About the Author:
Dr. Abdul Karim Germanus is a well known Orientalist of Hungary
and is a scholar of world repute. He visited India between the wars and for
sometime was also associated with Tagore's University Shanti Naketen. Later on
he came to Jamia Millie Delhi. It was here that he embraced Islam. Dr. Germanus
is a linguist and an authority on Turkish language and literature and it was
through oriental studies that he came to Islam. At present Dr. Abdul Karim
Germanus is working as Professor and Head of the Department of Oriental and
Islamic Studies at the Budapest University, Hungary.
It was on a rainy afternoon in my adolescence
that I was perusing an old illustrated review. Current events mingled with
fiction, and descriptions of far-off countries, varied in its pages. I turned
the leaves indifferently for a while when suddenly a wood-cut arrested my eyes.
The picture represented flat-roofed houses from among which here and there round
cupolas rose gently into the dark sky enlivened by the crescent. The shadow of
men squatting on the roof clad in fantastic robes stretched out in mysterious
lines. The picture caught my imagination. It was so different from the usual
European landscapes: it was an Oriental scene, somewhere in the Arabian East,
where a story-teller told his gaudy tales to a burnoused audience. It was so
realistic that I fancied I could hear his melodious voice as he entertained us,
his Arab listeners on the roof and me, a sixteen-year-old student sitting in a
soft arm-chair in Hungary. I felt an irresistible yearning to know that light
which fought with the darkness in the picture. I began to learn Turkish. It soon
dawned upon me that the literary Turkish language contains only a small amount
of Turkish words. The poetry is enriched by Persian, the prose by Arabic
elements. I sought to master all the three, in order to enter that spiritual
world which spread such a brilliant light on humanity.
During a summer vacation I was lucky to travel to Bosnia, the
nearest Oriental country adjacent to ours. As soon as I settled in a hotel I
dashed forth to see living Muslims, whose Turkish language had only beckoned to
me through its intricate Arabic script from the pages of grammar books. It was
night, and in the dimly-lit streets I soon discovered a humble cafe in which on
low straw stools a couple of Bosnians enjoyed their kayf. They wore the
traditional bulging trousers kept straight at the waist by a broad belt
bristling with daggers. Their headgear and the unfamiliar costume lent them an
air of truculence. It was with a throbbing heart that I entered the kahwekhame
and timidly sat down in a distant corner. The, Bosnians looked with curious eyes
upon me and I suddenly remembered all the bloodcurdling stories read in
fanatical books about Muslim intolerance. I noticed that they were whispering
among themselves and their topic was my unexpected presence. My childish
imagination flared up in horror; they surely intended to draw their daggers on
the intruding `infidel'. I wished I could safely get out of this threatening
environment, but I dared not budge.
In a few seconds the waiter brought me a cup of fragrant coffee
and pointed to the frightening group of men. I turned a fearful face towards
them when one made a gentle salaam towards me accompanied with a friendly smile.
I hesitatingly forced a smile on my trembling lips. The imagined `foes' slowly
rose and approached my little table. What now? ---- my throbbing heart inquired
--- will they oust me? A second salaam followed and they sat around me. One of
them offered me a cigarette and at its flickering light I noticed that their
martial attire hid a hospitable soul. I gathered strength and addressed them in
my primitive Turkish. Is acted like a magic wand. Their faces lit up in
friendliness akin to affection --- instead of hostility they invited me to their
homes; instead of the falsely anticipated daggers they showered benevolence upon
me. This was my first personal meeting with Muslims.
Years had come and passed in a rich variety of events, travels
and study. Each opened new vistas before my curious eyes. I crossed all the
countries of Europe, studied at the University of Constantinople, admired the
historic beauties of Asia Minor and Syria. I had learnt Turkish, Persian and
Arabic, and gained the chair of Islamic studies at the University of Budapest.
All the dry and tangible knowledge that was hoarded up throught centuries, all
the thousands pages of learned books I had read with eager eyes --- but my soul
remained thirsty. I found Ariadne's thread in the books of learning, but I
yearned for the evergreen garden of religious experience.
My brain was satiated but my soul remained thirsty. I had to
divest myself of much of that learning I had gathered, in order to regain it
through inner experience, ennobled in the fire of suffering, as the crude iron
which the pain of sudden cold tempers into elastic steel.
