The fruits of superstition are ruin. Such faith is condemned by God: it is the faith of idolaters in their idols, Muslims in their false prophet Mohammed and in the Qu'ran, heretics in their blasphemous dogmas and in their heresiarchs, and rationalists in their fallen human intellect. With this faith will the Antichrist be believed by his followers.
St Ignatius’s words notwithstanding, I will give this to the Muslims—they like to give away books, a result, perhaps, of their evangelistic zeal. I have been given a book each and every time I have ventured into a Muslim stronghold. The first time was when our tour group visited a Tatar mosque in Kazan. I received a slim volume in Arabic, the nature of which I still do not know. The second time was when my college class, ‘Religion in Contemporary America’, visited a mosque here in Oklahoma City. The imam (I suppose that’s what he was), gave us copies of Towards Understanding Islam, by Abul A’la Mawdudi (NY: The Message, 1996). Although it is much easier reading for me, I regret to say I still have not read it. Both of these books still sit on my shelf, side by side.
Which brings me to yesterday evening. I had noticed signs for some kind of celebration for the grand opening of something called ‘Raindrop Turkish House’ about a week ago, and when I had a free moment with the kids yesterday I decided to drop by and see what sort of place it was (I supposed it to be some kind of shop and/or café). A very friendly Turkish fellow met me at the door and informed me it was a cultural centre. He gave me a grand tour, mentioned they were offering classes in Turkish language and cooking, told me a bit about an inter-religious ecumenical group that met there, and gave me—that’s right—a book. It’s called Key Concepts in the Practice of Sufism: Emerald Hills of the Heart, 1, rev. ed., by M. Fethullah Gülen (Rutherford, NJ: Fountain, 2004).
I believe I had already heard of this Gülen when I attended a presentation on an academic trip to Turkey undertaken by some students and faculty of my alma mater, Oklahoma City University. I don’t know if I’ll get around to reading his book, but it’s true that I’ve meant to read something on Sufism for some time now. Being free, this one was cheaper than a book by Idries Shah I’d been eyeing at a local used bookshop for some time now.
Glancing through it a bit, it seems that the author often quotes poetry without mentioning the source. Here is one such excerpt (p. 114):
The suffering You cause is more pleasing than having fortune,
And Your vengeance is lovelier to me than my own soul.
I am in love with both His torment and His favor;
How strange it is that I am in love with things opposite to each other.
By God, if I go from this thorn of affliction to the garden of delight,
I will be one who, like a nightingale, always groans or sighs.
How strange it is that when a nightingale starts to sing,
It sings melodies of both the thorn and the rose.
Perhaps these passages are from Rumi, who seems to be considered the major Sufi poet.
As I’ve said, I may not agree with their religion, but I’m perfectly willing to accept free books from Muslims, and just maybe I’ll get around to reading them someday.