Martin Lings (24 Jan 1909- 12 May 2005) also known as Abu-Bakr Siraj Ad-Din, was an acclaimed author,editor, translator, poet and Shakespearean Scholar whose work centred on the relationship between God and man through religious doctrine, scripture, symbolism, literature, and art. He is best known for his writings on Islam, most notably his seminal work, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources – a comprehensive biography of the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) written in English.
In 1939, Lings went to Cairo, Egypt to visit a friend. Soon after arriving in Cairo, his friend died and Lings began studying Arabic. Cairo became his home for over a decade; he became an English language teacher at the University of Cairo. During the 1940s, he converted to Islam.
Upon returning to the United Kingdom he continued his education, earning a BA in Arabic and a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London). His doctoral thesis became a well-received book on Algerian Sufi Ahmad al-Alawi. After completing his doctorate, Lings worked at the British Museum and later British Library, overseeing eastern manuscripts and other textual works, rising to the position of Keeper of Oriental Printed Books and Manuscripts 1970–73.
A writer throughout this period, Lings’ output increased in the last quarter of his life. While his thesis work on Ahmad al-Alawi had been well regarded, his most famous acclaim in the Muslim world work was a biography of Muhammad (saw), written in 1983, which earned him and prizes from the governments of Pakistan and Egypt. His work was hailed as the “best biography of the prophet in English” at the National Seerat Conference in Islamabad. He also continued travelling extensively, although he made his home in Kent. He passed away at his home in 2005.
Some of his most famous works include:
- A Return to the Spirit : Questions and Answers (2005),
- Sufi Poems : A Mediaeval Anthology (2005),
- Mecca: From Before Genesis Until Now (2004),
- The Eleventh Hour: the Spiritual Crisis of the Modern World in the Light of Tradition and Prophecy (2002)
- What is Sufism? (1999)
- A Sufi saint of the twentieth century: Shaikh Ahmad al-°Alawi, his spiritual heritage and legacy (1993)
- Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources (1983)