One night Prophet Muhammad appeared before me. His long beard
was reddened with henna, his robes were simple but very exquisite, and an
agreeable scent emanated from them. His eyes glittered with a noble fire and he
addressed me with a manly voice, "Why do you worry ? The straight path is
before you, safely spread out like the face of the earth; walk on it with trusty
treads, with the strength of Faith.
"O Messenger of God", I exclaimed in my feverish dream
in Arabic, "it is easy for you, who are beyond, who have conquered all foes
when heavenly admonition has started you on your path and your efforts have been
crowned with glory. But I have yet to suffer, and who knows when I shall find
He looked sternly at me and then sank into thought, but after a
while he again spoke. His Arabic was so clear that every word rang like silver
bells. This prophetic tongue which incorporated God's commands now weighed upon
my breast with a crushing load; `A lam naj'all'l-Arda mihadan --- Have We not
set the earth as a couch, and the mountains as stakes, and created you in pairs,
and made your sleep for rest ... !
"I cannot sleep." I groaned with pain. "I cannot
solve the mysteries which are covered by impenetrable veils. Help me, Muhammad,
O Prophet of God! help me!"
A fierce interrupted cry broke forth from my throat. I tossed
chokingly under the burden of the nightmare --- I feared the wrath of the
Prophet. Then I felt as if I had dropped into the deep --- and suddenly I awoke.
The blood knocked in my temples, my body was bathed in sweat, my every limb
ached. A deadly silence enveloped me, and I felt very sad and lonely.
The next Friday witnessed a curious scene in the huge Juma'
Masjid of Delhi. A fair-haired pale-faced stranger elbowed his way, accompanied
by some elders, through the thronging crowd of believers. I wore an Indian
dress, on my head a small Rampuri cap, I put on my breast the Turkish orders,
presented to me by previous sultans. The believers gazed at me in astonishment
and surprise. Our small party paced straight on to the pulpit, which had been
surrounded by the learned, respectable elders, who received me kindly with a
loud salaam. I sat down near the mimbar, (pulpit) and let my eyes gaze on the
beautifully ornamented front of the mosque. In its middle arcade wild bees had
built their nests and swarmed undisturbed around it.
Suddenly, the adhan (call to prayers) was sounded and the
mukabbirs, standing on different spots of the courtyard, forwarded the cry to
the farthest nook of the mosque. Some four thousand men rose like soldiers at
this heavenly command, rallied in close rows and said the prayer in deep
devotion - I one among them. It was an exalting moment. After the Khutba
(sermon) had been preached, `Abdul Hayy took me by my hand and conducted me to
the mimbar, I had to walk warily so as not to step on someone squatting on the
ground. The great event had arrived. I stood at the steps of the mimbar. The
huge mass of men began to stir. Thousands of turbaned heads turned into a
flowery meadow, curiously murmuring towards me. Grey-bearded `ulama (Savants)
encircled me and stroked me with their encouraging looks. They inspired an
unusual steadfastness into me, and without any fever or fear I slowly ascended
to the seventh step of the mimbar. From above I surveyed the interminable crowd,
which waved below me like a living sea. Those who stood after stretched their
necks towards me, and this seemed to set the whole courtyard in motion. `Ma'sha
Allah` exclaimed some nearby, and warm, affectionate looks radiated from their
"Ayyuh al-Saadaat al-Kiram", I started in Arabic ---
`I came from a distant land to acquire knowledge which I could not gain at home.
I came to you for inspiration and you responded to the call'. I then proceeded
and spoke of the task Islam had played in the world's history, of the miracle
God has wrought with His Prophet. I explained on the decline of present-day
Muslims and of the means whereby they could gain ascendancy anew. It is a Muslim
saying that all depends on God's will, but the Holy Qur'an says that `God
betters not the condition of people unless they improve themselves'. I built my
speech on this Qur'anic sentence and wound up with the praise of pious life, and
the fight against wickedness.
Then I sat down. I was aroused from the magnetic trance of my
speech by a loud `Allahu Akbar', shouted from every nook and corner of the
place. The thrill was overwhelming, and I hardly remember anything but that
Aslam called me from the mimbar, took me by the arm and dragged me out of the
"Why this hurry ?" I asked.
Men stood before me and embraced me. Many a poor suffering
fellow looked with imploring eyes on me. They asked for my blessing and wanted
to kiss my head. "O God!" I exclaimed, "Don't allow innocent
souls to lift me above them! I am a worm from among the worms of the earth, a
wanderer towards the light, just as powerless as the other miserable creatures.
