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Repentance and the Return to God


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Table of Contents

Introduction Part I. The Semantics of Tawba

1. Is Tawba "Repentance"? A Lexical and Semantic Survey

2. The Internal Structure and Semantic Field of Tawba in the Qur'an Part II. Early Sufi Approaches to Tawba

3. Tawba as Interior Conversion

4. The States, Stations and Early Sufi Apothegmata

5. Four Approaches to Tawba

6. Tawba in the Writings of al-Harith al-Muhasibi

7. Tawba in the Nourishment of Hearts of Abu Talib al-Makki


About the Author

Atif Khalil is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Lethbridge, Canada, and the coeditor (with Mohammed Rustom and Kazuyo Murata) of In Search of the Lost Heart: Explorations in Islamic Thought, by William C. Chittick, also published by SUNY Press.


"In this exemplary study, Khalil lays bare the contours of the key concept of repentance in the spiritual psychology of early Islam with admirable sensitivity and ease-a remarkable achievement." - Ahmet T. Karamustafa, author of Sufism: The Formative Period

"Atif Khalil's Repentance and the Return to God is an illuminating account of the idea of tawba as attested to in the early Sufi literature from the ninth through the tenth centuries. Starting with a painstaking semantic examination of the Qur'anic passages related to repentance from sin and turning to God in remorse and search of pardon, the author traces the development of these motifs from early Sufi didactic adages to their subsequent rearticulation in the sophisticated psychological discourses of such major lights of classical Sufism such as al-Muhasibi, Sahl al-Tustari, al-Kharraz, al-Junayd, and Abu Talib al-Makki. A must read for both lay readers interested in comparative mysticism/religions and specialists on Islam, Sufism, and Islamic spiritual and intellectual history." - Alexander Knysh, author of Islamic Mysticism: A Short History and Sufism: A New History of Islamic Mysticism

"By focusing on the pivotal concept of repentance as dealt with by the Islamic mystical tradition's most important early representatives, Atif Khalil offers us a unique window into the development of Sufi virtue ethics. His approach to the relevant texts is philologically sound and historically rigorous, but he also dives head-first into these writings themselves, revealing in an unparalleled fashion the inherent logic that animates the Sufi ethical worldview. This trailblazing study is essential reading for all of those interested in Islamic mysticism, be they scholars, students, or practitioners." - Mohammed Rustom, translator of The Condemnation of Pride and Self-Admiration

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