News

ISF Oriental language translations and publications project

Sep 15, 2015

The first two books in Persian – The Way of the Sufi and Tales of the Dervishes have rolled off the presses in Kabul as this exciting project gets underway. As this blog post goes live, the texts are being prepared for posting on the Persian page of our website and will also be made available as eBook editions – while the same two titles are close to printing in Urdu and a further eight titles in each language will eventually be translated and published.

Sufi ideas constitute a philosophical system originating from within Islam – they stress values such as humour, commonsense, a flexible mental outlook, a non-literalist approach to religion, tolerance towards other people and ideas and women’s rights.

However, as various other interpretations of Islam – be they socially conservative or radical – have gained dominance, Sufi ideas are being neglected or suppressed. This project is designed to redress the balance. In keeping with the Sufi emphasis on ‘time, place and people’, ten works by Idries Shah have been specially selected to appeal to people in the East. Eventually the project will be rolled out in Arabic and Turkish as well.

Because Sufi ideas have been suppressed in so much of the Islamic world, it’s been an immense challenge putting together teams of translators, editors and publishers. Things that should be straightforward – like finding people who understand Sufi terminology – have been unexpectedly difficult – showing the enormous need for a project such as this to preserve an important aspect of Islamic cultural and philosophical heritage.

The Project


To translate ten specially selected titles by Idries Shah into four languages of the Islamic world: Urdu, Persian, Arabic and Turkish.

To disseminate these works as widely as possible using both traditional book publishing and technological innovations such as eBook publishing and the Internet.

 

Background


Idries Shah spent more than thirty years collecting material from Sufi sources once widely prevalent throughout the Islamic world, translating and adapting it into English and anthologising it for use in the West. His sources include oral traditions, folklore, Classical Persian and Arabic texts, sayings of the Prophet etc.

 

Titles to be translated

 

 

    1. Tales of the Dervishes 55,570 words

 

    1. The Way of the Sufi 75,734 words

 

    1. The Sufis 143,979 words

 

    1. Caravan of Dreams 51,424 words

 

    1. The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin 17,591 words

 

    1. The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin/The Subtleties of the inimitable Mulla Nasrudin 15,553 + 9,593 = 25,146 words

 

    1. Thinkers of the East 34,577 words

 

    1. The Dermis Probe 35,396 words

 

    1. The Elephant in the Dark: Christianity, Islam and the Sufis 18,109 words

 

  1. Special Illumination: the Sufi Use of Humour 15,900 words

Methodology


Beginning with Urdu and Persian languages, we have evolved a modus operandi by which we aim to provide value for money and a high level of quality control. We have appointed a production assistant (who is able to work across both Persian and Urdu languages).

We have also appointed two strong editors with a background in Sufi literature: Dr Akhlaque Ahan, of JNU for Urdu and Dr Mawlayee of Kabul University for Persian. These will work with texts provided by a stable of translators. In each language we have appointed or aim to appoint a publishing partner. In Persian this is Amiri publishing in Kabul. In Urdu, Educational Publishing in New Delhi.

We are able to tap into the publishing partner’s existing production and distribution networks for traditional (book) publishing.

In future, ISF may fund the further distribution of books to schools, libraries and other centres of learning, as well as to individuals across the Islamic world. We will use the edited translated texts to create pdfs to post on our website, and eBooks to provide to the public free of charge via distribution channels that support the relevant languages.

Market


As a non-profit organisation, ISF’s remit is to reach the widest readership possible among its target audience, and to give the maximum public benefit – to judge success by readership rather than profits.

As such it is proposed to charge for this material only where charging is likely to extend its reach.


It will use the following methods of dissemination:

1) Website

There is a large, young, extremely computer literate population who are interested in ideas that come from an Islamic tradition.

It is proposed to make these texts available free as downloadable pdfs via our website, to publicse the site as widely as possible, and to encourage people to link to our site.

2) eBooks

The eBook market is not as developed in the Islamic world as it is in the West. However, this may change in future, and the cost of creating eBooks from our existing files is not great.


It is proposed to make our eBooks available free.

3) Traditional publishing

This is still by far the strongest publishing sector in the languages in question. Therefore, we are forming partnerships with existing traditional publishers, who will make a small charge per book to their customers. Some of this charge will return to ISF in the form of royalties.

However, the main reason for allowing publishers to charge in this case is to allow us to tap into their existing distribution and marketing structures. ISF may also, at a future date, help fund the distribution of these books to individuals and centres of learning.