The Tao of Islam

A Sourcebook on Gender Relationships in Islamic Thought

By Sachiko Murata
Foreword by Annemarie Schimmel

Subjects: Sufism
Paperback : 9780791409145, 410 pages, March 1992
Hardcover : 9780791409138, 410 pages, March 1992

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Table of contents


by Annemarie Schimmel

A Note on Dates and Citations from the Koran


The Intellectual Tradition in Islam

The Feminist Critique of Islam

The Background of the Present Book

Chinese and Islamic Thought

Theological Polarity

Signs of God

Cosmic Correspondences

Human Equilibrium

The Plan of the Book

Part 1

The Three Realities

Signs in the Horizons and the Souls

Qualitative Correspondence

Qualitative Levels

Human All-Comprehensiveness

Children of the Elements

The Myth of Adam's Creation

Human Becoming

The Cosmic and Human Books

Part 2: Theology

Divine Duality

God and the Essence

Incomparability and Similarity

Complementary Names

God and His Vassal

The One and the Two

The Creation of the Many

The Differentiation of the Undifferentiated

Being and Knowledge

Majesty and Beauty

Awe and Intimacy

Social Implications of Divine Duality

The Two Hands of God

Right and Left

The Views of Koran Commentators

Fingers and Feet

The Two Hands in the Futuhat al-makkiyya

The Fusus al-hikam

Mu'ayyid al-Din Jandi

'Abd al-Razzaq Kashani

Dawud Qaysari

Sadr al-Din Qunawi

Sa'id al-Din Farghani

Farghani on the Two Handfuls

Part 3: Cosmology

Heaven and Earth

The Creation of the Cosmos

The Tao of Heaven and Earth

Heaven and Earth as Correlative Terms


Shifting Relationships

The Seven Heavens

The Four Elements

The Virtues of the Earth

Macrocosmic Marriage

Fathers and Mothers

Universal Marriage


The Pen and the Tablet

The Intellect and the Soul

Natural Children

Changing Relationships

The Faces of the Intellect

The Two Wings of Gabriel

Human Marriage

Marriage in Society

Man's Degree over Woman (I)

Man's Degree over Woman (II)

Mutual Love

Women Made Lovable

The Fusus al-hikam

Mutual Longing

Witnessing God in Women

Marriage and Creation

Perfect Sexual Union

The Symbolism of Grammatical Gender

Spiritual Counsel

The Womb

Universal Worship

The Mercy of Existence

Nature as Wife and Mother

Love for Parents

The Womb as Microcosm

The Womb as Nature

Part 4: Spiritual Psychology

Static Hierarchy

Principles of Ta'wil

Names of the Unseen

Signs of the Microcosm




The Spirit's Kingdom

Heaven and Earth

Dynamics of the Soul

Struggle on the Path to God

The Soul's Evil

Conflicting Character Traits

The Soul's Receptivity

Manliness and Chivalry

Negative Masculinity

Adam, Eve, and Iblis

The Soul's Animals

Purifying the Soul

The Heart

In the Koran and the Hadith

Between Spirit and Soul

The Heart in the School of Ibn al-'Arabi

The Birth of the Heart

The Heart's Birth According to 'Izz al-Din Kashani

The Heart's Birth According to Ibn al-'Arabi's School

The Soul as Virgin Mother

The Perfected Heart

True Men and True Women


Appendix I
Chronological List of Authors Cited

Appendix II
Notes on Authors Cited



Index of Koranic Verses

Index of Hadiths and Sayings

General Index


The Tao of Islam is a rich and diverse anthology of Islamic teachings on the nature of the relationships between God and the world, the world and the human being, and the human being and God. Focusing on gender symbolism, Sachiko Murata shows that Muslim authors frequently analyze the divine reality and its connections with the cosmic and human domains with a view toward a complementarity or polarity of principles that is analogous to the Chinese idea of yin/yang.

Murata believes that the unity of Islamic thought is found, not so much in the ideas discussed, as in the types of relationships that are set up among realities. She pays particular attention to the views of various figures commonly known as "Sufis" and "philosophers," since they approach these topics with a flexibility and subtlety not found in other schools of thought. She translates several hundred pages, most for the first time, from more than thirty important Muslims including the Ikhwan al-Safa', Avicenna, and Ibn al-'Arabi.

Sachiko Murata is Professor of Religious Studies at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.


"This is a genuine foundational work in Islamic studies. It is an open door into the very heart of Islamic civilization, while at the same time it suggests the bases of important comparisons and insights for those interested in cognate areas in Western cultures.

"It is a fascinating, truly original work in both its guiding perspectives and its comprehensive, clearly presented account of a central dimension of Islam. There is nothing like it, and it deserves a wide audience. " — James W. Morris, Oberlin College

"It clearly, competently, and comprehensively describes the worldview implicit in the medieval Islamic "wisdom" tradition represented by Sufism and Shi'i philosophy, particularly the way that gender concepts are implicit in their cosmology and psychology, and can be related to the Taoist concepts of yin and yang. The author's critique of feminism and modern reformism on this basis is penetrating. " — Valerie Hoffman-Ladd, University of Illinois