King of the Castle

Gai Eaton, a Swiss-born Englishmen, ran into a good deal of trouble when he tried finding interest in the publishing world for his book, King of the Castle. People kept asking, “What do you do with a book that seems to be about everything?”

“Nothing, of course,” was the obvious answer. It wasn’t until the late 70s that the book Eaton began writing many years earlier was actually released.

Muslims who like to read ought to be glad King of the Castle got out when it did. Publishers today would have an even tougher time with the book’s lack of “marketability.” Eaton, a British convert to Islam who died in 2010, wrote the book as a short but highly comprehensive survey of the condition of mankind in the modern world. He deftly goes through the myriad forces that impinge upon modern man’s ability to make choices, and how these forces’ relationship with the individual should be evaluated from an Islamic perspective.

A friend of Martin Lings, Eaton embraced Islam in 1951. What followed was an eclectic life that included, among other things, a distinguished career in the British Foreign Service, for which he served in India, Ghana, Jamaica, and Trinidad. He became in his lifetime a leading voice for British Muslims, though he was often at odds with the Muslim establishment in his own country.

King of the Castle is Eaton’s overview of just how the major social, philosophical, and ethical trends of modernity shape the lives of Muslims and mankind in general. What does it mean to be a responsible person in such an age? What assumptions do people make about their own lives (and the world) in lieu of exercising their human agency?

Eaton grapples with these questions by disinterring as much of these assumptions as possible. The book has long ceased to be popular, but Eaton’s voice is needed now more than ever.

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