Beyond Faith and Infidelity


Beyond Faith and Infidelity


The Sufi Poetry and Teachings of Mahmūd Shabistarī

Leonard Lewisohn

This study of the life and poetry of the Persian Sufi Mahmūd Shabistarī (d. 1339-­40), whose 1000-couplet poem The Garden of Mystery has been described as the handiest introduction to the thought of post-Ibn ‘Arabi Sufism, deals with Shabistarī’s literary legacy both in his own era the last half century of the Mongol period coinciding with the greatest epoch in the history of Persian literature. The scholastic context of Shabistarī’s thoughts, his relationship to peripatetic philosophy, and his place in classical Persian Literature are discussed in depth and places his poetry for the first time in the context of local socio-political conditions. Composed in a highly symbolic language, and drawing upon the lexicon of several centuries of Persian symbolic poetry, the Garden of Mystery sets forth the dicta of the Sufis on a variety of themes such as ‘Thought’ (fikr), ‘the Soul’ (nafs), Knowledge (ma‘rifat), the Multiplicity and Unity of the Realms of Being, the Hierarchical Levels of Being, the Spiritual Voyage (sayr) and Methodical Progression on the Sufi Path (sulūk), nearness (qurb) and distance from God (bu‘d), and the evolution of the soul.

All the poetic work of Shabistarī shows a peerless flair for metaphysical penetration combined with an aphoristic skill in synthesizing intricate dilemmas of Islamic theological and theosophical thought, unrivalled by any other mediaeval Persian Sufi poet in brevity of output and profundity of content.


Leonard Lewisohn


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