Many of Idries Shah’s seminal works have been translated into Dari, Farsi and Turkish

You can read all our translations for free on our website. We are working to reseed the material Idries Shah drew upon from the Islamic world.

Much of the source material that Idries Shah used in his writing on Sufism has been lost, neglected or driven underground in the Islamic countries where it originated. The aim of this project is to return this material back to the East.

In the process, the Idries Shah Foundation hopes to inspire and inform Muslims that there is a centuries-old tradition within Islam that teaches people how to think for themselves, to ignore externals and treat the things of the world with a certain irreverence – applying humour, generosity, kindness, intelligence and common sense.

Sourcing Shah’s material

The first phase of the Middle East and Asian Translations project has been an immense task. It has involved the sourcing of much of Shah’s material back to the original Classical Persian literature from which he drew heavily. Persian literature from around the 11th to 13th centuries is unique in that virtually all of the great poets and literary masters were also Sufi teachers or heavily influenced by Sufi ideas.

This literature is canonical – akin to the works of Shakespeare in English. The Masnavi of Jalaludin Rumi, for example, is often referred to as ‘The Quran in Persian’. It is considered practically heretical to tamper with a syllable of these works.

And yet, the classical Sufi writers themselves did exactly that – and indeed it seems likely that they were all drawing to some extent from a common well of oral dervish lore. For instance, many of the tales in The Masnavi appear in different guises in the almost equally esteemed Gulistan of Sa’adi of Shiraz. Because Shah was, as he always maintained, a working teacher, writer and thinker – not a scholar – he felt free to use these classical works as tools and teaching materials.

Most of these literary works contain, as their basic units, stories. Shah was himself a master storyteller and believed in the dictum ‘time, place and people’. Therefore, at times he adapted the tales to suit his audience or the point he was making.