In the introduction to this celebration of the life and thought of Islamic scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Terry Moore writes:
"For fifty years, [he] has been a man in quest of truth, wisdom, and the sacred, but he has also served as a mentor to several generations of scholars in Islamic, religious, and philosophical studies. Through his writings and teachings, Nasr has been able to resuscitate the Islamic traditions of philosophy, science, and Sufism."
Continuing in the introduction, we learn about this professor of Islamic Studies at the George Washington University and of his talent for building bridges, finding sacred meaning in nature, cobbling together bits of wisdom from perennial philosophy, advising Muslims how to handle the challenges posed by modernism and Islamic fundamentalism, and introducing Sufism to the academic world in the West.
This unusual volume is comprised of interviews which cover the story of his life and "an intellectual autobiography" probing the different themes of his life's work in more than 50 books and 500 articles. Nasr begins with recollections of his childhood, after being born into a family of scholars and physicians in 1933. He was immersed in his father's interest in Sufism and talking with him about metaphysical questions. He recalls his feelings about Tehran and the indelible impression Mahatma Gandhi made upon him as a boy.
After discussing his early years of study at MIT and Harvard, Nasr covers his duties as professor of philosophy at the Tehran University in 1958. He talks about his love of teaching, his theory of education, and his projects with the great philosopher Henry Corbin. Nasr came to the United States to teach in 1979, and he covers some of his major interests, travel, and love of the poetry of Rumi and William Blake.
Thomas Merton once wrote: "Spiritual life is not to be known and studied. It is to be lived." Nasr agrees as he talks about his Sufi practices and his response to exoteric spirituality. He is mystified how some Christians can reverence the cross and feel no awe in the presence of a tree. If these believers did change their attitude toward nature, they would be able to see it as sacred.
According to Nasr, one of the reasons Islam is growing by leaps and bounds is its portability. You can perform prayers no matter where you are: "All you need is some water to make your ablution and a piece of earth to perform your canonical prayers." No priests or sacred buildings are required. We also were edified by the author's discussion of Beauty in Islam and his understanding of sacred art.
All those who have been impressed with Seyyed Hossein Nasr's spiritual writings will want to savor the breadth and depth of his vision as revealed in these incredible interviews!