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This law of ours and other essays

Contact The Road from Mecca: Studies in Honor of Bernard Lewis, ed. Martin Kramer Tel Aviv: In Augustthere appeared in America a remarkable book, written by an author named Muhammad Asad and bearing the title The Road to Mecca. The book, a combination of memoir and travelogue, told the story of a convert to Islam who had crossed the spiritual deserts of Europe and the sand deserts of Arabia, on a trek that brought him ultimately to the oasis of Islamic belief. The book immediately won critical acclaim, most notably in the prestige press of New York, where Simon and Schuster had published it.

He was no ordinary convert.

  1. He then traveled to Medina, and stayed there and in its environs for several months.
  2. Italian forces crushed the last of the Sanusi resistance later that year. For many people, facing our 'bad" feelings and telling the truth when it goes against the grain is often avoided and even denied.
  3. Some months later my sister wrote, telling me that he considered me dead…Thereupon I sent him another letter, assuring him that my acceptance of Islam did not change anything in my attitude toward him or my love for him; that, on the contrary, Islam enjoined upon me to love and honour my parents above all other people… But this letter also remained unanswered.

Asad not only sought personal fulfillment in his adopted faith. Muhammad Asad died in February at the age of ninety-one, so that his career may be said to have paralleled the emergence of every trend in contemporary Islam. As yet, however, there is no biography of Asad, and considerable obstacles await all who would attempt one.

But the purpose here is more modest.

  • The book immediately won critical acclaim, most notably in the prestige press of New York, where Simon and Schuster had published it;
  • He had had a flash of insight near the Jaffa Gate;
  • The Haganah later assassinated De Haan in
  • His account of his years in Arabia, his desert adventures, friendship with King Saud, and marriage there is truly gripping while being a great read set against the fascinating background following the first World war;
  • Asad gave no reason for his decision to leave Arabia;
  • Ibn Saud kept Asad close to him because this useful convert wrote flattering articles about him for various newspapers in continental Europe.

For while Asad obviously distanced himself from Judaism, he adhered to a set of ideals that suffused the Jewish milieu from which he emerged. His failure to impart these ideals to contemporary Islam, and a repetitious pattern of rejection by his Muslim coreligionists, made of him a wandering Muslim, whose road from Mecca traversed an uncomprehending Islam before winding back to the refuge of the West.

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. The family lived comfortably, and, wrote Weiss, lived for the children. His paternal grandfather, Benjamin Weiss, had been one of a succession of Orthodox rabbis in Czernovitz in Bukovina. Weiss 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.

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But Akiva did not realize his dream of studying physics, because circumstances compelled him to take up the more practical profession of a barrister. Weiss testifies that his parents had little religious faith. InWeiss entered the University of Vienna. Early ina maternal uncle, Dorian Feigenbaum, invited Weiss to visit Jerusalem.

This law of ours and other essays

Dorian, a psychoanalyst and pupil of Freud, had initiated Weiss to psychoanalysis a few years earlier in Vienna. Now he headed a mental institution in Jerusalem. Weiss accepted the invitation, arriving in Egypt by ship and then in Palestine by train.

  1. But his own proposals, published in March as Islamic Constitution-Making, were never implemented. But the mission, in January , was a futile one.
  2. Unlike so many other Western converts to Islam, Asad chose also to live in Muslim societies, and worked to give Islam direction. Reviews There are no reviews yet.
  3. Asad drew a straight line between the Crusades and modern imperialism, and held Western orientalists to blame for their distortions of Islam. But the omissions and elisions of the book did not detract from its commercial success.
  4. Before concluding, I must bring attention to the person known as Asadullah von Weiss, formerly an Austrian Jew, now a Muslim, who resides presently near the holy shrine in Mecca.
  5. His fascinating travels took him to Jerusalem, Arabia, and India, and finally into service at the United Nations. It is not clear whether such a return was a realistic prospect, or whether the title hinted at a more spiritual homecoming.

It was from this base that Leopold Weiss would first explore the realities of Islam. But his exploration would be prefaced by another discovery, of the immoralities of Zionism. This stand was not a family inheritance. Although Dorian did not consider himself a Zionist, Weiss had another uncle in Jerusalem who was very much an ardent Zionist.

