“Finally, he looked at me and said: You are a Muslim. I was very surprised and said: No, I was never a Muslim! He said: No, you are a Muslim, but you do not know that. One day you will know.” He was Jamal Al-Din Al-Afghani
With these words, Muhammad Asad, one of the most famous Muslims in Europe in the 20th century and the world, spoke about the journey that changed the course of his life, and made him convert from Judaism to Islam,
He became one of the strongest opponents of the Zionist movement, and the strongest supporter of Islam and the Arabs and their causes in various parts of the world.
The point is not the beginning
The lesson is the conclusions, not the beginnings. This proverb applies to the life of Muhammad Asad, who was born in 1900 in the city of Limberg, present-day western Ukraine, to an ancient Jewish family
His name was Leopold Weiss. His grandfathers were Orthodox Jews, including his paternal grandfather, who was a rabbi, and his father was a successful lawyer in Vienna.
In his childhood, Weiss received an extensive Jewish education, studied Torah and Jewish theology, and learned Hebrew, German, and Polish.
His family moved to Vienna before the First World War, and he studied philosophy, art history, and history in general there.
He resolved to drop out of university, leave Vienna, and go alone to Berlin before his 20th birthday. He was inspired with liberal principles and lived in a bohemian atmosphere at the time, which was the height of the cultural awakening.
He has worked for the United Telegraph news agency since he was single. Thus began his journalistic career, and once the Ottoman Empire fell, he became a journalist covering events in the Middle East.
Later, his uncle, who was a psychiatrist living in Jerusalem, invited him to visit him there and stay with him for some time.
Indeed, Weiss traveled to Jerusalem and stayed for several months, during the British Mandate period, and there he began to be attracted to the Islamic world, and then to Islam.
This is his position on Zionism and the Palestinian cause before his conversion to Islam
Weiss felt from the first moment that the goal of the Jewish settlement of Palestine is immoral, and became a hater of Zionism since his contact with it.
He decided to use his journalistic career, which had just begun in Berlin, to write articles in which he highlighted Arab concern over the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, and sympathized with the Arabs among whom he lived against the Zionist project.
Muhammad Asad condemned the idea of establishing Jewish colonies that would threaten the Arab existence, and he transferred all the problems of the Jews and their intractable complexities in Europe to the Arab Bekaa.
He supported the legitimate rights of the Arabs in resistance and struggle, and strongly opposed the position of the great powers, led by Britain
Weiss made 10 copies of these articles and sent them to 10 European newspapers, which were rejected by nine, and accepted by one newspaper, the Frankfurter Zeitung, which was the most famous European newspaper at the time.
The newspaper accepted the articles and offered him a job as their special correspondent in the Middle East, which he accepted immediately.
Jews considered the articles anti-Semitic, and accused Weiss of being bought by Arabs.
He had sharp discussions with the leaders of the Zionist movement, such as Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Congress, and later the first president of the occupying power, with whom he had a heated discussion, which he narrated in his memoirs.
On the other hand, Weiss began writing articles from the depth of Arab and Islamic countries, in which he described his feelings towards people and the way they view life, and how they lived; It was so well received that it made a name for him in the German press.
The Al-Afghani Prophecy.. The story of Muhammad Asad’s conversion from Judaism to Islam
Later, Weiss was sent on a long journey that took him between Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, before returning to Europe via Russia and Central Asia.
During that journey, a great development occurred within him in the attraction to Islam. He had the greatest impact in his transformation into a high-ranking figure in the history of our Arab and Islamic region.
He became one of the most important Muslim thinkers, the main founding architects of modern political Islam, and a major opponent of the Jewish state.
A few months after that trip, Weiss went to a mosque in Berlin, where he met the head of the Muslim community there, and told him that he wanted to become a Muslim.
So the man grabbed his hands and Weiss started repeating the testimony behind him. Then he told him that his current name is “Leopold” which means in Arabic “Lion”; So let your name be Muhammed Asad;
He accepted that, and this name has stuck with him since that incident in September 1926. To actually become a Muslim and Al-Afghani’s prophecy is fulfilled, his first wife follows him after several weeks.
Muhammad Asad wrote about the beginning of his conversion to Islam, saying: “I strived to learn Islam as much as I could; She studied the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah, the language and history of Islam, and a large part of what was written about and against it.
“I spent more than five years in Arabia, mostly in Medina, so that I could experience something from the original environment in which the Arab prophet preached this religion, Muhammad Asad said.
Those studies and comparisons created in me a firm conviction that Islam, as a spiritual and social phenomenon, is still, despite the flaws caused by Muslims, the greatest driving force that humanity has ever known. Since then, all my attention has been focused on the problem of his renewal.”
Muhammad Asad travels in the Islamic world and his political roles
Soon after his conversion to Islam, Muhammad Asad went to Mecca; To perform Hajj with his first wife, Elsa, and her son from her first marriage.
There in Saudi Arabia, Assad, through his connections and journalistic skills, and the position he gained as a European who converted to Islam, became close to King Abdulaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, and its first king.
