A few weeks ago I read Gai Eaton’s book “Islam and the Destiny of Man”, and since then, I’ve been unsure how to summarize the experience of reading it. It’s a book that simply needs to be experienced for itself.
The aim of the book is to introduce the reader to an Islamic worldview, and the book is separated into three sections to complete this task. The first section “An Approach to the Faith” addresses the historical relationship between Muslim lands and Europe, and core principles (such as Truth and Mercy) that animate Islam. The second section “The Making of the Faith” addresses the world of the Qur’an, the life of the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), the history of the successors who followed him, and history of the people who followed the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs. For me, this section was an education in the depth of the Islamic tradition, and a reminder that there is so much to learn! As I read the historical sections of the book for instance, I realised that I really didn’t know anything about the lives of the successors of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. To rectify this, I’m going to insha’Allah start with a lecture series by Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad, available through the Quilliam Press website here.
The third section is titled “Fruits of the Faith”, and describes the example of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, Islamic law, Islamic art and mysticism, and the worldview of the hereafter that should structure how Muslims understand their experience in the world. Being reminded of where we are headed and the purpose of our lives was on a personal level, very very needed, and a reminder that one needs to constantly reflect on the beliefs/ideas that determine your response to events in your life. So often we act unthinkingly, and don’t realise that there are faulty beliefs/ideas fuelling our reactions.
Despite the gendered language, the book is a powerful and beautiful read, and a book that reminds you that you need to study. On every page, Gai Eaton demonstrates the richness and beauty of the Islamic tradition, and teaches the reader that one needs to have a coherent study plan in place of Qur’an memorisation, Arabic study, tafsir, fiqh, learning more about the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), and personal character refinement. The book is a proof for the need for sustainable sequential learning.
The book was also a reminder that to strive for what is good in this world, but not to put the world in one’s heart. There is no time for envy, or feeling sad about not having something. Paradise is the goal to work towards.
Below: here are some of my notes.