Martin Lings

Martin Lings (24 January 1909 – 12 May 2005), also known as Abū Bakr Sirāj ad-Dīn, was an English Muslim writer, scholar, and philosopher. A student of the Swiss metaphysician Frithjof Schuon[1] and an authority on the work of William Shakespeare, he is best known as the author of Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, first published in 1983 and still in print.

Martin Lings
(Abū Bakr Sirāj al-Dīn)
Martin Lings in 2004
Born24 January 1909
Burnage, Manchester
Died12 May 2005 (aged 96)
Westerham, Kent
EraModern era
MovementTraditionalist School
Notable work(s)Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources
Alma mater
OccupationIslamic scholar, author; Shakespearean scholar,Historian
Spouse(s)Lesley Smalley (1944–2013)

Early life and education

Lings was born in Burnage, Manchester, in 1909 to a Protestant family.[2] The young Lings gained an introduction to travelling at a young age, spending significant time in the United States because of his father's employment. Lings attended Clifton College and went on to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he gained a BA in English Language and Literature. At Magdalen, he was a student and then a close friend of C. S. Lewis. After graduating from Oxford Lings went to Vytautas Magnus University, in Lithuania, where he taught Anglo-Saxon and Middle English.[2]

For Lings himself, however, the most important event whilst at Oxford was his discovery of the writings of the René Guénon, a French metaphysician and Muslim convert, and those of Frithjof Schuon, a German spiritual authority, metaphysician and Perennialist. In 1938, Lings went to Basle to make Schuon's acquaintance. This prompted his embracing Islam to embrace the branch of the Alawiyya tariqa led by Schuon. Thereafter, Lings remained Schuon's disciple and expositor for the rest of his life.[3]


In 1939, Lings went to Cairo, Egypt, to visit a friend who was an assistant of René Guénon. Soon after arriving in Cairo, his friend died and Lings began studying Arabic. Cairo became his home for over a decade; he became an English language teacher at the University of Cairo and produced Shakespeare plays annually.[4] Lings married Lesley Smalley in 1944 and lived with her in a village near the pyramids.[5] Despite having settled comfortably in Egypt, Lings was forced to leave in 1952 after anti-British disturbances.[6]


On returning to the United Kingdom he continued his education, earning a BA in Arabic and a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London). His doctoral thesis became a well-received book on Algerian Sufi Ahmad al-Alawi.[2] After completing his doctorate in 1959, Lings worked at the British Museum and later the British Library, overseeing eastern manuscripts and other textual works,[2] rising to the position of Keeper of Oriental Printed Books and Manuscripts 1970–73. He was also a frequent contributor to the journal Studies in Comparative Religion.

A writer throughout this period, Lings' output increased in the last quarter of his life. While his thesis work on Ahmad al-Alawi had been well regarded, his most famous work was a biography of Muhammad, written in 1983, which earned him acclaim in the Muslim world and prizes from the governments of Pakistan and Egypt.[7] His work was hailed as the "best biography of the prophet in English" at the National Seerat Conference in Islamabad.[8] He also continued travelling extensively, although he made his home in Kent. He died on 12 May 2005.[5]

Martin Lings
Martin Lings during a lecture.

In addition to his writings on Sufism, Lings was a Shakespeare scholar. His contribution to Shakespeare scholarship was to point out the deeper esoteric meanings found in Shakespeare's plays, and the spirituality of Shakespeare himself. More recent editions of Lings's books on Shakespeare include a foreword by Charles, Prince of Wales.[9] Just before his death he gave an interview on this topic, which was posthumously made into the film Shakespeare's Spirituality: A Perspective. An Interview With Dr. Martin Lings.[10]


