Muhammad Asad (1900-1992): The Pakistani Connection

Posted on April 16, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Books, History, People, Religion
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Adil Najam

Muhammad Asad: Road to MeccaI am most pleasantly surprised that readers have so quickly figured out the mystery man in our latest ATP Quiz. Since they have, let me add a little more information and let the discussion continue.

I am not sure, however, how many readers know of Muhammad Asad or of his connection to Pakistan. Let me confess that until fairly recently I did not; at least not of the Pakistan connection. As I have gotten to know more about this connection, I have gotten more and more intrigued – all the more so because there is relatively little in his own writings or that of others about this.

But lets start from the beginning.

Asad was born in 1900 as Leopold Weiss to Jewish parents in Lvov (then part of the Habsburg Empire, now in Ukraine). He moved to Berlin in 1920 to become a journalist and traveled to Palestine in 1922. It was there that he first came into contact with Arabs and Muslims and began a long journey into Muslim lands and minds that eventually led to his embracing Islam in 1926. His bestselling autobiography Road to Mecca (published 1954) recounts these years in vivid and captivating detail., including his adventures in Arabia and in working with King Ibn Saud and the Grand Sanusi, amongst others.

The Message of the Quran; Translation by Muhammad Asad

Later in his life, after retiring in Spain, he spent 17 years working on an English translation of the Quran which was first published in 1980. Many consider this to be one of the finest English translation of the Quran – some argue this is because he himself was fluent in bedouin Arabic which is closest to the Arabic in the Quran, others suggest that since he was himself a European and wrote in more understandable idiomatic English his translation is most accessible to non-Arabic speakers.

As a lay-reader who ver the years has read a number of English translations, including his, I do find Asad’s translation – The Message of the Quran – to be easier to read than those by Abdullah Yusuf Ali or Marmaduke Pickthall which are amore formal and literal translations. Unlike the translations by Prof. Ahmed Ali (my particular favorite) and by Thomas Cleary which are also in contemporary idiom and very readable, the Mohammad Asad translation has the added virtue of also having commentary and explanations, and the new edition is wonderfully presented, printed in the highest quality, and with tasteful calligraphy. All in all, Mohammad Asad’s The Message of the Quran is the translation that I now recommend to friends, Muslims as well as non-Muslims.

But I digress. Much as I like Muhammad Asad’s translation of the Quran and especially in its new printing, that is not the subject of this post. The subject of the post is his ‘Pakistani connection’ and also why we do not find much about that connection in his writings. Here is what we know.

By the early 1930s Asad had gotten rather disenchanted by King Ibn Saud and his religious advisors (see Road to Mecca) and had begun travelling Eastwards into other Muslim lands. This brought him to British India and there he met and became a good friend of Dr. Mohammad Iqbal. Indeed, Iqbal encouraged him to write his book Islam at the Crossroads (published 1934); whose cover has the following testimonial from Iqbal:

“I have no doubt that coming as it does from a highly cultured European convert to Islam, it will prove an eye-opener to our younger generation.” Muhammad Iqbal.

Asad: This Law of OursAsad: Islam at CrossroadsAsad: State and Government in IslamAsad: Sahi Al Bukhari

During World War II imprisoned him in a camp for enemy aliens (because of his Austrian nationality) while his father was interned by the Nazis because he was Jewish. After the War he fervently threw his all behind the demand for Pakistan. Upon the creation of Pakistan, he saw himself very much a ‘Pakistani’ as did those he worked with (reportedly even took to wearing the achkan). In 1947 he became the director of the Department of Islamic Reconstruction in West Pakistan and worked on a treatise with ideas for the Constitution of Pakistan. Many of these ideas (which were mostly related to creating a multi-party parliamentary democracy) were reproduced in his later books but he was not very successful in getting them implemented.

In 1949 Asad joined the Pakistan Foreign Ministry as head of the Middle East Division and eventually in 1952 came to New York as Pakistan’s representative to the United Nations. Here he met the woman who would become the last of his wifes (Pola Hamida). Whether it was the fact that he married her and divorced his earlier wife or the messiness of Pakistani politics, it was in this period that he fell out with the powers in Pakistan and resigned from the Foreign Ministry. He decided to stay on in New York to write Road to Mecca, which became a major success. He never really returned to Pakistan (although, supposedly, Gen. Zia ul Haq tried to get him back) and died in Europe in 1992.

It was his estrangement with the Pakistan government that pushed him back into writing and produced two amazing works – Road to Mecca and The Message of the Quran. However, here once again is a story of one who wished to give his all to Pakistan and we did not let him.

64 Comments on “Muhammad Asad (1900-1992): The Pakistani Connection”

  1. PatExpat says:
    April 16th, 2007 4:09 am


    Being familiar with ATP’s policy, I am not sure whether Muhammad Asad would fall under the personalities you would like to cover.

    I believe you are not familiar with his view apart from his translation. Here is his article ‘What do we mean by Pakistan’ which he wrote in Feb 1947
    which is as profound today as it was at that time.

  2. Babbi says:
    April 16th, 2007 5:18 am

    Seems like Pakistanis have a habit of abandoning the people of logic and reason and Mr. Mohammad Asad is one more in the list.

  3. YLH says:
    April 16th, 2007 9:44 am


    The point – I think- was not an agreement with Asad’s ideas per se… but simply that here was a famous man forgotten.
    One can disagree but the point is to give it its historical due. Muhammad Asad is a famous Islamic scholar who associated himself with Pakistan. That should suffice as a reason for him to be mentioned here.

    As you can imagine, I disagree with almost all of what Asad has to say about Pakistan and its genesis. Pakistan’s creation was borne out of cultural nationalism and the masses responded to the call of Muslim identity, history and culture. Had the language that Asad employs been used, Pakistan would have never have come into being because the Muslim masses, though united in their Muslim national identity, were deeply divided when it came to doctrinal and theological issues.

