Kabir Helminski is co-founder of the Threshold Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing the knowledge and practice of Sufism, and a shaikh in the Mevlevi tradition founded by Jelaluddin Rumi. This paperback is part of an Islamic curriculum created by The Book Foundation and is intended for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It examines 200 central Islamic, spiritual, metaphysical, and philosophical terms, some in Arabic and some in English. For example, here is what he writes about the heart (Qalb):
"The heart may be experienced as the interior space within ourselves, which we know in a different way than through our normal thinking mind. The heart knows with a deep and empathetic knowing, often accompanied by physical sensations as well. We talk about being heart-sick, or having a restless, wounded, or cold heart. We also talk about giving our heart to something.
"The heart has the ability to sense the significance and value of things and events. Only the awakened heart can know the true dimensions of the spiritual universe we live in by experiencing all the subtleties the heart is capable of perceiving.
"It is midpoint of the individual person, between the ego self and Spirit. When it is healthy and awakened it receives all that Spirit has to give and transmits it to the individual self. The heart also includes many subtle faculties of perception.
"On the other hand, if the heart becomes too dominated by the materialistic concerns of the ego, it becomes contracted and numb and no longer functions as a heart at all."
This glossary enables readers to ponder the spiritual vocabulary of the Qur'an, to build a more precise spiritual vocabulary in the English language, and to show how terms of one language can be translated into another language. Helminksi is perfectly suited to this task given his inestimable work in translating the works of Rumi and other Sufi masters as well as lecturing around the world on Islam and Sufism.
Reading this paperback, we gain invaluable insights into the essentials of Islamic faith and its sacred psychology. Helminski's piece on heart quoted above is a good example of the high quality of this material; it is a full and rich definition, the result, no doubt, of his 30 years of experience translating and clarifying Islamic concepts.