  • The Underlying Religion (World Wisdom, 2007) ISBN 978-1-933316-43-7
  • Splendors of Qur'an Calligraphy And Illumination (2005), Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation, Thames & Hudson, ISBN 0-500-97648-1
  • A Return to the Spirit : Questions and Answers (2005), Fons Vitae, ISBN 1-887752-74-9
  • Sufi Poems : A Mediaeval Anthology (2005), Islamic Texts Society, ISBN 1-903682-18-5
  • Mecca: From Before Genesis Until Now (2004), Archetype, ISBN 1-901383-07-5
  • The Eleventh Hour: the Spiritual Crisis of the Modern World in the Light of Tradition and Prophecy (2002), Archetype, ISBN 1-901383-01-6
  • Collected Poems, revised and expanded (2002), Archetype, ISBN 1-901383-03-2
  • Ancient Beliefs and Modern Superstitions (2001), Archetype, ISBN 1-901383-02-4
  • What is Sufism (Islamic Texts Society, 1999) ISBN 978-0-946621-41-5[11]
  • The Secret of Shakespeare : His Greatest Plays seen in the Light of Sacred Art (1998), Quinta Essentia, distributed by Archetype, (hb), ISBN 1-870196-15-5
  • Sacred Art of Shakespeare : To Take Upon Us the Mystery of Things (Inner Traditions, 1998) 0892817178
  • A Sufi saint of the twentieth century: Shaikh Ahmad al-°Alawi, his spiritual heritage and legacy (Islamic Texts Society, 1993) ISBN 0-946621-50-0
  • Symbol & Archetype : A Study of the Meaning of Existence (1991, 2006), Fons Vitae Quinta Essentia series, ISBN 1-870196-05-8
  • Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources (Islamic Texts Society, 1983) ISBN 978-0-946621-33-0 (World-UK edn) / ISBN 978-1-59477-153-8 (US edn)
  • The Quranic Art of Calligraphy and Illumination (World of Islam Festival Trust, 1976) ISBN 0-905035-01-1
  • The Heralds, and other Poems 1970
  • The Elements, and Other Poems (1967), Perennial Books
  • The Book of Certainty: The Sufi Doctrine of Faith, Wisdom and Gnosis signed as Abu Bakr Siraj ad-Din. Cambridge, Islamic Texts Society, 1992 (1st ed. 1952).

See also


  1. ^ , a follower of the Alawiyya Sufi tariqa,Islamic scholar concerned with spiritual crisis
  2. ^ a b c d Martin, Douglas (29 May 2005). "Martin Lings, a Sufi Writer on Islamic Ideas, Dies at 96". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  3. ^ Martin Lings, A Return to the Spirit, Fons Vitae, Kentucky, 2005, pp. 4–5.
  4. ^ Eaton, Gai (27 May 2005). "Obituary: Martin Lings". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  5. ^ a b Eaton, Gai (26 May 2005). "Martin Lings". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  6. ^ Arabic obituary in Al-Ahram International Edition, 11 June 2005. Transl. in A Return to the Spirit, Fons Vitae, Kentucky, 2005, pp. 87–90.
  7. ^ Sedgwick, Mark (3 June 2004). Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press. p. 8. ISBN 9780199744930.
  8. ^ Muhammad : His Life Based on the Earliest Sources by Martin Lings
  9. ^ The Secret of Shakespeare: His Greatest Plays Seen in the Light of Sacred Art, Quinta Essentia, Cambridge, 1996.
  10. ^ Shakespeare's Spirituality: A Perspective
  11. ^ Sedgwick, Mark (3 June 2004). Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press. p. 245. ISBN 9780199744930.

External links

Agnostic existentialism

Agnostic existentialism is a type of existentialism which makes no claim to know whether there is a "greater picture"; rather, it simply asserts that the greatest truth is that which the individual chooses to act upon. It feels that to know the greater picture, whether there is one or not, is impossible, or impossible so far, or of little value. Like the Christian existentialist, the agnostic existentialist believes existence is subjective.

