Photo, clockwise from left: Charles Le Gai Eaton, Fuad Nahdi, Martin Lings, Hamza Yusuf, Peter Sanders. (Photo courtesy of Fareena Alam’s and Abdul-Rehman Malik’s Facebooks.)
Bismillah. Shaykh Hasan Charles Le Gai Eaton, author of the excellent books King of the Castle and Islam & The Destiny of Man, returned to Allah this morning. His burial is at 1pm later today (Saturday 27th February 2010 / 12th Rabi’ al-Awwal 1431) at the Brockwood Cemetery in Woking, God-willing. To Allah we belong, and to Him we are returning.
I read his Islam & The Destiny of Man as a teenager. Imran Khan (the cricket legend) once mentioned this book as the most influential upon a certain phase of his life, and it seems to have also inspired Jemima Khan.
The only time I heard him lecture was in 1989/90 at a Muslim students’ event at Cambridge University, organised by Inam Siddiqui, Massoud Shadjareh, Arzu Merali, Najmuddin Hasan & others. Eaton was joined on the panel by a Christian priest. Elyas Patel, the lawyer from Dewsbury, asked him a question relating to the hadith qudsi narrated by Abu Hurayrah from the Prophet S that God says, Ana ‘inda zanni ‘abdi bi or “I am according to My slave-servant’s conception of Me …” (Bukhari). Eaton’s reply, I think, was about being detached from the world, yet part of it. I must confess, that is the only thing I remember him saying the whole evening, and even that is blurred, although come to think of it, he did mention “Remembrance of God” as well of course, and that is the title of his third major book. The problem is that everything he said went way over my head at the time, since I was young and an utter salafi. But his presence was amazing, and the way he spoke old-fashioned English was lovely.
The only other time I saw him was when he was seated in the front row of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s or Martin Lings’ lecture at The Globe Theatre in London during its Shakespeare & Islam season a few years ago (2003 or 2004), organised jointly with the Q-News team, for which alone, may Allah give them all Jannah. He may have been at both lectures, actually. (Shaykh Hamza lectured on Othello & the Iago Factor – drama, melodrama, etc., whilst Martin Lings lectured for two hours at the age of 96 on Hamlet and themes from his Secret of Shakespeare, with even more lovely English than Eaton’s.) Fuad Nahdi referred to Eaton in his introduction as his main shaykh in the UK.
I finally read Eaton’s King of the Castle last year – another brilliant book, full of insights. It was once recommended-reading for Christian priests wanting arguments against atheism and agnosticism. I made some mental notes of things I wanted to ask Eaton when I would finally have an audience with him, but that will have to wait until the Hereafter iA. He recently also published his autobiography, entitled A Bad Beginning.
As friends have already said, Eaton is irreplaceable and his death marks the end of what might be called “his era,” which is a massive compliment in itself. He was an enormous source of inspiration for several generations of people, tens of thousands if not millions.
May Allah shower him with His Mercy.