Martin Lings (1909 - present)
Abu Bakr Siraj Ad-Din

Martin Lings was born in Burnage, Lancashire, in 1909. After taking an English degree at Oxford in 1932, he was appointed Lecturer in Anglo-Saxon at the University of Kaunas. His interest in Islam and in Arabic took him to Egypt in 1939, and in the following year he was given a lectureship in Cairo University. In 1952 he returned to England and took a degree in Arabic at London University. From 1970-74 he was Keeper of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books at the British Museum (in 1973 his Department became part of the British Library) where he had been in special charge of the Qur’an manuscripts, amongst other treasures, since 1955. Dr. Lings currently lives in England with his wife.

Martin Lings started his career as an orientalist then he embraced Islam in 1939 after which date he moved to Egypt where he says, he preferred to live in Islamic surroundings compatible with his new religion. When asked about the direct reason which led to his conversion to Islam. He replied, "There was no particular reason, but I have read much on religions and was mostly attarcted by Sufism; after perusing much about Islam I found it to be the most proper religion hence I embraced Islam and became a Sufi Muslim, I met many Sufi Muslims and my books were on Sufism."

When asked about some of the stereotypical views of Sufis and Sufism, such as isolating themselves from life and work, he responds, "Sufism as I understand it, is the belief that man is a stranger in this world or that he is a temporary passer-by. This does not mean that you should stop work or study or to isolate yourself from the people. For there is a wise saying that one should strive for this world as though he would live forever, and then he should strive for the hereafter as though he were to die the next day. That is the constitution of Islam." He adds, "After my belief in Sufism I still study and work as others do, I continued to work in the British Museum until I was sent on pension in 1974. And yet I continued to write books and participate in intellectual life and symposia held in the Muslim world. Some people say that Sufism is alien to Islam. My answer is that Sufism is as old as history itself. It represents the urge to purify the human heart and be honest in worshipping God. In Islam Sufism is bound by the Quran and the Sunnah. About half the verses of the Quran urge Msulims on piety, honesty and true worship of God.

Furthermore, Islamic Sufism is sincerity to God; it is not laziness or blind worship. Neither is it defeatedness or weakness. It is faith and knowledge.

(Source: Arafat K el-Ashi, Why We Embraced Islam)



11 books 1952-91, of which 3 major (1961-83)
3 volumes of poetry
Wrote on Sufism and Islam for the educated general public
Wrote in English, sometimes translated into French, also into Spanish, Arabic and Turkish
Two most important books
A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century (1961)
Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources (1983)
Became Muslim
Lived in Egypt; closely associated there with Guénon
Met Schuon 1938
Two careers
Taught at Cairo University 1939-52
Then worked at the British Museum

The Book of Certainty: The Sufi Doctrine of Faith, Wisdom and Gnosis.London: Rider, 1952
New York: S Weiner, 1970
Cambridge, ITS, 1992
A Muslim [Sufi] Saint of the Twentieth Century. London: Allen & Unwin, 1961, 1971
New York: Macmillan, 1961
Berkeley: U of California P, 1971, 1973
Beirut: Dar al-kitab al-jadid, 1973 [Al-shaykh Ahad al-'Alawi al-Sufi al-Mustaghanimi al-Jaza'iri: hayatuhu, tasawwufuhu, irthuhu, wasiyatuhu]
Lahore: Suhail, 1981
Madrid: Taurus, 1982 [Un santo sufi del siglo XX]
Cambridge: ITS, 1993
Ancient Beliefs and Modern Superstitions. London: Perennial Books, 1964
Boston: Unwin Paperback, 1980
Cambridge: Quinta Essentia, 1991
Shakespeare in the Light of Sacred Art.London: Allen & Unwin, 1966
New York: Humanities P, 1966
The Elements, and other Poems London: Perennial Books, 1967
The Heralds, and other Poems London: Perennial Books, 1970
Islamic Calligraphy and Illumination NP NS [1971]
What is Sufism? London: Unwin, 1975, 1981
Berkeley: U of California P, 1975, 1977
Paris: Seuil, 1977 [Qu'est-ce que le soufisme?]
Cambridge: ITS, 1993
The Quranic Art of Calligraphy and Illumination.London: World of Islam Festival Publishing Company, 1976
New York: Interlink Books, 1976, 1987
Boulder: Shambhala, 1976, 1978
England: Scorpion, 1987
Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources. London: Allen & Unwin, 1983
New York: Inner Traditions, 1983
Lahore: Suhail, 1985
Cambridge: ITS, 1986, 1991
Istanbul: Iz Yayincilik, ND [Hz. Muhammed'in Hayati]
The Secret of Shakespeare. Wellingborough: Aquarius, 1984
New York: Inner Traditions, 1984
Collected Poems London: Perennial Books, 1987
The Eleventh Hour: The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern World in the Light of Tradition and Prophecy Cambridge: Quinta Essentia, 1989
Symbol and Archetype: A Study of the Meaning of Existence Cambridge: Quinta Essentia, 1991