Charles Legai Eaton


Writer and scholar. Being a father figure to many white British converts to Islam Gai Eaton was also regarded as one of contemporary Islam's most sophisticated thinkers. A former diplomat, Eaton became a Muslim after studying the religion and spending a year in Cairo. He was also known with the Muslim name, Hasan Abd al-Hakim. It was in Cairo that Eaton became interested in the Sufi aspect of Islam, inspired by his colleague Martin Lings, a member of a Sufi Tariqah (religious order). He began reading Sufi literature and, with Lings's encouragement, made his Shahada (declaration of faith) in May 1951. Eaton took early retirement from the Foreign Office in 1977 and in the same year published King of the Castle: Choice and Responsibility in the Modern World. The book won an ecstatic review in The Times and helped to establish Eaton's credentials as a serious Islamic scholar. In these works, and in the more contemplative work that followed, Eaton offered an analysis of the various maladies he thought were afflicting the world, such as atheism, secularism and materialism. Shortly afterwards he was approached by Zaki Badawi, the newly-appointed director of the Islamic Cultural Centre at Regent's Park Mosque, and invited to become his assistant and editor of the centre's journal, The Islamic Quarterly. Another study, The Concept of God in Islam, was published in 2005. He wrote several books and, as a consultant at the Islamic Cultural Centre at Regent's Park Mosque in London, Gai Eaton played an important role in addressing public misconceptions about Islam. With wit and logic, he showed the extent to which Muslim extremism deviates from the principles enshrined in the Islamic revelation and upheld by the Islamic tradition. He spent 22 years at the centre. Eaton decried the despots and human rights abuses in the Muslim world, and, closer to home, and encouraged Muslim immigrants to integrate with the British way of living Islam. Refusing to conform to the dictates of any ethnic or cultural model imported from abroad, this impeccable Englishman showed far more effectively than any amount of theory that Islamic faith is fully compatible with British identity. Until about 1990, Britain white converts were reckoned to number 5,000; that number is now thought to have grown to between 10,000 and 20,000. There are many prominent converts including Earl Of Yarborough (aka Abdul Mateen). Many of the recent waves of Western converts came to Islam after reading Eaton's Islam and the Destiny of Man (1994), a powerful and elegantly-written guide to the faith. Others were simply inspired by his uncompromising intellectual honesty. Eaton wrote two accounts of his own life: a "spiritual" autobiography, Remembering God: Reflections on Islam (2000); and a "profane" autobiography, A Bad Beginning, published in 2009. In this he described how the search for truth that would eventually lead him to Islam had its roots in the extraordinary circumstances of his birth and upbringing. Charles LeGai Eaton was born in Switzerland and was educated at Charterhouse and King's College, Cambridge.

Compiler: M. Nauman Khan

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