Rene Guenon; Sheikh Abdul Wahid Yahya was a well-known French Scholar, writer, philosopher and mystic. He was born on the 15th November, 1886 to a well off Catholic family of France. His father was an engineer of repute. So, Rene Guenon was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He got his early education from Blois. From his childhood, he was an extra-ordinary intelligent and made distinction amongst his classmates. He got his Bachelor's degree with distinction and joined the University of Paris where he studied mathematics for about two years.
During his study, he did not restrict his activities to formal education only but started searching for the 'Ultimate Truth', because he was not satisfied with his ancestral religion; Christianity. He did not accept the so called Christian dogmas and rituals. Consequently, he had not only a thorough and deep comparative study of religions, but also he held discussions and had meetings with thinkers and philosophers of fame.
Even then, his thirst for Truth was not quenched. Due to this spiritual journey and mental chaos, he left the university even though his education was incomplete. This state of affairs lasted up to 1909. In the meantime, he met two 'Reverts to Islam' who were not only well acquainted with Islam, but also competent in sociology.
The first of these two scholars was Sheikh Abdul Haq, formerly Schamrino of French origin. He was a scholar of repute and edited a magazine namely 'Al-Tareeq". The Christian name was Iavon Gustav. After his reversion to Islam, he learned Arabic and had full command over it. He used to contribute articles to 'Ansari' magazine which was being published from Egypt.
In 1909, Rene Guenon started a magazine entitled "Al-Maarifat" (Knowledge of God) with the collaboration of these scholars. Discussions, discourses and critical articles relating to comparative study of different religions were published in this comparative study of different religions were published in this journal, which covered Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
This journal remained active for about four years and ceased publication in 1912, the year in which Rene Guenon entered the fold of Islam. He took the Islamic name Abdul Wahid Yahya. His 'Reversion to Islam' was the result of his own continuous search for Truth coupled with the cooperation and guidance of Sheikh Abdul Haq and Sheikh Abdur Rahman Elish El-Kebir (El-Alim El-Maliki School of Thought in Egypt), a mystic and competent in Islamic Jurisprudence. As a token of respect, Rene Guenon dedicated his book: "Symbolism of the Cross" to the venerated memory of Sheikh Abudur Rahman who gave him the first idea of the book.
In February 1930, Rene Guenon went to Cairo and settled there permanently. Before his departure to Cairo, his father, mother and wife died, so he left for Cairo with a heavy heart. In 1937, Rene Guenon married Karima Bint Abdur Rahman, which proved a sort of solace and comfort for him. He dedicated the rest of his life for the cause of Islam and Muslims. It is note-worthy that through his writings and personnel contacts a large number of European scholars embraced Islam. Among his disciples who entered the fold of Islam is Sheikh Isa Nuruddin, formerly Frithjof Schuon. (Born 1907). He is a well known Professor of philosophy and is regarded an authority on 'comparative study of Religions'. He has written a number of books.
The following books have won fame for him: Islam and the perennial philosophy, Understanding Islam, Dimensions of Islam, in the Tracks of Buddhism, Spiritual Perspectives of the Self, Genosis: divine Wisdom, Stations of Wisdom, In the face of Absolute, Survey of Metaphysics and Esotericism, To have a Center, Christianity: Islam.
Then comes the name of a great mystic Abu Bakr Sirajuddin, formerly Martin Lings, who has full command over English and Arabic and is considered as a specialist on mysticism.
He is not only a religious scholar but also a poet and translator of repute His writings include: Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources; The Qur'an; Catalogue of an exhibition of Qur'an manuscripts at the British Library; The Qur'anic Art of Calligraphy and Illuminations; What is Sufism? A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century; The Secret of Shakespeare. Commenting on the life of Prophet Muhammad, Prof. Hamid Dabashi of Temple University writes: "In Reading Lings and Muhammad", we detect an alchemical effect in his narration and composition which so evenly combines scholarly accuracy with poetic passion. Lings is a scholar-poet. His life of the Prophet is a biographical 'qasida "poem". It is a historical ghazal (a type of poetry); a spiritual triumph; it is a majestic display of impassioned scholarship". This book was awarded the first prize of 5,000 dollars - by two-day 8th International Seerat Conference held in Islamabad… This book was adjudged as the best work in English in the biography of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) published in 1983.
Titus Burchhardt is another scholar who embraced Islam after being inspired and impressed by Rene Guenon. He has made a thorough research on Ancient Civilization and written a marvelous book on mysticism. His book "On 'Chemistry" is regarded the best one on this subject. He is a multi-linguist and has full power over German, English, French, Swiss, Arabic and Persian Languages.
His books include; Sacred Art in East and West; Moorish Culture in Spain; Art of Islam; and Al-Karim Al-Jili's De l' Homme Universal; extraits du liver al-Insan al Kamil.
In addition to the above-mentioned scholars, there are a lot of other personalities who entered the fold of Islam under the persuasion and guidance of Rene Guenon and are busy in the propagation and preaching of Islam in Europe and America.
Rene Guenon breathed his last on 7th January, 1951 at the age of 65. His death was mourned throughout the world. He had devoted his life for the cause of Islam. He wrote countless articles and numerous books. East and West; Reign of Quantity; The Crisis of the Modern World; Symbolism of the Cross, and The Multiple States of Being are his best writings.
[(Excerpted from: Why Islam is Our Only Choice, By: Muhammad Haneef Shahid]