Chapter - 2. Muhammad Asad'- Life and Thought

Chapter - 2 Muhammad Asad'- Life and Thought Muhammad lowering Asad (1900-92) has emerged personalities among the Muslim as one of the intelle...
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Chapter - 2

Muhammad Asad'- Life and Thought

Muhammad lowering

Asad (1900-92) has emerged

personalities

among the Muslim

as one of the

intellectuals

of the

twentieth century. His personality and thoughts are increasingly being subjected to detailed studies in the East and the West alike. Europeans call him 'The most influential European Muslim of 20 11 century'. Muslims in the East look upto him to see how a man of his status, who though hailed from the West embraced Islam, lived in the Muslims countries, learned Muslim languages and turned out to be in the vanguard of change in the condition of Muslim societies in accordance with the imperative of their faith. The man lived both in the West and in the East and has left a rich legacy of his intellectual contributions, among them his magnum opus,

'The

Message of the Qur'dn - Translated and Explained (1980)'. Some

people

have

been

working

on

his

biography

very

meticulously and preparing thesis in Universities entitling them for Ph. D. degrees. Islamic

Studies

Pakistan, informs about Dr. Muzaffar

[37:3 (1998)], Islamabad, Iqbal, a member of the

editorial board of the journal, working on a research "Muhammad Asad: A Biography." Leading Pakistani daily

project 'Jung'

carried an article which highlighted the features of a proposed Ph. D. thesis of a Pakistani scholar on the biography of Asad." Murad Hofmann is all praise for a research work done an the biography of Muhammad Asad in German language. He says; "Until recently there was no comprehensive biography of this illustrious man. This lacuna has been solidly filled, if only partially, i.e. up to his official conversion to Islam in 1926 in Berlin and 1927 in Cairo." J Many important dimension of his early life have been highlighted in the thesis which has now been published as a book, particularly the factors which could be regarded as the formative influences. 4 Murad has given a gist of these in his review article and hoped

59

Chapter-d that the book is translated into English ' t o allow access of the many admirers of Asad, particularly in India, P a k i s t a n . Britain and the United States, to the only period during which Asad published in

German

exclusively.'3

almost

Isma'il

Ibrahim

Nawwab,

an

o u t s t a n d i n g scholar and eminently able writer of Saudi Arabia, a country where Asad spent many years of his youth, has written a very long article on Asad. In the article the author looks at Asad and his works analytically followed by an anthology of extracts compiled and edited from his w r i t i n g s from 1934 to 1 9 8 7 . ' Dr. Murad Hofmann presents his interesting and critical study of Asad and his t h o u g h t . 7 He shares many things with Asad - native language, r e v e r s i o n to Islam based on study and reflection exposure to c o n t e m p o r a r y

Muslim

society

and w r i t i n g s

and

in two

major E u r o p e a n l a n g u a g e s - English and G e r m a n - which have significantly

contributed

to

a better

understanding

of

Murad i n t r o d u c e s , p e r h a p s for the first time in E n g l i s h , first

work

in

German,

Unromantisches

Morgenland

Islam. Asad's ("The

U n r o m a n t i c East"'). Written at the very young age of 22, it reveals something of A s a d ' s o u t s t a n d i n g literary talent, his acuteness of observation

and richness

of i m a g i n a t i o n ,

and

last, but not the

least, his strong love for the Arabs - some of the c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s which

came

out

so

forcefully

especially in The Road

in

to Mecca.

some

of

his

later

There are n u m e r o u s

writings articles

written by learned men and women across the g l o b e about A s a d ' s life, personality and thought for various r e a s o n s . Jews too have their interest in writing about Asad, a person born in a Jewish family.

We

have

Martin

Kramer,

'The

Road

from

M u h a m m a d Asad (born Leopold W e i s s ) ' , in The Jewish of Islam:

Studies

in Honour

of Bernard

Lewis,

Mecca: Discovery

ed. Martin Kramer

60

Chapter-2

(Tel Aviv: The Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern

and

African Studies, 1999) pp. 225-47. The current of history seems to be in support of more thorough studies on Asad, his personality, thought and works, which, it Is hoped, shall sharpen our understanding of him and his works. For the present study, where Asad is studied as a Q u r a n i c translator and exegete, we need to have a sketch of his biography, formative influences, his thoughts and his works. E a r l y Y e a r s : F o r m a t i v e Influences Mohammad Asad was a reverted Jew, named Leopold Weiss at birth. Fie was no ordinary revert. Asad not only sought personal fulfillment

in adopted faith. He tried to affect the cotemporary

Islamic scene, as an author, activist, diplomat, and translator of the Qur'an. Mohammad Asad died in February 1992 at the age of ninety

one,

so that he may be said to have

paralleled

the

emergence of every trend in contemporary Islam. Leopold Weiss was born on 12 July 1900, in the town of Lvov (Lemberg) in eastern Galicia, then a part of Habsburg Empire (Lvov is today in Ukraine). By the turn of the century, Jews formed a quarter to a third of the population of Lvov, a town inhabited mostly by Poles and Ukrainians. The Jewish community had grown and prospered over the previous century, expanding from commerce into industry and banking. Weiss's mother, Malka, was the daughter

of a wealthy

local

banker,

The

lived

Menahem

Mendel

Feigenbaum.

family

comfortably, and wrote Weiss, lived for the children. 11

Chapter-2 From Wciss's own account, his roots in Judaism were deeper on his father's side. Flis paternal grandfather, Benjamin Weiss, had been one of a successor of Orthodox rabbis in Czernouitz in Bukovina. Asad remembered his grandfather as a white-bearded man who loved chess, mathematics and astronomy, but who still held rabbinic learning in the highest regard, and so wished his son to enter the rabbinate. Weiss's father, Akiva, did study Talmud by day, but by night he secretly humanistic gymnasium.

learned the curriculum

Akiva Weiss eventually

of the

announced

his

open break from rabbinic's, a rebellion that would presage his son's own very different break. But Akiva did not realize his dream of studying physics, because circumstances compelled him to take

up the more practical

profession

of a barrister.

He

practiced first in Lvov, then in Vienna, where the Weiss family settled before the First World War. Asad testifies that his parents had little religious faith. For them, Judaism had become, in his words, "the wooden ritual of those who clung by habit-and only by habit- to their religious heritage." He later came to suspect that his father regarded all religion as outmoded superstition. But in deference to his family tradition and to his grandparents - "Poldi" to his family- was made to spend long hours with a tutor, studying the Hebrew Bible, Talmud,

Mishna

Targun,

and Geimarra. "By the age of thirteen",

he

attested, "1 not only could read Hebrew with great fluency but also spoke it freely." He studied Targun "just as if I had been destined for a rabbincal career", as he could "discuss with a good deal of self

assurance

the

differences

between

the

Babylonian

and

Jerusalem Talmuds." " He also had delved in the intricacies of Biblical exegesis: The Targum.

Chapter-2 Nonetheless,

Asad

feeling" towards

developed

what

he

called

the premises of Judaism.

"a

supercilious

While he did not

disagree with its moral precepts, it seemed to him that the God of the Hebrew. Bible and Talmud "was unduly concerned with the ritual by means of which His worshipers were supposed to worship Him," Moreover, this God seemed "strangely preoccupied with the destinies of one particular nation, the Hebrews", Far from being the creator and sustainer of mankind, the God of the Hebrews appeared to be a tribal deity, "adjusting

all creations to the

requirements of a 'chosen people'." Weiss's studies thus led him away from Judaism, although he later allowed that "they helped me understand

the

fundamental

purpose

of religion

as

such,

whatever its form." Fourteen year Asad ran away from school and tried unsuccessfully to join the Austrian army to fight in the First World War; no sooner had he been finally officially drafted, then has juvenile expectations of military glory faded with the collapse of the Austrian

Empire. 15 In

1918, Asad

entered

the

University

of

Vienna. He pursued philosophy and the history of art. Giinther has established that in addition to art and philosophy, Weiss pursued chemistry and physics - with star like Erwin Schrodinger, Noble prize winner in 1933. But these studies failed to quench his spiritual

thirst

and

he

abandoned

them

to

seek

fulfillment

elsewhere. ' Days were given to the study of art and philosophy and nights were spent in cafes, listening to the disputations of Vienna's psychoanalysts. "The stimulus of Freud's ideas was as intoxicating to me as potent wine."

Nights were given to passions

("I rather gloried, like so many others of my generation, in what was considered a 'rebellion against the hollow conventions'"). 1 8 Vienna

at that time was one of the most

intellectually

and

Chapter-2 culturally

stimulating

European

cities.

It

was

the

engine

of

burgeoning and interrelated, new, glittering perspectives on man, language and philosophy. Not just its academic institutions, but even

its

cafes

reverberated

psychoanalysis,

logical

with

lively

positivism,

debates

linguistic

centered analysis

on and

semantics. This was the period when the unprecedented views and distinctive voices of Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler and Ludwing Wittgenstein filled the Viennese air, echoing round the world with a profound momentous effect on many aspects of life and thought. Asad had a ringside seat on these exciting discussions; though he was impressed by the originality of those pioneering spirits, their major conclusions left him unsatisfied.

Political trends before

and shortly after the First World War like anti Semitism, Zionism, exoticism

and

anti-rationalism

would

have

definitely

evoked

responses from Asad. Gunther recalls that Theodore Herzl and Asad were similar in being Austrian, assimilated Jews, and journalists. However, while Herzl indulged in Marxism and Zionism, a secular version of the arrogant

doctrine

of

"God's

Chosen

People",

Asad

rejected

Zionism as a racist aberration. He knew after all first hand that Palestine was not a "land without people." We ought to remember that the German literary genius, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), at that time was at the peak of his fame as a trend - setter. Many a German soldiers in the First World War had gone to battle with Rilke poems in his pocket. Young Leopold Weiss would naturally have been impressed by Rilke's penetrating, spiritualistic lyricism. The amazing thing is that young Weiss, born to be a master, showed neither indebt ncss to Rilke nor Rilkian mannerism. His literary

skills,

so clear

in his original

English

and

German

64

Chapter-2 III,

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1

1

^

M

^

Versions o f The Road

«

^





B

to Mecca,

^





I

I

I

I III

^im^^ManBnW«l»^B^M»«» M «-™ l "3HHaE

obviously w e r e already mature in

I922,20

Asad left Vienna in 1920 and traveled in Central E u r o p e , where he did " a l l manner of short-lived jobs'""

before a r r i v i n g in Berlin.

