Posted by: Dawud Israel | February 27, 2010

An Intellectual Giant Passes Away: On the Legacy of Gai Eaton (rahimullah)

EDIT: I want to make clear this post is not an endorsement of perennialism. Gai Eaton was not perennialism’s biggest proponent, but it was one of his influences and his books do not go into it indepth. Perennialism misguides but it has its helpful critiques of the modern world and that is about as much benefit one can get from it.
Bismillah, alhamdulillah, wa salat wa salam ala Rasulullah

Shaykh Hasan Le Gai Eaton

The Grandfather of Islamic development in the West


Last night I heard of the news that Gai Eaton, also known as  Shaykh Hasan Charles Le Gai Eaton, passed away. According to the comments on this website he passed away February 26th at 10am in London, I believe. I can’t describe the shock at hearing such news and from what it seems, the news is true. How can you deal with such a reality especially when someone has had such a powerful impact on your life? How much more when I am so weak in comparison?

Overwhelmingly, much of the good on this blog and website is inspired by his work. This man, by far, had the biggest impact on my Islamic and intellectual development. His ideas were influenced by the Perennialist school of thought, but largely he stood within orthodox Islam. A very rare master of the English language, his books, Islam and the Destiny of Man and King of the Castle represent the major work of Muslim thought on Modernity and Westernisation. I cannot find works that even come near to them. Islam and the Destiny of Man is THE premier single work, that has brought many swiftly into the fold of Islam, bringing myself much more closer to the deen.  If you were to ask around his work would be cited as one of the most influential and to my surprise a work too powerful that I’m surprised it hasn’t been banned. Some comments around the web have mentioned his role in Imran Khan’s return to Islam, and his writings being used by Christian priests. That is not surprising at all.

I don’t know how many realize what a giant has passed away. How many have even heard of him, I am not sure, especially in our age of Islamic illiteracy and tribalistic jahiliyya, but history will most definitely prove him to be a giant. In the past, we had great thinkers but this period of time squarely belonged to Gai Eaton, Rene Guenon and to Fritjof Schuon (they disagreed and varied on levels of orthodoxy and spiritual imagination). While the Saudis grapple with modernity using petro-dollars, the brain-dead mullahs back home with modernity using violence and ghadari and the fossilized Sufis and Salafis with isolationism and personality cults, Gai Eaton dealt with modernity on the basis of the mind and the dynamic capacity of tradition for growth and creativity. Had you read him or any of the thinkers he drew from, you realized how genuine of a teacher he really was, because in large part his story was so powerful because you knew exactly what he meant, because an agitation in your soul had told you something similar. In this way, he tapped into the fitra and the essential spirituality in every human being.

As a tribute I am going to share my excerpts from his two works. You can download them and read them to get a glimpse of his writings. I still remember reading them and highlighting just about every page and just whispering to myself, “wow!” How few are there today whose words can bring about such transformation!

Exerpts from Islam and the Destiny of Man

King of the Castle Notes


And here are a number of links I am collecting and downloading for review. It is best if I benefit from his works and perhaps thereby help as a sadaqa jariya in his grave.


Articles and other Publications:

From the Journal of Comparitive Religion

Interview: The Talented Mr Gai Eaton

Audios:

International Institute of Islamic Thought

Living Islam 1 2 3 4

Radical Middle Way lecture on the Drunkenness of Ignorance

I will try and find more and post here as I can find it.

May Allah bless this man, and allow us the mercy to better appreciate and benefit from his works, ameen.



Responses

  1. Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un, May Allah accept him and of him, may He forgive his sins and enter him into paradise.

    One of my friends sent me an article titled “Islam Today” long ago by him that I found insightful. Found another copy here: http://hamditabligh.saylitech.com/pdf/IslamToday.pdf

  2. Dear Dawud Israel,

    Asalaamu alaikum.

    I have a Google Alert out for Rene Guenon, through which I just learned, from you, that Gai Eaton has passed. May the All-Merciful conduct him to those “gardens beneath which rivers flow”.

    I never met him, and I only talked with him by phone on one occasion. Among the Perennialists he was a “man of the world” in the rare good sense of phrase, one not enmeshed in the dunya, and able to draw wisdom from wide experience for precisely that reason. Now that he is no longer with us, William Stoddart alone remains of his generation of the followers of Guenon and Frithjof Schuon.

