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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing
Gai Eaton's autobiography about "Gai" is entertaining, enlightening and brutally honest as I guess was the man himself. For Muslims, here is a reminder about the human condition and one great man's attempt to both accept this and yet to go beyond this world. Here is a reminder in clear and accessible language about the essence of the faith, without which all is just blind...
Published on 15 May 2010 by Dr. I. K. Hosein

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read ... but disappointing.
This is a detailed - and characteristically well-written - autobiography (although written, funnily enough, in the third person) of one of British Islam's more well-known luminaries. Born in 1921, Eaton went on to embrace Islam aged thirty through intellectual conviction and spiritual aspiration. This book charters, in meticulous detail, the highs and lows, emotional...
Published on 6 Aug 2010 by Mr Tea-Mole


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read ... but disappointing., 6 Aug 2010
By 
Mr Tea-Mole (Lancashire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Bad Beginning and the Path to Islam (Paperback)
This is a detailed - and characteristically well-written - autobiography (although written, funnily enough, in the third person) of one of British Islam's more well-known luminaries. Born in 1921, Eaton went on to embrace Islam aged thirty through intellectual conviction and spiritual aspiration. This book charters, in meticulous detail, the highs and lows, emotional relationships and evolving thought patterns which led to his eventual commitment to the spiritual path - marking the end of his "bad beginning" and the inauguration of a new, better phase in his life.

I have been a big fan of Gai Eaton for several years having read his previous works, and his magnum opus "Islam and the Destiny of Man" had a big impact on me. Quite simply, it is one of the most beautiful articulations of Islam in the English language. With eager anticipation, then, I awaited the publication of this, his autobiography, and devoured it upon release. I expected no less than a beautifully written modern-day sequel to another European convert's classic tale: Muhammad Asad's "The Road to Mecca".

In all honesty, I was disappointed though. To be fair to him, Eaton was in his eighties when writing this book and had suffered the effects of two strokes - although this doesn't detract from his literary capabilities at all. He relies heavily upon astonishingly detailed diary notes he kept meticulously from the age of 11 up to his recent death, which eventually grew into heavy volumes totalling no less than eighteen million words! To paraphrase him, Eaton says his diary writing became a type of cathartic addiction in which he would pour out his feelings through his pen at the end of each day.

What we get, then, is a very detailed picture of Gai's early life through his childhood, coming of age and eventual migration to Jamaica. The many romantic relationships he embarks upon have been chronicled in his diary, and we are presented with all their intimate details. Throughout, though, the quest of the intellectual seeking answers and probing questions of ultimate concern is apparent and through the tangle of a messy emotional life we see an intellectual clarity beginning to emerge. Experiencing the calm, spiritual serenity of a British Muslim saint, Martin Lings, whom he lives and works with during a stint in Egypt gives his soul a taste of the celestial and his profound scepticism finds satiation in the teachings of leading Perennialist thinkers such as Rene Guenon and Frithjof Schuon. Intellectually convinced and spiritually thirsty he decides to take the plunge and converts to Islam at the hands of Abu Bakr Siraj Deen (Martin Lings) before leaving Egypt (although it will be a number of years before he begins the disciplined work of incorporating the spiritual ideals of Islam into his life).

The main part of the book actually finishes at this point which is, again, disappointing. Many readers of this work will have looked forward to surveying the entire lifespan of this great personage, observing the subsequent changes wrought in his life and perspectives through his spiritual commitment. The detail of the early part of his life, though, makes this impossible although - as a type of postscript - Eaton does append a 40 page synopsis at the end. This outlines, in broad summary, what happened after his conversion up to the debilitating old age in which he wrote the present work. Given the level of detail, I feel this book would best have been supplemented by a second volume in which the story - relying just as heavily upon the detailed diary notes - would have been completed. Unfortunately, the author's old age made this impossible and the post-script we are presented with at the end needs must suffice. Eaton does point out in the introduction, though, that his 2000 publication "Remembering God: Reflections on Islam" has been called his spiritual autobiography - in which case, the present work constitutes his "profane autobiography". To complete the picture then, it would probably be useful to supplement the reading of this book with that.

