First published in 1994, Islam and the Destiny of Man, is primarily a book written 'to offer some keys to understanding [Islam] from the point of view of a westerner who is also a Muslim'. Gai Eaton points, in his introduction to some of the areas that have caused, over the past thirteen centuries a lack of understanding between the Islam and the western mindset. Although the book, from the outset addresses itself to the non Muslim, it is equally just as suitable to the Muslim reader, especially those whose point of reference and experience is solely the western world.
Before reaching the body of the text, Gai Eaton writes a gripping account of his own 'journey' or 'odyssey' to Islam. It is daringly honest, thus all the more compelling to read. One encounters far more than the conventional 'How I embraced Islam' as the author opens the front door to the state of his heart, mind and morals, showing the reader how Islam entered. It is intriguing to read how a young boy whose nanny would be sacked for teaching the word 'God' to him, was later destined to be blessed with seeing and accepting the truth- Gai Eton has aptly started a book on the destiny of man, by openly discussing his own destiny up to the point of writing.
The body of the text is divided into three parts; 'An approach to the Faith', 'The Making of The Faith', and 'The Fruits of the Faith'. The first part takes a historical approach in the widest sense, delineating the way of thinking through the ages and comparing this to the Muslim mind, past and present. The chapter on Europe and Islam is rich in the diversity of citing historical landmarks and their significance. Throughout the author relates and oft times translates how events are understood in the Islamic framework.
But this is a prelude, for with the opening of the second chapter, the curtain is raised, and the symphony of words, meaning, metaphor, linguistics, etymology, past and present perspectives all play together harmoniously. The images are vivid, the language beautiful, the tempo altering to reflect subject matter, delightful for those who love the intricacies of language. However, language here is not used in vain; it has the profound task of conveying the meaning of Islam- the primordial faith, the natural faith of humankind to readers some of whom may have long given up any belief of God.
The second part of the book takes us to the heart of the primary sources of Islam, the Qur'an and the hadith (sayings) of the Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings of God be upon him. A chronological approach delineates the history of the Messengership, The City of the Prophet, The Successors and the legacy we have around the world from this. Most importantly, the author tries unrelentingly to explain the relevance and the truth of Islam to the mind and heart of the reader, regularly drawing parallels with the foundations of Christianity, and just as often tackling the almost universal secularism that pervades Western society and thought.
Islam is explained as though Gai Eton were standing at some removed vantage point, watching our dizzying planet swirling, through the ages, through darkness and light, through battles and gains and losses. From this point, his explanations are broad and global, yet personal too- all at the same time. In the third part of the book, areas such as art, environment and mysticism are duly given a balanced introduction replete with memorable anecdotes and examples.
Much ink has flowed in the past couple of years to share Islam with those concerned about the destiny of humanity. It wouldn't harm us to employ the principles of conservation, and promote what has already been so skilfully written in Islam and the Destiny of Man especially to an audience worldwide searching for the right materials for 'bridge building'.
Islam and the Destiny of Man, Gai Eaton
Published by The Islamic Text Society, ISBN 0 946621 47 0