Martin Lings was an English writer and scholar, a student and follower of Frithjof Schuon, and Shakespearean scholar. He is best known as the author of a very popular and positively reviewed biography, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, first published in 1983 and still in print.
Lings was born in Burnage, Manchester in 1909 to a Protestant family. The young Lings gained an introduction to travelling at a young age, spending significant time in the United States due to his father's employment.
Lings attended Clifton College and went on to Magdalen College, Oxford (BA (Oxon) English Language and Literature). At Magdalen he was a student of C. S. Lewis, who would become a close friend of his. After graduating from Oxford Lings went to Vytautas Magnus University, in Lithuania, where he taught Anglo-Saxon and Middle English.
For Lings himself, however, the most important event that occurred while he was at Oxford was his discovery of the writings of the René Guénon, a French metaphysician and Muslim convert and those of Frithjof Schuon, a German spiritual authority, metaphysician and Perennialist. In 1938 Lings went to Basle to make Schuon's acquaintance and he remained Frithjof Schuon's disciple and expositor for the rest of his life.
In 1939 Lings went to Cairo, Egypt in order to visit a friend of his who was an assistant of René Guénon. Not long after arriving in Cairo, his friend died and Lings began studying and learned Arabic.
Cairo became his home for over a decade; he became an English teacher at the University of Cairo and produced Shakespeare plays annually. Lings married Lesley Smalley in 1944 and lived with her in a village near the pyramids. Despite having settled comfortably in Egypt, Lings was forced to leave in 1952 after anti-British disturbances.