The sighs and hopes of those innocent people ashamed me as if I had stolen or
cheated. What a terrible burden it must be for a statesman, in whom people
confide, from whom they hope for assistance and whom they consider to be better
Aslam liberated me from the embraces of my new brethern, put me
in a tonga and drove me home.
The next day and the following ones people flocked to
congratulate me and I gathered so much warmth and spirit from their affection as
will suffice me for a lifetime.
From "Islam, Our Choice"
As a Doctor of Medicine, and a descendant of a French Catholic
family, the very choice of my profession has given me a solid scientific culture
which had prepared me very little for a mystic life. Not that I did not believe
in God, but that the dogmas and rites of Christianity in general and of
Catholicism in particular never permitted me to feel His presence. Thus my
unitary sentiment for God forbade my accepting the dogma of the Trinity, and
consequently of the Divinity of Jesus Christ.
Without yet knowing Islam, I was already believing in the first
part of the Kalima, La ilah illa 'Allah (There is no deity but Allah), and in
these verses of the Qur'an:
"Say: He, the God, is One; God is an
He never begot, nor was He begotten; and there is
none equal to Him." (Al-Qur'an 112:1-4)
So, it was first of all for metaphysical
reasons that I adhered to Islam. Other reasons, too, prompted me to do that. For
instance, my refusal to accept Catholic priests, who, more or less, claim to
possess on behalf of God the power of forgiving the sins of men. Further, I
could never admit the Catholic rite of Communion, by means of the host (or holy
bread), representing the body of Jesus Christ, a rite which seems to me to
belong to totemistic practices of primitive peoples, where the body of the
ancestral totem, the taboo of the living ones, had to be consumed after his
death, in order better to assimilate his personality. Another point which moved
me away from Christianity was the absolute silence which it maintains regarding
bodily cleanliness, particularly before prayers, which has always seemed to me
to be an outrage against God. For if He has given us a soul, He has also given
us a body, which we have no right to neglect. The same silence could be
observed, and this time mixed with hostility with regard to the physiological
life of the human being, whereas on this point Islam seemed to me to be the only
religion in accord with human nature.
The essential and definite element of my conversion to Islam was
the Qur'an. I began to study it, before my conversion, with the critical spirit
of a Western intellectual, and I owe much to the magnificent work of Mr. Malek
Bennabi, entitled Le Phenomene Coranique, which convinced me of its being
divinely revealed. There are certain verses of this book, the Qur'an, revealed
more than thirteen centuries ago, which teach exactly the same notions as the
most modern scientific researchers do. This definitely convinced me, and
converted me to the second part of the Kalima, 'Muhammad Rasul 'Allah' (Muhammad
is the Messenger of Allah).
This was my reason for presenting myself on 20th February 1953
at the mosque in Paris, where I declared my faith in Islam and was registered
there as a Muslim by the Mufti of the Paris Mosque, and was given the Islamic
name of 'Ali Selman'.
I am very happy in my new faith, and proclaim once again:
"I bear witness that there is no deity
but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is Allah's servant and
From "Islam, Our Choice"
Dr. Hamid Marcus (Germany)
Scientist, Author & Journalist
About the Author:
Dr. Hamid Marcus was
also the editor of Moslemische Revue, Berlin.
As a child I had felt an inner urge to learn
all I could about Islam, and I had carefully studied an old Qur'an translation
which I had found in the library of my home town and which dated back to 1750.
It was the edition from which Goethe also drew his knowledge of Islam. At that
time I had been deeply struck by the absolutely rationalistic and at the same
time imposing composition of the Islamic teachings. I had also been very much
impressed by the gigantic spiritual revolution which they evoked in the Islamic
nations of that time. Later, in Berlin, I had the opportunity of working
together with Muslims and listening to the enthusiastic and inspiring
commentaries which the founder of the first German Muslim Mission at Berlin and
builder of the Berlin Mosque, gave on the Holy Qur'an. After years of active
co-operation with this outstanding personality and his spiritual exertions, I
embraced Islam. Islam supplemented my own ideas by some of the most ingenious
conceptions of mankind ever thought of. The belief in God is something sacred to
the religion of Islam. But it does not proclaim dogmas which are incompatible
with modern science. Therefore there are no conflicts between belief on the one
hand and science on the other. This fact is naturally a unique and enormous
advantage for a man who participated to the best of his ability in scientific
research. The second advantage is that the religion of Islam is not an
idealistic teaching which runs along blindly beside life as it is, but that it
preaches a system which actually influences the life of a human being .... the
laws of Islam are not compulsory regulations which restrict personal freedom,
but directions and guides which enable a well-contrived freedom.
