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Repentance and the Return to God
Tawba in Early Sufism
Repentance and the Return to God
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Atif Khalil - Author
Price: $85.00 
Hardcover - 272 pages
Release Date: October 2018
ISBN13: 978-1-4384-6911-9

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The first major study of the idea of repentance, or tawba, in Islam.

This book offers the first extensive treatment in a European language of tawba in Islam. Conventionally translated as “repentance,” tawba includes the broader sense of returning to God. Khalil examines this wider notionin the early period of Sufism with a particular focus on the formative years of the tradition between Muḥāsibī and Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī. Beginning with an extensive survey of the semantic field of the term as outlined in Arabic lexicography, Khalil offers a detailed analysis of the concept in Muslim scripture. He then examines tawba as a complex psychological process involving interior conversion and a complete, unwavering commitment to the spiritual life. The ideas of a number of prominent figures from the first few centuries of Islam are used to illuminate the historical development of tawba and its role in early praxis-oriented Sufism.

“In this exemplary study, Khalil lays bare the contours of the key concept of repentance in the spiritual psychology of early Islam with admirable sensitivity and ease—a remarkable achievement.” — Ahmet T. Karamustafa, author of Sufism: The Formative Period

“Atif Khalil’s Repentance and the Return to God is an illuminating account of the idea of tawba as attested to in the early Sufi literature from the ninth through the tenth centuries. Starting with a painstaking semantic examination of the Qur’ānic passages related to repentance from sin and turning to God in remorse and search of pardon, the author traces the development of these motifs from early Sufi didactic adages to their subsequent rearticulation in the sophisticated psychological discourses of such major lights of classical Sufism such as al-Muḥāsibī, Sahl al-Tustarī, al-Kharrāz, al-Junayd, and Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī. A must read for both lay readers interested in comparative mysticism/religions and specialists on Islam, Sufism, and Islamic spiritual and intellectual history.” — Alexander Knysh, author of Islamic Mysticism: A Short History and Sufism: A New History of Islamic Mysticism

Atif Khalil is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Lethbridge, Canada, and the coeditor (with Mohammed Rustom and Kazuyo Murata) of In Search of the Lost Heart: Explorations in Islamic Thought, by William C. Chittick, also published by SUNY Press.

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Table of Contents


Part I. The Semantics of Tawba 

1. Is Tawba “Repentance”? A Lexical and Semantic Survey 

2. The Internal Structure and Semantic Field of Tawba in the Qur’ān

Part II. Early Sufi Approaches to Tawba

3. Tawba as Interior Conversion

4. The States, Stations and Early Sufi Apothegmata

5. Four Approaches to Tawba

6. Tawba in the Writings of al-Ḥārith al-Muḥāsibī

7. Tawba in the Nourishment of Hearts of Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī


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