duration/ Islamic mysticism is remarkably appreciated in the field of contemporary Western studies, an appreciation that stems primarily from the uniqueness of its teachings and the love, compassion and embracing of all creation in its approach. In general, the wave of attraction to Islamic spiritual traditions is accompanied by a relative calm in the studies of modern Islam, after the wave of the tense and neurotic outlook, which often controlled the Western student’s approach to political and historical issues of Islam, subsided.
In the midst of this intertwined atmosphere, Sufism is a corrective approach to the crisis relationship due to political unrest. The follower of the path of discovering the Islamic spiritual depth in the West observes the passage of the approach of Sufism with corrective processes, until it reached what it is. We point out that a number of early Western studies, which were preoccupied with Islamic mysticism, considered the topic an outsider to the Islamic civilizational component and had nothing to do with it. But as research progressed, that denial and denial thesis receded to give way to a more balanced view.
And the book “The Islamic Religious Science” that we are dealing with falls within the studies of Sufism and Islamic spirituality in general, and it was written by the Italian professor of Islamic studies Alberto Ventura (born in Rome 1953). He is currently teaching at the University of Calabria, and he has previously published a number of works on the matter, including: (The Wisdom of the Sufis: Doctrines, Symbols, and Esotericisms, Mediterranee Publications); (Islam, co-author with Khaled Fouad Allam and Claudio Loyacono, Latersa Publications), (The History of Al-Hallaj the Martyr, Morchiliana Publications); He also transferred some of Al-Hallaj’s texts into Italian under the title: (Christ of Islam, Mondadori Publications) and translated (Diwan Al-Hallaj, issued by Marietti House), and supervised a collective book entitled: (The Life and Sayings of Muhammad, Mondadori). In all of his works, researcher Ventura took a balanced course that argues that Islamic mysticism, with its multiple languages, and its various schools, stems from the depth of Islamic conceptual philosophy, and that its statements, terms, and paths are the product of a civilized religious approach that lived in the arms of Islamic civilization and developed within it.
The book came under the title “Islamic Religious Science”, or perhaps its title was also correct as “Islamic indicative science” or also “Islamic science of esotericism”. In it, the author tried to present the interiors of the philosophy of Islamic mysticism, and the structure of Islamic religious symbols, by addressing its origins and main principles with an explanation. and analysis. Where the author distributed his book into an introduction and a conclusion in addition to nine titles that followed the issues of unity and contrast, eternal essences, contrast and similarity, the first article and the image of the universe, man and his relationship with metaphysics and other topics. The science of the interior, the secrets, the secrets, and the symbols, according to the writer, is a visionary construction based on the origins, which you find in common and affinity with other oriental religious traditions in India and China mainly. The book is neither a sociological nor a historical study of the subject of symbolism, but an essential study of experiences that touch on the field of cognition and esoteric hermeneutics. In it, the author attempts to lure the Sufi language based on the hermeneutic and esoteric dimension to present a presentation of the essence of the philosophy of the esoteric and its hidden connotations in Islam.
It is worth mentioning that you find this type of esoteric studies a passion in modern and contemporary Western thought, especially among those who are fascinated by the worlds of spirituality and secrets, where the convergence between the fields of spirituality, symbols and mysticism, a form of consideration that tempts many to see the world and cosmic phenomena. Alberto Ventura tries to delve into this aspect from the perspective of the Islamic mystical language in order to grasp the hidden connotations, especially since the subject of hermeneutics and esotericism is one of the topics covered in the Sufi tradition.
It is true that the greatest Sheikh Mohieddin Ibn Arabi, with his charming sayings, is a source of great temptation for educated Western segments entering the door of Sufism; But the influence of the French René Guéhenno (Abdul-Wahid Yahya) (1886-1951 AD) also remains remarkable in Western spiritual forums. Geno is of that kind, who is captivating, especially among those who are enamored of the symbolic and mystical approach that the author on display insists on, and Alberto Ventura, in this context, is one of those captivated by that vision. We point out that Rene Guenno’s approach is considered influential in the spiritual field in general, with its wanderings between cosmic spiritual traditions, ranging from Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, and others, until he ended up in the Islamic spiritual tradition, in which he found what he sought in belief and faith. The thinker Guino had previously dealt with issues of esoteric science in Islam, in a classic book entitled: “Writings on Islamic Esotericism and Taoism,” as well as what he touched on in a group of other books, which met with wide resonance among those who are fascinated with secrets and studies of the esoteric, and then dealt with the issue later The French also Henry Corbin from the angle of Persian Gnostic in particular; But in Italy, the Italian library is devoid of books in the field, and hence the Italian author Alberto Ventura is considered the first work in the Italian tongue related to the dualism of mysticism and esotericism.
In view of this lack of addressing the symbolic and esoteric issues within the studies of the Islamic phenomenon in Italy, the topic is considered new and pioneering, and perhaps this is what made the author receive a warm welcome and popularity, especially since its author is highly regarded among scholars of the spiritual field in Islam. The book, in terms of its focus on the subject of the esoteric, contains wit and novelty, as it is a study that tends to reflect and reflect on the issues dealt with deeply and deliberately, as well as the references and sources referred to it. We recall that the clubs preoccupied with esoteric, spiritual and mystical studies in Italy celebrated the book, as it sheds light on a dark side of Islamic perceptions compared to other eastern traditions. The book can be included within the philosophy of Sufism in general, although it is concerned with a specific topic, which is the issue of indicative interpretations. Overall, the book is consistent with Ventura’s symbolic and spiritual approach to Islamic religious heritage.
