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Books, Articles

by Carl W. Ernst

Recent publications

Breathtaking Revelations:
The Science of Breath from The Fifty Kamarupa Verses to Hazrat Inayat Khan
by Carl W. Ernst & Patrick J. D’Silva

Suluk Press, 2024


Islam, Arabic, and Slavery in
Omar ibn Said’s America
Mbaye Lo and Carl W. Ernst

Omar ibn Said (1770–1863) was a Muslim scholar from West Africa who spent more than fifty years
enslaved in the North Carolina household of James Owen, brother of Governor John Owen. In 1831
Omar composed a brief autobiography, the only known narrative written in Arabic by an enslaved
person in North America, and he became famous for his Arabic writings. His enslavers also provided him
with an Arabic Bible and claimed Omar as a convert to Christianity, prompting wonder and speculation
among amateur scholars of Islam, white slave owners, and missionaries. But these self-proclaimed
experts were unable or unwilling to understand Omar’s writings, and his voice was suppressed for
two centuries.
Mbaye Lo and Carl W. Ernst here weave fresh and accurate translations of Omar’s eighteen surviving
writings, for the first time identifying his quotations from Islamic theological texts, correcting many
distortions, and providing the fullest possible account of his life and significance. Placing Omar at
the center of a broader network of the era’s literary and religious thought, Lo and Ernst restore Omar’s
voice, his sophisticated engagement with Islamic and Christian theologies, his Arabic skills, and his
extraordinary efforts to express himself and exert agency despite his enslavement.
MBAYE LO is associate professor of the practice of Asian and Middle Eastern studies and international comparative
studies at Duke University. CARL W. ERNST is William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

New: Digital Editions and Translations of Arabic and Persian texts

Enslaved Scholars: A Website Repository for Editions of Arabic Texts and English Translations of writings by Enslaved Muslims in the Americas, including works they quote

Co-edited by Mbaye Lo (Duke University) and Carl W. Ernst

This digital repository contains critical editions and English translations of Arabic writings by enslaved Muslims in the Americas. The first subcollection contains the writings of Omar ibn Said (1770-1863). Writings by Abdurrahman ibn Ibrahima (d. 1829) and Shaykh Sana See (in Panama ca. 1860-1865) will be added soon.

 Texts on Indic religions and yoga



Articles by Carl W. Ernst can be found on these sites:

Hallaj: Poems of a Sufi Martyr, translated by Carl W. Ernst (2018)

October 5, 2018

Hallaj:Poems of a Sufi Martyr, translated by Carl W. Ernst (Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 2018). is the first authoritative translation of the Arabic poetry of Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj, an early Sufi mystic. Despite his execution in Baghdad in 922 and the subsequent suppression of his work, Hallaj left an enduring literary and spiritual legacy that continues to inspire readers around the world. In Hallaj, Carl W. Ernst offers a definitive collection of 117 of Hallaj’s poems expertly translated for contemporary readers interested in Middle Eastern and Sufi poetry and spirituality.


Marginalia / L.A. Review of Books 

Washington Independent Review of Books

New York Review of Books 

It’s not just academic: Essays on Islamic studies and Sufism (2017)

October 5, 2018

It’s not just academic: Essays on Islamic studies and Sufism(Yoda Press/Sage, 2017) is a collection of articles by Carl W Ernst. It summarizes over 30 years of research, recovering and illuminating remarkable examples of Islamic culture that have been largely overlooked, if not forgotten. It opens with reflections on teaching Islam, focusing on major themes such as Sufism, the Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad, and Arabic literature. The importance of public scholarship and the questionable opposition between Islam and the West are also addressed. The articles that follow explore multiple facets of Sufism, the ethical and spiritual tradition that has flourished in Muslim societies for over a thousand years. The cumulative effect is to move away from static Orientalist depictions of Sufism and Islam through a series of vivid and creative case studies.

Refractions of Islam in India: Situating Sufism and Yoga (2016)

October 3, 2016

Image result for Refractions of Islam in India: Situating Sufism and YogaThe essays in Refractions of Islam in India: situation Sufism and Yoga, explore Sufism as it developed in the Indian subcontinent, including translations of previously unavailable texts, and revealing unexpected insights into the lives, practices, and teachings  of Indian Muslims over nearly a thousand years. They also trace remarkable moments in the history of Muslim engagement with Indian religious and cultural practices. This includes not only Muslim participation in Indian art and literature, but also the extraordinary role that Sufis have played in the practice of yoga. Employing new approaches to religious studies that avoid essentialism and ideological concepts of religion, and shorn of unnecessary jargon, these compelling essays will be easily accessible to a larger audience.

Islamophobia in America: The Anatomy of Intolerance (2013)

October 3, 2013

Image result for Islamophobia in America: The Anatomy of Intolerance Islamophobia in America offers new perspectives on prejudice against Muslims, which has become increasingly widespread in the USA in the past decade. The contributors document the history of anti-Islamic sentiment in American culture, the scope of organized anti-Muslim propaganda, and the institutionalization of this kind of intolerance.

Sufism: An Introduction to the Mystical Tradition of Islam (2010)

October 3, 2011

Image result for Sufism: An Introduction to the Mystical Tradition of IslamSufism: An Introduction to the Mystical Tradition of Islam (Shambhala, 2011)

Original Issue: The Shambhala Guide to Sufism (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1997).

The Sufis are as diverse as the countries in which they’ve flourished—from Morocco to India to China—and as varied as their distinctive forms of art, music, poetry, and dance. They are said to represent the mystical heart of Islam, yet the term Sufism is notoriously difficult to define, as it means different things to different people both within and outside the tradition. With that fact in mind, Carl Ernst in Sufism: An Introduction to the Mystical Tradition of Islam, explores the broadest range of Sufi philosophies and practices to provide one of the most complete and comprehensive introductions to Sufism available in English. He traces the history of the movement from the earliest days of Islam to the present day, along the way examining its relationship to the larger world of Islam and its encounters with both fundamentalism and secularism in the modern world.








  • Spanish translation by Joan Carles Guix Sufismo, Guías de Sabiduría Oriental, 4. Barcelona: Oniro, 1999.


  •  Italian translation by Laura Franco: Il grande libro della sapienza sufiMilan: Oscar Saggi Mondadori, 2000.


  • Greek translation by Sophia Leibadopolou: Souphismos. Athens: Ekdoseis Archetypo, 2001.
  • Russian translation by A. Gorkavago: Sufizm. Moscow: Fair-Press, 2002. Complete online Russian version here.
  • Indonesian translation: Ajaran dan Amaliah Tasawuf. Pustaka Sufi, 2003

How to Read the Qur’an: A New Guide with Select Translations (2011)

October 3, 2011

Image result for How to Read the Qur'an: A New Guide with Select TranslationsFor anyone, non-Muslim or Muslim, who wants to know how to approach, read, and understand the text of the Qur’an, How to Read the Qur’an offers a compact introduction and reader’s guide. Using a chronological reading of the text according to the conclusions of modern scholarship, Carl W. Ernst offers a nontheological approach that treats the Qur’an as a historical text that unfolded over time, in dialogue with its audience, during the career of the Prophet Muhammad.

Rethinking Islamic Studies:From Orientalism to Cosmopolitanism (2010)

October 3, 2010

Image result for Rethinking Islamic Studies:From Orientalism to CosmopolitanismRethinking Islamic Studies upends scholarly roadblocks in post-Orientalist discourse within contemporary Islamic studies and carves fresh inroads toward a robust new understanding of the discipline, one that includes religious studies and other politically infused fields of inquiry.

Editors Carl W. Ernst and Richard C. Martin, along with a distinguished group of scholars, map the trajectory of the study of Islam and offer innovative approaches to the theoretical and methodological frameworks that have traditionally dominated the field. In the volume’s first section, the contributors reexamine the underlying notions of modernity in the East and West and allow for the possibility of multiple and incongruent modernities. This opens a discussion of fundamentalism as a manifestation of the tensions of modernity on Muslim cultures. The second section addresses the volatile character of Islamic religious identity as expressed in religious and political movements at national and local levels. In the third section, contributors focus on Muslim communities in Asia and examine the formation of religious models and concepts as they appear in this region. This study concludes with an afterword by accomplished Islamic studies scholar Bruce B. Lawrence reflecting on the evolution of this post-Orientalist approach to Islam and placing the volume within existing and emerging scholarship.

Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World (2003)

October 3, 2003

Avoiding the traps of sensational political exposes and specialized scholarly Orientalism, Carl Ernst in Following Muhammad introduces readers to the profound spiritual resources of Islam while clarifying diversity and debate within the tradition. Framing his argument in terms of religious studies, Ernst describes how Protestant definitions of religion and anti-Muslim prejudice have affected views of Islam in Europe and America. He also covers the contemporary importance of Islam in both its traditional settings and its new locations and provides a context for understanding extremist movements like fundamentalism. He concludes with an overview of critical debates on important contemporary issues such as gender and veiling, state politics, and science and religion.





Translations and foreign editions

Indonesian translation by Anna Farida et al.: Pergulatan Islam di dunia kontemporer : doktrin dan peradaban (Bandung, Indonesia: Mizan, Khazanah Ilmu-Ilmu Islam, 2016).






Russian translation by A. A. Ezhovoy, Sleduya za Muhammadom: Pereosmyslivaya v sovremennom mire. Moscow: Sadra, 2015.





Persian translation by Ghasem Kakaie, Iqtida-yi Muhammad: Nigar-i naw bi-islam dar jahan-i mu`asir. Tehran: Hermes Press, 2011.





Arabic translation by Hamza Halayqa, `Ala Nahj Muhammad: I`adat al-tafkir fil-Islam fil-`alam al-mu`asir. Beirut: Arabic Scientific                      Press, 2008.





  German translation by Kurt Maier,Mohammed folgen: Der Islam in der modernen Welt. Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht GmbH & Co., 2007.







 Turkish translation by Cangüzel Güner Zülfikar: Hz.Muhammed’in Yolunda: Günümüz Dünyasında İslâmiyeti Yeniden Düşünmek. Istanbul: Okuyan Us, 2005.





 India edition, New Delhi: Yoda Press, 2005.





Korean translation, Seoul: Simsan Munhwa, 2005.





UK edition, Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 2004.

Sufi Martyrs of Love: Chishti Sufism in South Asia and Beyond by Carl Ernst and Bruce Lawrence (2002)

October 3, 2002

Image result for Sufi Martyrs of Love: Chishti Sufism in South Asia and BeyondSufism is a religion which emphasizes direct knowledge of the divine within each person, and meditation, music, song, and dance are seen as crucial spiritual strides toward attaining unity with God. Sufi paths of mysticism and devotion, motivated by Islamic ideals, are still chosen by men and women in countries from Morocco to China, and there are nearly one hundred orders around the world, eighty of which are present and thriving in the United States. The Chishti Sufi order has been the most widespread and popular of all Sufi traditions since the twelfth-century. Sufi Martyrs of Love offers a critical perspective on Western attitudes towards Islam and Sufism, clarifying its contemporary importance, both in the West and in traditional Sufi homelands. Finally, it provides access to the voices of Sufi authorities, through the translation of texts being offered in English for the first time.

Teachings of Sufism, Translated by Carl Ernst (1999)

October 3, 1999

Image result for Teachings of SufismThe prose and verse readings in Teachings of Sufism were chosen to interest the many people who have become attracted to Sufi teachings through their exposure to popular Sufi poetry, music, and dance. The selections—mostly from the Middle East and India, ranging from the tenth to the twentieth century—provide a sampling of Sufi thought on some of the basic aspects of this spiritual path.

Most of the readings are published here in English for the first time. Brief introductory remarks place each selection into its historical and religious context, and an index of Qur’anic passages helps the reader to trace the extensive allusions to the Islamic holy scriptures.

The topics covered include: The nature of mystical love Meditation Listening to music as a spiritual practice Ethical teachings of Sufism Pitfalls on the spiritual path Spiritual companionship and the master-disciple relationship The importance of the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad Biographical accounts of great mystics, including the poet Rumi as well as several female saints


Turkish translation by Cangüzel Güner Zülfikar, in preparation.