Here, he ingeniously secured entry in t h e world of j o u r n a l i s m . when his d e t e r m i n a t i o n led him - a mere t e l e p h o n i s t w o r k i n g for a wire service - to a scoop that revealed the p r e s e n c e in Berlin of Maksim G o r k y ' s wife who was on a secret m i s s i o n to solicit aid from n

t h e West •

for a B r o b d i n g n a g i a n

famine

ravaging

Soviet

22

Russia. At this stage, A s a d , like many of his g e n e r a t i o n , lived in the dark depths

of a g n o s t i c i s m ,

having

drifted

away

from

h i s Jewish

moorings despite his rigorous religious s t u d i e s . H e left Europe for the M i d d l e East in 1922, where he came to k n o w and like the Arabs and was struck by how Islam shone on their everyday life with existential m e a n i n g , spiritual strength and inner p e a c e . He

now became

correspondent

-

at t h e incredibly

for the Frank

farter

young

Zeitung

a g e of 22 a

o n e of t h e most

p r e s t i g i o u s n e w s p a p e r of Germany and E u r o p e . A s a j o u r n a l i s t , he traveled

extensively,

discussions regional

with

heads

intermingled

t h e Muslim

with t h e c o m m o n

intelligentsia,

of state, in " t h e countries

man,

held

and m e t several

between

t h e Libyan

desert and snow covered peaks of P a m i r s , b e t w e e n t h e Bosporus and t h e Arabian sea:

Palestine, Egypt, T r a n s j o r d a n , Syria, Iraq,

Iran and A f g h a n i s t a n . Researchers

on Asad

almost

seem

to be u n a n i m o u s

in their

c o n c l u s i o n that earlier years of A s a d ' s life w e r e so full of events,

65

Chapter-2 rupture and even c o n t r a d i c t i o n s that one may w o n d e r whether all these b e l o n g e d to a single human life only.

5

Asad E m b r a c e s Islam During his travels and through his r e a d i n g s , A s a d ' s interest in, and understanding

of,

Islam,

its

scripture,

history

and

peoples

increased, but, being a g n o s t i c , he could not accept that God spoke to and guided man via revelation. Back in Berlin from the Middle East, and now married, all his doubts were cleared in a spiritual, electrifying e p i p h a n y - r e m i n i s c e n t of the e x p e r i e n c e of some of the earliest M u s l i m s - which he narrated in striking p a s s a g e that he wrote some thirty years after this t u r n i n g - p o i n t in his life: One day - it was in September 1926 - Elsa and I found ourselves traveling in the Berlin subway. It was u p p e r - c l a s s My

eye

fell

casually

on

a

well-dressed

man

compartment. opposite

me,

apparently a w e l l - t o - d o - b u s i n e s s m a n , with a beautiful briefcase on his knees and a large diamond ring on his hand. I t h o u g h t idly how well

the

portly

figure

of this

man

fitted

into

the

picture

of

prosperity which one e n c o u n t e r e d every w h e r e in Central Europe in those days: A prosperity the more p r o m i n e n t as it had come after years of inflation, when all e c o n o m i c life had been topsyturvy and s h a b b i n e s s of a p p e a r a n c e the rule. Most of the people were now w e l l - d r e s s e d and well fed, and the man o p p o s i t e me was therefore, no e x c e p t i o n . But when I looked at his face, I did not seem to be looking at a happy face. He a p p e a r e d to be worried: and not merely worried but acutely u n h a p p y , with eyes

staring

vacantly ahead and the corners of his mouth drawn in as if in pain - but not in bodily pain. Not wanting to be r u d e , I turned my eyes away and saw next to him a lady of some e l e g a n c e . She also had a strangely unhappy expression on her face, as if c o n t e m p l a t i n g or

66

Chapter-2 experiencing

s o m e t h i n g that caused

her pain; n e v e r t h e l e s s ,

her

mouth was fixed in the stiff s e m b l a n c e of a smile which, I 'was certain, must have been h a b i t u a l . And then 1 began to look around at all other faces in the c o m p a r t m e n t - faces b e l o n g i n g without exception to w e l l - d r e s s e d , well-fed p e o p l e : and in almost

every

one of them I could discern an expression of hidden suffering, so hidden that the owner of the face seemed to be quite u n a w a r e of it. That was indeed s t r a n g e . I had never before seen so many unhappy faces around me: or was it perhaps that I had n e v e r before looked for what was now so loudly speaking in t h e m ? The i m p r e s s i o n was so strong that I m e n t i o n e d it to Elsa; and she too began to look around with the careful

eyes of a p a i n t e r a c c u s t o m e d to study

human features. Then she turned to me, a s t o n i s h e d , and said: 'You are right. They all look as though they w e r e suffering

torments of

hell ... I w o n d e r , do they know t h e m s e l v e s w h a t is going on in them'? I knew that they did not - for o t h e r w i s e they could not go on wasting their lives as they did, without any faith in binding truth without any goal beyond the desire to raise their own ' s t a n d a r d of living',

without

any

hopes

other

than

having

more

materials

amenities, more g a d g e t s and perhaps more p o w e r . . . When we r e t u r n e d h o m e , I happened to glance at my desk on which lay open a copy of the Koran, I had been r e a d i n g earlier. M e c h a n i c a l l y , I p i c k e d the book up to put it away, but j u s t as I was about to close it, my eyes fell on the open p a g e before me, and I read: "You

are obsessed

you go down to your

by greed

for

more

and more

until

graves.

67

Chopter-2 Nay, but you will come to And Once again:

know!

Nay, but you will come to

Nay, if you but knew it with the knowledge You would In

time,

indeed indeed,

know! of

certainty,

see the hell you are in. you

shall

see

it with

the

eye

of

certainty, And on that day you will be asked

what you have

done

with the boon of life. "~ For a moment I was s p e e c h l e s s . I think that the book shook In my h a n d s . Then I h a n d e d it to Elsa. ' R e a d t h i s . Is it not an answer to what we saw in the s u b w a y ' ? It was an answer so decisive that all doubt was suddenly at an end. I knew n o w , b e y o n d any doubt, that it was a God - inspired book I was holding in my hand: for although it had been placed before man over thirteen centuries ago, it clearly a n t i c i p a t e d

something

that could have b e c o m e true only in this c o m p l i c a t e d , m e c h a n i z e d , phantom - ridden age of ours. At all time people had k n o w greed: but at no time before greed had outgrown

a mere

eagerness

to

acquire

things

and

become

an

obsession that blurred the sight of e v e r y t h i n g e l s e : an irresistible craving to get, to do, to contrive more and m o r e - more today that yesterday, and more tomorrow than today: a demon riding on the necks of men and w h i p p i n g their hearts forward toward goals that tauntingly glitter in the distance but d i s s o l v e into

contemptible

nothingness as soon as they are r e a c h e d , a l w a y s h o l d i n g out the promise of new goals ahead -

goals still m o r e brilliant,

more

tempting as long as they come within grasp: and that h u n g e r that insatiable h u n g e r for ever

new goals g r o w i n g at m a n ' s soul: Nay,

if yon knew it you would see the hell you are

in...

68

Chapter-2

This I saw, was not the were human wisdom of a man of a distant past in distant Arabia. However wise he may have been, such a man could not by himself have foreseen the torment so peculiar to this twentieth century. Out of the Koran spoke a voice greater than the Voice of Muhammad...

All doubt that the Qur'an was the

book revealed by God vanished. He went to the leader of the Berlin Islamic Society, declared his adherence to Islam, and took the name Muhammad Asad. Asad M i g r a t e s to the Muslim World Thus it was that Asad became a Muslim in 1926 and migrated to the Muslim World but the psychological and emotional dimensions of Asad's migration were even more important than the physical ones. Asad's wife Elsa reverted to Islam a few weeks later, and in January 1927 they left for Makkah, accompanied by Elsa's son from her previous marriage. On arrival Weiss made his pilgrimage; a moving passage at the end of The Road to Mecca describes his circumambulation of Ka'ba. Tragically, Elsa died nine days later, of a tropical disease, and her parents reclaimed her son a year later. Asad regarded Islam not as religion in the conventional, or Western, sense but as a way of life for all times. In Islam he found a religious system and a practical ideology for everyday living that were harmoniously balanced. "Islam appears to me like a perfect work of architecture. All its parts are harmoniously conceived to complement and support each other; nothing is superfluous and nothing lacking; and the result is a structure of absolute balance no

and solid composure." The range of his interest in the Muslim World was as varied as the reach of his travels in the land of Islam and he found a way of infusing a visionary's magnificence into writing that looked at and

69

Chapter-2 beyond c o n t e m p o r a r y Islam. His interest in Islam and its followers persisted t h r o u g h o u t his life and deeply coloured his treatment of all issues t o u c h i n g the Muslims - r e l i g i o u s , j u r i s t i c and political and he had highly persuasive arguments for his v i e w s . Though he was

always

ideologically

and

emotionally

committed

to

the

Muslims, his attitude t o w a r d s them r e m a i n e d s y m p a t h e t i c without being s y c o p h a n t i c , intelligently critical but never c o n d e s c e n d i n g . Above all, Asad was deeply dedicated to the t e a c h i n g s

of the

Q u r ' a n and the Prophet, tenaciously i n d e p e n d e n t in his thinking, fiercely a n t i - s e c u l a r in his orientation, r i g o r o u s l y c o n s i s t e n t in his 79

logic and always impatient with extremist t h o u g h t and behaviour." When he r e t u r n e d to the Middle East following

his

Islam,

where

Asad

spent

almost

six years

in A r a b i a ,

received w a r m l y , almost daily, by the l e g e n d a r y king

embracing he c

was

Abd AI-

Aziz Ibn S a ' u d (d. 1953), the founder of m o d e r n Saudi Arabia. j U He spent c o n s i d e r a b l e

time in the holy

cities

of M a k k a h

M a d i n a h , w h e r e he studied Arabic, the Q u r ' a n , the Hadith,

and

or the

traditions of the Prophet and Islamic history. T h o s e studies led him to "the firm conviction that Islam, as a spiritual and social p h e n o m e n o n , is still, in spite of all the d r a w b a c k s caused by the deficiencies

of the M u s l i m s , by far the greatest

mankind has ever experienced"^ was

"centered

academic

around

knowledge

the of

driving

force

and from that time, his interest

problem Classical

of

its

Arabic

regeneration." -

made

His

easier

familiarity with H e b r e w and A r a m a i c , sister Semitic languages

by -

was further e n h a n c e d by his wide travels and c o n t a c t s in Arabia with B e d o u i n s . While in Saudi Arabia, Asad took two major a d v e n t u r o u s trips. One was when he went on a c l a n d e s t i n e m i s s i o n to Kuwait in 1929, to trace the funds and guns that were flowing to Faysal Al-

Chapter-2 Dawish, a rebel against Ibn S a ' u d ' s rule. Asad d e t e r m i n e d Britain was behind the rebellion, and wrote so for the papers; much to Ibn S a u d ' s satisfaction. 3

that

foreign

A b o u t the second, Asad

says that he went on a secret mission to C y r e n a i c a on behalf of the Grand Sanusi, Sayyid A h m a d ( 1 8 7 3 - 1 9 3 2 ) then in exile in Saudi Arabia, to transmit plans for c o n t i n u i n g the anti-Italian struggle to the remnant of the Sanusi forces. But the m i s s i o n , 1931, was a futile

one: Italian forces

in

January

crushed that last of the

Sanusi r e s i s t a n c e later that year. Asad also began to settle down. He m a r r i e d t w i c e in Saudi Arabia: first in 1928 to a woman from the M u t a y r t r i b e , and in 1930, following a d i v o r c e , to Munira, from a branch of the Shammar. Thev e s t a b l i s h e d a household in M e d i n a , and she bore him a son. Talal: M e a n w h i l e Asad got d i s e n c h a n t e d with Ibn S a ' u d . Asad had shared the hope that Ibn S a ' u d would " b r i n g about a revival of the Islamic idea in its fullest s e n s e . " But he " h a d done nothing to build up an e q u i t a b l e , p r o g r e s s i v e s o c i e t y . " A s a d ' s final

verdict

was that Ibn S a ' u d ' s life constituted a tragic w a s t e . " I q b a l I n v i t e s A s a d t o S t a y in I n d i a To study M u s l i m c o m m u n i t i e s and cultures further east, such as those

of India,

departed A r a b i a

Eastern

Turkistan,

China

and

Indonesia,

Asad

for India in 1932. Asad b e g a n with a ' l e c t u r e

tour' to India. A c c o r d i n g to British i n t e l l i g e n c e s o u r c e s , Asad had linked intended

up

with

to tour

an

Amritsar

India "with

activist,

Isam'Il

Ghaznavi,

a view to get in touch with

and all

important w o r k e r s " . Asad arrived in K a r a c h i by ship in June 1932, and left p r o m p t l y for Amritsar. he

involved

himself

with

the

There and in n e i g h b o r i n g Lahore, local

community

of

Kashmiri

Chapter-2 Muslims, and in 1933 he made an appearance in Srinagar, where an intelligence report again had him spreading Bolshevik ideas. 37 For Asad, the real attraction of Kashmir would have resided in its predicament as contested ground, where a British backed maharaja ruled

a discontented

Muslim

population.

