Book Review: Sea Without Shore by Shaykh Nuh Keller
Shaykh Nuh’s new book is split into three sections. The first talks about his experiences with some of his friends and mentors who he has known in the Middle East and left a profound impact on him, the second deals with information on the Shadhili path, as well as pieces of advice for all Muslims, the third deals with profound questions asked to the Shaykh with regards to topics such as evolution, mysticism and other faiths.
Most of my time reading is spent on translations, so when I finally read a good book originally written in English it’s like sigh of relief that I can finally read something that doesn’t have anything subtly cumbersome within it. Shaykh Nuh’s book despite its size is easy to read and very lucid, I found I was reading large chunks of it in short periods of time with ease. Personally I derived a lot of benefit from the book in the advice the Shaykh gives, particularly on how one should approach the spiritual dimension within one’s faith. Though most of it is directed towards people who are looking to, or have taken the Shadhili path, much of what he says can be applied by all Muslims in general.
The Shaykh answers a lot of questions in the book which are extremely relevant for our time, particularly with regards to the nature of Sufism and what it entails. He touches on the western understanding of Sufism, as well as the lack of solid traditional Sufi literature in the English language. One thing that stood out for me in this regard was how the Shaykh explained the concept of Wahdat ul-Wujuud, the Oneness of Being and Haqiqat al-Muhammadiyya, the Muhammadan reality. Both of these concepts are seen by some as being controversial, mainly because no sound definition is given of either in English, and personally until I had read this book I had never seen a correct and comprehensive definition ever given for what Oneness of Being is and what it entails. For this reason I will insha’Allah being posting excerpts from the book with regards to these two topics as I feel an understanding of both of them is highly needed by those who have heard of them but have yet to be told what they mean. The Shaykh also touches on concepts of universalism within the Sufi tradition, particularly with regards to those who ascribe it to such luminaries as Muhyiddin ibn al-Arabi and Emir Abdel Kader. This is a topic I discussed in my review of Hassan Le Gai Eaton’s ‘Islam and the Destiny of Man’, and the Shaykh uses this very book and the the ideas presented by adherents of the Perennialist school to show why they are in most cases inherently wrong.
Even before I had finished reading this book I had reached the conclusion this was the most comprehensive and best book I had read with regards to Sufism. Anyone who wishes to learn more about this widely misunderstood science, should read this book first, and not be put off by its size. Anyone who has touched on Sufism, particularly if it has mostly been from an English speaking perspective should also read this book to clear up any misunderstandings one may have picked up from the plethora of literature out there, from both Muslim and non, that misconstrue certain ideas presented as being Sufism. Highly recommended.
And to Him is our return.