Hasan Charles Le Gai Eaton departs this world

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.

A brief biography can be found here on Wikipedia.

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.

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9 Responses to “Hasan Charles Le Gai Eaton departs this world”

  1. Ahmed Saad Says:

    May Allah accept him amongst His noble slaves. I witness that he was a big wali may Allah be pleased with him.

  2. Abid Says:

    Asalamelaikum, truly from Allah we come and to him we return, May Allah shower his mercy upon Sh. Hassan and reward him for the best of his deeds. He was the most profound writer on Islam that i have read. I first came to know of him in a video we showed at Uni. of Sussex entitled, ‘The Call of Islam’ in which he appeared for a few minutes. I later bought one of his books entitled, ‘Islam and the Destiny of Man,’. After that i bought all his other books and have never stopped reading them ever since. In fact every time i read them i learn something new. I would say that he is a genius. He is the best writer on Islam in English and in any language of the present times and one of the best of perhaps of all time. He had this remarkable quality of explaining some of the most difficult theological issues in a very logical and commonsense way. The other thing he did was to put things in such a perspective that there simply was no way left for anyone to dispute against him. For me having tasted most of the existing Islamic ideologies and thoughts on offer he offered an explanation of Islam and other religions and ideologies in a way which was so convincing and logical. I also wanted to and would have loved to meet him but like the other brother said, it will have to wait for another stage. Like others have said, his expression in the English language was just magical even for a totally unartistic person like me. If i could have my way I would translate his books in every language and make them compulsory reading for everyone. A couple of days ago, a doctor to whom i reccomended the King of the Castle, sent me an e-mail saying that the book was the most important book he’d ever read.

  3. Sayyid Husayn Says:

    Inna lillah wa inna ilaihi Rajioun.

    Around 5 years ago, while at University – I was invited by a friend of mine to attend a lecture at the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. He said that it will be a night of celebration of the legacy and life of the great Martin Lings, who had passed away just a few months earlier.

    Now I had only known Martin Lings for a couple of years before and was deeply saddened to hear the news of his demise, someone who could live a vibrant blessed life at 96 could surely have gone on longer! So with a group of friends we went – I remember feeling a little out of place at the ‘Globe’. Here we were a group of young brash under dressed University students with hideous bags over our shoulders and floppy hair amidst a gathering finely turned out, highly educated sensible people.

    Hamza Yusuf proceeded to deliver the first speech in a manner only Hamza Yusuf can. Raza Ali Shah Kazemi went next and said something that went completely over our head. Other fine English converts gave moving accounts of their path to the Islamic faith through the works of Martin Lings.

    It was then the turn of this tall and striking gentleman on the microphone. Introduced before hand as Shaykh Hasan Charles Le Gai Eaton (wow, what a cool name! I thought). Wearing a fine Woollen suit and Pashmina shawl around his neck – he started with the customary Praises to God and his Messenger (s) in unique Arabic. So far so good. What he said immediately after in his received English pronunciation struck us all: “Life’s a bitch and then you Die!” (Shakespeare). We burst out laughing but for the remaining portion of the lecture – he gave it almost entirely in renunciation of the very quote. An emotional and a profound lecture, by the end of which we were moved to tears (well atleast I was).

    Immediately that week itself, I managed to get a copy of “Islam the Destiny of Man” and then “Remembering God” and then “King of the Castle” over the next few years. Each time, he had the same effect on me. That was his quality. Every single work of his came across so fresh so illuminating so utterly convincing every time I read him.

    Incidentally, I was in Madinah this very Thursday for the Grandest of all Mawlids. I prayed for him there – and yet he passed away the following day- Jumu’ah, the 12th of Rabi’ al-Awwal (in England). Subhanallah.

    I will continue to pray for him and I will miss him. I am sure I am not the only one.

    Inna lillahi wa Inna ilaihi Rajioun.

    • Usama Hasan Says:

      Thanks for that, Husayn. When I first heard his name in the 80’s, that was my reaction also – what a cool name! It was simply Charles Le Gai Eaton at that time. Ah, I missed that next round of lectures at the Globe, I was there the previous year for the Iago & Lings lectures. Is that quote, “Life’s a bitch …” really from Shakespeare? It was obviously a favourite way for Eaton to critique atheism, because he mentioned it in a moving article he wrote in the 90’s. Your quoting him reminded me of that.

  4. Sayyid Husayn Says:

    Actually you are quite right Usama.

    The quote is *NOT* Shakespearean. My Bad. But the funny thing is, Eaton delivered it, as if it were so !

    The one good thing thing I notice at the blogosphere after this, is the renewed interest and introduction of Gai Eaton back in to the lives of so many people. With all the obituaries, there are twice as many people asking: Who was he really?

    People and bloggers as accomplished as you can perhaps give a primer/introduction to the major themes of this work. What say ?


  5. Nomad Says:

    Innanillahi Rajiun.

    He will be greatly missed. I am not a very emotional type when it comes to hearing the news of someone passing away. But this time it is differnt. A loss for the Ummah and world at large. May Allah raise more such Noble servent who moves the heart and awakens the intelect. May Allah accept this noble servent and fill his grave with Nur.

  6. Usama Hasan Says:

    This is from Zuber Hatia in Portsmouth, who learned about the Sheikh’s death and funeral via Facebook:

    I happened to be passing through Surrey last Saturday and so was fortunate enough to attend Sh Hassan Eaton’s funeral at Brookwood together with my family. The late Sheikh’s eldest son read the closing passage from Sh Hassan’s last book “A Bad Beginning”. Very poignant. May Allah rest his soul.

  7. 2010 in review « UNITY Says:

    […] Hasan Charles Le Gai Eaton departs this world February 2010 7 comments 5 […]

  8. HashimHafsa Says:

    I’m improving. I’m trying to find peace of mind by uniting myself with God’s power and guidance.

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