Beginning

in 1931,

Kashmiri Muslims in Punjab organized an extensive agitation in support of the Muslims in Kashmir. Hundreds of bands of Muslim volunteers crossed from Punjab into Kashmir, and thousands were arrested.

By

early

1932,

disturbances

had

subsided,

but

the

TO

Kashmir government remained ever-weary.

Just what Asad did in

Kashmir is uncertain. But on learning of his presence, the Kashmir government wanted him "externed", although the police had no evidence to substantiate the intelligence report, and there appeared O A

to be legal obstacles to "externing" a European national.

With or

without such prompting, Asad soon retreated from Kashmir to Lahore. There he soon met the celebrated poet-philosopher

Muhammad

Iqbal (d. 1938), himself of Kashmiri descent, the towering Muslim thinker of the modern era. Iqbal persuaded Asad to change his plans and stay on in India "to help elucidate the

intellectual

premises of the future Islamic state which was then hardly more than a dream in Iqbal's visionary mind."

Asad soon won Iqbal's

admiration and wide public acclaim among educated circles with the publication

of a perceptive monograph

on the

challenges

facing modern Muslims. But Asad's freedom was curtailed when the Second World War broke out in 1939. Ironically, though he had refused to accept a passport from Nazi Germany after it had annexed in 1938 and insisted on retaining his Austrian citizenship, the British Raj imprisoned him on the second day of the War as an "enemy alien" and did not release him till its end in 1945. 4i lie

Chapter-2 was the only

Western

Muslim

among

the

three-thousand-odd

Europeans rounded up for internment in India, the large majority of whom were sympathizers of Nazism or Fascism; some have thought that the British authorities' harsh behaviour to Asad was due to their irritation with the a European who always sided with 42

the Indian Muslim community. Asad

in

the

Service

of the

Emerging

Muslim

State

of

Pakistan He moved to Pakistan after its creation in 1947, and charged by its Government

with

Reconstruction

setting

whose

task

up

a

was

to

Department formulate

of

the

Islamic

ideological

foundations for the new state. Later he was transferred to the Pakistan Foreign Ministry to head its Middle East Division, where he endeavored

to strengthen

countries.

capped

He

his

Pakistan's diplomatic

ties to other career

by

Muslim

serving

as

Pakistan's Minister Plenipotentiary to the United Nations. 43 He resigned this position in 1952 to write his autobiography, a work of stunning ingenuity and unrivalled literary effect. Asad P a s s e s AwayAfter writing this book, he left New York in 1955 for other places and finally settled in Spain. Fie did not cease to write. At eighty. after an endeavor which lasted seventeen years, he realized his life's

dream,

for

which

he

fell

all

life

till

then

was

an

apprenticeship: a translations and exegesis, or lafsir, of the Qur'an in English. He continued to serve Islam till his death in Spain in February 1992.

Chapter-2 [To t h e righteous God will sayj "O soul at Peace! Well-pleased, Enter

Return

to thy

Sustainer,

well-pleasing!

thou then, among my

servants! 45

Yea, enter thou My

paradise!"

With his death passed a j o u r n a l i s t , traveller, social critic, linguist, thinker,

reformer,

diplomat,

political

theorist,

translator

and

scholar d e d i c a t e d to the service of God and h u m a n k i n d and to leading the good life. But death will not be the final chapter in A s a d ' s close relationship with the M u s l i m s : his luminous works remain a living testimony to his great e n d u r i n g love affair with Islam. Asad Represents a New Phenomenon Asad,

in

fact,

represents

an

outstanding

example

of

a

new

p h e n o m e n o n of m o d e r n times: the reversion to Islam, on both side of the A t l a n t i c , of several Western writers and i n t e l l e c t u a l s

to

Islam and their p a s s i o n a t e c o m m i t m e n t to its vision and way of life. The c i r c u m s t a n c e s and particulars of their e n t e r i n g the fold of Islam may vary, but there are usually three o v e r - a c h i n g reasons common to them: a belief in the divine origin of the Q u r ' a n and in the P r o p h e t h o o d to M u h a m m a d (S) and I s l a m ' s m e s s a g e to lead the good life. Their act of faith has shown to a w i d e r Western public that, contrary to the m i s p e r c e p t i o n that it is a quaint, religion

followed

message

and

by

wild

teachings

are

natives

in

relevant

remote to,

and

regions,

fanatical Islam's

appropriate

for.

r e a s o n a b l e and thoughtful people in the most a d v a n c e d areas of the world. Equally significant, it has also d e m o n s t r a t e d that, at least among some fair-minded

Westerns the c e n t u r i e s - o l d

barriers

of

74

Chapfer-2 false images of Islam which went up with the Crusades are failing down. This phenomenon is all the more remarkable in that often these reverts find their way to the Muslim faith via a very unlikely path: literature

on Islam and Muslims produced

in

European

languages mostly by orientalists the majority of whom cannot be accused of being friendly to Islam; actually, some are orientalists themselves. Also, most of these reversions have taken place while Western powers were exercising their full political and military might in Muslim lands. The appeal of Islam to Western elites has not been confined to any one county. To mention just a few names: from Great Britain havecome, among

others, Lord

Stanley

of Alderley,

an uncle of

Bertand Russel, the eleventh Baron Headley (Umar Al-Farooq), a member of the house of Lords and an activist believer, Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, a superb novelist and, later, a translator of the Qur'an, Martin Lings (Abu Bakr Siraj Al-DIn), a perceptive scholar

of mysticism,

and Charles Le Gai Eaton,

a talented

expositor of Islam; from France: Rene Guenon (Abd Al- Wahid Yahya),

an

expert

in

metaphysics,

comparative

religion

and

esotericism; Vincent Mansour Monteil, an Orientalist, and Maurice Bucaille, an author; from Germany: Murad Wilfried Hofmann, a diplomat and writer; from Austria: Baron Umar Von Ehrenfels, an anthropologist;

from

Hungary:

Abdul

Karim

Germanus,

an

orientalist; from Switzerland: Frithjof Schuon, described by T.S. Eliot as the most impressive writer in the field of comparative religion he has ever encountered, and patrician German

Swiss

Titus (Ibrahim) Burckhardt, a scholar of mysticism and the son of sculptor Carl Burckhardt; from North America: Thomas

Irving

(Al-Hajj Ta'lim AH), an Islamic scholar and translator of the Q u r a n , Hamid Algar, British-born distinguished academic with

Chapter-2 special Interest in Islam, Margaret Marcus (Maryam Jameelah), a writer, Cyril Glassse, author of Islam works, Jeffrey

Lang, a

mathematician and writer on Islam, and Michael a poet, a novelist. a writer of travel books. Asad's Unique Place What is the place of Asad in the long list of distinguished reverts from the West in the 20 l century? The contribution made by each individual in the back drop of the peculiar circumstances of Islam and the Muslims in the 20 l century shall have to be evaluated. For some Asad stands head and shoulders above all other Western English-Writing

reverts:

"He

rose

to

unparalleled

eminence

among Western Muslims because none has contributed more than Asad to elucidating

Islam

as an ideology

and conveying

its

quintessential spirit in contemporary terms to Muslims and NonMuslims alike... with brilliant writings on Islam and with wide ranging services to the Muslims, sometimes rendered at great personal sacrifice."

For a correct appreciation of Asad's work,

we have to see it against the backdrop of his first encounter with the Muslim World. Declining Muslim World Asad's introduction to the Muslim World took place when he visited a turbulent, fearful Middle East in the wake of First World War. For the previous two centuries, an ascendant Europe had remade the map of the Muslim world from the shores of Morocco on the Atlantic in the west to the fertile countryside of Mindanao in the Pacific in the east, and from the mountains of Daghestan in the north to the coconut-palm-fringed

beaches of the Maldives

Islands in the Indian Ocean in the south. Its military, political,

76

Chapter-2 cultural and economic onslaught on the sea had blown up like a hurricane. The glory of the Mughals of India and Safavids of Persia had passed away; the back of the once-formidable Ottoman state had been broken; the Caliphate - an institution which, though reduced

in status, still

enjoyed

popular

support

- had been

abolished. The Muslims lagged behind the West in the educational, industrial and technological

and scientific

fields. As the first

decades of the twentieth century wore on, they felt at bay. They were deeply divided, disheartened and humiliated. They had been so weakened that some quarters even harbored designs to ring down the last curtain on Islam as a religion and civilization. 3 f

Cross-Currents In the Muslim World

^^\

-\\ X

During the earlier

decades

of 20

century, these

VJ

\D 'w \

momentous

changes had loosened a storm of new values, concepts and social stresses on the Muslim world; of unprecedented violence and scope, it threatened to sweep away the very foundations of Muslim society. Many Muslims still cherished traditional Islamic values. Yet, a broad spectrum of competing, confusing trends appeared in the Islamic World as the influence of the West had left few Muslim countries untouched. There were movements in support of religious

reform

Muhammad

which

'Abduh

had their

roots

in Muslim

of Egypt (d. 1905) and Iqbal

tradition. (d.

