Islam, Shah: Referencing how to Reference

A Sufi Muslim: Missing out on Islam means that Westerners who read Sufi works (by people such as Idries Shah and Inayat Khan, translations of Rumi and Hafiz) will be missing out on the location of the vineyard of Truth, even if they are getting the odd shipment of Wine.

The Tailor:

This is true, but again depends on how the Sufi works are being read.

On the one hand, how can you read Hafiz or Rumi without a detailed knowledge of the Qur’an? You’d miss all the references!

On the other hand, consider Idries Shah.

Shah has written many notes regarding “food” and “cooking” and “recipes”. He is often understood — by his non-Islamic readership — to employ these metaphors to describe the process of learning/knowledge transmission. But people are missing out on the fact that he is offering a Sufi tafsir (cooked) on the nature of what “halal food” (and what “dietary laws”) mean in Islam: he’s talking about real food here, literally real food, not a metaphor.

Another example from Shah would be the following. Skip ahead to point 3:38 in the following video

It may be clear to a Sufi schooled in Tailorite Islam that Shah is offering a tafsir on the Islamic laws of inheritance. These laws are quite complicated and great pains are spent to detail them in the Qur’an. Shah’s tafsir is that these laws are configured in such a way as define a mental “coming together” in the seeker, whereby different components (“children”) of the seeker’s Gnosis harmonize according to a Cosmic Mathematics, catalyzed by another mental agent called the “Nur”, “Teacher”, “Prophecy” or “Muhammed”.

But wait! Stop!

The Qur’an itself contains a lot of references to Torah, Talmud and Gnostic scripture. Islam has a lineage as well.

If I’m perfectly honest, my understanding of Islamic inheritance really comes from my study of inheritance in Jewish sources, not directly from any “Islamic” writing.

So couldn’t we apply the same argument regarding reading the source material — to Muslims, particularly those who live in this information age? If it is incumbent on readers of Rumi to read Qur’an (in Arabic preferably) to really get the source, then is it not also incumbent on readers of Qur’an to read Torah at least (in Hebrew, preferably), to really get God’s references (his self-citations)?

Or is it possible that we can receive without the need to cross check references? Is God’s transmission a rooted tree — or a rhizome? If we as children receive wealth in inheritance, how important is the father to that wealth?

(Shah’s video contains the answer, based, as it is, on solid Qur’anic foundation. And no, it’s not as simple as saying, “wealth” is transmitted, so let’s forget the father.)

And We certainly know that they say, “It is only a human being who teaches the Prophet.” The tongue of the one they refer to is foreign, and this Qur’an is a clear Arabic language. (16:103)


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