Hasan al-Basri

Abū Saʿīd b. Abi ’l-Ḥasan Yasār al-Baṣrī, often referred to as Ḥasan of Basra (Arabic: حسن البصري, Ḥasan al-Baṣrī; 642 - 15 October 728) for short, or reverentially as Imam Ḥasan al-Baṣrī in Sunni Islam, was an early Muslim preacher, ascetic, theologian, exegete, scholar, judge, and mystic. Born in Medina in 642, Hasan belonged to the third generation of Muslims, all of whom would subsequently be referred to as the tābiʿūn in Sunni Islamic piety. In fact, Hasan rose to become one of "the most celebrated" of the tābiʿūn, enjoying an "acclaimed scholarly career and an even more remarkable posthumous legacy in Islamic scholarship."Hasan, revered for his austerity and support for "renunciation" (zuhd), preached against worldliness and materialism during the early days of the Umayyad Caliphate, with his passionate sermons casting a "deep impression on his contemporaries." His close relationships with several of the most prominent companions of the prophet Muhammad only strengthened his standing as a teacher and scholar of the Islamic sciences. The particular disciplines in which he is said to have excelled included exegesis (tafsīr) of the Quran, whence his "name is invariably encountered in" classical and medieval commentaries on the scripture, as well as theology and mysticism. Regarding the last of these, it is important to note that Hasan became a tremendously important figure in the development of , with his name occurring "in many mystical silsilas (chains of teachers and their disciples) going back to Muḥammad" in the writings of Sunni mystics from the ninth-century onwards. In the words of one scholar, Hasan stands as the "great patriarch" of early Sufism.As scholars have noted, very few of Hasan's original writings survive, with his proverbs and maxims on various subjects having been transmitted primarily through oral tradition by his numerous disciples. While fragments of his famed sermons do survive in the works of later authors, the only complete manuscripts we have bearing his name are apocryphal works such as the Risālat al-qadar ilā ʿAbd al-Malik (Epistle to ʿAbd al-Malik against the Predestinarians), a pseudopigraphical text from the ninth or early-tenth century, and another letter "of an ascetic and hortatory character" addressed to Umar II (d. 720), which is likewise deemed spurious.Traditionally, Hasan has been commemorated as an outstanding figure by all the Sunni schools of thought, and was frequently designated as one the well respected of the early Islamic community in later writings by such important Sunni thinkers as Abu Talib al-Makki (d. 996), Abu Nu`aym (d. 1038), Ali Hujwiri (d. 1077), Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 1201), and Attar of Nishapur (d. 1221). In his famed Ḳūt al-ḳulūb, the most important work of Basran Sunni, Abu Talib al-Makki says of Hasan: "Ḥasan is our Imām in this doctrine which we represent. We walk in his footsteps and we follow his ways and from his lamp we have our light" (wa ’l-Ḥasanu raḥimahu ’llāhu imāmunā fī hād̲h̲a ’l-ʿilmi ’llad̲h̲ī natakallamu bih , at̲h̲arahu naḳfū wa sabīlahū natbaʿu wa min mis̲h̲kātihi nastaḍīʾ).

Islamic Texts Society

The Islamic Texts Society (ITS) is a peer-reviewed, British publishing house which concentrates on academic and general titles on Islam. It is registered as an educational charity in the UK.

Jacob's Ladder

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The significance of the dream has been debated, but most interpretations agree that it identified Jacob with the obligations and inheritance of the people chosen by God, as understood in Abrahamic religions.

Jean-Louis Michon

Jean-Louis Michon (April 13, 1924- February 22, 2013) was a French traditionalist scholar and translator who specialized in Islamic art and Sufism. He worked extensively with the United Nations to preserve the cultural heritage of Morocco.

List of Islamic studies scholars

In a Muslim context, Islamic studies can be an umbrella term for virtually all of academia, both originally researched and as defined by the Islamization of knowledge. It includes all the traditional forms of religious thought, such as Kalam (Islamic theology) and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and also assimilates fields generally considered to be secular in the West, such as Islamic science and Islamic economics.

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List of contemporary Muslim scholars of Islam

This article is an incomplete list of noted modern-era (20th to 21st century) Islamic scholars.

This refers to religious authorities whose publications or statements are accepted as pronouncements on religion by their respective communities and adherents.

For a list of academic scholars specializing in Islam within the field of religious studies, see List of Islamic studies scholars.

Geographical categories have been created based on commonalities in culture and across the Islamic World.

The Shiek-ul-islam from 1949 to 1982 of Hazrat MUHAMMAD Qamar-ud-din sialvi.His belong to Sial Shareef Distric Sargodha Pakistan.