Throughout the years I have noticed time and again with deepest
satisfaction that Islam holds the golden mean between individualism and
socialism, between which it forms a connecting link. As it is unbiased and
tolerant, it always appreciates the good, wherever it may happen to come across
From "Islam, Our Choice"
About the Author:
Born as the only son
of the late Baron Christian Ehrenfels, the founder of the modern structural
(Gestalt) Psychology in Austria, Rolf Freiherr von Ehrenfels felt already as a
child a deep attraction towards the East in general and towards the world of
Islam in particular. His sister, the Austrian poetess Imma von Bodmershof,
described this phase in her contribution to Islamic Literature, Lahore 1953. As
a young man Ehrenfels travelled in the Balkan countries and Turkey, where he
used to join prayers in mosques, (though a Christian) and was hospitably
accepted by Turkish Albanian, Greek and Yogoslav Muslims. His interest in Islam
increased by and by and Ehrenfels accepted Islam in 1927 and took on Umar as his
Muslim name. He visitied Indo-Pakistan sub-continent in 1932 and took particular
interest in the cultural-historical problems connected with the status and
position of women. After his return to Austria, Baron Umar specialised in the
study of anthropological problems of Matrilineal Civilizations in India. The
Oxford University Press published his first anthropological book (Osmania
University Series, Hyderabad, Deccan, 1941) on this subject.
When Austria was
overrun by the Nazis in 1938 Baron Umar again went to India, worked in Hyderabad
at the invitation of the late Sir Akbar Hydari and carried on anthropological
field-work in South India and with the support of Wenner-Gern Foundation, New
York, in Assam. Since 1949 he has been Head of the Department of Anthropology at
the University of Madras and was awarded the S.C.Roy Golden Medal for original
contributions to social and cultural Anthropology by the Royal Asiatic Society
of Bengal in 1949. His numerous scientific and Islamic publications also include
an illustrated two-volume work on Indian and General Anthropology, "Ilm-ul-Aqwam"
(Anjuman Taragqqi-i-Urdu, Delhi, 1941) and a tribal monograph on the "Kadar
of Cochin" (Madras 1952).
The essential features of Islam which
impressed me most and attracted me to this great religion are as follows :-
The Islamic teaching of successive revelation implies in my
opinion the following: The source from which all the great world religions
sprang is one. The founders of these great paths, prepared for peace-seeking
mankind, gave witness to one and the same basic divine teaching. Acceptance
of one of these paths means search for Truth in Love;
Islam, in essence, means peace in submission to the Eternal
Islam is, historically speaking, the last founded among the
great world religions on this planet.
Prophet Muhammad is the messenger of Islam and is thus the
last in the sequence of great religious world-prophets.
The acceptance of Islam and the path of the Muslims by a
member of an older religion thus means as little rejection of his former
religion, as for instance the acceptance of Buddha's teachings meant the
rejection of Hinduism to the Indian co-nationals of Buddha. It was only
later that schools of thought within Hinduism rejected the Buddhist way as
heretical. The differences of religions are man-made. The unity is divine.
The teachings of the Holy Qur'an stress this basic unity. To witness it,
means acceptance of a spiritual fact which is common to all men and women.
The spirit of human brotherhood under the all-encompassing
divine fatherhood is much stressed in Islam and not hampered by concepts of
racialism or sectarianism, be it of linguistic, historic-traditionalistic,
or even dogmatic nature.
This concept of divine fatherly love, however, includes also
the motherly aspect of Divine love, as the two principal epithets of God
indicate" Al-Rahman - Al-Rahim, both being derived from the Arabic root
rhm. The symbolic meaning of this root equals Goethe's Das Ewing-Weibliche
Zieht uns hinan, whilst its primary meaning is womb.
In this spirit the Church of Hagia Sophia at
Constantinople has been made the principal source from which the great Muslim
architects in the Near East took their inspiration when building mosques like
that of Sultan Ahmad or Muhammad Fatih at Istanbul.
