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Idries Shah (16 June 1924 – 23 November 1996), also known as Idris Shah, was an author and teacher in the Sufi tradition who wrote over three dozen books on topics ranging from psychology and spirituality to travelogues and culture studies.


In his writings, Shah presented Sufism as a universal form of wisdom that predated Islam. Emphasizing that Sufism was not static but always adapted itself to the current time, place and people, he framed his teaching in Western psychological terms.


Here is some of his unique wisdom:


“Right time, right place, right people equals success.

Wrong time, wrong place, wrong people equals most of the real human history.”


“Enlightenment must come little by little -

otherwise it would overwhelm.”


“Sometimes a pessimist is only an optimist with extra information.”


“You must empty out the dirty water before you

fill the pitcher with clean.”


“It is the message, not the man, which is important to the Sufis.”


Opinion is usually something which people have when they lack comprehensive information.”


“Man (and woman) has an infinite capacity for self-development. Equally, he has an infinite capacity for self-destruction. A human being may be clinically alive and yet, despite all appearances, spiritually dead.”


“Materialism, attachment to things of the world, includes pride. Many religious people suffer from pride: taking pleasure or even delight in being good, or religious.”


“Q: What is a fundamental mistake of man's?

  A: To think that he is alive, when he has merely fallen asleep in life's waiting-room.”


“To be obsessed by the idea of freedom, for instance, is itself a form of slavery. Such people are in the chains of the hope of freedom, and are therefore able to do little else than struggle with them.”


“Have you noticed how many people who walk in the shade curse the Sun?”


“If you want to make an ordinary man happy, or think that he is happy, give him money, power, flattery, girls, honours. If you want to make a wise man happy - improve yourself!”


“A motto of the human race: Let me do as I like,

and give me approval as well.”

Ancient Sufi Teachings by Idries Shah

Whose Beard?

Nasruddin dreamt that he had Satan's beard in his hand. Tugging the hair he cried: "The pain you feel is nothing compared to that which you inflict on the mortals you lead astray." And he gave the beard such a tug that he woke up yelling in agony. Only then did he realise that the beard he held in his hand was his own.

Camels and Men

'Nasruddin,' asked a neighbor.'Which is more intelligent, a camel or a man?' 'A camel,' replied the Mulla, because it carries heavy loads without complaint, but never asks for an additional load. Man, on the other hand, burdened by responsibility, is always choosing to add to his loads.' − Idries Shah

"Perform good deeds and observe spiritual discipline. Fool, listen with gratitude.

Lovers fasten your sandals. The fool's youth slipped away unnoticed."

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