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Murshid (Arabic: مرشد‎) is Arabic for "guide" or "teacher", derived from the root r-sh-d, with the basic meaning of having integrity, being sensible, mature. Particularly in Sufism it refers to a spiritual guide. The term is frequently used in Sufi orders such as the Qadiriyya, Chishtiya, Shadhiliya and Suhrawardiyya.

The path of Sufism starts when a student (Murid) takes an oath of allegiance or Bay'ah (bai'ath) with a spiritual guide (murshid). In speaking of this initiatory pact of allegiance, the Qur’ ̄an (48:10) says: Verily they who pledge unto thee their allegiance pledge it unto none but God. The Hand of God is above their hands.The murshid's role is to spiritually guide and verbally instruct the disciple on the Sufi path, but "only one who has himself reached the End of the path is a spiritual guide in the full sense of the Arabic term murshid".

A murshid usually has authorisation to be a teacher for one tariqa (spiritual paths). Any tariqa or silsila has one murshid at a time who is the head of the spiritual order. He is known as the shaykh, by way of khilafah: process in which the shaykh identifies one of his disciples as his successor, for the khalifa.

Nicholas Wolterstorff

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Patron saint

A patron saint, patroness saint, patron hallow or heavenly protector is a saint who in Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism or Eastern Orthodoxy, is regarded as the heavenly advocate of a nation, place, craft, activity, class, clan, family or person.


The Shadhili Tariqa (Arabic: الطريقة الشاذلية‎) is a Sufi order of Sunni Islam founded by Abul Hasan Ali ash-Shadhili of Morocco. Followers (Arabic murids, "seekers") of the Shadhiliya are known as Shadhilis.

It has historically been of importance and influence in North Africa and Egypt with many contributions to Islamic literature. Among the figures most known for their literary and intellectual contributions are Ibn 'Ata Allah, author of the Hikam, and Ahmad Zarruq, author of numerous commentaries and works, and Ahmad ibn Ajiba who also wrote numerous commentaries and works. In poetry expressing love of Muhammad, there have been the notable contributions of Muhammad al-Jazuli, author of the "Dala'il al-Khayrat", and Busiri, author of the famous poem, the Qaṣīda al-Burda. Many of the head lecturers of al-Azhar University in Cairo have also been followers of this tariqa.

Of the various branches of the Shadhili tariqa are the Fassiyatush, found largely in India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The Darqawi branch is found mostly in Morocco and the Darqawi Alawiyya (no connection to the "Kızılbaş-Turkish-Alevis" or "Syrian-Arab-Alawis") which originated in Algeria is now found the world over, particularly in Syria, Jordan, France and among many English-speaking communities. British scholar, Martin Lings wrote an extensive biography of the founder of this branch, Ahmad al-Alawi, entitled 'A Sufi Saint of the 20th century' (ISBN 0-946621-50-0)

The anniversary urs of Hazrat Qutubul Akber Imam Nooruddin Abul Hasan Alee Ash Shadhili (Razi) is held on 12th Shawwal (the tenth month of lunar calendar) at Humaithara in Egypt.

Sufi studies

Sufi studies is a particular branch of comparative studies that uses the technical lexicon of the Islamic mystics, the Sufis, to exemplify the nature of its ideas; hence the frequent reference to Sufi Orders. It may be divided into two main branches, the orientalist/academic and the spiritual.

The Matheson Trust

The Matheson Trust is an educational charity based in London dedicated to further and disseminate the study of comparative religion, especially from the point of view of the underlying harmony of the major religious and philosophical traditions of the world.

Theological noncognitivism

Theological noncognitivism is the position that religious language – specifically, words such as "God" – are not cognitively meaningful. It is sometimes considered synonymous with ignosticism.

Traditionalist School

The Traditionalist School is a group of 20th- and 21st-century thinkers concerned with what they consider to be the demise of traditional forms of knowledge, both aesthetic and spiritual, within Western society. A central belief of this school is the existence of a perennial wisdom, or perennial philosophy, which says that there are primordial and universal truths which form the source for, and are shared by all the major world religions.

