Who was Martin Lings?
Dr. Martin Lings, Shaykh Abu Bakr Siraj ad-Din, (1909-2005) was a great scholar of Islam and Comparative Religion. He was tutored by C. S. Lewis at Magdalen College, Oxford who wrote of the young Lings’ that he was one of those rare students who reminded Lewis of the purpose and value of teaching. Lings was the author of the magisterial ‘Muhammad: His Life based on the Earliest Sources’ for which he received a number of national awards and of which, a fine critic of English Literature had remarked, “But for the prejudice in the West towards the topic, this book would have been recognised as one of the great biographies of the English language.” In his own life and example Lings embodied, beautifully, the prophetic character.
Lings could be most accurately described by his own writings when he likened this world to a nursery garden “for there is nothing in this world that has not been planted here with a view to its being eventually transplanted elsewhere. The central part of the garden is allotted to trees of a particularly noble kind, though relatively small and growing in earthenware pots. As we look at them, all our attention is caught by one that is more beautiful, more luxuriant than others. The cause is not naked to the eye immediately but we know what has happened – the tree has broken through the pot and struck roots deep into the earth. And because it has gone deeper, inwardly, it has gone higher, outwardly. Such is the case with some people who go deeper into the essence that they become stronger, outwardly, in form.”
Martin Lings was one such person. A noble man who had spent his whole life polishing his heart with the remembrance of God such that his heart was rendered pure, transparent, enabling him to see through the physical form to the spiritual reality – from the symbol to the archetype. A man whose life and teachings, even after his death, are transforming lives and changing perceptions.