Muhammad Asad spent six years in the Kingdom, during which time he worked as an advisor to the Saudi Royal Court.
Later, the Libyan leader Ahmed Al-Senussi asked him to travel to Libya, where he volunteered on a mission that led him in early 1931 to meet the historical leader Omar Al-Mukhtar.
Muhammad Asad aided the Libyan people in their fight against the Italian occupation, offering counsel and financial support to the rebels. He stayed in Libya for two months, putting himself in risk and being watched by spies.
Muhammad Asad then journeyed to India, where he met Muhammad Iqbal, Pakistan’s “Godfather,” in 1932.
Iqbal encouraged Asad to stay there and helped him formulate and clarify the intellectual premises for a future Islamic state, Pakistan, which would break away from India and serve as a scientific bridge between South Asian Islam and the English-speaking West.
Indeed, Assad settled in India, with his second Saudi wife, Munira, and their son, Talal, after the death of his first wife during his stay in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
He wrote his book “Islam at the Crossroads” in 1934, at the request of Iqbal, in which he described his conversion journey to Islam.
The book was published in English, and was soon translated into Urdu, and later into Arabic. He had a tremendous influence in both languages.
Muhammad Asad and his family were imprisoned in British and Nazi prisons
It was not long before Assad was residing in India, until the British arrested him in a concentration camp with the outbreak of World War II in 1939,
They suspected him of carrying out incitement against the British, and soon they joined him in the camp, his wife Munira and his son Talal.
It did not stop there; During those years, the Nazis also arrested his father and sister in Germany, and they were executed along with the Jews who were murdered in Nazi concentration centers.
Asad remained imprisoned until the end of the war in 1945, and after his release from prison, he continued his work with the Muslims of India to declare their state, which they had already declared in 1947.
He and his family were granted Pakistani citizenship, and they held him in many positions, including his appointment as Chairman of the Islamic Reconstruction Committee and Head of the Middle East Affairs Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He also became the official envoy to the United Nations in 1949, and remained in that position until 1952, after which he resigned, and left for New York.
From New York, Muhammad Asad left again for Europe, where he settled for 10 years in Switzerland, and then moved to the Moroccan city of Tangiers, where he stayed for 20 years.
Muhammad Asad returned to the West for the last time, when he felt his death near, where he settled in Spain, in which he spent his last years.
He wrote the second part of his memoirs with it under the title “The Heart’s Return to its Homeland”. Muhammad Asad died in February 1992, and was buried in the Islamic cemetery in Granada, as he had recommended.
During those years in which he had resigned from his diplomatic career, Asad devoted himself to writing about Islam and correcting distorted perceptions of Islam in the West.
During his career that spanned nearly a century, he left for us great ideas and works, which were witness to a very important part of Islamic history and thought during the 20th century.
Muhammad Asad writings that made him “the gift of the West to Islam”
Muhammad Asad made tremendous contributions in the field of Qur’anic studies, and is considered one of the most prominent Westerners who translated and interpreted the Holy Qur’an, and explained Sharia.
Among his most prominent books is his book “The Road to Mecca”, or “The Road to Islam” in some Arabic translations.
He narrated his autobiography in a unique and influential literary language. Muhammad Asad spoke about his conversion to Islam, in which he did not see a solution to the dilemmas of Muslims only, but also saw in him the future of all mankind.
“The message of Islam has given mankind a conception of civilization, in which there is no place for nationalism, personal interests, class, and no hereditary nobility, in fact nothing is inherited at all.
Among the most important features of this civilization…a feature that has not been found in any human movements throughout history…that it arose out of conviction and voluntary agreement among its adherents.
In other lines, he says: “But what caught my attention, apart from the situation of Muslims in our era, is the strength inherent in the teachings of Islam itself.
It was enough for me to know that within a short period of time from the beginning of Islamic history there had been a successful attempt to put this system into action; Thus, what was possible at one time, remains possible at other times.
Moreover, his book “Islam at the Crossroads” is one of his most important books, in which he presented valuable scientific ideas.
He has also authored “Principles of the State in Islam”, “This Is Our Law”, “The Path of Islam in Governance”, and other books that have enriched the Islamic library, and are considered one of the best Western approaches to Islam.
The German Muslim thinker, Murat Hoffmann, considered Muhammad Asad and his writings “the West’s gift to Islam.”
Muhammad Asad was honored posthumously by Western countries, and Vienna honored his efforts in promoting dialogue between the Islamic world and the West, and named one of its squares after him in 2008.
Vienna participated in the production of a documentary film entitled “The Road to Mecca”, inspired by his autobiography. In Berlin, too, a memorial plaque was placed at the house where he lived in the 1920s.
In Ukraine, in 2015 the Religious Administration of Muslims of Ukraine opened a center in the western city of Lviv, called the “Muhammad Asad Islamic Cultural Center”, which aims to introduce the moderate Islamic culture in Ukrainian society.