If you give what can be taken, you are not really giving. Take what you are given, not what you want to be given. Give what cannot be taken.

One of the tragedies of modern times is that people have come to believe that something said by someone in the past, perhaps for illustrative or provocation purposes, actually represents that person’s beliefs at the time.


Birth: Idries Shah was born  on 16 June 1924 to an Afghan-Indian father, Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah, a writer and diplomat, and a Scottish mother, Saira Elizabeth Luiza Shah in Simla, India.

Realization: From the start, the young Shah was at home in both East and West: educated, as his father before him, by private tutors in Europe and the Middle East, and
through wide-ranging travel and personal encounters — the series of journeys, in fact, that characterize Sufi education and development.

Death: Idries Shah died in London on November 23, 1996, at the age of 72.

Teaching Style: Idries Shah framed his teaching in Western psychological terms. He made extensive use of traditional teaching stories and parables, texts containing multiple layers of meaning designed to trigger insight and self-reflection in the reader. He collected, translated and wrote thousands of Sufi tales, making these available to a Western audience through his books and lectures.  Shah  lecture as a visiting professor at various academic institutions.Shah emphasized the therapeutic function of surprising anecdotes, and the fresh perspectives these tales revealed. The reading and discussion of such tales in a group setting became a significant part of the activities in which the members of Shah’s study circles engaged.

Fame:  Abutahir Shah  also known as Idries Shah, ne Sayyid Idris al-Hashimi ,was an author and teacher in the Sufi Born in India, the descendant of a family of Afghan nobles, Shah grew up mainly in England. His early writings centered on magic and witchcraft. In 1960 he founded a publishing house, Octagon Press, publishing translations of Sufi classics and several dozen of Shah’s own works. The most seminal among these was The Sufis, which appeared in 1964 and was well received internationally. In 1965, Shah founded the Institute for Cultural Research, a London-based educational charity devoted to the study of human behavior and culture.He was adviser, too, to a number of monarchs and Heads of State. He was actively involved in a cluster of other enterprises, academic, humanitarian, scientific and commercial. He was a founder member of the Club of Rome, a Governor of the Royal Humane Society and the Royal Hospital and Home for Incurables. And, not least,
he was a family man and father.

Legacy: Idries Shah’s status as a teacher remained indefinable. He  considered his books his legacy; in themselves, they would fulfill the function he had fulfilled when he could no longer be there. Promoting and distributing their teacher’s publications has been an important activity or “work” for Shah’s students. The thousands of people who were his students and friends, and others who encountered him however briefly, were probably all affected in a degree and dimension for which it is hard to find words. It is impossible to assess his influence, and his legacy is incalculable. He profoundly influenced several  intellectuals.


According to Idries Shah, the nature of Sufism was alive, not static, and could not be grasped by studying its past manifestations, or the methods of its old masters. Instead, Sufism needed to be constantly redefined and adapted, to fit new circumstances and environments. Shah claimed that Sufism was a form of universal wisdom and that it was not Islamic, but predated Islam. He believed;that an obsession with its traditional forms might actually prevent people from recognizing the real thing. He de-emphasized religious or spiritual trappings and portrayed Sufism as a psychological technology, a method or science that could be used to achieve self-realization. He stated that man may become objective, and that objectivity enables the individual to grasp ‘higher’ facts. Man is therefore invited to push his evolution ahead towards what is sometimes called in Sufism ‘real intellect’. Shah taught that the human being could acquire new subtle sense organs in response to need. He argued that the treasure sought by the would-be disciple should derive from one’s struggles in everyday living. He considered practical work the means through which a seeker could do self-work.

He maintained that spiritual teachings should be presented in forms and terms
that are familiar in the community where they are to take root.

He believed that students should be given work based on their individual capacities.

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