Charles le Gai Eaton
|Charles le Gai Eaton|
1 January 1921|
Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland
|Died||26 February 2010(aged 89)|
|Occupation||Academic, writer and diplomat|
|Alma mater||King's College, Cambridge|
|Notable work(s)||King of the Castle: Choice and Responsibility in the Modern World (1977)
Islam and the Destiny of Man (1994)
Remembering God: Reflections on Islam (2000)
Kay Clayton (m. 1944; div. 1950)
|Children||Leo Eaton (b. 1945)
3 from second marriage
|Relative(s)||J. E. Preston Muddock (grandfather)|
|Sufism and Tariqa|
Life and career
Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, and raised in London under the name Gai, Eaton was the son of the married Francis Errington and his mistress, Ruth; to hide her son's illegitimacy, Ruth claimed that she had been married to a Canadian, Charles Eaton (an invention of Errington's, by then supposedly deceased), and that Charles had fathered the child. Eaton knew Errington only as a friend of the family until the age of 16, when his mother revealed the truth of his parentage. Brought up agnostic, Eaton was educated at Charterhouse School and King's College, Cambridge, where he studied history and entered into a correspondence with the novelist Leo Myers.
Having been passed over for military service during the Second World War, in the late 1940s and early 1950s he worked as a lecturer, teacher and newspaper editor in Egypt (at Cairo University) and Jamaica, before joining the British Diplomatic Service in 1959. As a diplomat, Eaton's postings included the Colonial Office outpost in Jamaica and the Deputy High Commission office in Madras, India, as well as others in Trinidad and Ghana. Eaton returned to the UK permanently in 1974 and retired from his diplomatic career three years later.
In 1951, with the encouragement of the Sufi academic Martin Lings, Eaton converted to Islam. He was inducted into Lings' 'Alawi tariqa in 1975. Eaton was a consultant to the Islamic Cultural Centre at Regent's Park Mosque in London for 22 years. In 1996, he served on the committee that drafted the constitution of the Muslim Council of Britain.
Eaton was frequently critical of mainstream British Muslim opinion, and believed that Muslims themselves should have overthrown Saddam Hussein in the 2000s. Regarding the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in an interview with Emel magazine, he stated, "I am very torn either way and I cannot quite make up my mind what I think ... [Saddam] was our monster, it should have been for us to deal with him. But we are so hopeless and helpless we leave it to other people who have their own motives and their own objectives." In the same article, Eaton called for the creation of a British Islamic identity: "It is time for the Muslims in Britain to settle down, to find their own way, to form a real community and to discover a specifically British way of living Islam. The constant arrival of un-educated, non English-speaking immigrants from the subcontinent makes that more difficult."
His works include The Richest Vein (1949), King of the Castle: Choice and Responsibility in the Modern World (1977), Islam and the Destiny of Man (1994; listed on Q News' list of "Ten Books to Take to University"), and Remembering God: Reflections on Islam (2000). He frequently contributed articles to the quarterly journal on comparative religion and traditional studies, Studies in Comparative Religion. Eaton's last book and autobiography, A Bad Beginning and the Path to Islam (2009), was published by Archetype in January 2010. Many British converts to Islam have been inspired by his books, which are also expositions of Islam for Western readers, both religious and secular.
From his first marriage (1944–50), to the actress Kay Clayton, he was the father of Leo Eaton (b. 1945), a director and producer of documentary films. In 1956, Eaton married Corah Hamilton, an expatriate Jamaican artist, with whom he had one son and two daughters; Hamilton died in 1984. Eaton was the grandson of the author and journalist J. E. Preston Muddock.
- The Daily Telegraph Obituary, 30 March 2010.
- "Islam and the Destiny of Man".
- Islamic Britain Lures Top People, The Sunday Times, 22 February 2004.
- "Islam Is The 'Middle Way'", Hassan Gai Eaton's Speech, London; Leeds; Manchester, 16–18 December 2005.
- The MCB – Its History, Structure and Workings.
- The Talented Mr Gai Eaton, Emel, September 2003.
- Q-News, Issue 368, September–October 2006, p. 36.
- All published by the Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
- Eaton Creative.
- Autobiography at Salaam Books
- "Tribute to the British Muslim Gai Eaton: Glamour and Humility"
- "Texts (and Audio) by or related to Shaykh Hassan Gai Eaton"