Aryeh Feigenbauman ophthalmologist, had immigrated to Palestine inand became a leading authority on trachoma whose Jerusalem clinics were frequented by thousands of Arabs and Jews. Inhe founded the first Hebrew medical journal; fromhe headed the ophthalmologic department at Hadassah Hospital. But Weiss always presented his anti-Zionism as a simple moral imperative.

He raised it both with Menahem Ussishkin and Chaim Weizmannand soon gained a reputation as a sympathizer of the Arab cause.

This law of ours : and other essays

Weiss also credited a new friend with assisting him greatly in Jerusalem: The Haganah later assassinated De Haan in And it was through De Haan that Weiss met the Emir Abdallah in the summer of —his first in a lifetime of meetings with Arab heads of state.

In Palestine, Weiss became a stringer for the Frankfurter Zeitung, where he wrote against Zionism and for the cause of Muslim and Arab nationalism, with a strong anti-British bias. He published a small book on the subject in11 and this so inspired the confidence of the Frankfurter Zeitung that it commissioned him to travel more widely still, to collect information for a full-scale book. Weiss made the trip, which lasted two years. At its outset, he found a new source of inspiration, during a stay in Cairo: Shaykh Mustafa al-Maraghia brilliant reformist theologian who later became rector of al-Azhar.

  • His road from Mecca was the longer journey, made painstakingly in an awareness of the contradiction between the promise of Islam and its contemporary practice—and his own equivocal position in it;
  • Arabia was his home, so he worked to persuade himself;
  • Belying the tremendous promise of his younger years, when he appeared to be a dreamer of stirring dreams, he has broken—perhaps without realizing it himself—the spirit of a high-strung nation that had been wont to look up to him as to a God-sent leader.

Weiss concluded that the abysmal state of the Muslims could not be attributed to Islam, as its Western critics claimed, but to a misreading of Islam. When properly interpreted, in a modern light, Islam could lead Muslims forward, while offering spiritual sustenance that Judaism and Christianity had ceased to provide.

Weiss spent the better part of the next two years traveling through Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, growing ever more fascinated by Islam in its myriad forms. The Conversion Upon concluding his travels, Weiss returned to Frankfurt to write his book. Yet he made no progress on his book: It was there, in Septemberthat Weiss experienced his second epiphany. He had had a flash of insight this law of ours and other essays the Jaffa Gate: Now, on the Berlin subway, he had another flash.

Watching the people on this train, in their finery and prosperity, he noticed that none smiled. Although positioned at the pinnacle of Western material achievement, they were unhappy. He went to the leader of the Berlin Islamic Society, declared his adherence to Islam, and took the name Muhammad Asad.

InAsad wrote that he had no satisfactory answer. Asad wrote to his father informing him of his conversion, but got no answer. Some months later my sister wrote, telling me that he considered me dead…Thereupon I sent him another letter, assuring him that my acceptance of Islam did not change anything in my attitude toward him or my love for him; that, on the contrary, Islam enjoined upon me to love and honour my parents above all other people… But this letter also remained unanswered.

Tragically, Elsa died nine days later, of a tropical disease, and her parents reclaimed her son a year later. Asad portrayed himself as a member of the inner circle of King Ibn Sauddividing his time between religious study in Medina and palace politics in Riyadh.

This intimacy with Ibn Saud can be confirmed in broad lines by an independent source. It represents perhaps the most succinct confirmation of the role played by Asad in Saudi Arabia: Before concluding, I must bring attention to the person known as Asadullah von Weiss, formerly an Austrian Jew, now a Muslim, who resides presently near the holy shrine in Mecca. This Austrian Leopold von Weiss came to the Hijaz two years ago, claiming he had become a Muslim out of love for this religion and in pure belief in it.

I do not know why, but his words were accepted without opposition, and he entered Mecca without impediment. He did so at a time when no one like him was allowed to do the same, the Hijaz government having recently passing a law providing that those like him must wait two years under surveillance, so that the government can be certain of their Islam before their entry into Mecca.

