Just over twenty years ago ( Feb 20th, 1992 ) died an extraordinary person who accepted Islam and whose translation of AlQuran has been a major book of reference to many. In 1900 Muhammad Asad was born Leopold Weiss, the son of a Jewish barrister and grandson of an orthodox rabbi. He was a confidant of many major Muslim figures of the century including King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. He was given the citizenship of Pakistan for his contributions to that country. But this great Islamic thinker chose to die in near obscurity in a small coastal town of Spain, about 500 years after the expulsion of the Muslim Moors and the Jews from Spain.
Three months after his death ( may Allah bless his soul for all his contributions to Islam) I bought the book ,The Road to Mecca, a book I dearly keep ,written by a man I greatly admire.
One very fascinating aspect which triggered his acceptance of Islam was the way he discerned the words of Quran expressed in the faces of distinguished looking people traveling in the Berlin subway. In brief I will take excerpts from that book.
In Sept 1926 traveling with his wife, Elsa, in the Berlin subway Leopold Weiss’s “eyes fell on a well-dressed man with a beautiful brief-case on his knee and a large diamond ring on his finger,” representing “the picture of prosperity which one encountered everywhere in Central Europe”. But the man’s face did not seem to be “a happy face. He appeared to be worried.”
Leopold Weiss turned away from looking at the man and saw “ a lady of some elegance. She also had a strangely unhappy expression on her face, as if contemplating or experiencing something that caused her pain: nevertheless, her mouth was fixed in the stiff semblance of a smile which, I was certain, must have been habitual”, said Leopold Weiss.
Looking around he could see faces in every one of which he “could discern an expression of hidden suffering, so hidden that the owner of the face seemed to be quite unaware of.”
He mentioned to his wife the impression he saw in those faces. “She too began to look around her with the careful eyes of a painter accustomed to study human features.” His wife concurred.
When he returned home he happened to glance on the copy of an open Quran lying on his desk. On picking it up to put it away, “and just as I was about to close it, my eyes fell on the page before me and I read:
Surah 102 : Verses 1 - 8
‘You are obsessed by greed for more and more
Until you go down to your graves.
Nay, but you will come to know!
Nay, but you will come to know!
Nay, if you but knew it will be the knowledge of certainty,
You would indeed see the hell you are in.
In time, indeed, 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’ ”
( Surah 102: verses 1-8)
He went on to say, “ For that moment I was speechless. I think the book shook in my hands. Then I handed it to Elsa. ‘Read this. Is it not an answer to what we saw in the subway?’ ”
To Leopold Weiss “it was an answer: an answer so decisive that all doubt was suddenly at an end. I knew, beyond doubt, that it was a God-inspired book I was holding in my hand.” He accepted Islam and became Muhammad Asad.
19 years ago
To this great human being, AlQuran was what the Book should be, an absolute book of guidance.
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