This beautifully designed paperback is by Robert Frager, who embraced Islam in 1981 and currently serves as a sheikh in the Halveti-Jerrahi Sufi Order. He has written three books on Sufism (Essential Sufism, Love Is the Wine, and Heart, Self, and Soul) and several books on psychology. Frager is past president of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology and founder of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California.
The author provides a succinct and thought-provoking overview of Islam with a masterful mix of juicy quotations, insightful commentary, and spiritual practices at the end of each chapter. He covers the five pillars of Islam, the messenger of God, the Qur'an, the history of Islam, the path of Islamic mysticism, the mind of Islam, women in Islam and Islam today. Throughout he adds details that bring this faith to life. For example, discussing the required pilgrimage to Mecca, he notes that in Indonesia where the cost of the journey is more than many could ever afford, many rural communities pool their money each year in order to send the oldest couple who have not yet gone to Mecca. The whole town accompanies them to the Jakarta airport to see off their representatives.
After a description of the devotional act of fasting, Frager presents this exercise: "Fast two or three days from using untruthful, harmful, or hurtful language. Try to be aware of your language whenever you speak. Every evening, look over your day and review how well you did at the fasting of the tongue."
Although Muhammad has been praised for his skills as a philosopher, orator, legislator, warrior, and statesman, Sufis like to remind us that he once said: "I was sent to teach adab." This capacious term, according to Frager, refers to the basic Islamic virtues of generosity, good hospitality, and service to others. "To have good adab is to think of others' needs instead of thinking only of oneself." The author elaborates: "I have learned much about adab from the old dervishes. When one dervish serves another tea, adab turns this event into something profound. The server is aware that it is an honor and a privilege to serve another human being. The one being served realizes that she is being given a real gift from the heart. Both are conscious; both are grateful."
It is this kind of graceful illustrative material that makes The Wisdom of Islam such a salutary and inspirational work.