For many in the West, the ecstatic dancing ritual of whirling dervishes is the most recognizable aspect of Sufism. Sufism is a mystical branch of Islam, and one of the largest systems of religious affiliation in the Islamic world. The religion emphasizes direct knowledge of the divine within each person. Meditation, music, song, and dance are seen as crucial spiritual strides toward attaining unity with God. The Chishti Sufi order has been the most widespread and popular of all Sufi traditions since the 12th century. Sufi paths of mysticism and devotion, motivated by Islamic ideals, are still chosen by men and women in countries from Morocco to China. Indeed, there are roughly 100 orders around the world, 80 of which are present and thriving in the United States. "Sufi Martyrs of Love" offers a critical perspective on Western attitudes towards Islam and Sufism, confronts the prejudices of academia and the media, and offers a clarification of the contemporary importance of Sufism, both in the West and in traditional Sufi homelands. Finally, it provides access to the voices of Sufi authorities, through the translation of texts being offered in English.
CARL W. ERNST is Zachary Smith Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A specialist on Islamic mysticism, he is the author of Teachings of Sufism (Shambhala, 1999, sold 4,300 copies); The Shambhala Guide to Sufism (Shambhala, 1997; sold 10,500 copies), and other titles. - BRUCE B. LAWRENCE, the Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor of Religion, is also Chair of the Department of Religion at Duke University. His book, Defenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt Against the Modern Age (HSF 1989), has sold 13,000 copies, while Shattering the Myth: Islam beyond Violence (Princeton 2000) has received much acclaim since September 11th and is selling very well. Lawrence has two forthcoming trade books-one from WWNorton, Go, God, Go: Resilient Religion in the Global Century, the other with Columbia University Press 2002, On Asian religions in America.