This book gives a definition and general history of what sufism can best be described as, the spiritual aspects of Islam (it would be best to know some general things about Islam before reading this book), poems and writings by some famous sufis such as Rumi and Ibn Arabi, etc. William Chittick does write beautifully and found this book spiritually inspiring. However, I found a few of the concepts mentioned to be a little over my head such as the chapter about the lifting of the veils that surround God(swt).
After Sept.11 tragic there has been a lot of questions about and attacks on Islam, and in my opinion rightly so. I even started wondering what Islam really is and is not. There is just too many version of Islam floating around and there is no way for anyone to honestly claim that their version is the true Islam.
Quran commands us " all cling onto the rope of God and do not scatter", but realistically how is this possible when Quran itself seems to be so ambiguous on many issues. All these sects in Islam base their teachings on Quran and each one arrives at their conclusions using Quran. It seems to me that Quran can be used to support almost any point of view. I wonder since Quran has been used to support so many contradictory points of views how could God expect us not to "Scatter" and become divided amongst ourselves. Is that really a realistic expectation from us? I imagine us being like the blind men and the elephant, elephant here being Quran, and each one of us touch one part of the elephant and claim that we know what the elephant is. I am beginning to think that maybe Shiism has a point in claiming that there must be an infallible man to tell us what really Quran is all about and uncover its true meaning and true intentions at different times and for different generations.
Besides the Shiism , I have another alternative. It could be that there is no such a thing as "True" Islam. Why should there be such a thing as "True" meaning of Quran. Maybe Quran is like beauty, it is simply in the eye of the beholder, as someone has suggested. Whatever you think Quran means, then that is what it means truly and really. Why do we have to insist that Quran is infallible and it is a perfect book teaching "The" Truth and then arguing whose truth is "The Truth." Whatever I understand of Quran that is my perfect truth, it may not be someone else's truth but then who cares, it is my truth and that should be all I need to know. If we are all blind men, then why should one blind man's version of elephant be any better than another blind man. If God and His Prophet didn't leave us with any infallible guide, as we say they didn't, then this is a clear proof that Quran has no Fixed and True meaning. Quran is in the eye of the beholder and we should stop pushing our religion and our understanding of Quran unto others pretending to be an infallible, which of course none of us are, and I doubt it even if Prophet was infallible.