Learning How to Learn by Idries Shah

‘Packed with important information.’


Available worldwide in all formats – including ebook and audio – on Amazon worldwide. In the USA go to Amazon.com, in the UK Amazon.co.uk, in India Amazon.in. You can also order Learning How to Learn in paperback and hardback from your local bookstore — and in the UK and USA we also recommend bookshop.org; and in Australia and New Zealand Booktopia. ISF also publishes an edition in Spanish.

Written in response to more than 70,000 questions received about the Sufi tradition from people around the world, this keystone work is crucial for readers wishing to approach the Sufi Way.

Learning How to Learn presents traditional teaching stories, anecdotes, and question-and-answer exchanges to illustrate the barriers and prerequisites to Sufi learning. Shah uses the language of Western psychology – concepts known in the ancient wisdom traditions of the East – to explain how and why Sufis learn, and how spiritual understanding may be developed.

The author draws from a vast array sources to illustrate the challenges and pitfalls inherent in real self-development work: from the Eastern parables of Jesus, to the ancient Sufi classics, to the tales of the Oriental wise fool and joke-figure Mulla Nasrudin. Automatic thinking, and the power of desires, hopes and fears that wrongly drive personal development, are among the more notable barriers to progress.

Many of the concepts which Shah introduced in this book including the vital role of right time, place and company in higher studies, and the very idea of ‘learning how to learn’, have since spread in the wider culture. A section dedicated to Shah's theory of the human need to give and receive attention is also considered groundbreaking.

But more than just a manual for the would-be student, Learning How to Learn is an essential book in helping to guard against the chicanery and nonsense found in the spiritual marketplace.

‘A remarkable tour de force... full of wit, wisdom and common sense.’

Asian Affairs

‘Astonishing in its pioneer content and treatment of human problems.’

World Future Studies Federation Newsletter

‘Bracing and often shocking ... a brisk and informed common-sense at its highest level.’

Books and Bookmen

‘Certain irresistible keys keep the reader on the edge of the seat...marks the watershed in studies of the mind.’

Psychology Today, ‘Choice of the Month’

‘…a profoundly more subtle understanding of the importance of attention than found in Western psychology till now…’

Ivan Tyrrell and Joe Griffin in Human Givens: A New Approach to Emotional Health and Clear Thinking

Additional information


English, Spanish, Dari, Farsi, Turkish