    Jinnah was- in my view- quite clear on this issue. For example he held Turkey to be the greatest example of a Modern Muslim Country and held Kemal Ataturk to be the greatest Muslim of the modern age…

    Jinnah declared:

    “He (Kemal Ataturk) was the greatest Musalman in the modern Islamic world and I am sure that the entire Musalman world will deeply mourn his passing away. It is impossible to express adequately in a press interview one,s appreciation of his remarkable and varied services, as the builder and the maker of Modern Turkey and an example to the rest of the world, especially to the Musalmans States in the Middle East. The remarkable way in which he rescused and built up his people against all odds has no parallel in the history of the world. He must have derived the greatest sense of satisfaction that he fully accomplished his mission during his lifetime and left his people and his country consolidated, united and a powerful nation. In him, not only the Musalmans but the whole world has lost one the greatest men that ever lived.“

    (Quaid-e-Azam and the Islamic World, Rizwan Ahmed, Published 1981 on the occasion of OIC Foreign Ministers’ conference in Karachi)

    This is in complete contradiction to the ideology that Asad propounds… Asad- for his own reasons- holds Turkey to be an “unIslamic” government. So there is considerable divergence in the interpretation of the words “Muslim”, “Islam” and “Pakistan” between those who actually were part of the Pakistan Movement and ideologues like Asad.

    Cultural Nationalisms based on religio-cultural identity often tend to have this dichotomy … Zionism and the creation of Israel is a clear example… where secular and even atheist Jews were in the forefront of the creation of Israel (i.e. Ben Gureon etc) while religious Jews were opposed to it. I think Asad might have been conscious of the similarities that may emerge between the two states.

  4. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    April 16th, 2007 9:45 am

    Thank you Adil for introducing or rather reintroducing the late Muhammad Asad. I knew the existence of his books (mostly at the Internet) but not of his Pakistani connection. And also ‘PatExpat’ thank you for the link to his sixty years old essay: “What do we mean by Pakistan”. It is clear from this essay that Asad belonged to the group that desired Pakistan to be a theological or at least “Islamic-ideological” state. Seeing his personal journey from Europe to Middle East to Pakistan, and from Judaism to Islam, his pan-Islamic views are not surprising. The Urdu translation of the heading of his essay would be the most familiar slogan: “Pakistan Ka Matlab Kia. La Ilaha Ill’Allah”. The tussle between ideology of ‘theological or semi-theological Pakistan’ on one hand, and ‘secular or semi-secular Pakistan’ on the other is alive and well even today. I am sure this post is going to generate a lively debate on this subject here at ATP. One only hopes that this debate will not degenerate into personal attacks and will not drag in non-relevant topics. We only hope.

  5. Daktar says:
    April 16th, 2007 10:06 am

    I also find his translation of the Quran to be wonderful and have a copy. It is beutifully produced, easy to understadn and teh commentaries are extremely helpful.

    I love the dedication at the beginning : “FOR PEOPLE WHO THINK.”

  6. A. says:
    April 16th, 2007 10:41 am

    Hi Adil,

    I am an old fan of Mr Asad’s writing & acquainted with his active role in the young state of Pakistan, but I found your following statement confusing:

    “Whether it was the fact that he married her and divorced his earlier wife or the messiness of Pakistani politics, it was in this period that he fell out with the powers in Pakistan and resigned from the Foreign Ministry.”

    Was he married to a pakistani before? In any case, why would his personal life have caused him to fall afoul of the Foreign Ministry or vice versa? Is there concrete information out there about this? If you could clarify that would be great – thank you.

    We could, btw, still get in touch with Ms Hamida, who I believe is still alive, if we wanted to honour him & write about him today as expat pakistanis.

  7. Babar says:
    April 16th, 2007 11:41 am

    Excellent post Adil!

    I was introduced to Asad by my late father-in-law and his translation of Quran has become my favorite ever since. His Pakistan connection adds more to his personality.

  8. steve says:
    April 16th, 2007 12:45 pm

    Before his becoming a successful author, what was his line or work? Was he renowned in some other field?

  9. steve says:
    April 16th, 2007 12:55 pm

    I just read that essay pointed out by patExpat. Thank God, Asad had a ‘falling out’ with the government! From what the essay expresses, it seems he was more interested in making Pakistan some laboratory for his Utopian Islamic life and renewal. Something tells me thats Zia advanced by 30 years – not a enticing notion.

  10. Anwar says:
    April 16th, 2007 1:01 pm

    Excellent post. Some of our friends still cannot comprehend that a son of Jewish Rabai and introduced to Islam, of all places, in Afghanistan while on assignment, could write so eloquently the translation of Quran.
    His interpretations and explanations in the footnotes of the translation clearly reflect the mindset of post-renaissance European reasoning and of an indepth analysis.
    His works are intellectually rewarding,nourishing, and profoundly lasting.
    Regardless of whether Pakistan was born for Muslims or Islam,it is important for Muslims to indulge in the science of critical reasoning, indulge in “Tajweed” and abandon “Takleed” if they want to slow downward slide towards abyss.. Asad’s writings can be a starting point for self-reflection.

  11. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    April 16th, 2007 1:40 pm

    Dear Anwar you forgot William Pickthall.

  12. Akbar A. says:
    April 16th, 2007 2:51 pm

    Part of me is glad you brought up this great man. Part of me is very concerned that we are going to drag the poor guy through muck again. That is what we did to him the last time.

    Mohammad Asad was very close to Iqbal and if you read his ‘Islam at Crossroads’ it is in the spirit of Iqbal’s ‘Reconstruction of Islamic Thought.’ For him Pakistan WAS an experiment to see if a liberal and democratic Islamic state was possible. That made him slightly distant from Jinnah, who Asad saw as too secular, but it made him even more distant from people like Mawdudi who was forwarding a very different vision of the Islamic state from Asad. Both Mawdudi and Asad were contemporaries working on concepts of the ‘Islamic State’. Asad’s great book on this is ‘State and Government in Islam’ which you refer here. If you read it you will find that his view of the Islamic state was very different from Mwdudis, specially in terms of multi-party democracy and parliamentary supremacy. It was also different from Jinnah’s but less so. The roots of Asad’s vision of Islam (which was much more like Iqbal’s) are found in his book ‘Road to Mecca’ where he discusses Abdul Wahab and how his teachings had stifled teh progressive tendencies within Islam. It is that thinking that made him close to Iqbal and distant from Mawdudi. Ultimately, one had to accept that Asad’s vision of what the Islamic state should be lost and Mawdudiat won in Pakistan.

