The first centuries of Islam saw the development of Sufism as one of the world's major mystical traditions. Although the later Sufi writings by mystics such as Rumi are known and available in translation, access to the crucial early period of Islamic mysticism has been far more limited.
This volume opens with an essay on the place of spirituality within the Islamic tradition. Immediately following are the foundation texts of the Pre-Sufi spirituality : The Qur'an passages most important to the mystical tradition; the accounts of Prophet Muhammad's heavenly ascent (Miraj); and the crucial work of early poets in setting a poetic sensibility for speaking of union with the Divine Beloved.
The volume then presents the sayings attributed to the key early figures of Islamic spirituality : Jafar al-Sadiq the Sixth Imam of the Shi'ite Tradition; Rabi a the most famous woman saint of classical Islam; Muhasibi, the founder of Islamic moral psychology; Bistami, whose sayings on mystical union have generated fascination and controversy throughout the Islamic tradition; Tustari, a pioneer in the mystical interpretation of the Qur'an; Junayd, who helped place Sufi mysticism at the centre of the Islamic traditions; Hallaj, famous for his ecstatic utterances and martyrdom; and Niffari, whose sayings are considered among the deepest mystical expressions within Islam.
The sayings of these pioneers are embedded in the later stratum of analytical and synoptic writings of later Sufi thinkers : Sarraj, Sulami, Qushayri, and Attar. Extensive portions of these writers are translated into English for the first time.