A Sufi Saint in the Twentieth Century: Shaikh Ahmad al-Alawi – His Spiritual Heritage and Legacy
“Almost a prerequisite for any serious study of Sufism in European languages”: this was the verdict of Seyyed Hossein Nasr in his review of the first edition of this book. According to the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, it is “one of the most thorough and intimately engaging books on Sufism to be produced by a Western scholar.” Certainly there is nothing second-hand about it.
The author lets the Sufis speak for themselves and, in a series of unusual and absorbing texts mainly translated from Arabic, he gives a vivid picture of life in a North African Sufi order. Against his background stands the unforgettable figure of the Algerian Shaikh who was head of the order from the death of his Master in 1909 until his own death in 1934. The last few chapters are mainly devoted to his writing, which included some penetrating aphorisms, and which end with a small anthology of his remarkable mystic poems which, as one reviewer has remarked, “remain beautiful poetry even in their English translation.”
Martin Lings, formerly Keeper of Oriental Manuscript in the British Museum and the British Library, is the author of three works on Islamic mysticism, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, What is Sufism? and The Book of Certainty, all published by The Islamic Texts Society.