    But had it just been an intellectual debate as Asad thought it was then it would be OK. Unfortunately, the right wing in Pakistan did to him what the right wing always does – it began a nasty smear campaign against him [just like Maulana Dick Cheney is doing in the US against his opponents, but also like what the maulvis did to Edhi, or to Abdus Salam, or even Jinnah]. From the earliest days a campaign was launched against him because of his Jewish heritage, he was labeled a European agent, and ultimately it was his marriage to an American woman (who also converted to Islam) that gave his opponents the opportunity that forced him to resign (much like what is happening to the woman minister who parachuted in France recently). Ultimately, he had too much dignity to indulge in dirty fighting with the religious establishment in Pakistan and decided to retire abroad. As you say, maybe that was good because without it maybe his greatest works would never have been completed.
    He became the target of the smear campaigns  because his goal, like Iqbal’s, was Islamic rennaisance and his struggle was against static extremism. For example, look at this quote, “”The great mistake is that most of these leaders start with the hudud, criminal punishment. This is the end result of the sharia (Islamic Law), not the beginning. The beginning is the rights of the people. There is no punishment in Islam which has no corresponding right.” Or this one, ” “The door of ijtihad will always remain open, because no one has the authority to close it.”

    His book ‘Road to Mecca’ is clearly his most famous and captivating book which I recommend to everyone. But for anyone really interested in serious thinking about what a truly Islamic but non-fundamentalist and non-Taliban state would look like, I would suggest reading his ‘State and Government in Islam’ and also ‘Islam at Crossroads.’

  13. Akbar A. says:
    April 17th, 2007 12:15 am

    PatExpat, you are certainly right in as much as Muhammad Asad’s vision for Pakistan was of a model modern Islamic state. This was to be his Utopia, the one he had failed to find in Saudi Arabia (ref. ‘Road to Mecca’). But that also meant that his vision was not the same as that of Jinnah or that of the majority of the leaders of the Muslim League. His was very much a minority viewpoint.
    The tragedy for him was that he was as minority within a minority. Those who at that time (or now) also wanted an Islamic state had a VERY different idea of what that state should be like. For Asad, it was a to be a modern, democratic, multi-party, and what we would today call a liberal Islamic state (he would clearly be against the clerics at Lal Mosque, Ref. ‘Islam at the Crossroads’). Note from his book ‘State and Government in Islam’ that he thought that such a state was not only possible but was the only true Islamic state. That is where he and others in the religious group parted ways. His vision, which flowed from Iqbal’s, of a revived and reformed Islamic state was then not in favor amongst the religious leadership of Pakistan. It still is not.

    But all of that is less important. The striking thing about those very early years was that you COULD intellectually discuss tricky issues such as what is an ideal Islamic state without the believers resorting to violence or liberals resorting to slogans. Note that the department he headed in 1947 was called the Department of ISLAMIC RECONSTRUCTION. Do we think a department named like this could even exist today without someone burning its office down. And what if someone wrote a book called ‘RECONSTRUCTION OF RELIGIOUS THOUGHT IN ISLAM.’ Would a book with that title not be banned immediately? As my previous message mentioned, this intellectual freedom vanished very soon and the defamation campaign against Asad by the religious extreme  was an early example of what would follow.

  14. Anwar says:
    April 16th, 2007 2:21 pm

    I could not acknowledge Pickthall as the post was about Asad and since he was deeply involved in the idealogical redirection of future of Pakistan, I had to stay focus on him. Pickthall’s contributions are indeed very worthy and significant. Thanks.

  15. Farrukh says:
    April 16th, 2007 3:18 pm

    I have not read his translation of the Quran, but I have read ROAD TO MECCA and it is one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. I have reccomended it to many many friends.

  16. A. says:
    April 16th, 2007 4:00 pm

    Hi again – I believe Mr Akbar A. might have given me the answer to my earlier question – thank you.

    (Also, I hope my question/suggestion above didn’t appear snotty – I hate how cyber-talk fails to communicate tone).

    Good article and good follow up discussion!

  17. Anwar says:
    April 16th, 2007 4:46 pm

    Thanks Akbar sahib. Correlation between Asad and Iqbal is hardly surprising. Iqbal channeled his philosophical thoughts in Europe – influences of Nietzche and Goethe are vivid in his concept of “khudee” and “mard-e-momin.”
    The lesson we draw from these great people is the need for Muslims to cultivate a culture of reasoning and critical self-examination.
    Thanks once again for the comments.

  18. PatExpat says:
    April 16th, 2007 5:53 pm


    Thanks for your in depth explanation. But its not a matter of Mawdudi islam or Iqbal’s islam. What he was trying to say that in the end Pakistan should be an islamic state.

    Apologies for the following very large quote from his aforementioned essay

    [quote post="660"]We want, through Pakistan, to make Islam a reality in our lives. We want Pakistan in order that every one of us should be able to live a truly Islamic life in the widest sense of the word. And it is admittedly impossible for an individual to live in accordance with the scheme propounded by God’s Apostle unless the whole society consciously conforms to it and makes the Law of Islam the law of the land. But this kind of Pakistan will never materialize unless we postulate the Law of Islam not merely as an ideal for a vaguely defined future but as the basis, wherever possible, of all our social and personal behavior at this very hour and minute.

    There is [on the other hand] a definite, though perhaps involuntary, tendency on the part of many of our leaders to ignore the spiritual, Islamic background of our struggle and to justify the Muslims’ demand for freedom by stressing their unfortunate experiences with the Hindu majority, as well as to base the Muslims’ claim to being a separate nation on the differences between their and the Hindus’ social usage and cultural expressions.

    In short, there is a mounting inclination to consider the fact – for a fact it is – of a separate Muslim nationhood in the conventional, western sense of the word ‘nation’ instead of considering it in the Islamic sense of ummah or millah? Why should we hesitate to proclaim, loudly and without fear, that our being a nation has nothing to do with the conventional meaning of this word: that we are a nation not merely because our habits, customs and cultural expressions are different from those of the other groups inhabiting the country, but because we mean to shape our life in accordance with a particular ideal of our own?

