Pathways to an Inner Islam

Massignon, Corbin, Guenon, and Schuon

By Patrick Laude

Subjects: Islam, Middle East Studies, Comparative Religion, Spirituality
Paperback : 9781438429564, 219 pages, January 2011
Hardcover : 9781438429557, 219 pages, February 2010

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Table of contents

1. Introduction
2. Sufism, Shī‘ism, and the Definition of Inner Islam
3. The Qur’ān
4. The Prophet
5. The Feminine
6. The Universal Horizon of Islam
7. The Question of War
8. Epilogue

An introduction to four Western figures influenced by Sufism who wrote about an "inner," esoteric Islam.


Pathways to an Inner Islam provides an introduction to the esoteric or spiritual "inner Islam" presented by Western thinkers Louis Massignon, Henry Corbin, René Guénon, and Frithjof Schuon. Particularly interested in Sufism—the mystical tradition of Islam—these four twentieth-century authors who wrote in French played an important role in presenting Islamic spirituality to the West and have also had an influence in parts of the Muslim world, such as Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan. Patrick Laude brings them together to argue that an understanding of their inner Islam challenges reductionist views of Islam as an essentially legalistic tradition and highlights its spiritual qualities. The book discusses their thought on the definitions of spiritual Islam and Sufism, the metaphysical and mystical understanding of the Prophet and the Qur'ān, the function of femininity in Islamic spirituality, and the inner understanding of jihād. In addition, the writers' Christian backgrounds and their participation in the intellectual and spiritual traditions of both Christianity and Islam offer a dynamic perspective on interfaith dialogue.

Patrick Laude is Professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. His books include Divine Play, Sacred Laughter, and Spiritual Understanding and Frithjof Schuon: Life and Teachings (coauthored with Jean-Baptiste Aymard), also published by SUNY Press.


"…a fruitful and worthwhile read for anyone contemplating the contested place of personal spiritual commitments in religious studies today. " — Sophia

"…writing a better book on such an enormous and complex subject would have hardly been possible, for Laude shows detailed and meticulous knowledge not only of the thinkers themselves, but also of the intellectual milieu that nourished their endeavor. " — Journal of Shiʻa Islamic Studies

"Few questions could be more important for a contemporary understanding of Islam than the authority and interpretation of sacred texts, the role of women, and the nature and legitimacy of war. Laude addresses each of these issues, among others, with admirable sophistication. " — James S. Cutsinger, author of Advice to the Serious Seeker: Meditations on the Teaching of Frithjof Schuon

"This book makes a major contribution to Islamic studies by promoting the esoteric interpretation of Islam as a viable, tolerant alternative to the fundamentalists' version of Islam. " — Mehdi Aminrazavi, author of The Wine of Wisdom: The Life, Poetry, and Philosophy of Omar Khayyam