In this spirit the prophet gave these unforgettable words to his
"Paradise lies at the feet of the
"My conversion to Islam cannot be attributed to any cause other than the
gracious direction of Almighty God. Without this Divine guidance, all learning,
searching and other efforts to find the truth may even lead one astray. The
moment I believed in the Absolute Unity of God, His Holy Apostle Muhammad became
the pattern of my conduct and behaviour."
From "Islam, Our Choice"
About the Author:
The Late Professor Haroon
Mustapha Leon, M.A., Ph.D., LL.D., F.S.P., accepted Islam in 1882. He was a
Fellow and Honorary Member of many learned societies in Europe and America. He
was an able Philologist, and was at that time contributing a series of articles
on the "Etymology of the Man's Language" to the 'Isle of Man
Examiner'. His services to this important branch of science had frequently been
recognised by learned bodies. The Potomac University (U.S.A.) conferred upon him
the degree of M.A. Dr. Leon was also an earnest geologist. He frequently
lectured on scientific and literary subjects before learned and other societies.
He occupied the important position of Secretaire-General of "La Societe
Internationale de Philologie, Sciences et Beaux-Arts" (founded 1875) and
was the Editor of "The Philomathe" a scientific magazine, published
from London. Dr. Leon received many decorations from Sultan Abdul Hamid Khan,
the late Shah, and the Emperor of Austria.
One of the glories of Islam is that it is founded upon
reason, and that it never demands from its followers an abnegation of that
important mental faculty. Unlike certain other faiths, which insist upon their
votaries implicitly accepting certain dogmas without independent inquiry, but
simply on the authority of "The Church", Islam courts inquiry and
counsels its disciples to study, search and investigate prior to acceptation.
The Holy Prophet, of ever-blessed memory, said:
"Allah hath not created anything better than
reason, the benefits which Allah giveth are on its account, and understanding is
begotten of it."
On another occasion he said:
"Verily, I tell you, a man may have performed
prayers, fasts, charity, pilgrimage and all other good works, but he will not be
rewarded but by the manner in which he hath used and applied his reason."
The parable of the 'Talents' narrated by Saiyiddena 'Issa',
i.e. Jesus (on whom be peace) is in strict accordance with Islamic doctrine, as
also is the maxim: 'Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good.' The
similitude of those who follow blindly and who neglect to use the intelligence
which the Divine Giver, of all good, hath bestowed upon them, is declared in the
imperishable pages of Al-Qur'an ( Sura 52: Al-Jumm'a - 'The Assembly') to
be that of 'an ass laden with books.'
The noble and learned Caliph, Hazrat Ali (on whom be peace) said:
"The world is darkness; knowledge is light; but
knowledge without truth is a mere shadow."
Muslims believe that Islam is a term synonymous with truth,
and that under the glorious and ever-brilliant sun of Islam, by the light of
reason and knowledge, truth can be obtained but in order to obtain that
knowledge, and thus attain that truth, man must use his reasoning faculties.
A most poignant pronouncement on this question was given by our Holy Prophet
only a few days prior to his decease.
There he lay, the last and greatest of the grand chain of mighty men whom
Allah, in His everlasting mercy and compassion, had sent to the world as
inspired messenger of truth and of righteousness, his saintly head pillowed upon
Hazrat 'Ayesha's loving knee.
The true believers of Medina, old and young, men and women -- nay, even the
children -- had gathered, in loving sympathy there around the mat whereon lay
Mustapha Al-amin, the chosen, the faithful, ar-Rasul-Allah. Tears
glistened in their eyes, and coursed down the cheeks of even the most grizzled
and valiant of the veteran warriors of Islam. Their leader, their friend, their
beloved pastor, and, above all, their Prophet, he who had led them from the
darkness of ignorance and superstition into the radiant brightness of the truth,
had brought them into Islam, the habitation of peace, was about to pass from
them. No wonder, then, that their eyes became fountain of tears, and their
hearts were heavy and oppressed.
In the agony of distress, almost of despair, one exclaimed: "O Prophet
of Allah, thou art ill, thou mayest die, then what is to become of us?"
"You have Al-Qur'an" said Allah's Messenger.
"Oh, yes, Rasul-Allah, but even with that enlightening book and
unerring guide before us, we have had at times to ask from you advice, counsel,
and instruction, and if you are taken from us, O Prophet who is there to be our
guide?" said the companions.
"Do as I did and as I have said," was the reply.
"But, O Prophet, after you have gone fresh circumstances may arise which
could not have arisen during thy blessed lifetime; what are we to do then? And
what are they to do who follow us?"