    It cannot be often enough repeated that our adherence to the teachings of Islam is the only justification of our communal existence. We are not a racial entity. We are – in spite of the great progress of Urdu as the language of Muslim India – not even a linguistic entity within the strict meaning of this term[/quote]

    So in essence he was driving home the point that we are presently fighting tooth and nail to render false propoganda or indoctrination of our over-zealour rulers

  19. Ibrahim says:
    April 16th, 2007 7:47 pm


    I agree with PatExpat. Clearly, Moulana Mohammad Asad doesn’t fit the mold of personalities published at ATP. Dr. Najam is not correct in drawing the conclusion that somehow he was disillusioned by King ibn Saud and his “religious advisors”. He was disillusioned not in the sense of today’s modernist are “disillusioned” by Islamic scholars.

    Before people start saying that he propagated ijtihad, it should be known that he was warning against taqleed (blind following) because he followed the methodology of ahl-e-hadith/wahabi (whatever name you want to give). He wasn’t asking for reinterpreting the Quran to satisfy one’s own nafs or bring Islam with the norms of today, as many today want and would lead us to believe.

    I’m glad PatExpat posted that essay on Moulana Asad. Many say that established Islamic laws aren’t compatible with today. However, Moulana Asad, the person brought and raised in a more “civilized” society seems to disagree!! I think Moulana Asad also exposes the way of thinking of some of the foremost leaders of Pakistan movement, Jinnah, et el. Jinnah and the rest of the leadership is dead and leaves behind mixed messages, so I don’t want to pass a judgment. But, looking at what they had to say, especially Jinnah, it’s clear that he was just like any other politician who talked from both sides of his mouth. Talking to masses, he talked something more closer to religion while clearly he wasn’t sold on the idea of Pakistan being a theology. This type of talk duped many. That’s why so many people of opposite opinions bring Jinnah’s quotes as evidence to support their opinions. Also, I won’t be surprised if Moulana Asad was forced resign for obvious reasons.

    [quote post="660"]Whether it was the fact that he married her and divorced his earlier wife [/quote]
    As far as I know, he married only once before he married Paula Hameeda. And, the first wife reverted to Islam with him, but died soon after they reached Makkah, SubhanAllah walHamdulillah. May Allah grant Jannah to both of his wives and him.

  20. famalik says:
    April 16th, 2007 9:09 pm

    Salam alaikum,
    I read Asad’s “Road to Mecca” and highly recommend it to others. The name of Asad’s first wife was Elsa (she reverted to Islam) along with her son, from her first marriage.

    Below I have pasted another quote from Mohammad Asad.

    “And, finally, by claiming (again, without any warrant in Qur’ãn or Sunnah) that the shari’ah imposes on us the duty to discriminate [non-Muslims], they make it impossible for [the non-Muslims] to bear with equanimity the thought that the country in which they live might become an Islamic state.”

  21. Daktar says:
    April 16th, 2007 10:50 pm

    Interesting how Asad is suddenly being converted into a ‘Maulana’ by some commenters here. Have never seen that designation being applied to him. I wonder how he would have reacted to this? Probably he would chuckle!

  22. Daktar says:
    April 16th, 2007 10:55 pm

    By the way, ‘Road to Mecca’ mentions his having at least two Arab wives after his first Austrian wife (who had converted to Islam and died during or right after their first Haj).

  23. Deeda-i-Beena says:
    April 17th, 2007 12:33 am

    I have known him being referred to as Allama Asad and not Maulana, ostensibly in recognition of his analytical acumen,understanding of Islam and his scholarship.

    As someone in his early teens,I remember him walking down Race Course Road Lahore from Chamba House GOR to often have his evening Tea with my father.That was in the early fifties. At that time I had no idea who this Tall,bearded European was and what he talked with our father, but obviously they had something in common to meet so often. I did enjoy though playing in our lawn, with his son Talal who was my age and accompanied him to our house.
    It was much later that I came upon some of his writings, one of which – perhaps an article covering the theme of the mind Al-Quraan builds. If someone can direct me where to find/look for it I would be grateful as indeed I would like to re-read it in contemporary contexts.
    His translation of the Quraan is my favourite both for its clarity and the language. It has to be appreciated that he is translating a very complex text as the Quraan from/to two alien languages-Arabic into English, that are not his own.
    At another level, when a mature adult gives up his entire upbringing and adopts new and very different convictions- often contrary to his formative beliefs- it speaks a great deal of the person. To then proceed to be recognised an Allama in his adopted convictions only adds to the greatness. I have often dialogued with such persons and admire the clarity of their thought processes, that is unmatched by many of us who are muslims just because they were born of muslim parents.

  24. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    April 17th, 2007 12:58 am

    dear anwar I know that post was about Asad but I was answering your statment:

    Some of our friends still cannot comprehend that a son of Jewish Rabai and introduced to Islam….
    could write so eloquently the translation of Quran.

  25. Ahmed2 says:
    April 17th, 2007 10:08 am

    Thanks Deeda -i-Beena for your input. You seem to be the only one on this post who has met this great man, though as you say you were in your early teens. As such what you write carries weight.

    ” …I do not claim to have “translated” the Qur’an in the sense in which ,say, Plao or Shakespeare can be translated. … In the last resort, [it is] unique and untranslatable.”(Page v of his Foreword)

    Allama Asad has tried to render its MESSAGE comprehensible–to use his own words–to those who use the English language to try to understand the Holy Quran. “The Message of the Qur’an” represents that effort. We may accept it or we may not accept his interpretation — the choice is ours.Some of us can benefit from it, others may have reservations. We should leave it at that.

  26. Ibrahim says:
    April 17th, 2007 11:54 am


    People would know that Allamah is a far greater/more respected title than Moulana in Islamic terms. So, calling him Maulana wasn’t out of place. People have no trouble bestowing the title of Allamah on Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, but saying ‘Moualana Asad’ is somehow preposterous.

    I agree with Akbar A. that he would have wanted a more progressive state, but still far more conservative than what people want today (Allah knows best). My little knowledge is nowhere near his, but I might not have agreed with all his ideas, but still he really wanted a theology-based state. Now, what he thought is a Islamic theology is another issue. And, not a single learned person, scholar or otherwise, would condone what the Lal Masjid people did. So, it doesn’t matter if Moulana Asad would’ve liked it or not—no scholar would liked that.

