A Constructive Critique of Martin Lings’s Seera
A few years ago I read the biography of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) by Martin Lings. I was taken in by his eloquent use of language and immense writing style that really brought out the true beauty of the life of the beloved of God.
But as I read it, there were a couple of minor things that stood out as being quite strange. Apparently Salafis have a negative view of his seera (But then again what do they have a positive view about) and recommend that it should be avoided. I didn’t bother looking into their reasons for their thinking as I knew I would just end up wasting my time.
But today I came across an article by a great Islamic scholar of our time, Sheikh Gibril Haddad. Before he became Muslim, “Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources” by Martin Lings was one of the books he read that inspired him to convert from Christianity to Islam.
Now that he is a scholar in his own right, he is able to pick out the minor issues that are presented in Lings’ work, so that Muslims who approach it can do so with a sound knowledge of the criticisms leveled against it.
I should mention however that his seera still stands as one of the most remarkable achievements of Islamic English literature, and I would recommend it to everyone to read. But I would also ask that you read Sheikh Haddad’s article also, preferably before embarking on this journey of literary brilliance.
Now I just need to read Aisha Bewley’s translation of Qadi Iyad’s Shifa’a…