These conversations answer questions about the Sufi tradition. One section is dedicated entirely to Shah’s theory on the human need to give and receive attention. Experts have praised Shah’s book as essential to guard against much of the nonsense in the spiritual marketplace.
Learning How to Learn contains more than a hundred tales and extracts, ranging from the 8th century Hasan of Basra to today’s Ustad Khalilullah Khalili. These tales are woven into Shah’s narratives of how and why the Sufis learn, what they learn, and how spiritual understanding may be developed, as well as how it inevitably deteriorates in all societies.
Shah draws from more than 70,000 questions, from Afghanistan, California, Delhi and Strasbourg, asked by housewives, cabinet ministers, philosophy professors and assembly-line workers, on current human, social and spiritual problems.
He quotes Eastern parables of Jesus, the ancient Sufi classics, contemporary encounters with teachers and students, the Mulla Nasrudin teaching-figure, Omar Khayyam and Western mass-circulation journals.
Many of the concepts which Shah introduced – including: the vital role of the right time, place and company of higher studies, the very concept of ‘Learning How to Learn’ and the instrumental, specialised function of ordinarily performed exercises and rituals – have recently been widely copied by psychologists.