1938)

represented this trend in the early twentieth century and their influence remains strong and alive. But there were also advocates of the newly imported ideas of westernization, nationalism, and secularism who looked to the West for inspiration. The spearheads of these ideologies were Kemal Ataturk (d. 1938) of Turkey and Reza Shah of Iran (d. 1944). As it was not possible to square the antipodal ideas of the traditional Islamic reformers with those of

Chapter-2 the advocates of westernization and secularism, a complete rupture between them was soon fairly fully established. Asad R e c o g n i z e s his Primary Goals In this situation of the Muslim world, Asad saw it as his destiny and duty to critically examine the causes of the decline of the Muslims as well as the forces and the problems pressing them and to wake them from their slumber. Driven by the zeal of a reformer, Asad tried to bridge the gap between the traditional and the modern worlds. He was repelled by what he saw as the religiously and socially disruptive newfangled ideas spreading in the Islamic World: westernization, secularism, nationalism and materialism. Like other writers and thinkers who had in them "a spark of the flame

which burned

in the hearts of the companions

of the

Prophet", " he responded to the challenge to reconcile religion and modernization and to produce what some call "a wide-ranging synthesis of Islam, modernity, and the needs of the society of the day." 53 Asad lived in an era of immense social, intellectual and political creativity. While most other reformers shook the Muslim World with the thunder of their spirits, power of their charisma and strength of their popular support, he was an intellectual who did not belong to any organization. Asad's obvious virtues, those which

no reader

can

fail

to see

immediately,

are

depth

of

knowledge, clarity of reasoning and the meticulous exposition and dissection of arguments, even when he accepts their conclusions. It is his peculiar achievement that, with high virtuosity and great passion, he contrived to make a coherent whole of his diverse concerns. 5

78

Chapter-2 A s a d ' s Intellectual Fortes Definitely

the primary sources of Asad's inspiration were the

Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet (S). But he could not fail to be impressed by 'Abduh and Iqbal and other thinkers who had earlier diagnosed the ills of the Muslim society and prescribed a similar remedy for it. A vigorous promoter of Muslim ideology and values and a precursor of those Muslims who were proud of their identity and wanted to preserve it in a changing, tumultuous world. Asad instilled in his public new confidence in the power and future of Islam. To do all this, he used a powerful tool: his pen. The reach, range, depth and relevance of what he penned were immense. Asad's writings on Islam and the Muslims extend over half a century, from the 1920s to the 1980s. His writings include: Unromantisches

Morgenland

(1934); Sahih al-Bukharv. an

annotated

Principles

(ca. 1925); Islam at the The early years

translation;

The

of state and Government

Road

of Islam

to

Mecca

Crossroads (1935-1938), (1954);

in Islam (1961); The

The

Message

of the Qur'an (1964-1980), an interpretation of, and a commentary on, the Muslim Holy Book; and This Law of Ours and Essays

Other

(1987). Between 1946 and 1947 he also brought out a

journal, Arafat: A Monthly Critique of Muslim

thought.

Asad's first book was written in German language and carried his original name Leopold Weiss, Unromantisches dem

Tagebuch

einer

Reise

-Frankfurt:

Morgenland

Societats -

- Aus Druckerei

G.M.B.H. - 1094. It was written at the end of 1922 for the publishers Zeitung.

Frankfurter

which was then and continues to be even now the most

79

Chapter-2

prestigious German journal. Weiss wrote this book at the tender age of 22. Together with the paintress Elsa Schicmann, who would be his first wife, between March and October of that year he had visited

Palestine,

inhabitants),

Transjordan

Syria,

Egypt

('Amman,

(Cairo

and

with

only

Alexandria),

6000 Turkey

(Smyrna, just burnt down, and Constantinople) as well as Malta. The book is illustrated by 59 black - and - white photographs which are now of great historical importance. The sources of the photographs are not mentioned." This small diary of just 159 pages amazes one in several ways. Most surprising, however, is the young author's talent as a writer, in particular his powerfully evocative, yet lyrical descriptions of countryside, moods and people; they are often startling but never banal. The colour of light, for instance, may be "shell-like'', travelers may be "silent, as if wrapped up in the great landscape." Forms and movements can be of an 'intoxicating uniqueness" and "wind like a breath without substance." In Jerusalem, he found "little air to breathe" and "a yearning for terror." Here, like no where else, Weiss "heard history roar by" and walked on ground en

so soft that his "feet took comfort from walking."' Weiss, even then, was enamoured

of,

and most

romantically

infatuated with, almost everything Arab. He portrays himself as an uncritical, unconditional admirer of the Arab race and culture. For him, the "Arabs are blessed" (44) and archetypically graceful. In his view, it was "a wonderful expression of the widely alert Arab being" that it "does not know of any separation between yesterday and tomorrow, thought and action, objective reality and personal sentiment" (77). The Arabs, according to him "always with

the

therefore

simple free

things

of tragedy

happening and

out

remorse)"

of

nowhere (86). They

identify (and lead

are "a 80

Chapter-2 wonderfully simple life that in a direct line leads from birth to death" (91). 58 After

talking to leading

figure

of Transjorden

Weiss, in his

idealization of the Arabs, indulged in prophetic lyrics: "You are timeless. You jumped out of the course of world history... You are the contemporary ones until you will be invested by Will, and then you will become bearers of the Future. Then your power will be dense and pure..." (93). There is nostalgia

in the air when Weiss admires the Arabs

because "their lives flow with the naivete of animals" (127). Even while in Istanbul, he regretfully sighs: "Oh, my Arab people"! (153). One more quote would suffice: "During several months, I was so impressed by the uniqueness of the Arabs that I am now looking

everywhere

for

the

strong

centre

of

their

lives...

recognizing the eternally exciting, the stream of vitality, in such a great

mass,

in

so

strange

a

nation"

(133).

Against

that

astonishingly affinity with all things Arab - but surprisingly not Islamic! - the young Weiss, in the book's 'introduction', muses: "in order to understand their genius one would have to enter their circle and live with their associations. Can one do that?" Asad is one of those Westerners who, with extraordinary

effort,

tried to turn into a real Arab. Like all the others, he became a virtual

Arab for the simple reason that neither a civilization

(Islamic), nor a nation (Turkey), nor an individual (after about the age of about 16) can fully assimilate any other culture to the point of erasing the previous one. Cultural transmigration was, and is a futile

attempt. Yet Muhammad

Asad,

fuelled

by his

youthful

infatuation, was perhaps closer than anybody else to becoming a "real" Arab. 61

81

Chapter-2 Unromantisch.es Zionism

prior

Morgenaland to his

reveals y o u n g A s a d ' s

embracing

Islam.

For

him.

ideas

about

Zionism

had

entered into an unholy alliance with Western p o w e r s and thereby became a wound in the body of the N e a r East. H o w e v e r , Weiss, otherwise quite far-sighted, expected Z i o n i s m to fail because of the "sick i m m o r a l i t y " of its Israel project ( 3 3 ) . He considered the very idea that the plight of the Jewish p e o p l e could be cured through a h o m e l a n d , without first healing the m a l a d y of Judaism as such, as a sick one. The J e w s , so t h o u g h t W e i s s , had not lost Palestine w i t h o u t r e a s o n . They had lost it for h a v i n g betrayed their moral

commitment

and

their

God.

Without

reversing

this

disastrous c o u r s e , it was useless to build roofs in P a l e s t i n e . Weiss, still d e c l a r i n g h i m s e l f to be a Jew (45), did not reject Judaism but political

Zionism

(56),

and

did

so

less

on

political

than

on

religious g r o u n d s . There is another major insight to be gained from A s a d ' s book: his virulent decadent,

cultural

exploitative

criticism

(capitalist)

of the O c c i d e n t

and

mindlessly

as

firstspent,

consumerist.

Weiss does not indicate in any way that World War One had j u s t taken p l a c e . But he betrays some of the cultural c o n t e m p t typical of the p r e - w a r

intellectuals

and

of their

longing

for

" n a t u r a l " , risky and existential when c o m p l a i n i n g " h o w

what

is

terribly

risky is the absence of risk." For him, the E u r o p e a n s had become spiritually sluggish, " c l i n g i n g to t h i n g s " , and losing their instincts as

well

as

their

"rope-dancing"

vitality

(5).

Indeed,

he

c o n t e m p t u o u s l y contrasts liberal u t i l i t a r i a n i s m a g a i n s t an Orient that is about is to "regain form its own self what is grand and n e w " and " a l l o w s individuals the freedom to live a life without b o r d e r s " (74). With regard to the y o u n g Soviet U n i o n Weiss, like many others at the time, even dares to speak with a positive note

Chapter-2 and m e n t i o n s the possibility of the " l i b e r a t i o n of the entire w o r l d " (77). 6 3 Thus,

Unromantisches

Morgenland

reveals

Leopold

Weiss as a

poet, a lover (of A r a b i a ) , an anti Zionist, and a moralist.

What

amazes one in all these respects is the authority with which he speaks as a political pundit, making bold forecasts. B e i n g a gifted amateur, he successfully poses as an a c c o m p l i s h e d expert

on Near

Eastern affairs in general, Obviously still a b e g i n n e r in Arabic in spite

of his H e b r e w

background,

Weiss

mentions

only to

one

single occasion w h e r e he used an interpreter, as a b a c k - u p (92). In so p o s t u r i n g

Weiss

showed

himself,

so gifted

that

one

would

hesitate to accuse him of imposture. There is one last amazing thing that we find, or r a t h e r do not find, in A s a d ' s earliest book: Islam is virtually absent. The only time when it is m e n t i o n e d , Asad dismisses it as b e i n g n o n - e s s e n t i a l for their

genius

because

that

is

"rooted

in

its

blood"

(91)

-

a

statement s o m e w h a t smacking of racist A r a b o p h i l i a . T h u s , while holding

many

promises,

the

book

did

not

foreshadow

Asad's

reversion to Islam. The editors of the Frankfurter

Zeitung

i m m e d i a t e l y r e c o g n i z e d the

promise of the g r e a t n e s s of the author. So it was only logical for them to order another travelogue from him. Weiss accepted the assignment, received the money, but was unable to deliver (and was

fired).

Unromantisches Muslim. 6 7

However,

only

Morgenland,

two in

years

after

the

appearance

of

1926 in Berlin, 6 6 he became a

Chapter-2 Islam

at the

Crossroads

A s a d ' s first publication as a committed M u s l i m was Islam Crossroads,

at the

published in 1934. It heralded the arrival of a brilliant

E n g l i s h - w r i t e r revert with a bold, d y n a m i c v i s i o n . A man unafraid of c o n t r o v e r s y , he had one single, e n d u r i n g , d r i v i n g goal: to help bring back the M u s l i m s to the two original s o u r c e s w h i c h were the foundation of their spiritual and temporal g r e a t n e s s , the

Quran

and the Sunn ah, the practice of the Prophet -

binding

explanation

"the

only

of the Q u r a n i c t e a c h i n g s . " '

The book did not claim to give a c o m p r e h e n s i v e a n s w e r to the many ailments that had w e a k e n e d

and d e s t a b i l i z e d

the

Muslim

World. R a i s i n g the banner of revolt against the i n t e l l e c t u a l , social and

political

challenge

Weltanschauung,

posed

by

an

ever-expanding

the primary aim of Islam

Western

at the Crossroads

was

to warn the M u s l i m s against blindly imitating W e s t e r n values and mores, which Asad thought posed a mortal d a n g e r to Islam. It had an a u t h e n t i c Iqbalian spirit, and was an i n c i s i v e , s w e e p i n g - and, often, a startling but refreshing - r e s p o n s e to a tide which had long flowed in favour of Western cultural and political h e g e m o n y . Moreover

it

fundamental

vivified concerns

a

debate

which

in

progress

exercised

Muslim

on

two

of

the

reformers:

the

p e r p l e x i n g p r o b l e m s of w e s t e r n i z a t i o n and M u s l i m revival and the extent to which it was necessary for M u s l i m s to follow the W e s t ' s ways in order to achieve p r o g r e s s . A s a d ' s E m p h a s i s on t h e Q u r ' a n a n d He exposed Sunnah

Sunnah

a d h e r e n c e to the t e a c h i n g s of the Q u r ' a n

without which he thought Islam and Muslim

could not s u r v i v e . He says in Islam

at the

and

the

Civilization

Crossroads:

"Many

84

Chapter-2 reform p r o p o s a l s have been advanced during the last d e c a d e s , and many spiritual doctors have tried to devise a patent medicine for the sick body of Islam. But, until now, all has been because all those clever doctors -

in vain,

at least all those who get a

hearing today - have invariably forgotten to p r e s c r i b e , along with their m e d i c i n e s , tonics and elixirs, the natural diet on which the early d e v e l o p m e n t of the patient had been b a s e d . This diet, the one which the body of Islam, sound or sick, can p o s i t i v e l y accept and assimilate, Sunnah",

in the Sunnah

of our

Prophet

Muhammad."

