Polished Mirror: Storytelling and the Pursuit of Virtue in Islamic Philosophy and Sufism

Cyrus Ali Zargar




Islamic philosophy and Sufism evolved as distinct yet interweaving strands of Islamic thought and practice. Despite differences, they have shared a concern with the perfection of the soul through the development of character. In The Polished Mirror, Cyrus Ali Zargar studies the ways in which, through teaching and storytelling, pre-modern Muslims lived, negotiated, and cultivated virtues. Examining the writings of philosophers, ascetics, poets, and saints, he locates virtue ethics within a dynamic moral tradition.




Part One: Islamic Philosophy


1 - The Humors (Al-Akhlat) and Character Traits (Al-Ahklaq) According to the Brethren of Purity


2 - Virtue Ethics in Avicenna’s Philosophical Allegories


3 - The Virtues, From Philosophy to Scripture: Refining Character Traits in Miskawayh and Ghazali


4 - Reason, Revelation, and Discovering the Virtuous in Ibn Tufayl’s Literary Thought Experiment


5 - From Humors to Pure Light: Knowledge and Virtue in the Allegories of Suhrawardi


Part Two: Sufism


6 - The Soul’s Constant Returning: Repentance (Tawba) in the Sufi Legacy of Ja’far Al-Sadiq


7 - Distancing Oneself from the Worldly: Renunciation (Zuhd) According to Al-Muhasibi and Al-Sarraj


8 - Self-Awareness that Leads to Self-Loss: Futuwwa as a Compound Virtue in the Legacy of Ansari


9 - The Completion of Ethics: Self-Annihilation (Gana’) Through the Lens of ‘Attar


10 - Virtue in the Narrative Poetry of Rumi