Polished Mirror: Storytelling and the Pursuit of Virtue in Islamic Philosophy and Sufism

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A rich, engaging and approachable work on understanding Islamic virtue ethics through philosophical, mystical and literary texts.

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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.


List of Illustrations


Part One Islamic Philosophy

Chapter One The Humors (al-akhlāṭ) and Character Traits (al-akhlāq) According to the Brethren of Purity

Chapter Two Virtue Ethics in Avicenna's Philosophical Allegories

Chapter Three The Virtues, from Philosophy to Scripture: Refining Character Traits in Miskawayh and Ghazālī

Chapter Four Reason, Revelation, and Discovering the Virtuous in Ibn Ṭufayl's Literary Thought Experiment

Chapter Five From Humors to Pure Light: Knowledge and Virtue in the Allegories of Suhrawardī

Part Two Sufism

Chapter Six The Soul's Constant Returning: Repentance (Tawba) in the Sufi Legacy of Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq

Chapter Seven Distancing Oneself from the Worldly: Renunciation (Zuhd) According to al-Muḥāsibī and al-Sarrāj

Chapter Eight Self-Awareness that Leads to Self-Loss: Futuwwa as a Compound Virtue in the Legacy of Anṣārī

Chapter Nine The Completion of Ethics: Self-Annihilation (Fanāʾ) Through the Lens of ʿAṭṭār

Chapter Ten Virtue in the Narrative Poetry of Rūmī

Conclusion A Brief Case for Relevance




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.

Data sheet
EAN 13 / ISBN9781786072016
AuthorCyrus Ali Zargar
PublisherOneworld Academic
Year Published2017
Height9.2 Inches
Width6.0 Inches
Length1.1 Inches