  27. jayjay says:
    April 18th, 2007 8:43 am

    [quote post="660"]reverted to Islam [/quote]

    “Reverted”?? People are what they are born into in 99.99 percent of cases. No religion is better than other as there are no quantifiable measures for such comparison, except the repute, and success, of the followers of a particular ideology/faith to an extent.

    Can we imagine a Muslim being allowed to convert (revert?) to Judaism and able to serve the State of Israel and his/her adopted religion, without having to spend rest of his/her life in hiding?

  28. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    April 18th, 2007 1:11 pm

    “No religion is better than other…”

    JJ: It is not the question of better or worst. It is the question of true or false. Both Islam and Christianity claim, respectively, and you may disagree with their claim, that their message is the only true message and all others are false. That is why these two religions postulize and out cast those who convert to other religions. Contrary to your thinking, a Muslim who openly converts to an other religion does not have to go into hiding. He or she is simply socially out casted from the Muslim community. Your statements show a certain anti Muslim bias. But that is OK. That is your perspective.

  29. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    April 19th, 2007 1:12 am

    General ignorance about Islam and APostasy is that Islam doesn’t give freedom to apostates and orders to kill them. Verse 5:54 clears this ignorance:

    O you who have believed, whoever of you should revert from his religion – Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him [who are] humble toward the believers, powerful against the disbelievers; they strive in the cause of Allah and do not fear the blame of a critic. That is the favor of Allah; He bestows it upon whom He wills. And Allah is

    This verse clearly indicates that instead of ordering Muslims to kill them, Allah rather give glad tidings to Muslims that He would rather procude much better Muslims who would be more influencial, powerful and proper implementor of Islam. This is why today we see that reverted Muslims know Islam much better than born Muslim like us whether they are in US or Pakistan or Phillipine. People like Cricketer Yousuf,Bilal Phillips and famous journalist Yvonne Riddley[now Maryam] are live examples of new converts.

    the term “revert” is used because unlike Bible followers, we Muslims believe that we follow the religion which was followed by Abraham[as] and then his future generations[Moses,David,Jesus etc].Muhammad[saw] didn’t bring something new rather He[saw] implemented religion of Abraham[saw] in its orignal form. Offcourse people before Abraham like Adam[as],Noah[as],Daniel[as] etc also preacher similar message.

  30. Ibrahim says:
    April 19th, 2007 2:41 am


    Unlike Christianity, Islam believes that all human beings are born free of sins, and if they die in young age, inshaAllah, they’ll go to jannah. So, if an adult becomes Muslim, then he’s going back to being without sins and only a Muslim can carry that characteristic. Hence, revert is used.[quote post="660"]No religion is better than other as there are no quantifiable measures for such comparison, except the repute, and success, of the followers of a particular ideology/faith to an extent. [/quote]
    Please, read and learn about Islam and what it asks from its followers. If you want, people can suggest books.

  31. jayjay says:
    April 19th, 2007 8:02 am

    [quote post="660"]Contrary to your thinking, a Muslim who openly converts to an other religion does not have to go into hiding. He or she is simply socially out casted from the Muslim community. [/quote]

    Mr Alvi: Ostracization is a form of persecution and harassment.

    [quote post="660"]No religion is better than other as there are no quantifiable measures for such comparison, except the repute, and success, of the followers of a particular ideology/faith to an extent.
    Please, read and learn about Islam and what it asks from its followers. If you want, people can suggest books. [/quote]

    Are you implying that Islam is better than all other religions? If so, what makes you say that?

  32. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    April 19th, 2007 9:02 am

    Jayjay, why don’t you come up with points which prove Islam is NOT a better religion and your religion[if there is any] better than Islam?

    @Ibrahim: Correction. Jesus[AS] never said that He’s in this world to take away the sins of his followers. That’s all misinterpetition and injection of people who came after him and altered the book.

  33. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    April 19th, 2007 9:42 am

    “Ostracization is a form of persecution and harassment.”

    JJ: You are right. That is why Islam is against the ‘Caste System’ prevalent in certain religions and societies. On its part Islam stands for equality of all mankind at birth. In Islam every human being is born innocent and free of sin. All human beings are equal in the eyes of God. No one is ‘Son of God’ and no one is born from the ‘Head of God’ or for that matter from the ‘Feet of God’. No one is born ‘Untouchable’. No body is superior or inferior by birth. That is the beauty of Islam that has attracted millions of those out-casted by the others into its folds. Islam does not discriminate against people. Islam does not out-caste but rather accepts the outcasts into its ranks. However Muslims do shun away from those who leave Islam for other religions. But that is neither ‘ostracization’ nor ‘persecution’ nor ‘harassment’. Association is a personal choice. There are no untouchables in Islam. Fear not my friend. Study Islam. It is a beautiful religion. You may like it after all.

  34. April 19th, 2007 11:27 am

    Once again we remind people to remain on topic and respect ATP comment policy. There are plenty of other more appropriate forums for broad theological discussions, and this is not one of them.

  35. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    April 19th, 2007 12:48 pm

    but Admin this Asad sahab was a convert so asusual it raises questions among others that why did he choose Islam over Judaism.

    What I think that we born muslims are not right candidate to ask, “Is Islam good?” because majority of us would say ‘Yes’, intentially or unintentially. Same goes with followers of other religions as well. I have a very good Aussie Christian friend who belongs to my community[I.T] and he has a good knowledge of Christianity. We often discuss about conflicts between 2 great religions and despite of he does admit about the loophole introduced later in orignal teachings, he still says that His religion is true rest are not.

    There are books available in market in which new converts talks about why did they accept Islam. Asking us about our religion is like somebody ask a “Phal wala” about quality of his fruits. Offcourse he wouldn’t call it bad. God gave you sense to taste fruit yourself and reach to some conclusion. As Alvi said, go thru the orignal texts and decide yourself what you think about it. Don’t criticize a religion due to its followers because followers could distract from orignal path. It’s like I start giving bad names to MIT just because a bunch of students didn’t perform well.

  36. Humaira says:
    April 21st, 2007 12:17 am

    On ATP reccomendation I had ordered copies of Muhammad Asad’s translation of the Quran and of his ‘Road to Mecca’ on Monday. Today I recieved both from Amazon. I have not yet read them of course but just a few immediate reactions. Just the photographs in ‘Road to Mecca’ and also the first 4-5 pages that I read are very emotional and draws me in immediately. On the Quran translation, I will start reading it soon but right now its printing and presentation is very beautiful and I know this will become something that I will get more copies of to gift to other people.

