit to read this book. I've truly enjoyed Nasr's earlier books and I hope too that this will not be his last!

Shukran jazeelen ya Seyyed Hossein Nasr!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Beautiful One











By Ahmet Kurucan, "‘The Garden of Truth’ by Seyyed Hossein Nasr" - Today's Zaman - Istanbul, Turkey/New Jersey, USA
Monday, April 7, 2008

I had previously heard him talk about various subjects on a number of different occasions, but this time it was different. "I will surely continue with my scholarly studies, but I will no longer be open to offers about writing books on this or that subject.

"I don't think I will work on another book. This is my last book," he said as he was promoting "The Garden of Truth." His is the first name or one of the first names that come to mind in relation to Islamic scholars living in the Western world or in connection with Islam in general or Sufism in particular.

Think about the seriousness with which academic work is conducted in the West, particularly in social science. He has gradually climbed all these academic steps to attain this position.

Almost all of his works are translated into Turkish, even before they are put into Persian. Yes, we are talking about Seyyed Hossein Nasr and will review his book, "The Garden of Truth." The subheading of the book elaborates on its subject: "The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam's Mystical Tradition."

What is the meaning of being human? Who are we? Why are we here? These are the questions that have intrigued people since the beginning of mankind. Answers have been sought and according to them, lifestyles have been developed.

In plain language, Nasr tells us, "Everybody should ask this question to themselves." His entire book revolves around this centuries-long question and Nasr, together with readers, seeks an answer to it. Sometimes, he gives us encyclopedic information; at times, he holds the hands of his readers and takes them on a journey into long past corridors of time.

Time and again, he leads readers to the depths of the heart or ushers them into the domain of reason. The most striking fact is that whether you are guided by the heart or by reason, these journeys always take place in a state of sobriety, free from intoxication.

This is a short journey, but it is sufficient to disrupt our mental and intellectual patterns. In this respect, it is considerably exhausting. And eventually, this journey comes to an end at the point that one decides "to become someone or to become no one."

Actually, what makes this journey exhausting is that we tend to stray from the intrinsic line, i.e., the road which is created by God and delineated by divine books and prophets, he says, stressing the fact that truth does not change from one individual to another or from an era to another.

He explains that he voices this unchanging truth using the Sufism's language in the book. This also explains, though a bit indirectly, why the book is titled "Garden of Truth."

In his book, Nasr provides an explanation for why almost all distinguished people who created everlasting works of calligraphy, painting, music or other fine arts or literature in the Islamic world all emerged among Sufis.

He describes Sufis as the people who feel the manifestation of God's attribute of "Cemil" (the Beautiful One) deep in their minds, hearts, bodies and consciences. This manifestation is reflected first in thought and then in art.

Nasr suggests that those who do not think in a positive way, those who do not show the reflection of God's name of the Beautiful One or of the Face of God (Cemal) or who do not see everything in the micro to macro cosmos from the perspective of "what they denote" not from the perspective of "what they seem to be," as Bediuzzaman puts it, cannot produce such works.

"The degree of this manifestation is directly proportional to the level of the person's interest in Sufism and how s/he has progressed based on this interest, the ranks or states s/he has achieved," he notes.

The book has four parts and six chapters. The first chapter focuses on the meaning of being human and the questions of who we are and what we are doing here, as we have already stated.

Part two starts with the second chapter, which is titled "Truth." It consists of four chapters. The second chapter explains how knowledge illuminates and delivers us from the bondage of ignorance. The third chapter is titled "Love and Beauty," and discusses the liberating, calming, attractive, consuming and other qualities of love, beauty and peace with emphasis on their human and divine aspects. The fourth chapter is titled "Goodness and Human Action," and focuses on the human ability to conform to divine will and norms. Finally, the fifth chapter shows us how to reach the garden of truth. As you might guess, this is explained with the help of a number of Sufi terms.

Part three shows us how to access the center, i.e., Sufism, and gives an account of the progress Sufism has made over time and what it can offer us. Nasr makes comparisons between past and contemporary Sufi understanding and practices in the Islamic and Western worlds.

Part four actually consists of two appendices that aim to give a short summary of the history of Sufism to the uninitiated. These appendices contain good, concise information about Sufis, from the first to the contemporary. They are particularly useful in that they present all this information in neatly organized categories.

No doubt this book will be a leading reference for those who take an interest in mysticism and Sufism. Despite his insistence on not writing another book, we can hope that this prolific writer will change his mind and publish more in the future.

"The Garden of Truth -- The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam's Mystical Tradition" by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, HarperOne, hardcover, 256 pp, 11.84 pounds in hardcover, ISBN: 978-0060797225

2 comments:

Anemone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anemone said...

MashaAllah, sounds fantastic! Can't wit to read this book. I've truly enjoyed Nasr's earlier books and I hope too that this will not be his last!

Shukran jazeelen ya Seyyed Hossein Nasr!