Alberto Ventura devoted all of his research to the study of Islamic mysticism, spirituality and the literature of the mysteries, and is a reference in Italy in this field. The book we are dealing with is in his general interest. There is no doubt that the study of Islamic mysticism is one of the tempting branches today in the West, because of the charm and fascination that it provokes. In general, students of Sufism often take a different approach to their colleagues in other branches of Islamic and Arabic studies, characterized by calmness, sobriety, lack of noise, and reluctance to prejudge and break judgments. Hence, in his book, Ventura tries to defend the thesis that “soft spiritual manifestations” tinged with love and kindness in the Islamic mystical heritage, are what express an authentic aspect of Islam. Alberto Ventura’s epistemological vision in dealing with Arab thought and religious literature was characterized by sobriety and discretion, devoid of pretentiousness or hasty judgments. In his writings, he often tends towards calm and documented analysis. He did not go along with the malicious allegations accusing Islamic civilization.
Or those that question the value of the Islamic spiritual store that is open to the other and embraces the other, as he often strives, in his dialogues and writings, to draw attention to this hidden aspect of Islamic civilization. He was always keen to present a neutral vision of Islam, drawing inspiration for its components from the Sufi sayings, which he considers to be the closest to presenting the true image of Islam. In fact, choosing to study the Islamic spiritual heritage was not a circumstantial option with Ventura to confront the tension that has been inflamed by “jihadist Islam” or “political Islam” in the recent period, and the profound impact these phenomena have had on the preoccupations of Western researchers and their positions. His interest stems from a deep and ancient passion for this field.
We point out that Ventura combines two types in this field, as he is of that type who is fond of Islamic sayings and others mentioned in other traditions in the matter, and he is also a careful student in those fields, and from here he approached Islamic mysticism in a cold way and chose a peaceful dialogue strategy. Which made him an advanced position in the field of the study of Sufism, a solid study in Italy, where he gained appreciation among scholars of the Sufi phenomenon and among those who live a spiritual experience of Westerners, alike.
Alberto Ventura relied in his book “The Islamic Science of Religion” on a variety of bibliography: Italian, English, French, German, Arabic and Persian. The Arabic and Persian references gained an important share. The book reveals the author’s familiarity with the mothers of Sufism books, as well as his knowledge of critical and analytical studies written in Western languages, and these sources and references found good use in the book. Although, in general, he does not drown his work in citations and digressions,
Therefore, you will find that it does not burden the reader in the Sufi blog, and does not invoke from it except what is well-known and what is needed to be mentioned. In most of his works, Alberto Ventura adopts an analytical approach in explaining the mystical phenomenon. In his current book, he tends to adopt a philosophical analytical approach, and due to his extensive knowledge of the contents of the mothers of Arab and Islamic Sufi blogs, he has the ability to deal with what is original and what is foreign to Islamic mystical experiences.
The approach to reading the Islamic mystical phenomenon according to Ventura is also characterized by the recognition of the authenticity of the Islamic mystical component, as it is an authentic expression, according to his perspective, stemming from the spirit of Islamic existential philosophy. We often notice the expropriation of the high-level aspects of Arab-Islamic culture with other scholars, and the attempt to trace its origins and components to external sources. This is what Ventura tried to refute and highlight its falsehood, when talking about the components of Islamic mystical thinking, as a spiritual language that derives its ingredients from within its civilized framework.
The language of the author is an academic language, and the author is well acquainted with the term Sufi and the symbolic Sufi language, in the Arabic and Italian languages. In general, we monitor clarity in the writer’s language, as he avoids abstraction and ambiguity in his speech, but rather tries to present the concepts and ideas around which the research revolves in a clear and sophisticated language. The author’s language is interpretive for the Sufi saying with its various connotations, the writer tries to bring the meanings closer to the mind of the Western reader. This facilitated his mastery and familiarity with the concepts of the mystical semantic field in the Arabic and Italian languages, an ability rarely available to Italian researchers who approach Arab issues due to their low formation in Arabic.
The book did not include indexes of any kind, except for an orphan index of the book’s materials and a margin at the end of the author, related to Arabic and Persian sources, dealing mainly with some Arab and Persian writers and their works, whom the author used to tweak his book. The writer also did not adopt drawings, tables and maps as means to clarify the contents of the research, and this is probably due to the fact that the author has an intellectual, analytical and symbolic nature, which made the author rely mainly on explaining and criticizing concepts and returning them to their origins without taking care of additional means.
The book addresses a reader who is familiar with the mystical text and esoteric spiritual sayings, and in addition to being an external text in the study of the Sufi phenomenon, its author appears also familiar with the conditions and runways of Sufism, through which he reveals living a mystical experience accompanied by external scientific knowledge.
It remains to point out some issues. One might wonder about the reasons for the attraction of Sufism and spiritual experiences in the West in recent decades. To prepare the immediate answer to the material glut of the West and its relentless search for something to heal its soul from the East. Perhaps this is an intriguing simplification of things; In fact, in the West there are deep successive reviews based on permanent dismantling and synthesis, which motivates listening to the voice of the other and his experiences, and there is nothing wrong with turning it into a paid consumer item in clubs for spiritual sports, yoga, meditation and introspection, as is happening with Buddhism, which is witnessing a remarkable development in many Western societies.
On the other hand, we would like to point out that the Western cultural scene in recent years has witnessed many valuable achievements and research in the field of the study of Sufism. Those studies are in the field, which is the adoption of different approaches, such as general psychology, social psychology, anthropology of religions, religious sociology and other sciences, which the Arab student misses or lacks.
The book: The Islamic Science of Religion.
Written by: Alberto Ventura.
Publisher: Adelphi Publications, (Milan) ‘in Italian’.
Publication year: 2021.
Number of pages: 212 p.
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