Review of Satan's Tragedy and Redemption: Iblis in Sufi Psychology

by P. J. Awn
Book Reviewed
Book Title
Satan's Tragedy and Redemption: Iblis in Sufi Psychology
Book Author
P. J. Awn
Book Publisher
Brill Academic Publishers
Place of Publication
9789004069060 More info
Book Review Citation
Review Author
Abdulaziz A. Sachedina
History of Religions
Select License
August 29th, 2012


Satan's Tragedy and Redemption: Iblis in Sufi Ps~~cholog~.

By PETER J. AWN. With a foreword by ANNEMARIE Pp. x + 235. Leiden: E. J. Brill,


More than any other group among Muslims, it is the Sufis who have paid the most attention to the figure of Satan, Iblis. The reason is that, according to the Sufi masters, although human beings were created with the capability of making possible the ultimate vision of God, there were sinful impulses in a person's life that needed to be transformed into holiness before one could move toward realization of God. These sinful impulses were the result of the insinuations of Satan. However, the question Sufi masters asked was whether Satan was in fact so bad as he is reputed. Furthermore, what was his role in the attainment of the ultimate vision of God? Such questions led them to discuss at length the fate of the "lover" of God who was confronted with a tragic dilemma. Either he must dishonor the beloved by bowing down to something lesser, or he must disobey him and accept the banishment and condemnation.

Professor Awn, with his thorough examination of Sufi literature, in addition to the Qur'anic and hadith materials, has in a certain way contributed to the understanding of the complexities in which man finds himself in the universal striving toward God. Like Iblis, every being on the mystical path is faced with a predicament presenting a choice between God's will and his command. The myth of Iblis in an allusive and paradoxical way explains the demands of a total love for God above even the obedience to God set forth in his commands. In this learned and technically compact work, the author has succeeded in revealing the multifaceted Iblis and in discussing the problem of the existence

378 Book Notes

of sinfulness in God's fundamentally good world and the way the Sufis under-

took to explicate the coincidentia oppositorum as it is manifested in Iblis's

condemnation and rehabilitation.

In sum this is an important contribution to the history of religions that students not only of Islamic mysticism but also of theology will find indis- pensable. [ABDULAZIZ University of Virginia]


The Forest Monks of Sri Lanka: An Anthropological and Hisrorical Stud?,.


Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983. 145 rupees. This beautiful and inspiring account of Theravada Buddhist spirituality will, 1 trust, become a classic. It deserves a place in any reading list on reli- gious experience. The unassuming scope of its primary subject matter is deceptive: the richness of the content defies summary. Within the last century various Sinhalese monks have aspired to live up to the highest ideals of their Buddhist tradition and rejected the comforts of the village monastery for a life of simplicity and self-cultivation. Using printed sources, private diaries, and interviews, Carrithers writes brief accounts of the lives of seven Sinhalese and a German monk and of the institutions they have founded. He uses these biographies to build up a clear and convincing yet subtle and many-faceted picture of Theravgdin religious life at its best. The monks see themselves as reviving a tradition; Carrithers weaves into his narrative the texts and his- torical events that inspire them and, in so doing, shows the complexity of that tradition and how different monks have responded to different strands in it. With them we progress, chapter by chapter, from polemic, ascetic self-denial, and the ambition to lead a new and purer Sangha to the successful cultivation of awareness and love in an intelligent pragmatism and refined sensibility that replace habitual craving by alert interest. Its literary excellence makes the book a delight to read; the author's photographs and Stanley Sporny's drawings further enhance it. I am thanked for having urged the author to write; that egging on is the best thing I have done. [RICHARD GOMBRICH,


0 1985 by The Un~versity of Chicago. All r~ghts reserved

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