"The

he e m p h a s i z e s is the key to the u n d e r s t a n d i n g of the

Islamic rise more than thirteen centuries a g o ; and why should it not be a key to the u n d e r s t a n d i n g of our p r e s e n t O b s e r v a n c e of Sunnah progress.

Neglect

decomposition

degeneration?

is synonymous with I s l a m i c existence and of

the

Sunnah

is

synonymous

of and decay of Islam. The Sunnah

with

is the

a iron

framework b u i l d i n g , and if you r e m o v e the f r a m e w o r k can you be 71

surprised if it breaks down like a house of c a r d s ? " The salience of the Sunnah in Islam Sunnah

at

the

Crossroads.

for M u s l i m s is s t r e s s e d in many places One such e x a m p l e

is: " T h e

term

is used in its widest m e a n i n g , n a m e l y , the e x a m p l e of the

Prophet has set before us in his attitudes, a c t i o n s and sayings. His wonderful

life was a living illustration

and e x p l a n a t i o n

of the

Q u r a n , aid we can do no greater j u s t i c e to the Holy B o o k than by 79

following him who was the means of r e v e l a t i o n . " He was r e c e p t i v e to the Muslims being open to the world, but insisted on their m a i n t a i n i n g their spiritual and cultural

identity.

"A Muslim must live with his head held h i g h , " he writes in his book. "This does not mean that Muslim should s e c l u d e t h e m s e l v e s from the voices coming from without. One may at all times receive new,

positive

influence

from

a

foreign

civilization

without.

Chapter-2 necessarily a b a n d o n i n g his own. An e x a m p l e of this kind was the [European R e n a i s s a n c e . There we have seen how reading

Europe

accepted Arab influences in the matter and m e t h o d of learning. But it never invited the out ward a p p e a r a n c e and the spirit of Arabian

Culture,

and never

sacrificed

its own intellectual

and

aesthetic i n d e p e n d e n c e . It used Arab influences only as a fertilizer upon its own soil, j u s t as the Arabs had used H e l l e n i s t i c influences in their time. In both cases, the result was a spiritual enrichment, a strong, new growth of an indigenous c i v i l i z a t i o n ,

full

of self-

confidence and pride in itself. No civilization can p r o s p e r , or even exist, after h a v i n g lost this pride and the c o n n e c t i o n with its our past." 7 3 Asad was always steadfast in his beliefs. But in fairness to him, it should be m e n t i o n e d that, while he held steadfastly to his beliefs. his views m e l l o w e d with time. In a later edition of Islam Crossroads,

he

softened

his

occasional

astringent

at the

stance

on

several issues he had raised some four decades earlier.

Widespread Impact of Islam at the Islam

at the Crossroads

of anomie it received

Crossroads

contributed to the b r e a k i n g up of the ice

and m a l a i s e p r e v a l e n t in the M u s l i m world at the time. great critical acclaim and was c o m m e r c i a l

success,

which cannot be said of all of A s a d ' s b o o k s . But it can safely be said that it is one of A s a d ' s works on which his fame will rest. Iqbal - who o u t s h o n e all other Muslim t h i n k e r s of the twentieth centuriy -

called

it an eye-opener.

It is p e r h a p s

Asad's

widely read and translated book. Its i m m a c u l a t e A r a b i c

most

version

done by ' U m a r Farrukh (d. 1987), a p r o m i n e n t L a b a n e s e scholar and

introduced

readership

than

by the

eminent original,

Mustafa which

al-Khalidi, itself

has

had been

a

wider

reprinted

Chapter-2 fourteen

times.

3

Interestingly

like citizen

kane,

which was a

young Orson Welles' seminal screen masterpiece, Islam Crossroads

at the

catapulted Asad to great fame at the start of his

productive career; and like the classic film, the brilliant critique of the westernization movement was an act that was hard for its author to follow. But other writing themes and

achievements

1 ft

backoned the young Asad. Sahih

Al-Bukhdri

After Islam at the Crossroads,

Asad focused his attention on one

of the earliest and most enduring of his concerns as a reformer: "to make real the voice of the Prophet of Islam - real, as if he were speaking directly to us and for us: and it is in the hadith that his 77

voice can be most clearly heard."

Like other Islamic reformers,

he thought that knowledge of the traditions of the Prophet- which complement and amplify the Qur'an - was necessary for "a new understanding and a direct

appreciation of the true teachings of

Islam." 78 Infact, he had been preoccupied with the Prophet's Sunnah, or way of life, from his Madlnah days. Toward this end, and with the encouragement of Iqbal, he attempted a task that till then had never been undertaken in English. This was the translation of, and commentary on, the Prophet's authentic traditions as carefully and critically compiled in the ninth century-over a period of sixteen years- by the greatest traditionist al-Bukharl (d. 870). Between 1935 and 1938, Asad published the first five of forty projected installments of al-Bukhari's celebrated work under the title, Sahih al-Bukhdri:

The Early

Years of Islam.

But due to his internment

during the second World War, the destruction of the manuscripts of his annotated rendering in the chaos that followed the creation

87

Chapter-2 of two nation-states India and Pakistan and the press of other intellectual activities, he was unable to complete the publication of this work,

esteemed by many Muslim to be second only to the

Qur'an in importance. Years later he described the sad scene of the end of his loving effort to make the Prophet's voice heard and understood in English: "With my own eyes I saw a few scattered leaves of those manuscripts floating down the river Ravi [now in Indian Punjab] in the midst of torn Arabic books- the remnants of my library-and all manner of debris, and with those poor, floating pieces of paper vanished beyond recall more than ten years of intensive labour. But the years spent on this undertaking were not spent in vain; on the contrary they were, as Asad himself recognized, a preparation Q 1

for a greater task that was awaiting him. The book contains the historical passages normally found in Vol.I, Book 1 ("How Revelation Began"), and Vol. V, Book 57, ("The Merits of the Prophet's Companions") and book 59 Military

Campaign).

However,

Asad

committed

(al-Maghdzi: the

last

29

sections of Book 57 to a new book called "How Islam Began". 82 This was a part of his attempt to re-order al-Bukhari's material according

either

to

subject

matter

(i.e.

personalities)

or

chronology or both, an approach that ran his into objections. After all

al-Bukhari

Sahih,

had

been

read

and

re-read

and

even

committed to memory by so many Muslims since its collection in on

the third century A.H the nine century C.E.

J

Equally important were Asad's detailed and extensive notes - an ideal

way

to make

the

ahadlth

come

alive.

It

is the

very

thoroughness and lucidity of this commentary which one later

Chapter-2 finds again in Asad's The Message

of the Qur'dn.

Typical for

instance, is Asad's treatment of conflicting reports on 'Umar ibn al-Khattab's reversion to Islam (168). He reconciles these reports by suggesting that 'Umar's reversion "was probably not the result of one single experience." With his extensive notes on parts of the Sunn ah Asad followed up his views-first expressed in Islam at the Crossroads-

that not Fiqh

but the Qur'an and the Sunnah must be refocused on the centrepieces of Islam. With his work on the Sahih, by giving the entire corpus

of Hadith

a fresh

credibility

and respectability,

Asad

countered the dangerous tend to turn Islam into merely some form by a vague and amorphous deism. It was a major effort indeed. Ever since, indiscriminate assaults on the Sunnah,

as mounted by Of

Goldziher and later by Schacht, look some what inept. The Principals

of State and Government

in

Islam*6

A book of 107 pages only has become an essential foundation of further efforts to rejuvenate Islamic jurisprudence and to develop a much needed Islamic theory of state. Originally, research on this book was prompted by the need to develop an Islamic constitution for the new Islamic Republic of Pakistan: to base a society not on race or nationality but solely on the "ideology" of the Qur'an and the Sunnah.

The book therefore reflects some of the intoxicating

awareness that the Muslim world might have, now again, "a free 0-7

choice of destiny." Asad was aware that Islamic history could not provide models that could be copied directly. The confederation of Madinah was set up under very peculiar circumstances; it was also unique in so far as

89

Chapter-2 it was being ruled over by a m e s s e n g e r of God. I s l a m i c history has ever since been c h a r a c t e r i z e d pretty much by d e s p o t i s m . The ideas of Nizam al-Mulk (d. 1092) and a l - M a w a r d l (d. 1058) could not serve as the b l u e - p r i n t s of an Islamic c o m m u n i t y in the industrial age. Asad therefore keenly felt the need to make a clear

distinction

between the relatively small set of divine n o r m s g o v e r n i n g state and g o v e r n m e n t ,

found

in the Q u r ' a n

deserve the name of the SharVah.

and Sunnah

As for fiqh,

which

alone

i.e. e n o r m o u s body

of rules derived from the Q u r ' a n and the Sunnah,

it was essentially

m a n - m a d e n o t w i t h s t a n d i n g the fact that its u l t i m a t e sources were rooted in R e v e l a t i o n . "An Islamic s t a t e " , Asad posits in The Principles Government

of Islam,

of State

and

is not a goal or an end in itself but only a

means the goal being the growth of a c o m m u n i t y of p e o p l e who stand up for equity and j u s t i c e , for right and against w r o n g - o r , to put it more p r e c i s e l y , a community of p e o p l e who work for the creation enable

and the

maintenance

greatest

of

possible

such

social

number

conditions

of human

as

beings

would to

live,

morally as well as physically, in a c c o r d a n c e with the natural Law of God, I s l a m . Asad

held

flexibility

that to

modern

deal

and

creatively

future -

Muslims

through

had

ijtihdd,

considerable independent

thinking with an e v e r - c h a n g i n g world and its a t t e n d a n t c h a l l e n g e s . But he believed that it was incumbent upon them when carrying out ijtihdd

to be bound at all times by the two fundamental sources

of Islamic law: the Q u r ' a n and the Sunnah.