Since that time, Leopold von Weiss has remained in Mecca, wandering the country and mixing with people of every class and with government persons. He then traveled to Medina, and stayed there and in its environs for this law of ours and other essays months. Then he was able—I have no idea how—to travel to Riyadh with King Ibn Saud last year, and he stayed in Riyadh for five months, seeing and hearing all that happened, mingling with the people and speaking with persons of the government. He does not seem to me to be a learned or professional man.

His apparent purpose is to obtain news from the King, and especially from Shaykh Yusuf Yasin, secretary to the King [and editor of the official newspaper Umm al-Qura].

Asadullah uses this news to produce articles for some German and Austrian newspapers, in reply to the distasteful things written by some European newspapers on the Hijazi-Najdi court. What is the real mission which makes him endure the greatest discomforts and the worst conditions of life?

  • He remained articulate and lucid in interviews given as late as
  • The disappointment Asad had come to feel for the actual practitioners of Islam had become mutual;
  • The Pakistani ideologue Maulana Maududi , in a letter written in , expressed misgivings;
  • This is of course nothing new, as he said himself, since already in the 12th century -and even before that- there were educated Muslims complaining about the way Islam was taught via the so called madhabs;
  • About The Author Muhammad Asad Leopold Weiss was born a Jew, Leopold Weiss, in Galicia in 1900, worked for a time as a correspondent for the Frankfurter Zeitung, embraced Islam in 1926 after four years of intermittent residence among the Arabs, and has lived since 1932 among the Muslims in India and Pakistan.

On what basis rests the close intimacy between him and Shaykh Yusuf Yasin? Is there some connection between von Weiss and the Bolshevik consulate in Jidda? These are mysteries about which it is difficult to know the truth. But from this account, it is clear that This law of ours and other essays did have exceptional access to the court of Ibn Saud.

It is also clear that his status was not that of an adviser, but of a privileged observer, admitted to the court as part of the earliest Saudi efforts at public relations. Ibn Saud kept Asad close to him because this useful convert wrote flattering articles about him for various newspapers in continental Europe.

He married twice in Saudi Arabia: They established a household in Medina, and she bore him a son, Talal. Arabia was his home, so he worked to persuade himself: Belying the tremendous promise of his younger years, when he appeared to be a dreamer of stirring dreams, he has broken—perhaps without realizing it himself—the spirit of a high-strung nation that had been wont to look up to him as to a God-sent leader.

They had expected too much of him to bear the disappointment of their expectations with equanimity; and some of the best among the people of Najd now speak in bitter terms of what they consider a betrayal of their trust. He briefly pinned his hopes on the Sanusi movement in Cyrenaica: Like so many other Muslims, I had for years pinned my hopes on Ibn Saud as the potential leader of an Islamic revival; and now that these hopes had proved futile, I could see in the entire Muslim world only one movement that genuinely strove for the fulfillment of the ideal of an Islamic society: But the mission, in Januarywas a futile one: Italian forces crushed the last of the Sanusi resistance later that year.

He gave no explanation in The Road to Mecca for his break with Ibn Saud, except his personal disappointment with the monarch. But other explanations also this law of ours and other essays circulation. Some claimed that his last marriage proved his undoing: Others pointed to his Jewish origins as a growing liability afterwhen Arab-Jewish tensions in Palestine exploded in violence.

What is certain is that he left Saudi Arabia inwith the declared aim of traveling through India, Turkestan, China, and Indonesia. Hundreds of bands of Muslim volunteers crossed illegally from Punjab into Kashmir, and thousands were arrested. By earlythe disturbances had subsided, but the Kashmir government remained ever-wary.

In March he published a pamphlet entitled Islam at the Crossroads, his first venture into Islamic thought. Asad drew a straight line between the Crusades and modern imperialism, and held Western orientalists to blame for their distortions of Islam.

This text went through repeated printings and editions in India and Pakistan. More importantly, however, it appeared in an Arabic translation in Beirut in This placed Asad in touch with a wide range of orientalist and Indian Muslim scholarship, and he himself began to write scholarly pieces and translate texts.

The life of Viennese Jewry became a succession of confiscations, persecutions, pogroms, and deportations.

I have to settle many things for them.