The Prophet slowly raised his illustrious and saintly
head, and with the lurid light of prophecy and inspiration shining radiantly
from his noble eyes exclaimed: "Allah hath given to every man as a personal
monitor, a conscience and as a guide, his reason; then, use them
in respect of all things and Allah's blessing will ever guide you aright."
From "Islam, Our Choice"
About the Author:
Dr. R. L. Mellema is the Head
of the Islamic Section of the Tropical Museum, Amsterdam, and is the author of
Wayang Puppets, Grondwet van Pakistan, Een Interprtatie van de Islam, etc.
What is for me the Beauty of Islam? What has Attracted
me to this faith?
I began with my study of eastern languages at the University of Leiden in
1919 and attended the lectures of Prof. C. Snouck Hurgronje, the well-known
Arabist. I learned Arabic, read and translated al-Baidawi's commentary on the
Qur'an and al-Ghazali's reflexions on the Law. I studied the history and
institutions of Islam from European handbooks as was usual in that time. In 1921
I stayed in Cairo for one month and visited the Al-Azhar. Besides Arabic I
studied other languages such as Sanskrit, Malay and Javanese. In 1927 I left for
the then Netherlands Indies to teach Javanese language and Indian cultural
history at a special secondary school for advanced studies in Jogyakarta. For 15
years I specialised myself in Javanese language and culture (modern and old) and
had little contact with Islam and no contact at all with Arabic. After a
difficult period which I spent as a Japanese prisoner of war, I went back to the
Netherlands in 1946 and found a new task at the Royal Tropical Institute in
Amsterdam. Here I had the opportunity to take up again my study of Islam, being
instructed to write a short guide on Islam in Java.
I started to study the new Islamic State of Pakistan which was culminated in
a journey to Pakistan in the winter of 1954/55. Having come to know Islam till
now from European writers only, in Lahore I was confronted with quite another
aspect of Islam. I asked my Muslim friends to be allowed to take part with them
in the Friday prayers in the mosques and from now on I began to discover the
great values of Islam.
I have felt myself a Muslim from the moment that I had to address the people
in one of the Lahore mosques and had to shake hands with the innumerable new
friends and brothers. I wrote about this event in an article, published in
Pakistan Quarterly, Vol. V. no. 4, 1955, the following lines:
We were now to visit a much smaller
mosque, where the sermon was delivered by a scholar who spoke English fluently
and had a position of eminence at the University of the Punjab. He informed the
congregation that he had deliberately interspersed more English words than usual
in his sermon, as he thought that their brother who had come from a far country,
the Netherlands, would then understand the Urdu discourse more easily. The
sermon was followed by the usual recitation of two rak'ahs under the leadership
of the Imam. This done a few more rak'ahs were performed in silence by those who
felt the need to do so.
I was about to leave when Allamah Sahib, turning to me, observed that the
assembly expected me to say a few words. He himself would translate them into
Urdu. I went and stood before the microphone and quietly started to speak. I
said how I had come from a far away country where only a few Muslims live, whose
greetings I conveyed to the brothers present in the Mosque, who for the last
seven years were so fortunate as to have their own Muslim State. In these few
years the new State had succeeded in consolidating its position. After a
difficult beginning they could undoubtedly look forward to a prosperous future.
I promised them that, back in my country, I should bear witness to the great
kindness and hospitality it had been my privilege to receive from all sections
of the Muslim population in Pakistan. These words having been translated into
Urdu had a wonderful effect, for, to my intense surprise, without even realizing
at first what was happening, I saw hundreds of worshippers hasten forward to
press my hands and to congratulate me. Old hands and young clasped mine with the
most affectionate cordiality. But what struck and touched me most was the great
warmth all these eyes radiated. At that moment I felt myself taken up in the
great Brotherhood of Islam which extends throughout the world, and I was
So the people of Pakistan made me understand that Islam was more than just
acquaintance with many details of the Law, that belief in the moral values of
Islam had to come first and that knowledge should be conditional to reaching
What is now for me the beauty of Islam and what in particular has attracted
me to this faith!
I will try to give a short answer to these questions in 6 points.
The acknowledgement of One Supreme Being, uncomplicated and easy to
accept by every reasonable thinking creature: Allah, He on Whom all depend. He
begets not, nor is He begotten and none is like Him. He represents the highest
wisdom, the highest strength and the highest beauty. His Charity and Mercy are
The relation between the Creator of the Universe and His creatures, of
whom man has been entrusted with the supreme direction, is a direct one.