He b e l i e v e d that in ail

matters which were clearly enjoined by the Shari'ah,

sovereignty

90

Chapter-2 belonged to God a l o n e , but in most other areas, such as the form of the political system to be adopted, God in His Wisdom gave the believers the right, and imposed on them the duty, to e x e r c i s e their reason

to arrive

mutual

consultation.

principle systems

of

at the a p p r o p r i a t e Asad

decision

laid great

consultation;

he

gave

for their time

emphasis no

on the

quarter

to

by

Quranic

totalitarian

of g o v e r n m e n t , which he thought w e r e p e r n i c i o u s

and

anti-Islamic. The Road

to

Mecca

The Road

to Mecca,

revealed the gems of literary talent in the

secret casket of A s a d ' s genius. In The Road

to Mecca,

published in 1954, Asad offers us nearly

380 e n t h r a l l i n g pages which revolve around the only love that captivated him for life: Islam. His story is " s i m p l y " , he says, "the story of a E u r o p e a n ' s discovery of Islam and of his

integration

within the Muslim c o m m u n i t y " . He wrote it in r e s p o n s e to those of his W e s t e r n c o l l e a g u e s in New York

who

had

been

baffled

by

his

reversion

to

Islam

identification with the M u s l i m s . " S e r v i n g as P a k i s t a n ' s

and

Minister

P l e n i p o t e n t i a r y to the United N a t i o n s , I was n a t u r a l l y in the public eye and e n c o u n t e r e d a great deal of curiosity a m o n g my European and A m e r i c a n

friends

and a c q u a i n t a n c e s . At first they

assumed

that mine was the case of a European ' e x p e r t ' e m p l o y e d by an Eastern

government

for

a

specific

purpose,

and

that

I

had

c o n v e n i e n t l y adapted myself to the ways of the n a t i o n which I was serving; but when my activities

at the United

Nation

made

it

obvious that I identified myself not merely ' f u n c t i o n a l l y ' but also emotionally and intellectually with the political and cultural aims

91

Chapter-2 of

the

Muslim

World

in

general,

they

became

somewhat

perplexed. But what a rich story and how m a r v e l o u s l y told! It covers A s a d ' s life from his b e g i n n i n g in Lvov in 1900 to his last desert j o u r n e y in Arabia in 1932. It treats of vast t h e m e s : a j o u r n e y in space and in spirit, an exploration of vast g e o g r a p h i c a l d i s t a n c e and of the deep interior recesses of a m a n ' s psyche. The Road to Mecca

gives us a rounded portrait of a restless man in

search of a d v e n t u r e and truth. It is part spiritual

autobiography,

part summary of the a u t h o r ' s intuitive insights into Islam and the Arabs, part an i m p r e s s i v e t r a v e l o g u e . Spiced with a virtuosity of literary t e c h n i q u e , a perfect prose style fashioned for the purpose, and a E u r o p e a n s t o r y t e l l e r ' s urbane sensibility and infused with a genuine sympathy for the world it d e s c r i b e s , The Road

to

Mecca

often eclipses the classic travel books on A r a b i a : those of Charles Doughty, R i c h a r d Burton, T.E. L a w r e n c e , Freya Stark and Wilfrid Ihesiger. . P u n c t u a t e d with a b u n d a n t a d v e n t u r e , m o m e n t s of c o n t e m p l a t i o n , colorful Road

n a r r a t i v e , brilliant description and lively a n e c d o t e ,

to Mecca

The

tells a story that on all counts is gripping but

which n e c e s s a r i l y suffers in a skeletal c o n d e n s i n g . It tells of the u p b r i n g i n g of M u h a m m a d Asad in his h o m e l a n d as Leopold Weiss, an Austrian Jew who was descended of o r t h o d o x rabbis, of his University days in Veinna, of musings on the h u m a n condition in the West; of w o n d e r i n g s across central fulfilling

Europe

in search of a

life; of gate crashing into the world of journalism in

Berlin, of his e x t e n s i v e travels all over the m i d d l e East, of soulstirring

visits

to

Jerusalem

and

Cairo;

of

working

as

a

c o r r e s p o n d e n t for one of the most p r e s t i g i o u s G e r m a n n e w s p a p e r s ;

Chapter-2 of

falling

in

love

with

Islam

and

the

Arabs;

of

momentous

reversion to the Muslim faith and b e c o m i n g M u h a m m a d Asad, of sojourning in Arabia for six years and b e i n g the guest of king 'Abd

a l - ' A z i z , the monarch who c o a l e s c e d

once-warring

tribes

into a unified, peaceful K i n g d o m ; of living like an A r a b , wearing only

Arab

Arabic,

dress,

of

speaking

traveling

only

with

the

Arabic; Bedouin;

dreaming of

dreams

studying

in

Islam's

scripture and history in the holy cities of M a k k a h and M a d i n a h : of going on p i l g r i m a g e ; of e n c o u n t e r s with p e o p l e b e l o n g i n g to every stratum of s o c i e t y - t h e simple man in the street, the sophisticated intellectual, the shrewd merchant and the powerful head of state, of

going

on

a

hazardous

secret

mission

to

Italian-occupied

Cyrenaica to contact and assist ' U m a r a l - M u k h t a r ( h a n g e d by the Italians in 1931), the warrior - hero of the c o u n t r y ' s movement.

And,

throughout,

there

are

two

motifs

freedom

which

are

e m b r o i d e r e d on every panel of this w o n d e r f u l l y crafted tapestry: a deep

faith

in God and an o v e r w h e l m i n g

love

for the

Arabian

Prophet. A b o v e all, The Road man's restlessness

to Mecca

tells a h u m a n story of a modern

and loneliness, p a s s i o n s and a m b i t i o n s , j o y s

and s o r r o w s , anxiety and c o m m i t m e n t , v i s i o n and h u m a n n e s s . Its author comes out as brilliant, exciting, lively, full of p e n e t r a t i n g observation, deeply

immense

held

religious

charm, and t r e m e n d o u s beliefs.

Significantly,

zest he

achieves his p u r p o s e in writing. The Road to Mecca: it without getting a better a p p r e c i a t i o n

for

life

and

triumphantly n o n e can read

of I s l a m . R e s i g n i n g

as

P a k i s t a n ' s a m b a s s a d o r to the United N a t i o n s in order to devote himself to w r i t i n g this book, he b e c a m e an a m b a s s a d o r of Islam to the West -

and to many

Muslim lands.

alienated

intellectuals

and youths

in

Chapter-2 I__I

j..uiiiinMiiiiiMiii^iijiiiiiiiiii

I M I W M I I M I in i« •"••WHIM

mmma^^mm^mmmi^Ba^&Bm&Bia^^^^^Bi^^BBi^^^BBWtims&imrmm-muBam&i^&ms^&aBaGB^&iWiiiimtigBS^m^

This book is i n t e r e s t i n g at any point of entry. Like any classic, The Road

to Mecca

has passages which n e v e r lose their

despite r e p e a t e d reading. The road to Mecca

flavour.

covers A s a d ' s life till

the point of his d e p a r t u r e from Arabia to India in 1932. His

readers

were

left

with

a thirst

for t h e r e m a i n d e r

of his

a u t o b i o g r a p h y . He did start working on a s e q u e l , Homecoming the Heart,

of

which promised to unfold the rest of his active and

fruitful life, but it was unfinished at the time of his death. A s s e s s m e n t of The Road

to

Mecca

The merits of The Road to Mecca appeared. The Times Literary

were widely r e c o g n i z e d when it

Supplement

said, " H i s t o r y tells us of

many E u r o p e a n converts to Islam, some of w h o m have risen to high place and power in t h e lands of their a d o p t i o n . . . B u t it is rare to find a c o n v e r t setting out, step by step, the p r o c e s s of his conversion and doing this, moreover, in a n a r r a t i v e of great power and b e a u t y . . . His k n o w l e d g e of Middle Eastern p e o p l e s and of their p r o b l e m s is profound; indeed in some r e s p e c t s his narrative is

at once

more

intimate

and more

penetrating

D o u g h t y . " 9 8 T h e r e v i e w e r of the Christian

Science

than Monitor

that of wrote:

"[This] book is one which has burst with s t r a n g e and c o m p e l l i n g authority

upon

the small

fraternity

of W e s t e r n e r s

w h o know

A r a b i a . . . a book t r e n c h a n t with adventure m a g n i f i c e n t l y described, and a c o m m e n t a r y upon the inner m e a n i n g of Arab and Moslem life,

helpful

to

all

w h o would

achieve

u n d e r s t a n d i n g of the A r a b s and their l a n d s . "

a

more

accurate

A very rare and

powerful book, raised completely a b o v e the o r d i n a r y by its condor and i n t e l l i g e n c e . . . And what we gain in a cultural

reorientation

which should p e r m a n e n t l y affect our view of t h e w o r l d " , said the New York Post

m

94

Chapter-2 This

Law of Ours

and Other

Essays

(1987)101

It seems to be the latest book of Asad. In fact, h o w e v e r , it consists in part of some of his oldest w r i t i n g s . It is a c o l l e c t i o n of some of the essays that were first published in 1946 and 1947 in his " o n e man j o u r n a l " , Arafat

- A Monthly

Critique

of Muslim

Thought

-

which appeared for j u s t a few years from L a h o r e . In the m e a n t i m e , Asad

had

developed

an

intellectual

affinity

to

Ibn

Hazm

of

Cordova (d. 1064) who, like himself, had battled against all that goes beyond Q u r ' a n and

Sunnah.

A s a d ' s struggle to delineate the b o u n d a r i e s b e t w e e n Shari'ah

and

Fiqh appears in an intensed form in this book. Asad derives home the point that the " r e a l " Shari'ah

must be identified (and possible

codified). B a c k e d by Ibn Hanbal, Ibn T a y m i y y a h and Ibn Hazm, he takes the u n c o m p r o m i s i n g stand that nothing m e r e l y based on ijmd or qiyds

~ qualifies to be r e c k o n e d as a d i v i n e n o r m . On the basis

of the Qur'an

and Sunnah

alone - a new ijtihdd

order to develop a modern fiqh, This modern fiqh

was needed in

r e s p o n s i v e to c o n t e m p o r a r y issues.

should be much simpler than the highly c o m p l e x

traditional one; Asad hastened to add, of c o u r s e , no results of the new ijtihdd

could be admitted as forming part of the

either; o t h e r w i s e modern fuqaha'

Shari'ah

would repeat the m i s t a k e of their

a n c e s t o r s : to petrify their j u r i s p r u d e n c e . This Law

of Ours

is of particular interest to P a k i s t a n i M u s l i m s ,

especially its chapter "What do we mean by P a k i s t a n ? " of which a sub-section is entitled " E v a s i o n and s e l f - d e c e p t i o n . " It includes seven

moving

fellow Islamism Muslim

radio-addresses

citizens. when

He

looked

given beyond

by Asad official

he stated: " N e i t h e r the m e r e

majority,

nor

the

mere

holding

of

to his

Pakistani

declarations fact

of

of having a

governmental

key

95

Chapter-2 positions by Muslims, nor even the functioning of the personal laws of the Shari'ah

can justify us in describing any Muslim state

as an "Islamic State" (109). He made it clear that neither the introduction of Zakdt, nor outlawing ribd, nor prescribing hijdb or administering hudud punishments in and by themselves

will do the

trick of turning a country into an Islamic one. For that, so Asad felt, there is only one way: to bring about "a community that really lives according to the tenets of Islam" and presently "there is not a single community of this kind in sight (14)." 104 It is an observation such as these that we encounter for the first time Muhammad Asad, expressing bitter feelings about the ground realities of the world of Islam. Asad was too cautious and scrupulous a thinker to propose a programme

of reform

refinement

and

built on the Shari'ah

attention

to recalcitrant,

without

practical

constant

detail

and

without voicing his views vigorously. "Simply talking about the need for a 're-birth' of faith is not much better than bragging about

our

glorious

past

and

extolling

the

greatness

of

our

predecessors", he says in This Law of Ours and Other

Essays.

