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Polished Mirror

Storytelling and the Pursuit of Virtue in Islamic Philosophy and Sufism

Published by Oneworld Academic
Distributed by Simon & Schuster



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About The Book

Islamic philosophy and Sufism evolved as distinct yet interweaving strands of Islamic thought and practice. Despite differences, they have shared a concern with the perfection of the soul through the development of character. In The Polished Mirror, Cyrus Ali Zargar studies the ways in which, through teaching and storytelling, pre-modern Muslims lived, negotiated, and cultivated virtues. Examining the writings of philosophers, ascetics, poets, and saints, he locates virtue ethics within a dynamic moral tradition.

Innovative, engaging, and approachable, this work – the first in the English language to explore Islamic ethics in the fascinating context of narrative – will be a valuable resource for both students and scholars.

About The Author

Cyrus Ali Zargar is Associate Professor of Religion at Augustana College, in Rock Island, Illinois, where his primary research interest is the literature of medieval Sufism in Arabic and Persian.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Oneworld Academic (December 12, 2017)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781786072016

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Raves and Reviews

The Polished Mirror is the perfect title for Zargar’s erudite and eloquent book, for it reflects with superb analytical clarity the views of a wide range of thinkers on the subject of ethics. Justifiably going beyond writings that explicitly deal with the topic, he draws together various strands of Islamic tradition, clarifying both the links and similarities that join them and the distinctions that separate them. A major contribution to Islamic studies, from which both established scholars and those new to the field stand to gain significantly.’

– Hamid Algar, Professor Emeritus of Persian and Islamic Studies, University of California, Berkeley

‘Students of Islamic ethics have long felt the need for a more sustained and unified insight into the rich history of reflection on the virtues in the Islamic world. Ambitious in scope yet accessible throughout, this book explores the distinctive contributions of a number of key figures working across both sides of the permeable boundary between philosophy and Sufism. Anyone with an interest in how thinkers in the medieval Islamic world engaged with the “science of the states of the heart” – in its many permutations – will find a valuable companion in Cyrus Ali Zargar’s book.’

– Sophia Vasalou, Fellow in Philosophical Theology, University of Birmingham

‘Comprehensive in its scope, and drawing on intellectual luminaries ranging from Mu?asibi to Avicenna, Zargar’s erudite study offers the first major analysis of virtue ethics in classical Islam. It will set the stage for future research in the field.’

– Atif Khalil, Associate Professor, Dept. of Religious Studies, University of Lethbridge, and author of Repentance and the Return to God: Tawba in Early Sufism

‘This fine study, supported by careful analysis of primary texts, illustrates the congruence of Islamic philosophy and Sufism on the issue of achieving self-perfection, to which human beings are called both by prophetic wisdom and by rational acumen.’

– William C. Chittick, Distinguished Professor of Islamic Studies, Stony Brook University

‘Far too much of previous scholarship on Muslim ethics has obsessed over the question of its indebtedness to Greek (and Persian) antecedents. Cyrus Zargar’s The Polished Mirror is a brilliant way of reframing the conversation about ethics in the spiritual and intellectual cosmos of Islamic thought. Zargar masterfully navigates the worlds of ethics, philosophy, mysticism, narrative, and poetry to offer us a rich tapestry. The result is far more than merely a groundbreaking way of rethinking ethics in Islam. It is a groundbreaking study of the interconnectedness of the Islamic spiritual, ethical, and intellectual universes through studying Ibn Sina, Rumi, Brethren of Purity, Ghazali, Suhrawardi, and others. Enthusiastically recommended for all students of Islamic studies, ethics, and mysticism.’

– Omid Safi, Director, Duke Islamic Studies Center

The Polished Mirror is an incredible, even paradigm-shifting work in Islamic Studies.’

– Mohammed Rustom, associate professor of Islamic studies, Carleton University, and author of Inrushes of the Spirit: The Mystical Theology of ?Ayn al-Qu?at

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