B orn in Afghanistan in 1924, the son of a diplomat descended from the khans, Sara Idries Shah al Hashemi has been, during most of his long career, a teacher of Sufism, his works translated into a dozen languages and selling, by now, millions of copies.
Sufism--to most historians the mystical strand in Islam--is to Sufis themselves more nearly the mystical strand in human consciousness. Sufism attaches no importance to times or places. Central Asian Sufism celebrates above all the sage one who can serenely adopt the culture of whatever country he finds himself in.
In his first novel Idries Shah has seen fit to become a kind of public Afghan, it may be because--to quote the epigraph to his best-known book--"The Sufi is one who does what others do--when it is necessary. He is also one who does what others cannot do--when it is indicated."