A New Phase for ISF

A New Phase for ISF - Saira Shah

Just over ten years ago, along with my brother Tahir and my sister Safia, I made a promise.

We would make all the works of our father, the Sufi writer and thinker Idries Shah, available, in their entirety, for free to anybody who could use them.

Today, I’m excited to announce the fulfilment of that dream – and the beginning of a new phase for ISF as custodian of those works for a future generation that may need them more than ever.

Our website will become a kind of bank vault of Shah’s works. A library where those interested in his ideas can find them all in one place and spend a quiet moment reading them.

Now that his job is done, our longstanding, wonderful CEO Tarquin Hall, who has helped make all this possible, is standing down.

We are slimming down our office and slashing our running expenses to ensure that we can keep our website alive, active and doing its job.

I will join ISF’s board of trustees. My priority will always be to safeguard the future of the charity and therefore the availability and integrity of the works themselves.


At this pivotal moment, I’d like to take a look at ISF’s beginnings. At what we promised and why – and how we delivered.

Back in 2013 my brother, sister and I were growing increasingly alarmed about how to safeguard Shah’s legacy.

Since his death in 1996, the world was already moving on.

We saw two major risks.

The first was that Shah’s work would be forgotten.

The second was that it would attract the wrong kind of attention – that his words would be twisted or used out of context to fuel whatever ephemeral arguments happened to preoccupy society at the time. People would believe they ‘knew all about’ the work of Idries Shah, without ever reading it in its original form.

Then as now, the body of work he left behind him seemed to form a coherent whole.

His ideas are a systematic guide to maintaining one’s balance and clarity in a world that seems to be pushing people to become more and more polarised, angry and intolerant.

They provide a template for approaching life with a combination of clear-thinking, humour and generosity that seems to be of the utmost value to everybody.

I felt – then as now – that to everybody they should belong.

Back in 2013, the internet’s possibilities were only just becoming apparent. The idea that for relatively little cost we could reach across the globe and deliver Shah’s work to anyone who needed it was revolutionary.

We three children of Idries Shah got together with a group of well-wishers and proposed that we form a new entity, to be called the Idries Shah Foundation.

It would safeguard the integrity of the work, using the internet to deliver it to anyone who wished to access it.

We promised that we would put all his works into electronic form and would make them readable for free, in their original language, on the ISF website.

In a second pledge, dear to my heart, I promised to ‘take this material home’ to countries where the Sufi tradition had too often been repressed.

Safia, Tahir and I all came on board to assist the new foundation with its projects. Safia created beautiful books out of some of Shah’s children’s stories. Tahir and his team digitised his English-language works and created a host of other editions, including translations into Spanish. I oversaw the translation of works into the Persian language from which much of my father’s source material had been drawn, as well as into Turkish.


The internet has, of course, progressed beyond anything we could have envisaged. Realising that there’s no point making material available for free unless people know it’s there, Tarquin has led us in renewing our website, developing a social media presence, and using online marketing tools (such as Google Adwords) to increase our visibility.

Now, ten years later, Shah’s core works are all available for free via our website, just as I dreamed they would be – and in editions more beautiful than I ever imagined. Shah’s core works are available in a huge range of formats, including audiobooks, paperbacks, hardbacks, special editions – and we even have a gorgeous limited edition handprinted collection of tales.

Selected works have been translated into Farsi, Dari (Iranian and Afghan dialects of Persian respectively), Turkish and Spanish. Twelve beautiful children’s books have been published.


We have print-ready files of all our editions, so we are able to forge partnerships for charitable distribution of hard copies anywhere in the world at short notice. We have already done so in Turkey and Afghanistan. We are receptive to future distribution partnerships. Please do approach us if you can help.

Book sales help fund ISF’s mission to keep Shah’s works available to all. If you want to help us, please buy them on Amazon. It will make a huge difference if you can leave us positive reviews, link to our site or share content.

You can also help us by spreading the word about Idries Shah’s ideas and directing people to the free editions that are on our website. We are kept going by donations, so please do give generously.

As we move into the future, I am as certain as I was ten years ago that ISF’s core purpose must be to safeguard the integrity of this unique body of work.

My hope is that, as the world tilts ever more precariously into an uncertain future, these wonderful works will continue to inspire, guide and offer a light to any who wish to benefit from them.


'A Thank You'

Tarquin Hall, who is stepping down as CEO this month, has worked tirelessly to grow ISF into a mature, accountable charity.

His careful and conscientious leadership has ensured that ISF has now successfully completed the initial phase of its activities.

But that’s very far from the whole story.

His talent, creativity and versatility are difficult to do justice to. On a recent visit to Turkey, when one of us (Saira Shah) wanted to illustrate her father’s contribution in bringing Sufi ideas to the West, it was Tarquin who suggested the visual metaphor of the Bosphorus Straits. It was also Tarquin who filmed her rather queasy piece-to-camera on a ferry crossing between Europe and Asia. And Tarquin who edited the subsequent video postcard and who put it up on the website.

Incidentally, he has also revamped ISF’s website, making sure that it can be easily found on search engines and that it encourages visitors to stay with us to find out what we have to offer. Nowadays, the website is receiving 250,000 visitors a year, and gets around one million ‘event counts’, meaning scrolls or clicks.

Our online read-for-free library is being accessed by an average of 12,000 readers a year. Readers are coming from around the world, with significant numbers from India and Pakistan, as well as Europe and the USA. Our high-quality content, including blog posts has helped the right people to find us: people who are interested in Sufis and Sufism. Searches for ‘Idries Shah’ were up this year by 150%.

Tarquin has also been a tireless driver of governance reform. Thanks to him, the Charity enters its new phase fit for purpose and able to demonstrate that it adheres to the highest standards of integrity and accountability. It’s largely thanks to him that the charity is in robust shape and is able to fulfil this important mission going forward.

Tarquin should be proud of himself. He will be much missed.

Signed - the Trustees: