Idries Shah has gained fame in the West as a Sufi Teacher, and in fact some sources called him the Teacher of the Century – that is, the most significant conduit of Knowledge of his time. The majority of modern orthodox Sufis consider Shah to be a renegade and find the Work which he did to be worthless, considering it false and harmful. One should not be surprised at this; after all, the version of Sufism introduced by Shah to an astounded public significantly differs and in some ways contradicts its orthodox version, which before this was essentially the only one known to us. Even so, the legitimacy of Shah’s claims to possess Knowledge were apparently nearly irreproachable. As a native of Afghanistan, Shah claimed that his family tree had a connection to the Prophet Mohammed, which is very respected in Islamic countries. It is entirely unknown where Idries Shah went through Sufi training, but for Western people, his origin was sufficient to accept him as a true Sufi.
Shah was ideally suited for the role of conduit of Sufi ideas in the Western world – his family lived for a long time in England and he himself even studied at Oxford for three years. Idries spoke English beautifully and was familiar with the mentality of Europeans. Perhaps, precisely for this reason (and also for his outstanding abilities in professing Knowledge), he was chosen by teachers unknown to us to fulfill a special mission?
There are two versions of the story regarding his mission which, in fact, are not mutually contradictory. According to one of them – well known – he was a messenger of people of the Tradition, people of Knowledge, in order to introduce it to the world. All of his activity seemed in fact to be aimed at disseminating Knowledge and at inculcating new ideas into the minds of his contemporaries. According to another version, Shah was supposed to separate Sufism from Islam and create the conditions for its dissemination in the West. If that is the case, was not the mission to introduce the Tradition, and everything that he wrote about it only a means, a kind of “smoke screen” for fulfilling another, true mission of his?