    Thank you so much for recommending these.

  37. Yousuf says:
    April 20th, 2007 11:54 pm


    I respect the ATP moderators effort to keep the discussion decent and on topic. I also understand that this is not the place for “broad theological discussions” since this is not a religious site. I am also worried that some brothers forget that we do not have to prove what is wrong with other religions in order to have faith in Islam.

    But I hope that ATP moderators will not cut off the discussion of what led Allama Asad to become a Muslim.

    If the word ‘revert’ offends some people, then I will not use it although it is the usual word used. The point of this essay I think is that we should try to learn from his example about what he saw in Islam that attracted him to it. This is not about what he was lacking in his his own faith, but what he saw as attractive in Islam.

    I think he wanted from Pakistan the same thing he wanted from Islam. A foundation for a just and equitable world. His translation of the Holy Koran is often called a ‘modern’ translation because he is not stuck in taqleed, instead he is about ijtehad and understanding the teachings of Islam in modern environment.

    He joined the Pakistan movement because he wanted this country to become the place where a revitalized and modern Islamic thought would prosper. But as others have said, for him the foundations of this was always Islam and the teachings of the Holy Koran.

    I hope ATP moderators have no objection to this discussion.

    Jazakallah khairan

  38. Moiz says:
    April 21st, 2007 1:16 pm

    Can i find these books by Asad online for download. Can someone point me to a resource?

  39. Daktar says:
    April 24th, 2007 11:25 pm

    I was talking to someone at work today about Asad and this post and she mentioned that there was a documentary on him shown on BBC some years ago. Does anyone know about that or have access to it?

  40. Abubakar Rahil says:
    July 28th, 2007 11:44 am

    Salam Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    I am a big fan of Allama Muhammad Asad. His The Road to Mecca was amazing writing I have ever read. I read it many times. Each time I read I discover new things new thought and new teachings. His philosophy, workings and thoughts are definitely asset of Islam. However, muslim scholars and muslim rarely remeber him. In some places Muhammad asad is like taboo. Believe me. In my opinion he is the greatest of All scholars in all ages of islam. Anyway, anyone give me any clue about the documentary on him shown in BBC?

  41. mazhar butt says:
    July 28th, 2007 3:43 pm

    AN,,,thank you for introducing this forgotten legend through your brilliant post.

  42. Mansoor Alam says:
    August 23rd, 2007 6:23 am

    Salam Dear Brothers and Sisters,
    I have just come to konw about Allama Asad and his literary contributions like ”The road to Mecca” and ”The Message Of the Quran”.I will buy both these books.

  43. mahfouz says:
    October 17th, 2007 6:41 pm

    salam alaykum

    am Algerian i read the book the Road to Mecca(arabic verssion) for 20 years ago , i found in it the spirituel world that i looked for ,and today i discover that he died in 1992 , at the time that he died in 1958 or 1960.
    rahimahu allah

  44. Rashid Jahangiri, MD says:
    October 20th, 2007 5:37 pm

    My two cents on Muhammad Asad.

    1) Muhammad Asad, accepted Islam on the hands of Maulana Sadar Ud Din, Imam of Berlin Mosque, Germany, run by Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement. His name is still written in the registers of converts to Islam.

    2) Muhammad Asad

  45. Amin ur Rahman says:
    November 15th, 2007 9:13 pm

    I am disappointed to know that Muhammad Ali Jinnah regarded Kamal Ataturk as the greatest Muslim of the modern world! If people like Kamal Atataurk are our ideal leaders, then May Allah give us more hidaya. Do you consider a leader who banned hijab, introduced skirts, and who brought secularism as the only way of the government with no influence of religion in govt whatsoever, as a great Muslim! Shame on us who think that way! Please open your eyes and wake up from the slumber of ‘modernism’. Islam is the way of every Muslim at the individual level, domestic, social, economic, political, government, etc. May Allah give us all guidance to know and follow the right path. Our president Musharaf also highly regards Attaturk as his ideal.
    Since when Islam is supposed to be the ‘private matter’ of an individual only? Are we not doing the same mistake what happened with Christianity over the years. So much so that in the west its almost a faux pau to even talk about one religion now! Who are we fooling here? No one but ourselves.

  46. Mansoor Alam says:
    November 21st, 2007 9:06 am

    I was amazed to notice Mohammad Asad’s Pakistani connection.The truth is that as a nation we are hardly concerned for people who either cared for our future or got a name for this poor country. The examples are there-Johar, Dr.Salam and of course Mohammad Asad.

  47. Zafar Malik says:
    December 16th, 2007 9:13 pm

    I have just seen this piece and the comments on Muhammad Asad. I had the huge privilage to spend a few days with this noble man when he visited London in 1976 for the World of Islam Festival ( I had just finished college and was volunteering to look after the guests invited for the conferences and workshops organised as part of the festival. He and Said Ramadan (father of Tariq Ramadan), who was also attending were very proud of their Pakistani citizenship (in fact, Said Ramadan showed me his Pakistani passport and wondered if we could get that renewed). Needless to say that Muhammad Asad was very disappointed at the turn of events in Pakistan and felt that a superb opportunity at creating a home for Muslims had been squandered by petty managers. I agree with many respondents who have said that we have not had the grace or the foresight to have kept scholars like Asad and others on board. Another not so well known is that fact that Muhammad Asad’s brilliant scholar son Talal Asad, who was brought up and schooled in Pakistan, now lives and teaches in NY. He also needs to be read. Adil Najam has created a brilliant space where at least we can begin to communicate and to honor, albeit belatedly, the contributions by the likes of Asad. Perhaps this is the way forward to create the Pakistan that Allama Iqbal and Jinnah envisioned.

  48. PakTurk says:
    January 19th, 2008 11:07 am

    I had no idea about Muhammed Asad, his pakistani connection. But have heard about the book “Road To Mecca” though havent read it.
    I also dont understand why Jinnah was so fond of Ataturk and regarded him Great Muslim Leader, ataturk, just tried his best to stop Islam as way of life. How can Jinnah say he was a Great Islamic Leader? I am really failing to understand this. Ataturk was so ashmed of his islamic past and introduced european lifestyle. So much love for europeans and even still now they dont accept Turkey as an european country.

