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Muhammad As’ad Leopold Weiss (Austrian)

Weiss was born in 1900 in the Lvov city of Austria, visited Arabic countries as a newspaper correspondent when he was twenty-two years old, admired and professed the Islamic religion, then visited all the Islamic countries, including India and Afghanistan, and published his impressions in ‘Frankfurter Zeitung’, one of the greatest newspapers world over.

Weiss worked as the publication director for Frankfurter Zeitung for some time, then, after Pakistan’s winning its struggle for liberation, he went to Pakistan with a view to cooperating with that country’s government in the establishment of a system of a religious education, and later he was sent to the United States Centre to represent Pakistan. He has two books, one entitled ‘Islam at the Cross-Road’, and the other ‘The road to Mecca’. He has rendered the Qur’an al-Karim into English.

The newspapers for which I worked as a correspondent and writer sent me to Asia and Africa in the capacity of ‘special correspondent’ in 1922. In the beginning, my relations with the Muslims were no more than ordinary relation between two parties of foreigners. However, my long stay in the Islamic countries enabled me to know the Muslims more closely, which in turn made me realize that they had been looking at the world and the events taking place in the world from angles quite dissimilar to those of Europeans. I must acknowledge that their extremely dignified and composed attitude towards the events, and their approach that was much more humanistic than our own, began to stir up my interest. I was a fanatical Catholic family. Throughout my childhood I had been inculcated with the belief that Muslims were irreligious people worshipping the devil. When I came into contact with Muslims I realized that they had been lying to me and I decided to study the Islamic religion. I acquired a number of books with closed attention, I saw in amazement how pure and how valuable a religion it was. Yet the manners and behaviours of some Muslims I had been in contact with did not conform to the Islamic principles that I was reading about. First of all, Islam dictated cleanliness, open heartedness, brotherhood, compassion, faithfulness, peace and salvation and, rejecting the Christian doctrine that ‘men are ever sinful,’ it substituted it with quite an opposite belief which tolerated ‘all sorts of worldly pleasure with the proviso that they should not cost someone else’ harm and that they should not overflow the free area defined by Islam.’

However, I also met some dirty and mendacious Muslims. To understand the matter better, I began to run an experiment on it, putting myself in the place of a Muslim and adapting myself to the principles I had been reading in the books, and thus examining Islam from within. I came up with the conclusion that the main reason for the increasing the degeneration and decline of the Islamic world, which was already on the brink of a collapse, was Muslims’ becoming increasingly indifferent towards their religion.

As long as Muslims preserved their perfection as true Muslims, they always made progress; and a downfall began the very moment they relaxed their grips of Islam. In actual fact, Islam progresses all the qualifications required for a country’s or a nation’s progress. It contains all the essentials of civilization.

The Islamic religion is both extremely scientific and very practical. The principles it lays down are completely logical, intelligible to everybody, and do not contain one single element that would run counter to knowledge, to science, or to human nature. There is nothing unnecessary in it. The grotesque passages, the sophistries, and the superstitious mysticism, which are the common properties of other religious books, do not exist in Islam.

I discussed these subjects with most Muslims and castigated them, saying, “Why do not you adhere more tightly to this beautiful religion of yours? Why do not you hold fast it with both hands?” Eventually, in 1926, as I was discussing these matters with a governor in Afghanistan, he said to me, “You have already become Muslim without yourself noticing it. Only a true Muslim would defend Islam as earnestly as you are doing now.” Upon these words of the governor’s a lightning flashed in my brain. When I was back home I plunged into deep thoughts, finally saying to myself, “Yes, I am a Muslim now.” Presently I pronounced the statement called Kalimah Shahadah. I have been a Muslim ever since.

You ask me, “What aspect of Islam attracted you most?” I cannot answer this question, for Islam has penetrated and invaded my entire heart. There is not a specific aspect, therefore, which affected me more than the other did. Everything I had not found in Christianity I found in Islam. I cannot tell what principle of Islam I feel closer to me. I admire each and every one of its principles and essentials. Islam is a gorgeous monument. It is impossible to separate any of its parts from its entirety. All its parts are clenched on one another in a certain order. There is a tremendous harmony among the parts. There is not a single part missing. Each and everyone of its part are in its proper place. Perhaps it was this extremely admirable order which attached me to the Islamic religion. So I embraced Islam with all my heart and love, and it settled in my heart so as to never leave there again.

(To be continue)

by M. Siddik Gumus