"Our faith cannot be born unless we understand

implies

what it

and to what practical goals it will lead us. It will not do us the least good

if we are glibly

assured

that the

socio-economic

programme of Islam is better than that of socialism, communism, capitalism, fascism, and God knows what other ' i s m s ' . . . We ought rather

to

be shown

proposals the Shari'ah

in

unmistakable

terms,

what

alternative

makes for our society is, what views it puts

forward with regard to individual property and communal good, labour and production, capital and profit, employer and employee, the state and individual: what its practical measures are for the prevention

of man's exploitation

by man

for an abolition

of

96

Chapter-2 ignorance and p o v e r t y ; for obtaining food, c l o t h i n g and shelter for every man, woman and child... In another p l a c e , he returns to a central t h e m e , the h a r m o n i o u s interaction b e t w e e n body and soul and b e t w e e n faith and deeds, which was one of the main reasons he was attracted to Islam: "this religion

of

ours

would

not

be

God's

Message

to

man

if

its

foremost goal were not m a n ' s growth t o w a r d s God: but our bodies and

our

souls

are

so intertwined

that

we

cannot

achieve

the

ultimate w e l l - b e i n g of the one without t a k i n g the other fully into account. Specious s e r m o n i z i n g about ' f a i t h s ' and ' s a c r i f i c e '

and

' s u r r e n d e r to G o d ' s W i l l ' cannot lead to the e s t a b l i s h m e n t of true Islam on earth unless we are shown how to gain faith through a better insight into G o d ' s plan, how to elevate our spirit by living a righteous life, and how to surrender o u r s e l v e s to God by doing His Will as individuals and as a c o m m u n i t y , so that we might

really

become ' t h e best community that has ever been b r o u g h t forth for [the good ofj m a n k i n d ' {Surah 3: 110)." The Message

of the

This r e p r e s e n t s magnum specially

focused

Qur'anm opus of A s a d ' s w o r k . The p r e s e n t work is

on this work and shall

be dealt with in the

following c h a p t e r s . A s a d ' s V i e w s on L e a d i n g M u s l i m R e f o r m e r s Asad highlighted the necessity of a d y n a m i c a p p r o a c h to solving the p r o b l e m s of the M u s l i m s by the use of ijtihdd

b a s e d on the two

ultimate a u t h o r i t i e s in Islam, The Q u r ' a n and the

authenticated

traditions of the Prophet. He argued p a s s i o n a t e l y that

following

this rugged path was the only way to e n s u r e a successful revival in the Muslim world. In his insistence on the r e c o u r s e to independent

97

Chapter-2

thinking

he

drew

classical, medieval

inspiration

from

such

and modern periods

luminaries

of

as the second

the

Caliph

'Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (d. 644), 'AH Ibn Hazm (d. 1064), Fakhr Al-DIn Al-RazI (d. 1210), Taqi Al- Dm Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328), Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah (d. 1350), JamaT Al-DIn Al-Afghani (d.

1897) and Muhammad

'Abduh

(d.

1905). He was

deeply

respectful of the achievements of the great scholars of the past, but was critical of blind deference to individual opinions which according to Islamic principles cannot be regarded as infallible. He thought that all qualified Muslims were entitled and enjoined to exercise their judgment on a wide range of societal issues that arise

in

every

age and had

not been

determined

by

divine

revelation or authentic prophetic traditions. In support of his position, Asad would frequently cite the prophetic tradition that, if one exercised his judgment and was right, God would reward him doubly, but if he turned out to be wrong, God would still give him a reward. Today, many distinguished scholars endorse the concept of ijtihdd enthusiastically. Asad's disenchantment with secularism and materialism was the child of his very intimate, personal experience of the west. This disappointment

was

deeply

felt,

searchingly

scrutinized

and

trenchantly expressed. The impact of his devastating iconoclastic critique of these trends reoriented many away from defeatism to pride in their Muslim identity and heritage. Asad's cautionary and trailblazing examination of the debilitating effects of secular and materialistic thought on society has led to the appearance of several excellent studies on the subject. Also, the predictions Asad made some sixty-five years ago on the effect of this thought on Muslims have not been wide of the mark.

98

Chapter-2 Apart from very brief period when he was part of a team, Asad always worked on his own. Though he held several leaders of modern Islamic reform movements in high esteem, he was too independent political

a thinker

not to

question

their

currency: he did not grind anybody's

intellectual ideological

and or

political axe. He never belonged to any organized movement, nor did he wish to form a socio-political organization to promote his reformist ideas. Part of this aversion of his was because Asad had little sympathy for the intolerance that often accompanies group partisanship; probably, he also felt that the consuming demands of organizational efforts had detrimental effects on creative writing. But because he was, and remained

an intellectual

and never

became an activist or a founder of a party, he did not leave any disciples who could carry on and develop his thought. For the reasons just mentioned, Asad kept aloof from

affiliating

with the mainstream movements working for the common goal of Islamists:

the

resurgence

of Islam.

respected

the leaders of the major

He,

however,

knew

and

Islamic organizations

and

maintained amicable personal relation with them. He paid tribute to them when the occasion called for it but also spoke up in their defence or cried in lamentation whenever misfortune touched any of them. For example, though he disagreed with "certain points" of the Jamd'at-e-Islami's legitimate

movement."

programme, he thought of it as "a positive, He

considered

the

Jama'at's

founder,

Sayyid Abu '1-A'la MawdudT (d. 1979) "not only a great Islamic scholar but also dear personal friend of many years' standing." He adds: "Although - as is clear from his and my writings - we did not concur on all points, our goal and objective was always the same: a deepening of the Islamic faith and Muslim culture." He also had great affection and admiration for Hasan Al-Banna (d.

99

Chopter-2

1949), who launched in the late 1920's the Arab world's most powerful

Islamic

movement,

Al

Ikhwdn

Al-Muslimun.

He

considered Al-Banna "truly the greatest spiritual guide of our time, although his thoughts and his programme have often been deliberately misrepresented, in the Muslim world as well as in the West." Asad denounced strongly the execution of the gifted writer and Qur'an

commentator

Sayyid Qutb (d.

1966) by

Egyptian

President Jamal 'Abd al-Nasir (d. 1970) whose "mindless and ferocious persecution of the Brotherhood" was behind this heinous act, which violated the lowest standards of decency and justice and stunned the entire Muslim World. "... I mourned his death as did every believing Muslim..." An E s t i m a t e Muhammad Asad has emerged as one of the most writers of 20 l

influential

century Islamic literature in English. Likewise his

readership is across all the major continents of the world. His writings

have

Sunnah

and

covered Shari'ah,

large areas: travel

and

jurisprudence

Qur'anic

and

autobiography, exegesis,

secularism and Westernization, political theory and constitutional lawr. While posterity shall definitely reexamine his position on such

varied

issues

and

re-consider

their

relevance

to

their

situations, it shall very much study the methodology Asad adopted for studying the basic sources of Islam - Qur'an and Sunnah,

and

also the Islamic history, culture and civilization. It is worthwhile to study the views of the contemporary scholars and thinkers on Asad and his contributions. Hence a separate chapter is devoted to such opinions In this work. Asad's magnum opus, The Message the Qur'an,

of

too is worth a detailed study in order to appreciate

how a leading figure of 2 0 n century looks at the last revealed message which continues to be the ultimate source of Divine 100

Chapter-2 guidance

for

all

those

truth

seekers

formative

years

had

who

are

sincere

in

their

search. Asad

in his

been

under

the

influence

of

western ideas and w e s t e r n s c i e n c e s , i n c l u d i n g p h i l o s o p h y , history of art, chemistry and physics. He was p a r t i c u l a r l y influenced by the then e m e r g i n g p s y c h o a n a l y s i s . He had been exposed to the writings

of German

literary genius R a i n e r

1926). whose p e n e t r a t i n g , greatly

influenced

Surprisingly ineptness

Asad

to Rilke

Asad's never

spiritualistic writing

lyricism

in

Rilke seems

German

acknowledged

or Rilkian

Maria

it

mannerism.

to

and

nor

(1875have

English

showed

He had

been

any taught

H e b r e w and learned Talmud and its E x e g e s i s . This would

have

t r e m e n d o u s l y h e l p e d him to learn A r a b i c (also a S e m i t i c language) and the Q u r ' a n (which is the u p h o l d e r of the e s s e n c e of earlier versions of R e v e a l e d B o o k s ) and its E x e g e s i s . While

Asad

in his

early

years

seems

to

be

very

virulent

in

attacking the W e s t e r n civilization and p r a i s e s A r a b s profusely, his later a t t i t u d e - m e l l o w i n g down his criticism of the West and being critical of the M u s l i m s ' (Arabs i n c l u d e d ) current b e h a v i o u r pose serious q u e s t i o n s to the maturity and c o n s i s t e n c y of his views and certainly traits of his personality. Ideas, h o w e v e r , great they may be, cannot be totally d i v o r c e d from the p e r s o n a l i t y

who p r o p o u n d s them. T h o u g h A s a d ' s

ideas

too

have been and continue to be subjected to t h o r o u g h studies more and more today, his personality

too is equally

approached

for

better u n d e r s t a n d i n g . Asad

in quite

right

in e m p h a s i z i n g

the

crucial

I s l a m ' s basic s o u r c e s - t h e Q u r ' a n and Sunnah

importance

of

- in the r e s u r g e n c e

KsssBKsg

101

Chapter-2 of Islam and the need for fresh ijtihdd, but he seems to belittle the importance of the tradition, which has been one of the most important

medium

of

conserving

and

preserving

and

the

development of Islamic culture and civilization upto this day. And also rather ensures its continuity and development in the days to come! In this post-modern period, how would one look at the attempts, however

sincere

they

might

have

been,

of

reconciling

the

modernism with Islam - which may be a contradiction in basic terms.

However,

the

million

dollar

question

remains!

What

intellectual formulations can there be, which are in consonance to the very spirit of the Revealed paradigm of knowledge and cure the contemporary malady of the modern man and takes him to the path

of

Divine

understanding

scheme?

The

answer

of our present maladies

lies

in

our

better

and the worth

of the

tradition. That may pave the way for our future course of thought and action!

Chapter-2

Endnotes

1

Murad Hofmann, in a review article on W i n d h a g e r LEOPOLD

WEISS

ALIAS

GALIZIEN

NACHAR

MUHAMMAD

ABIEN

AS AD

1900-1927.

Giinter, -

Bohlan

VON Verlag,

Wicn, Austria, 2002. p p . 230. ( B i o g r a p h y of Asad in German L a n g u a g e from 1900 to 1927). 2

Jung,

Karachi,

3

Murad

2005.

Hofmann,

op.

cit,

in a n o t h e r

article:

Asad; E u r o p e ' s Gift to I s l a m ' , Islamic

'Muhammad

Studies

39:2 (2000),

2 3 - 2 4 7 , informs us that it is a doctoral t h e s i s . 4

The

Ph. D. thesis has now been p u b l i s h e d

German ASAD

language -

author,

VON

LEOPOLD

GALIZIEN

Austrian

WEISS

ALIAS

NACARABIEN

anthropologist

as a book in MUHAMMAD 1900-1927.

Its

and e t h e n o g r a p h e r

Giinter

W i n d h a g e r has conducted a m e t i c u l o u s r e s e a r c h on

Asad's

earlier years through his A r a b i a n book

carries

an

introduction

by

(1900-1927). Andre

Ginorich

The

and

is

p u b l i s h e d by Bohaln verlag, Wien, A u s t r i a - 2 0 0 2 , p p . 230 (PB). 5

Ibid., p. 35.