  49. Nasir Khan says:
    February 1st, 2008 11:50 am

    Another personality that you may want to research and cover on your site is (Maulana) Fazalur Rahman (1911-88). Maulana Fazalur Rahman hailed from Hazara and was appointed by President Ayub to the post of Director of the Central Institute of Islamic Research in 1962. However, to my understanding he was blocked by the Pakistani religious establishment of the time from making any positive contribution to the evolution of Islamic thought process in Pakistan. Fatwas were issued against him and disheartened by the whole affair he finally moved to the US in 1969 and taught at University of Chicago till his death in 1988.

    I have not read any of his writings but understand that his main focus was on the primacy of Quran over any all other sources such as Hadith and Sunna as he felt that Quran had been over-ruled by secondary sources. (

    It would be interesting to find out if any of the friends visiting this web-site have had the privelege of either knowing him and/or his work.

  50. Mohammad Asim says:
    March 18th, 2008 6:49 am

    I came to know about Mohammad Asad back in 1992. He was soldier, freedom fighter , Journalist, , historian, theologist , jusrist and Statesman. Few People in pakistan know about this illustrious citizen. He was Pakistan’s representative in United Nations. . It is argued that Asad coined the word ” Islamic Civilization”. His book Road to makkah is worth reading. He wrote many books , especially the one on law making is remarkable. Unfortunately , this person was never mentioned in the history text books of Pakistan. A person born in poland in jewish family who choosed islam as his religion and groomed and shaped in arabia evetually came to pakistan and contributed and sacrificed exceptionally for the cause of pakistan. He is one of the great heroes of Pakistan selected by Allama Iqbal to ” to elucidate the intellectual premises of the future Islamic state”. He died in Spain and is burried in muslim cemtery in granada. We pakistanis must be proud of this unsung freedom hero .

  51. September 29th, 2008 7:33 am

    We have just finished the first documentary film about Muhammad Asad, a feature lenght movie entitled “A Road To Mecca.” In fact the picture of the horse-cart in the article above is from our website, it is from one of the scenes of the film that we shot in Lahore, Pakistan. The film will have a theatrical release in Europe and the USA and will later be released on DVD.

    More information can be found on

  52. October 19th, 2008 10:28 am

    Asad’s Message of the Quran was first published in around 1962 in the form of part 1, covering the first 9 chapters of the Quran. The publisher was the well-known Rabita Al-Islami of Saudi Arabia. Then it was noted that on several verses he had expressed exactly the same view point as that in the English commentary of the Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (d. 1951), the Lahore Ahmadiyya leader. In particular on the issue of whether Jesus died a natural death or was raised bodily to heaven, Asad had expressed the same view as the Ahmadis.

    The publishers recalled his book and destroyed it. Asad then continued to complete his work and published the full work, as we know, in 1980 or so.

    When Asad was in Lahore during the 1940s he used to meet Maulana Muhammad Ali. In fact, the Maulana has mentioned him (though not mentioned meeting him) in the Preface of his book ‘A Manual of Hadith’. There is even a person alive today in the USA, Colonel (retired) Mahmud Shaukat, who remembers Asad in Pakistan, and he recalls that Asad also used to visit another prominent Lahore Ahmadi, Dr Saeed Ahmad (d. 1996, and head of Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement from 1981).

    When Asad’s full work appeared in 1980, I reviewed it. No doubt it is a work of great scholarship and merit. However, I referred to the statement by Asad that it was as a result of learning Arabic from Bedouins of Arabia that he could properly understand the meaning of the Quran. I pointed out that if you ask a Bedouin about the word ‘raf’ as used about Jesus in the Quran, the Bedouin will tell you that it means that Allah lifted Jesus physically to heaven. But that is not Asad’s view! I gave some other similar examples as well. An understanding of statements in the Quran is not based only on language but also on the principles laid down in the Quran.

    The acclaim given to Asad’s work shows, in a way, the mental confusion and lack of integrity in the Muslim world. Maulana Muhammad Ali’s commentary is denounced as heretical for expressing certain interpretations in several places, but the same interpretations are to be found in Asad’s commentary! In fact, in the interpretation of some stories of the prophets, Asad has departed more from the traditional views than Maulana Muhammad Ali.

  53. Zahid Qayum says:
    November 8th, 2008 6:54 am

    I am curious as to my namesake, Mr. Zahid Aziz’s comment . Is Mr. Aziz insinuating that Mohd Asad was an Ahmadi and, therefore, his interpretation should be rejectd since Ahamdis have been declared a heretical sect in Pakistan (which I believe is a disgrace)?

    Lest I am misunterpreted I should make clear that I am not an Ahmadi nor, for that matter, am any thing else – just a man in an incessant search of understanding. Mr. Asad’s ‘Road to Mecca’ deeply resonated with me for I myself had been searching for a logical and rational approach to understanding Islam which had eluded me until I stumble upon Mr. Asad, and what a man! Having read ceaselessly and God knows how many books, I have never been touched like this mantouched me through his pen. This is what I have been lokking for all this time, I exclaimed to myslef (it never bothered or concerned me that he closely identified with Ahmadis and had, in fact, converted to Islam at the hands of an Ahmadi Imam in Germany)! I literally wept when reading his description of the Hajj near the end of the book. I have lived overseas for nearly thirty years (twenty five in the U.S. and last five in Oman) and am a U.S. citizen. His book lead me to the discovery of a large number of writings from the westen converts – who were not born into it but converted to Islam in full consciousness and understanding with their hearts and minds. These are the people with moral courage to give up everything familiar and take a plunge based on their convictions. How many of us can say that about overselves? We are still fighting and finger pointing at each other with self righteous smugness. I then ordered and read his ‘Message of the Quraan’ and can probably say (for myself) that between this book and Abdullah Yousuf Ali’s translationof the Quraan – I am very satisfied (mind you, I have read several others including the official Saudi Arabian version and in Urdu the Ahle-Hadith version – very amateurish in my view).

    I will be happy to supply the names of some of these people and their writings for a true unbiased and honest approach to inderstanding of Islam.

