Charles Hasan Le Gai Eaton

Diplomat, Author & Islamic Scholar, 1921-2010


On Religion
On Extremism
On the Environment
On Human Nature
On the Future

On Religion:

“I can only follow one religion and that is Islam. It is the sun while all others are just stars. But stars are suns to other people, and they are all paths to God.”

“It is the nature of things that truth, fragmented, should be a source of conflict.”

“It is no more possible to mix the religions together and produce some kind of Highest Common Denominator than it is to express oneself eloquently in a mixture of Arabic, Sanskrit and Latin. No one denies that the same truths may be expressed in any one of these different languages, but no one imagines that the vocabularies are the same.”

“The path of religion is full of temptations, littered with pitfalls.”

“That faith alone is sufficient for salvation may be true enough in principal but in practice, if people are not given a sound theology to chew on, it is very likely they will swallow a false one.”

On Extremism:

“Islam as an ideology is a uniquely modern phenomenon. In the 20th Century, the century of ideologies, imitation took on a new form within the Islamic world. Communism, Socialism, Nationalism and even Fascism all became fashionable and all failed to restore the greatness of the Ummah. So there was nothing left but to transform Islam into an ‘ism’ and men without an ounce of piety (let alone humility) in their makeup and who disdain spirituality became fanatical ‘Islamists.’”

“Muhammad condemned extremism with the greatest severity. Today’s Muslims have a greater need to be reminded of this than ever before, as they do of his saying that ‘anger burns up good deeds just as fire burns up dry wood.’”

“Those who refuse to listen should not expect to be heard.”

“Human nature does not easily adapt itself to the requirements of faith or, indeed, to the requirements of truth. The Prophet is reported to have said that, out of a herd of a hundred camels, you are lucky to find one good riding beast. It is therefore misleading to judge any religion by the behavior of the majority of its official adherents.”

“Muslims are required to follow the Prophet’s advice and ‘consult their hearts.’ Those who search the Qur’an for solutions to contemporary problems must learn humility. False certainties are the curse of the Islamic world today, hence the bitter divisive conflicts.”

“Hatred breeds hatred, just as love engenders love, and too often we take on the colouring of our enemy until we are caught in a vicious circle.”

On the Environment:

“We leave our fingerprints upon all that we touch, and they remain in place long after we have gone upon our way.”

“The loss of harmony between man and his natural environment is but one aspect of the loss of harmony between man and his creator. Those who turn their backs on their Creator and forget Him can no longer feel at home in creation. They assume the role of bacteria which ultimately destroy the body they have invaded.”

“So many ruins bear witness to good intentions which went astray, good intentions unenlightened by any glimmer of wisdom.”

“The principal of adab, usually translated as ‘good manners’ but with a much deeper and more universal meaning, is at the heart of Islam. It means good manners towards God, including gratitude for the gift of life, our food, sunlight, even the air we breathe. It means good manners in all our dealings with our fellows, even our enemies, respecting the dignity of the human condition. It means treating the animal creation with courtesy and compassion, and no tree or plant which feeds man or beast is to be abused. The environment as such is sacred.”

On Human Nature:

“I lived long in Jamaica and treasure a few common Jamaican sayings. One can be applied both to non-Muslims who pass ill-informed opinions on the religion of Islam and Muslims who think their own narrow opinion is the only truth. It is: ‘Him is so ignorant that him don’t even know him don’t know.’ In Islam, ignorance when knowledge is available counts as a sin.”

“The Qur’an speaks of “rust on the heart,” comparing the center of the human being, his nucleus, to a metal mirror. From its reflected light – the light of truth and guidance, the light of heaven – the soul, the mind and even the body are enlightened. But when the surface rusts and the debris of greed and self-interest accumulate on it, then the mirror is darkened and we ourselves are in darkness. All things are possible in darkness and, in the dark, evil blossoms.”

“The more we try to insulate ourselves, however, temporarily, against the harsh realities of the human condition, the more unreal our world becomes and the further it is removed from all contact with truth.”

On the Future:

“Since there are no longer any sacred societies, except perhaps in a few distant and isolated corners of the globe, the question which must be asked is not whether a particular social system is benevolent, efficient, well-ordered, but whether it still leaves breathing space for the sacred and still tolerates outsiders and eccentrics who resist incorporation.”

“It seems to me that, in the coming century, the ummah as a whole will be obliged to look to their co-religionists in the West to guide them in dealing with their own situation. These are the men and women who must determine how to hold the necessary balance and shape the religion in a way to preserve its integrity while making unavoidable compromises. They will almost certainly be more adventurous, more enquiring and less hidebound than the earlier generation.”

“The Prophet’s advice to live at one and the same time as though we would live forever and as though we faced death on the morrow is applicable to humanity as a whole as well as the individual. There is still music in the air, beauty in field and forest, splendour in the rising of the sun and its setting. Love still triumphs over the vicissitudes of time and reaches out beyond itself to the timeless because all human love is, by devious ways, directed to God to whom “all matters return,” as the Qur’an constantly reminds us.”