The principal thinkers in this tradition are René Guénon, Ananda Coomaraswamy and Frithjof Schuon. Other important thinkers in this tradition include Titus Burckhardt, Martin Lings, Jean-Louis Michon, Marco Pallis, Huston Smith, Hossein Nasr, Jean Borella, and Julius Evola.


Walī (Arabic: ولي‎, plural ʾawliyāʾ أولياء) is an Arabic word whose literal meanings include "custodian", "protector", "helper", and "friend". In the vernacular, it is most commonly used by Muslims to indicate an Islamic saint, otherwise referred to by the more literal "friend of God". In the traditional Islamic understanding of saints, the saint is portrayed as someone "marked by [special] divine favor ... [and] holiness", and who is specifically "chosen by God and endowed with exceptional gifts, such as the ability to work miracles". The doctrine of saints was articulated by Islamic scholars very early on in Muslim history, and particular verses of the Quran and certain hadith were interpreted by early Muslim thinkers as "documentary evidence" of the existence of saints. Graves of saints around the Muslim world became centers of pilgrimage — especially after 1200 CE — for masses of Muslims seeking their barakah (blessing).Since the first Muslim hagiographies were written during the period when the Islamic mystical trend of Sufism began its rapid expansion, many of the figures who later came to be regarded as the major saints in orthodox Sunni Islam were the early Sufi mystics, like Hasan of Basra (d. 728), Farqad Sabakhi (d. 729), Dawud Tai (d. 777–781), Rabi'a al-'Adawiyya (d. 801), Maruf Karkhi (d. 815), and Junayd of Baghdad (d. 910). From the twelfth to the fourteenth century, "the general veneration of saints, among both people and sovereigns, reached its definitive form with the organization of Sufism ... into orders or brotherhoods". In the common expressions of Islamic piety of this period, the saint was understood to be "a contemplative whose state of spiritual perfection ... [found] permanent expression in the teaching bequeathed to his disciples". In many prominent Sunni Islamic creeds of the time, such as the famous Creed of Tahawi (c. 900) and the Creed of Nasafi (c. 1000), a belief in the existence and miracles of saints was presented as "a requirement" for being an orthodox Muslim believer.Aside from the Sufis, the preeminent saints in traditional Islamic piety are the Companions of Muhammad, their Successors, and the third generation after the Prophet, often called "the Successors of the Successors". Additionally, the prophets of Islam are also believed to be saints by definition, although they are rarely referred to as such, in order to prevent confusion between them and ordinary saints; as the prophets are exalted by Muslims as the greatest of all humanity, it is a general tenet of Sunni belief that a single prophet is greater than all the regular saints put together. In short, it is believed that "every prophet is a saint, but not every saint is a prophet".In the modern world, the traditional Sunni and Shia idea of saints has been challenged by movements such as Salafism, Wahhabism, and Islamic modernism, all three of which have, to a greater or lesser degree, "formed a front against the veneration and theory of saints." As has been noted by scholars, the development of these movements has indirectly led to a trend amongst some mainstream Muslims to resist "acknowledging the existence of Muslim saints altogether or ... [to view] their presence and veneration as unacceptable deviations". However, despite the presence of these opposing streams of thought, the classical doctrine of saint-veneration continues to thrive in many parts of the Islamic world today, playing a vital role in daily expressions of piety among vast segments of Muslim populations in Muslim countries like Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Senegal, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, Tunisia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Morocco, as well as in countries with substantive Islamic populations like India, China, Russia, and the Balkans.

World Wisdom

World Wisdom is an independent American publishing company established in 1980 in Bloomington, Indiana. World Wisdom publishes religious and philosophical texts, including the work of authors such as Frithjof Schuon, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Titus Burckhardt, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Joseph Epes Brown, Paul Goble, Swami Ramdas, Samdhong Rinpoche, William Stoddart, and Martin Lings.

The company publishes The Library of Perennial Philosophy, which focuses on the beliefs underlying the diverse religions, also referred to as Sophia Perennis or "Perennial Philosophy". World Wisdom’s Library of Perennial Philosophy encompasses seven series.

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