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BOOK LAUNCH AND COURSE – SUFISM FOR NON-SUFIS Translation of ‘Ata’ Allah Al-Sakandari’s Tâj Al-‘Arus

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Delivered by: Professor Sherman Abdul-Hakim Jackson [University of Southern California,USA]

Few forms of classical Islam are more controversial among modern Muslims than the spiritual discipline known as Sufism. Yet, in the face of the modern Muslim tendency to limit Islam’s deployment to the emphatically political, few expressions of the religion could be more central to its spiritual vitality in the modern world. In his translation and analysis of Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah al-Sakandari’s Taj al-‘Arus, Sherman A. Jackson demonstrates that violent, lax, or rigid readings of the texts of Islam are just as much a result of the state of spiritual health, awareness, and fortitude of those who read and deploy them as they are of the substance of the Qur’an, Sunna, and the teachings of Islam’s sages.

Sufism for Non-Sufis?: Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah al-Sakandari’s Taj al-‘Arus shows the effort of a renowned Sufi master (d. 1309 CE) to circumvent the controversies and misunderstandings concerning Sufism to explain Islam’s tradition of devotional rectitude, spiritual refinement, and purification of the self to the everyday Muslim. To this end, al-Sakandari avoids virtually every aspect of Sufism known to raise problems for opponents or non-adepts – theological, institutional, even terminological – instead attempting to cultivate a proper relationship with God, not merely intellectually or theologically but experientially and psycho-dynamically. Written in the classical style of spiritual aphorisms, this work is a treasure-trove of classical Islamic spiritual wisdom, free of all of the usual barriers between Sufism and the common believer.

Features First English translation of an important and popular work by an exceedingly influential pre-modern figure Demonstrates that the spiritual state of those who employ a religious text is as important as the text itself in determining the social role of the text

Reviews “The translation is excellent, the style is accessible and engaging, and the work of Ibn Ata Allah is appealing and wise. In his introduction to the text, Jackson offers original theological reflections on the authentic essence of Sufism and why it remains valuable, if not essential, for contemporary Muslims, or even more broadly to a modern audience facing perennial challenges to humans who seek a correct relationship with the divine.” –Marcia Hermansen, Professor of Theology, Loyola University Chicago

“‘The Bride-Groom’s Crown’ is not yet another exotic treatise of medieval Islamic theosophy but a truly universal manual of liberation from our wild self. It is less a book than a spiritual firework: hundreds of aphorisms enriched with amazing metaphors, leaving hearts burnt but enraptured. Sherman Jackson’s annotated translation is beautiful and his introduction enlightening. An outstanding contribution to scholarship and a must-read for every lost soul.”–Yahya Michot, Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, Hartford Seminary “A very readable translation of a work from an important but understudied genre of Islamic writing. An invaluable book for undergraduate courses and non-academic readers alike.” –Jamal J. Elias, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania

The course will cover the following:

  • Sufism and Modern Western Muslims: The Challenge and the Promise
  • Ibn Ata’ Allah’s Taj al-Arus and the Challenge of Modernity
  • Taj al-Arus and the Challenge of Self-Refinement: Sufism for Non-Sufis”
  • Extensive Q & A

Professor Sherman Abd al-Hakim Jackson [University of Southern California, USA]

Professor Abd al-Hakim Jackson is a respected scholar and one of the foremost authorities on Shariah and Islam in America. Dr. Jackson is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Visiting Professor of Law and Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI). Dr. Jackson has authored several books including On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam: Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s Faysal al-Tafriqa (Oxford, 2002), the controversial Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Towards the Third Resurrection (Oxford, 2005) and most recently Islam and the Problem of Black Suffering (Oxford, 2009). Dr. Jackson received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA) in 1991 and has taught at several institutions including the University of Texas (Austin, TX), Indiana University (Bloomington, IN) and Wayne State University (Detroit, MI). Currently Dr. Jackson is the King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA). Dr. Jackson has served as the Executive Director of the Center of Arabic Study Abroad (Cairo, Egypt).

Dr. Jackson is a co-founder, Core Scholar, and member of the Board of Trustees of the American Learning Institute for Muslims (ALIM), an academic institution where scholars, professionals, activists, artists, writers, and community leaders come together to develop strategies for the future of Islam in the modern world. Dr. Jackson specializes in teaching

Additionally, Dr. Jackson is a former member of the Fiqh Council of North America, form Presdient of the Shari’ah Scholars’ Association of North America (SSANA) and a past trustee of the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). He has contributed to several publications including Washington Post-Newsweek blog, On Faith, and the Huffington Post. Dr. Jackson is listed by the Religion Newsriters Foundation’s ReligionLink as among the top ten experts on Islam in America and was named among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in Amman, Jordan and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

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