Book Review: ‘Signs on the Horizons’ – Meetings with Men of Knowledge and Illumination by Michael Sugich
On the two and half hour train journey between London and Paris I decided to read this very interesting looking book. In it the author, Michael (Haroon) Sugich, provides highlights of his life on the spiritual journey of Islam by telling us about the lives and even oftentimes just glimpses of men who have illuminated him along the way. On the length of the outward journey I almost completed the book, on the the return journey it was finished before we even had left the outskirts of Paris. The book is unique in that it offers a very candid, frank and open window into the experiences of the author, glimpses into the lives of saintly individuals the likes of which have been ascribed to forgone legends and myths, and something in our time is quickly dismissed as make believe. To find a contemporary work of this type was like breaking a sealed wine and drinking your fill, and I couldn’t get enough, I totally absorbed this book, on finishing it I wished to start over and read it again, and I regret now not doing so.
One of the main aspects of the book which make it so appealing is Sidi Michael’s approach to the topic. He himself could be described as a conservative Sufi, even early on his Islam he explains how he was apprehensive and reluctant about certain practices or individuals, and would wait and take a step back and seek knowledge on an issue before grasping it wholeheartedly. This sort of approach makes the subject matter easier for the sceptic to take on board if they themself understand that at many times the author himself had a hint of reluctance regarding the experiences he’s decided to write about. This book is excellent in this sense in that for people who have misconceptions and misgivings about Sufism, particularly Muslims, this is a living, breathing, well thought and rigorously thought out document for other people to share in.
My only criticism of the book is that it left me wanting more. Many of the photos featured are by Sidi Peter Sanders, and from the introduction it would seem this is set to compliment his long awaited Meetings with Mountains. The author only provides glimpses in the lives of people who have touched him, though they themselves could have whole biographies written about them. His account of the deaths of his two personal shaykhs Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad and Sayyid Omar Abdullah are especially touching. I would like to think there is more to come, but then it may be that if we get more than just tastes of what’s out there, we won’t go out and look for the feast for ourselves.