    In my book VIRTUES OF THE PROPHET: A YOUNG MUSLIM’S GUIDE TO THE GREATER JIHAD, I quote liberally from his ISLAM AND THE DESTINY OF MAN. What a truly human account he gives of the Prophet, his nobility and veracity obscured neither by sentimentality nor by the sort of hero-worshipping adulation that only veils the fitra, the one place where true human dignity resides, the mirror of Allah in this world.

    At least for us, here, Charles LeGai Eaton was among the Foremost.

    Sincerely,
    Charles Upton

  3. Dear Mr. Israel,

    I should have mentioned that Gai Eaton also wrote books which were not exclusively about Islam: THE RICHEST VEIN and THE KING OF THE CASTLE.

    Sincerely,
    Charles Upton
    cupton@qx.net

  4. I’ve never even heard about him. Many of us are trapped within the confounds of the Salafi-Sufi debates. May Allah protect us.

  5. more of his articles and his book of hadiths (translation) can be found here:

    http://www.thebook.org/

    thanks for this post. if only others read his masterpieces.

    salam.

  6. He also had a new book published in October 2009 in the UK: http://archetype.uk.com/bad_beginning.htm

  7. Ameen to all the duas.

    I wonder if perhaps his latest book was meant as a goodbye to this dunya.

  8. Dear Brother Dawud
    I could not formulate it better than what you have written about Charles le Gai Eaton. His writting had such a persuasive impact on me. His books built the foundation of my intellectual approach to our religion and no other contemporary scholar or intellectual impressed me so deeply.
    I am from Switzerland and unfortunately only his Islam and the Destiny of Man was translated into German. However I think his other works will hopefully also be available for the german speaking part of Europe….

    May Allah (st.) forgive him, be pleased with him and grant ihm pardise.

    Wasalam
    Ibrahim

  9. Thank you for these wonderful tributes to my father. I know he will be in your prayers, as he is in mine and those of my brother and sisters. al-Hamdu li’Llah.
    Leo Eaton

    • Our hearts go out to you and your family, Leo. Most Muslims who have read your fathers work or met him would say he displayed the signs of sainthood or wilaya, that is friendship with God.

  10. sayyidi Hasan Eaton was something else…

    may Allah ta’ala shower down His contentment and mercy and lights and blessings on him, and raise him up in ranks, and to prepare for this ummah someone like him, because we really need it.

    while I did not get to meet him in his lifetime, I hope that Allah ta’ala will look upon me with His favor and grace because of my love of sidi Eaton, and I ask Him ta’ala to allow me to see him in the next life inshaAllah.

  11. Great post and true sentiments. I’m struggling to find ‘Islam and the Destiny of Man’ at the moment. I think it’s out of print which is a terrible shame

    • where are you? us, uk, europe, asia, africa?
      it’s very easy to find it through islamic texts society in the UK or at amazon.
      try google shopping or alibris.com.
      you might not be able to find the printing by ITS but there are many other copies, including a Malysian pressing which is an updated edition including a further introduction.
      i would recommend all of his other books, too. they’re just as good!

      • I’m in the UK. Do you have any links to the malysian version?

  12. I was just told of his passing last week, from Allah we truly are, and to Allah we all shall return.

    His writings always spoke strongly to me. When I was younger Islam and the Destiny of Man was sort of an intellectual purgative for me. He seemed very much to be a man familiar with the world and yet able to step away from the rat race, and look calmly upon it, from the vantage point of faith.

    May Allah reward him for his writings

  13. WHERE DO THE PERENNIALISTS STAND?

    If you are interested in the state of the Traditionalist/Perennialist School
    in the English-speaking world
    —the followers of René Guénon, Ananda Coomaraswamy,
    and especially Frithjof Schuon—
    you may also be interested in:

    Findings
    in Metaphysic, Path and Lore,
    With a Response to the Traditionalist/Perennialist School

    by Charles Upton

    Findings embraces a defense of Traditionalist principles,
    a number of metaphysical meditations based upon them,
    as well as an attempt to throw light on how the School has changed
    —radically in some respects—
    since Schuon’s death.
    It ends with a succinct definition of “Classical Traditionalism/Perennialism”—
    a useful point of reference
    by which the changes in 21st century Perennialism can be tracked.

    Findings
    Sophia Perennis, 2010;
    310 pp Perfect Bound; ISBN 1597310964

    $19.95
    £13.95

    Available through
    Amazon.com
    Barnesandnoble.com
    and
    Amazon.co.uk;

    Also available through
    http://www.sophiaperennis.com


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