    As for us: we belive since we are born into it, we don’t need to learn Islam. I shall leave you with a little story:

    In Texas, in summertime, after the rains there sprout up in the fields these anthills infested by red ants that are posionous and quite dangerous. So, as a homeowner, one of the chores you do is to inspect your lawn and backyard after a major rain for such infestation and immediately pour insecticide on these anthill before anyone, especially, a child can step onto one. So they have a saying down there: ” Your house is on fire while you are pissing on anthills….” Who does this remind us of?

  54. bazigha says:
    November 8th, 2008 10:50 pm

    To ATP
    Thankyou for bringing the spot light on a great scholar and thinker.A brave man who had the courage to say what he believed in
    His translation of the quran is a yardstick that I personally use to measure other translations.
    I would appreciate if readers of the post can suggest similar thought provoking commentaries of the Quran

  55. Abdul Wahid Pulao says:
    May 3rd, 2009 3:34 am

    It is a pitty that during my Middle school, high scholl and college years in Pakistan we were complled to read the lessons on Nepolian Bonapart, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and madam Cury but were left completely ignorant of the FIRST AMBASSODOR OF PAKISTAN in the USA and a true believer of Islam and a devout admirer of the prophet Muhammad Sallallaho Aliahe wa Sallam. It seems like the one signs of the nation that are bound to fall is that they look for heros in other nations and religions while ignoring their own.

  56. Muhammad Abrar says:
    July 8th, 2009 12:27 am

    Another remarkable book written by Muhammad Asad in 1934 is “Islam at the Crossroads”.
    A small but marvellous book indeed!

  57. Afia says:
    July 8th, 2009 1:59 am

    I have recently come across the Message of Koran by Muhammad Asad and absolutely love it.

    Thank you for posting this information about the great, courageous man. May his soul rest in peace.

  58. Mohammad Arshad Baig says:
    July 30th, 2009 4:08 pm

    The question is, did we deserve him?
    We all know the answer.
    I have just read his “Road to Mecca” – it really is great and so was he.

  59. Zamir says:
    October 16th, 2009 8:47 pm


    Nice article on one of my favorite Pakistani. Another point to note, the first ever Pakistani passport was given to Dr. Asad by the order of Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan. Dr. Asad always cherished his Pakistani nationality and when he was offered Saudi citizenship by the King, he politely refused saying that since Pakistan was created in the name of Islam, he considers every Muslim a Pakistani. This he mentioned in a PTV interview in 1980s. The only thing I disagree with him is that he praised Zia in that interview.

  60. Faridkhan says:
    October 27th, 2009 3:53 am

  61. Fauziddin Mahyuddin says:
    October 27th, 2009 10:56 am

    I read Muhammad Asad’s account of the 23 days he and his companion, Zaid, spent on “The Road to Mecca”, after returning home from Jeddah, with a stop-over at Karachi. I borrowed the copy from my sister-in-law. As the office of IBT Kuala Lumpur, the publisher of books authored by A l-Marhum Muhammad Asad, is nearby, I decided to drop in to buy one for myself. Earlier — during the second week of the month of Ramadan –, at a bookstore close to a Ramadan bazaar, in Petaling Jaya, I laid my hands on This Law of Ours …
    Having read through Muhammad Asad’s account of his joureny in late 1920′s in Hijaz, and the essay written by him on Islamic constitution-making, in This Law of Ours …, I am of the opinion that Muhammad Asad stood firm in his view — regarding The Shari’ah as the Ideology of the Ummah, in particular — when he found “…, an answer to this tormenting question presented itself to me: …” (This Law of Ours …p. 2) was in general agreement with the passages from the Introduction to A l-Muhalla (Cairo, 1347H), Ibn Hazm of Cordoba’s work, that he — Muhammad Asad — came across. Thus he found himself in such an enlightened company.
    During the last 48 hours or so, I searched on the Internet for URLs of webpages on Muhammad Asad. I came across one on the naming of a plaza in Vienna, in honour of Muhammad Asad. (His son — Talal Asad — from an earlier marriage to an Arab lady, was present at the ceremony.) Another URL gives the webpages of The Jewish Discovery of Islam, taken from Studies in honour of Bernard Lewis, edited by one Martin Kramer, and published — if I’m not mistaken — by The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv. It was — as pointed out by the writer — an attempt “… to draw a very general sketch of (Muhammad) Asad’s life, …” since “… there is no biography of (Muhammad) Asad, …”, “… and to place some emphasis upon the Jewish dimension ofMuhammad Asad.”
    One cannot but asks whether The Message of The Quran, his magnum opus, is dedicated to oneself, for Muhammad Asad chose “For people who think”as his target group.
    To all those going on the Pilgrimage “LabbaiKA L-lahumma labbaik …”
    Wa s-Salam.

  62. Dil-Sooz says:
    October 30th, 2009 1:05 am

    I found this video clip of Dr Asad’s interview on you tube.

    I liked explanation of “Jinn” in his English commentry of Holy Quran as very informative.

  63. November 18th, 2009 12:43 pm

    Since returning from performing the lesser pilgrimage (‘Umrah), I bought “This Law of Ours …” whose Foreword was written by Pola Hamidah, who admitted that she had collaborated with her husband, Muhammad Asad, — whose religion and points of view she shared with, both intellectually and emotionally — since the time he was putting together pieces for his account of the 23 days he and his companion, Zayd, spent in the summer of 1932, on “The Road to Mecca”. From reading Pola Hamidah’s mid-1980′s observation of ‘the timeliness and timelessness of Muhammad Asad’s thoughts and predictions, as well as their great consistency’ in the Foreword she wrote in “This Law of Ours …”, perhaps it is not a far-fetched suggestion too for netters — on all continents, not leaving out Tuamotu (a group of islands, furthest from Mecca) — to keep the discussion “… of the principles which ought to underlie the constitution of an Islamic state …” “… alive.” here, on the World Wide Web. (Muhammad Asad, The Principles of STATE AND GOVERNMENT IN ISLAM, pg. xi)
    [An early Zu l-Hijjah 1430H posting]

  64. sas says:
    August 26th, 2010 4:32 am

    I would have been a different and a better man had I read this book in the 60′s. I need no help in understanding it. It answers my questions and puts my mind to ease

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