6

Isma'il

Ibrahim

Nawwab,

Asad and I s l a m ' in Islamic

'A M a t t e r of L o v e : Studies,

Muhammad

39:2 ( 2 0 0 0 ) pp. 1 5 5 - 2 3 1 ,

Islamabad. 7

Murad Hofmann, ' M u h a m m a d A s a d : E u r o p e ' s Gift to I s l a m ' in Islamic

Studies,

39:2 (2000) pp. 2 3 3 - 2 4 7 .

8

Editor, I s l a m i c Studies, 39:2 ( 2 0 0 0 ) , p. 152.

9

Ibid.

10

Martin K r a m e r , ' The Road (born Leopold Studies

from

Mecca:

Weiss), in the Jewish

in Honour

of Bernard

Lewis,

Mohammad Discovery

of

Asad' Islam:

ed. Martin Kramer (Tel

103

Chapter-2

Aviv:

The

Moshe

Dayan

Centre

for

Middle

Eastern

and

African Studies, ( 1 9 9 9 ) , pp. 2 2 5 - 4 7 . 11

Details

on the

A r a b i c ; over

family

in Lodewijk

Brunt;

het leven van M u h a m m a d

Ya 'akov:

Jubilee

Volume

Occasion

of his Seventieth

Presented

Asad",

to Jaap

Birthday

"Hen

Jood in

in

Neveh

Meijer

on

the

eds. Lea Dasberg and

J o n a t h a n N. Cohen (Assen: Van G o r c u m , 1982), 182, quoted by Martin Kramer, op. cit, fn. 3. 12

M u h a m m a d Asad, The Road to Mecca

( N e w Y o r k : Simon and

Schuster, 1954), 55. 13

M a l i s e R u t h v e n , " M o h a m m a d A s a d : A m b a s s a d o r of Islam", Arabic:

The Islamic

World Review,

14

Ibid., pp 5 5 - 5 6 .

15

Navvwab, op. cit, p. 156.

16

Asad, The Road to Mecca, al-Andalus,

1993),

58

S e p t e m b e r 1 9 8 1 , 59.

4th rev. eds. rept. ( G i b r a l t a r : Dar (First

published,

London,

Max

R e i n h a r d t , 1954). 17

Ibid., p p . 5 8 - 5 9 .

18

Ibid., p. 60.

19

N a w w a b , op. cit, p . 156.

20

M u r a d Hofmann, n. 5, p. 234.

21

Asad, Mecca,

22

N a w w a b , op. cit, p. 157.

23

Murad

p. 62.

Hofmann

is of

the

view

that

Asad

was

initially

e n a m o u r e d of and most r o m a n t i c a l l y infatuated with, almost everything A r a b . And through A s a d ' s earlier writings

one

could not foresee his reversion to Islam a few years later. He has quoted Gunther, A s a d ' s G e r m a n b i o g r a p h e r , as having the same c o n c l u s i o n about A s a d ' s earlier i n t e r a c t i o n with the A r a b s . See M u r a d , n. 5, pp. 2 3 4 - 3 5 .

104

Chapter-2

24

Asad,

"Foreword",

fourteenth

(1934),

Islam

at

the

Crossroads.

rev. eds. (Gibraltar: Dar al-Andalus,

(First published,

Delhi and Lahore: Arafat

1982), II

Publications,

1934) 10-11. 25

Murad Hofmann

in review article on Gunther's book on

Asad. 26

The Qur'an, 102:1-8. The translation of the short Surah that appeared originally in The Road to Mecca, in 1954 was later improved by Asad in his The Message

of the Qur'an.

The

present version is a synthesis of the best of both renderings, (Nawwab, op. cit, fn. 9). 27

Asad, Mecca, 308-310.

28

Asad, "Foreword", Crossroad,

29

Nawwab, op. cit, p. 159.

30

Asad, Mecca, 1.

31

Asad, "Foreword", Crossroads,

32

Loc. cit.

33

Nawwab, op. cit, p. 160.

34

Asad, Mecca, chap. VIII, "Jinns."

11.

Joseph Kostiner, The Making

12.

On the Dawish affair see

of Saudi

Arabia

1916-1936

(New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 117-40 35

Ibid., chap. XI "Jihad."

36

"History sheet of Herr Leopold Weiss Alias

Mohammad

Asad Ullah Vyce. An Austrian convert to Mohammedanism", prepared by the Intelligence Bureau of the Government of India,

included

in

letter

from

E.J.D.

Colvin,

Political

Secretary, His Highness' Government Jammu and Kashmir (Jammu) to Lieut. Col. L.E. Lang, Resident in Kashmir (Sialkot), 30 January 1934, India Office Records, R/l/1/4670 in The Road to Mecca, Asad dates his last Arabian journey to

105

Chapter-Z

the late s u m m e r of 1932, which would place his final arrival in India at a later date than J u n e . Quoted by K r a m e r , op.

cit.

fn. 24.

37

B r i t i s h e r s , during those days were o b s e s s e d with Bolsheivic ideas;

CID

report

of

20

November

1933,

India

Office

Records, R/l/1/4670 38

On the K a s h m i r agitation of 1931-32, see David Empire

and

(Berkeley:

Islam.:

Punjab

University

of

and

the

California

Making Press,

Gilmartin,

of

Pakistan

1988),

98-99.

Quoted by Kramer, op. cit, fn. 26 39

. Lieut. Col. L.E. Lang, R e s i d e n t in K a s h m i r ( S i a l k o t ) to B.J. Glancy, Political and

Political

India Office

Secretary,

Department

Government

(New

Delhi),

of India, 31 J a n u a r y

foreign 1934,

R e c o r d s , R / l / 1 / 4 6 7 0 . Q u o t e d by Kramer,

op.

cit, fn. 2 7 . 40

Asad, Mecca,

2

41

Asad, " A u t h o r ' s N o t e . " This Law of Ours and Others

Essays

( G i b r a l t a r : Dar a l - A n d a l u s , 1993), 1, (First p u b l i s h e d 1987). 42

. N a w w a b , op. cit, p. 160.

43

Asad, Mecca,

44

N a w w a b , op. cit, p. 161.

45

The Q u r ' a n , 8 9 : 2 7 - 3 0 , as rendered by Asad in The of the Qur'an

2

Message

and revised by N a w w a b , op. cit, p. 161

46

N a w w a b , op. cit, p. 161.

47

N a w w a b , op. cit, p. 162-62.

48

N a w w a b , op. cit, p . 162.

49

N a w w a b , op. cit, p. 162-63.

50

Ibid., p. 163.

51

Ibid., p. 163-64.

106

Chapter-2

52

Asad, "Foreword", Crossroads,

12.

53

Nawwab, op. cit, p. 164; It is a moot question whether Islam and modernity can be reconciled. And if any so called synthesis is attempted at, what result would be expected from that (AMK).

54

Ibid.

55

"Unromantic Orient."

56

Murad Hofmann, n. 3 pp. 233-34

57

Ibid., p. 234

58

Ibid.

59

Ibid

60

Ibid, pp. 2 3 4 - 3 5 .

61

Ibid.

62

Ibid.

63

Ibid.

64

Ibid., 2 3 5 - 3 6

65

Ibid.

66

In 1927, Asad married Elsa in Cairo and formally confirmed his reversion to Islam there

67

It is to the credit of Murad Hofmann that he presented important dimensions and excerpts from Muhammad Asad's first

book

in

English

language

otherwise

has

hitherto

remained un-translated 68

Asad, Crossroads,

85

69

Nawwab, op. cit, pp. 165-166.

70

Ibid., p. 85

71

Loc. cit

72

Asad, Crossroads,

73

Ibid., 7 9 - 8 0 .

74

Nawwab, op. cit, p. 167.

83.

107

Chapter-2

75

Al-Islam

Muflaraq

al-Turuq

(Beirut:

Dar

al-'llm

lrl-

Malayin, 1946). 76

N a w w a b , op. cit, p. 167.

77

Asad, " P r e f a c e to the First E d i t i o n " , Sahih Early

Years of Islam

al-Bukhdri:

The

(Gibraltar: Dar A l - A n d a l u s , 1980), p.v.

(First p u b l i s h e d 1938). Quoted by N a w w a b , op. cit, p. 168. 78

Loc. cit.

79

Asad, " P r e f a c e to the First E d i t i o n " , Sahih a l - B u k h a r i : The Early

Years

of Islam

(Gibraltar:

Dar

Al-Andalus,

1980),

p.ix. 80

Loc. cit.

81

N a w w a b , op. cit, p. 168.

82

Murad, n. 3, p. 239

83

Ibid

84

Ibid.

85

Ibid.

86

U n i v e r s i t y of California Press, 1 9 6 1 ; r e p r i n t e d in Gibraltar: Dar a l - A n d a l u s 1980

87

Murad, op. cit, p. 240.

88

Ibid.

89

Asad, The Principles

of State

and Government

in Islam,

new

eds. ( G i b r a l t a r : Dar a l - A n d a l u s , 1980), 30 (First P u b l i s h e d 1961). 90

C.f.

Malise

Ruthven,

"Muhammad

Asad:

Ambassador

of

I s l a m " , p . 60- and p. 62, w h e r e Asad d e n o u n c e s d e s p o t i s m in the m o d e r n Muslim World. Quoted by N a w w a b , op. cit. pp. 176-177. 91

Asad, Mecca,

1.

92

Loc. cit.

93

N a w w a b , op. cit, p. 169.

108

Chapter-2

94

N a w w a b , op. cit, p. 169.

95

Ibid.

96

Ibid.

97

After A s a d ' s death, Pola Hamida Asad w r o t e that the sequel to The Road

to Mecca

was only partially c o m p l e t e d by him

and that she herself would c o m p l e t e it. It would be called Home-Coming

of

suggested"

Hasan

Visionary

the

Heart, Zillur

Islamic

Scholar",

"a

title

Rahim, The

which

he

himself

"Muhammad

Asad:

Washington

Report

on

M i d d l e East Affairs, September 1995, p. 46. 98

24 D e c e m b e r , 1954. Quoted by N a w w a b , op. cit, p. 175.

99

Blurb

of Mecca,

1993 reprint, Q u o t e d by N a w w a b , op. cit, p.

175. 100

Blurb

of Mecca,

1993 reprint. Q u o t e d by N a w w a b , op.

cit,

pp. 175-76. 101

Gibraltar: Dar A l - A n d a l u s , pp. 195.

102

Murad, n. 5, p. 2 4 1 .

103

Ibid.

104

Ibid.

105

Ibid.

106

Asad, Essays,

107

Ibid, 6 9 - 7 0 .

108

G i b r a l t a r : Dar Al- A n d a l u s , 1980, 9 9 9 p p . (large format).

109

N a w w a b , op. cit, p. 187.

110

Ibid., pp. 187-88.

111

Ibid., p. 188.

112

All

69.

quotations

in

" C l a r i f i c a t i o n " , Arabia:

this

paragraph

The Islamic

are

World

from

Review,

1981, p. 4. Quoted by N a w w a b , op. cit, fn. 7 1 .

Asad, October