Why are the greatest Western writers on Islam not known today?


We are unfortunately living in an era where self-styled authorities can make a prestigious living by smearing Islam and denigrating Muslims. Worse still, this dangerous new breed of rightwing propagandists is heavily financed, encouraged, promoted and supported by some in the mainstream media, political organizations, and religious groups.

Not a week goes by without another article, or cluster of articles, appearing in Western newspapers under the bylines of so-called specialist writers and semi-academics whose main thesis is openly anti-Islamic.

Many of these opinion-makers have gone even further than simply misinforming the public about Islam and Muslims – they now deliberately misinform their readers by spreading outright lies.

In times like these, we must not forget about the contribution of great Western writers who gave us some of the best available books about Islam. In the process of their search for the truth some even embraced Islam wholeheartedly. Yet much of their work remains unknown, even to Western Muslims themselves.

I am speaking here of Martin Lings, René Guénon, Titus Burckhardt and Frithjof Schuon, whose books I strongly recommend to all English-speaking readers, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Renowned religious scholar Prof. Huston Smith, author of the best-selling book The World’s Religions, said Schuon’s Understanding Islam is the best English work he had encountered on Islam. I agree, and would add that it is also the best one to originate in English, not as a translation from Arabic, Urdu, etc.

Frithjof Schuon loved the faith of Islam and wholly lived it. He was a teacher of Dr. Lings who wrote the best book in English about the Prophet Muhammad.

In his book about Islam, Schuon writes: "If Islam merely sought to teach that there is only one God and not two or more, it would have no persuasive force. In fact, it is characterized by persuasive ardour and this comes from the fact that at root it teaches the reality of the Absolute and the dependence of all things on the Absolute. Islam is the religion of the Absolute as Christianity is the religion of love and of miracle; but love and miracle also pertain to the Absolute and express nothing other than an attitude."

He goes on to explain: "Like all traditional civilizations Islam is a ‘space’, not a ‘time’; for Islam ‘time’ is only the corruption of this ‘space’. ‘No period will come’, predicted the Prophet, ‘which will not be worse than the period before it.’ The ‘space’, this unvarying tradition – unvarying apart from the spreading and diversification of forms at the time of the initial elaboration of the tradition – surrounds Muslim humanity as a symbol, like the physical world which unvaryingly and imperceptibly nourishes us with its symbolism; it is normal for humanity to live in a symbol, which is a pointer towards heaven, an opening towards the Infinite. As for modern science it has pierced the protecting frontiers of this symbol and by so doing destroyed the symbol itself; it has thus abolished this pointer, this opening, even as the modern world in general breaks through the space-symbols constituted by traditional civilizations; what it terms ‘stagnation’ and ‘sterility’ is really the homogeneity and continuity of the symbol.

"When a still authentic Muslim says to the protagonists of progress; ‘All that remains for you to do now is to abolish death’, or when he asks: ‘Can you prevent the sun from setting or compel it to rise?’ he exactly expresses what lies at the root of Islamic ‘sterility’; it is a marvelous sense of relativity and, what amounts to the same thing, a sense of the Absolute dominating his whole life.

"In order to understand traditional civilizations in general and Islam in particular it is also necessary to take account of the fact that the human form is for them not the common man deeply immersed in illusion, but the saint, detached from the world and attached to God; he alone is entirely ‘normal’ and he alone enjoys on this account ‘full right’ to exist; it is this outlook which gives them a certain lack of sensibility in relation to human nature as such. As this human nature is largely insensible in relation to the Sovereign Good it should at least have fear of that Good, in so far as it does not have love."

It is impossible to do justice to any of these great writers about Islam, except by immersing oneself in their works and reading them in full. By doing so, one can share their truths with others and begin to counteract the junk-food diet of planned disinformation fed to the public by the mass media.

The time for reading and sharing the real truth, the whole truth, about Islam and Muslims is now.