|Biographical detail : ||One of the greatest scholars of Islamic mysticism of this generation
Martin Lings was confirmed beyond all doubt by the publication of his classic biography: Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources (1983), the book written from the perspective of a scholar-historian who was also a Muslim. This work is widely recognised as the most readable account of the life of the Prophet (PBUH) to date. It has been translated into many languages and won a number pf prizes in the Muslim world.
While he was in Cairo, Martin composed his definitive account of Sufi doctrine in Arabic, which he later translated into English and published under the title of The Book of Certainty: The Sufi Doctrine of Faith, Wisdom and Gnosis (1952).
Martin consolidated his reputation as a leading historian of Islamic mysticism or Sufism with the publication of his PhD thesis: A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century: Shaikh Ahmad al-Alawi (1961) that appeared in numerous editions and translations (French, Spanish, Persian, Urdu and Arabic, among others).
He spent the last 30 years of his life writing books, and lecturing all over the world, to a growing following. At the time when so much nonsense is talked about “the clashes of civilisations” and Islam is under siege, the work of Martin Lings shines like a beacon.
Martin’s own world view reflected his combined interests in comparative religion and spiritual traditions worldwide and in a number of his publications – such as Ancient Beliefs and Modern Superstitions (1964), The Eleventh Hour: The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern World in the Light of Tradition and Prophecy (1989) and Symbol and Archetype: A Study of the Meaning of Existence (1991) – he closely followed the thought.
He combined vast knowledge with meticulous scholarship, a poetic sensibility and an elegant expression, which made the most profound subjects accessible, and enthralled the large audiences who flocked to his lectures. In his old age he had acquired the aura of one who had striven all his life towards sanctity.
Martin Lings was born in Lancashire and studied English literature at Oxford. In 1939, after a trip to Egypt to study Islam and Arabic, and an encounter with Sufis of the Shadhiliyya order, he converted to Islam. He took his Muslim name, Abu Bakr Siraj ad-Din.
A keen and original gardener, Martin Lings lived in a modest cottage in the middle of woods in Kent. He was laid to rest among the flowers and plants he had lovingly cultivated.