(Mis)Representation of sufism through translation

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Although rooted in ancient Persian beliefs, Sufism emerged as a tradition within Islam. so Sufi literature was written in both Persian and Arabic. In the selection of Arabic Sufi material for translation, first into Latin and later into other European languages, literature was excluded or downplayed in favour of philosophy and logic. Meanwhile, most Persian Sufi works selected for translation, particularly into English, revolved around the theme of Love, which has supported certain interpretations and representations of Sufism. One approach overemphasises abstract love of the divine, while another associates Sufi love with eroticism. Both ignore or play down the relationship between these two types of love and downplay Sufi practice as social behaviour, resulting in the repeated translation of certain writers and poets at the expense of others. This paper also argues that the Sufi concept of patience seems to have been misinterpreted in the West.


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