Sufism in the Secret History of Persia  book cover
1st Edition

Sufism in the Secret History of Persia

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ISBN 9781844656776
Published August 20, 2014 by Routledge
256 Pages

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Book Description

Sufism formed one of the cultures of resistance which has existed in the social fabric of Persia since antiquity. Such resistance continues to manifest itself today with many looking to Sufism as a model of cooperation between East and West, between traditional and modern. 'Sufism in the Secret History of Persia' explores the place of Sufi mysticism in Iran's intellectual and spiritual consciousness through traditional and contemporary Sufi thinkers and writers. Sufism in the Secret History of Persia examines the current of spirituality which extends from the old Iranian worship of Mithra to modern Islam. This current always contains elements of gnosis and inner knowing, but has often provided impetus for socio-political resistance. The study describes how these persisting pre-Islamic cultural and socio-religious elements have secretly challenged Muslim orthodoxies and continue to shape the nature and orientation of contemporary Sufism.

Table of Contents

Abbreviations Acknowledgements Preface List of Illustrations Introduction: Iranian or Persian? The Religious Landscape of Iranian Identity 1. The Macrohistorical Pursuit of Secret Persia and the Sufi Myth-History 2. From Mithra to Zarathushtra 3. The Gathas and Mithra 4. Mithraism and the Parallels of Sufism 5. The Resurgence of 'Persianate' Identity in the Transmission and Fusion of Ancient Iranian Ideals within Islam 6. From Late Antiquity to Neo-Mazdakism 7. Later Antiquity: Mazdak and the Sasanian Crisis 8. Between Late Antiquity and Islam: The Case of Salman the Persian and Waraqa (The Christian Scribe) 9. The End of the Journey: Persian Sufism Conclusion Select Bibliography Index

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Milad Milani is a Senior Lecturer in religious studies at Western Sydney University, Australia.


This book shows the vital importance of Iran in the formation of Islamic culture. It was Central Asian Iranians who changed Islam from an Arab religion into a world universal faith. And it was Iran which introduced Sufism into Islam, shaping the gnostic character of the religion. Sufism in the Secret History of Persia [in italics] illuminates Iranian Islamic civilisation and reveals the influence of Zoroastrianism and Mithraism on Sufi beliefs.

Richard N. Frye, Harvard University, USA

Overall, this book makes an important contribution to the academic literature on the aspect of Sufism in Persian history. It provides much food for thought, offers new thinking on old issues in research, sometimes philosophical in nature, and challenges previous academic views. Sufism in the Secret History of Persia is indispensable for anyone who takes an interest in this field and immensely useful for anyone who wishes better to understand the mysticism of Persia.

Haggai Mazuz, Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg, Bonn