Idries Shah

Year of birth : 1924
Place of birth : Simla, Himachal Pradesh
Parents : Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah, Saira Elizabeth Luiza Shah
Website :


" It is not only a matter of not caring who knows -

it is also a matter of knowing who cares. "

" 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. "

Books by the Master

" Learning How to Learn: Psychology and Spirituality in the Sufi Way " … "  The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin  " … "  The Book of the Book " … "  Overcoming Assumptions That Inhibit Spiritual Development " … "  Wisdom of the Idiots " … "  World Tales: The Extraordinary Coincidence of Stories Told in All Times, in All Places " … "  The Magic Horse " … "  Seeker After Truth: A Handbook " … "  Sufi Thought and Action: An Anthology of Important Papers (Sufi research series) " … "  Teachings of Rumi (The Masnavi): The Spiritual Couplets of Jalaludin Rumi " … "  A Perfumed Scorpion " … "  The Middle East Bedside Book " … "  The Old Woman and the Eagle " … "  The Hundred Tales of Wisdom: Life, Teachings and Miracles of Jalaludin Rumi from Aflaki's Munaqib " … "  The Boy Without a Name " … "  Neem the Half-Boy " … "  The Man and the Fox " … "  The Dermis Probe " … "  Tales of the Dervishes " … "  Knowing How to Know : A Practical Philosophy in the Sufi Tradition " … "  The Farmer's Wife " … "  The Elephant in the Dark " … "  Fatima the Spinner and the Tent " … "  The Rose Garden (The Gulistan) of Shekh Muslihu'd-Din Sadi of Shiraz " … "  The World of Nasrudin " … "  Oriental Magic " … "  Afghan Caravan " ... "  The Man with Bad Manners " … "  Thinkers of the East " … "  The World of the Sufi " … "  The Lion Who Saw Himself in the Water " … "  The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin " … "  Observations " … "  The Englishman's Handbook " … "  Humor Sufi " … "  Tales of the Dervishes " … "  A Veiled Gazelle: Seeing How to See " … "  The Way to the Way " … "  The Sufis. Intro. By Robert Graves " … "  The Way of the Sufi " … "  Darkest England " … "  The Natives Are Restless " … "  Neglected Aspects of Sufi Study " … "  Reflexiones " … "  Occurrences of Incredible Mula Nasrudin: The Pleasantries of Mulla... "  Tales of the Dervishes: Teaching-stories of the Sufi Masters Over the Past Thousnad Years " … "  Letters and Lectures " … "  The Subtleties of the Inimitable Mulla Nasrudin " … "  An Advanced Psychology of the East " … "  The Secret Life of Magic: Books of the Sorcerers " … "  The Dermis Probe by Shah, Idries " … "  The Sufis / Idries Shah " … "  The Clever Boy and the Terrible, Dangerous Animal " … "  Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin " … "  The Way of the Sufi Publisher: Penguin " … "  Caravan of Dreams Publisher: Octagon Press, Limited " … "  The Commanding Self Publisher: Octagon Press, Limited " … "  An Advanced Psychology Psychologies East and West: A Symposium " … "  Special Problems in the Study of Sufi Ideas " … "  Special Illumination: The Sufi Use of Humor " ... " Special Problems in the Study of Sufi Ideas " ... " The Magic Monastery " ... " Destination Mecca " ...   " Kara Kush " ... " The Silly Chicken( Kids book) "


Idries 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. Born in India, the descendant of a family of Afghan nobles, Shah grew up mainly in England. His early writings centred on magic and witchcraft. In 1960 he started producing translations of Sufi classics as well as titles of his own. His seminal work 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 behaviour and culture. A similar organisation, the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge(ISHK), exists in the United States, under the directorship of Stanford University psychology professor Robert Ornstein, whom Shah appointed as his deputy in the U.S.

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. Shah made extensive use of traditional teaching stories and parables, texts that contained multiple layers of meaning designed to trigger insight and self-reflection in the reader. He is perhaps best known for his collections of humorous Mulla Nasrudin stories. Shah described his own unconventional upbringing in a 1971 BBC interview with Pat Williams. He described how his father and his extended family and friends always tried to expose the children to a "multiplicity of impacts" and a wide range of contacts and experiences with the intention of producing a well-rounded person. Shah described this as "the Sufi approach" to education.

Shah's early books were studies of what he called "minority beliefs". His first book Oriental Magic, published in 1956, was originally intended to be titled Considerations in Eastern and African Minority Beliefs. He followed this in 1957 with The Secret Lore of Magic: Book of the Sorcerers, originally entitled Some Materials on European Minority-Belief Literature. The names of these books were, according to a contributor to a 1973 festschrift for Shah, changed before publication due to the "exigencies of commercial publishing practices." These books were followed by the publication of the travelogue Destination Mecca (1957), which was featured on television by David Attenborough. Both Destination Mecca and Oriental Magiccontain sections on the subject of Sufism. Shah wrote around two dozen more books over the following decades, many of them drawing on classical Sufi sources. Achieving a huge worldwide circulation, his writings appealed primarily to an intellectually oriented Western audience. 

Towards the end of the 1950s, Shah established contact with Wiccan circles in London and then acted as a secretary and companion to Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, for some time. In those days, Shah used to hold court for anyone interested in Sufism at a table in the Cosmo restaurant in Swiss Cottage (North London) every Tuesday evening. In 1960, Shahfounded his publishing house, Octagon Press; one of its first titles was Gardner's biography – titled Gerald Gardner, Witch. The book was attributed to one of Gardner's followers, Jack L. Bracelin, but had in fact been written by Shah. In 1965, Shah founded the Society for Understanding Fundamental Ideas (SUFI), later renamed the Institute for Cultural Research (ICR) – an educational charity aimed at stimulating "study, debate, education and research into all aspects of human thought, behaviour and culture". He won Outstanding Book of the Year (BBC "The Critics"), twice; six first prizes at the UNESCO World Book Year in 1973.