The final passages of the book are both moving and prescient as Eaton contemplates - with some detachment - the inevitability of his own death. This was especially more so for me as I received the sad news of his demise in February earlier this year whilst still reading the book.

All-in-all this is a good read, wittily written and interesting with a variety of old photographs to supplement the text. Readers of his previous works, though - like me - will have come to expect nothing less than a superlative masterpiece from the pen of such a gifted and sagacious writer. I expected Eaton to capitalise upon his experiences as a Western convert to probe some of the deeper issues plaguing the relationship of Islam with the modern world today. His agenda was different though, and what we get is a very personal and faithful rendering of his individual life. Extrapolating the significance of this into a global context is left to us.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing, 15 May 2010
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This review is from: A Bad Beginning and the Path to Islam (Paperback)
Gai Eaton's autobiography about "Gai" is entertaining, enlightening and brutally honest as I guess was the man himself. For Muslims, here is a reminder about the human condition and one great man's attempt to both accept this and yet to go beyond this world. Here is a reminder in clear and accessible language about the essence of the faith, without which all is just blind habit. For non-Muslims, here is a man who defies the common stereotypes of the Muslim world and its peoples today. In his story, both can come together as indeed they did for him.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not enough about the Shaykh Eaton, 20 May 2010
By 
S. Alam (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Bad Beginning and the Path to Islam (Paperback)
This was an interesting read about the childhood that Gai had and his life leading to the point where he became a Muslim. A lot of detail about his relationships with women during his early life including details of which ones he had intimate relationships with and which ones he didnt. I found this to be a bit too much detail that didnt inform about his character or his journey to islam. It seems that as he had his diaries that he had been doing since he was a child, he wanted to make use of these and that is what this book is about.

I was personally hoping for more detail about the man that was Shaykh Gai Eaton and unfortunately there was none of this. So having read the book, I know about his childhood, and a bit too much detail about all the women in his life but I have not learnt anything about the great man that became Shaykh Gai Eaton.

As he has now passed away, I pray that god forgive him for any sins in his life and grant him the highest station in paradise.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An uninteresting account of relationships, 20 Jan 2011
This review is from: A Bad Beginning and the Path to Islam (Paperback)
Someone had mentioned in his review that this book is "90% beginning and 10% path". After reading the entire book, my estimate is that probably about 5% or less of the book is devoted on Gai Eaton's path to Islam. The rest, more or less, is devoted to the first 40 years of his life, which is dominated by relationships and affairs.

Impressed by the author's prior two latest books, "Islam and the Destiny of Man" and "Remembrance of God", which had attracted thoughtful readership, I, as one of such readers, had eagerly awaited the publication of this new title so I could satisfy my curiosity about how Eaton had come to appreciate Islam, only to be disappointed at the end. Despite having no interest in knowing about another man's love affairs and incidentals of life, I had continued reading the book with the hope that perhaps he would change the theme and get into the "path to Islam". My reading - an un-enjoyed one - eventually ended, but not my disappointment.

As I finished half the book and continued on, I had wondered about the reason that motivated Eaton to disclose all these unbecoming details of his life, especially when he was aware that it is discouraged - certainly in Islam - to disclose one's sinful past. While I did not find a clear answer, it appeared, from the epilogue of the book, that all that he wrote in his diaries since childhood was a burden on him until he finally published them.

Certainly, everyone's life is full of incidents and thus an epic in itself. Does that mean that everyone should feel the burden to publish his biography, irrespective of whether it will be of any benefit, or even of interest, to others?

But a man's life can be interesting and his account inspirational. I am reminded of another book, "Road to Mecca" by Muhammad Asad (formerly Leopold Weiss), that describes a European jew's journey into Islam. A classic by now, this captivating book is a superb account of a man's life as well as his gradual evolution into a Muslim. Eaton's last book, unfortunately, met neither of these expectations.
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A Bad Beginning and the Path to Islam
A Bad Beginning and the Path to Islam by Gai Eaton (Paperback - 15 Jan 2010)
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