The believer does not need any mediation; Islam does not need priesthood. In
Islam contact with God depends on man himself. Man has to prepare himself in
this life for the next. He is responsible for his deeds, which cannot be
compensated by a substituting sacrifice of an innocent person. No soul shall be
burdened beyond its capacity.
The doctrine of tolerance of Islam, so clearly manifested in the
well-known words: There is no compulsion in religion. A Muslim is
recommended to search for the truth where he may find it; also he is enjoined to
estimate the good properties of other religions.
The doctrine of brotherhood of Islam, which extends to all human beings,
no matter what colour, race or creed. Islam is the only religion which has been
able to realise this doctrine in practice. Muslims wherever on the world they
are, will recognise each other as brothers. The equality of the whole mankind
before God is symbolised significantly in the Ihram dress during the Hajj.
The fact that Islam accepts matter and mind both as existing values. The
mental growth of man is connected inseparable with the needs of the body,
whereas man has to behave in such a way that mind prevails over matter and
matter is controlled by mind.
The prohibition of alcoholic drinks and narcotic drugs. This is in
particular a point in respect of which it may be said that Islam is far ahead of
From "Islam, Our Choice"
July 4, 1997.
A salaam aleikum, beloved family.
"There is no god but Allah,
and Muhammed is his messenger."
These are the words of the Shahadah oath, I believe.
The Creator is known by many names. His wisdom is always recognizable, and
his presence made manifest in the love, tolerance and compassion present in our
His profound ability to guide us from a war-like individualism so rampant in
American society to a belief in the glory and dignity of the Creator's human
family, and our obligations to and membership within that family. This describes
the maturation of a spiritual personality, and perhaps the most desirable
maturation of the psychological self, also.
My road to Shahadah began when an admired director, Tony Richardson, died of
AIDS. Mr. Richardson was already a brilliant and internationally recognized
professional when I almost met him backstage at the play Luther at age
Playwrighting for me has always been a way of finding degrees of spiritual
and emotional reconciliation both within myself and between myself and a world I
found rather brutal due to childhood circumstances. Instead of fighting with the
world, I let my conflicts fight it out in my plays. Amazingly, some of us have
even grown up together!
So as I began accumulating stage credits (productions and staged readings),
beginning at age 17, I always retained the hope that I would someday fulfill my
childhood dream of studying and working with Mr. Richardson. When he followed
his homosexuality to America (from England) and a promiscuous community, AIDS
killed him, and with him went another portion of my sense of belonging to and
within American society.
I began to look outside American and Western society to Islamic culture for
Why Islam and not somewhere else?
My birthmother's ancestors were Spanish Jews who lived
among Muslims until the Inquisition expelled the Jewish community in 1492. In my
historical memory, which I feel at a deep level, the call of the muezzin is as
deep as the lull of the ocean and the swaying of ships, the pounding of horses'
hooves across the desert, the assertion of love in the face of oppression.
I felt the birth of a story within me, and the drama took form as I began to
learn of an Ottoman caliph's humanity toward Jewish refugees at the time of my
ancestors' expulsions. Allah guided my learning, and I was taught about Islam by
figures as diverse as Imam Siddiqi of the South Bay Islamic Association; Sister
Hussein of Rahima; and my beloved adopted Sister, Maria Abdin, who is Native
American and Muslim and a writer for the SBIA magazine, IQRA. My first research
interview was in a halal butcher shop in San Francisco's Mission District, where
my understanding of living Islam was profoundly affected by the first Muslim
lady I had ever met: a customer who was in hijab, behaved with a sweet kindness
and grace and also read, wrote and spoke four languages.
Her brilliance, coupled with her amazing (to me) freedom from arrogance, had
a profound effect on the beginnings of my knowledge of how Islam can affect
Little did I know then that not only would a play be born, but a new Muslim.
The course of my research introduced me to much more about Islam than a set
of facts, for Islam is a living religion. I learned how Muslims conduct
themselves with a dignity and kindness which lifts them above the American slave
market of sexual competition and violence. I learned that Muslim men and women
can actually be in each others' presence without tearing each other to pieces,
verbally and physically. And I learned that modest dress, perceived as a
spiritual state,can uplift human behavior and grant to both men and women a
sense of their own spiritual worth.
Why did this seem so astonishing, and so astonishingly new?
Like most American females, I grew up in a slave market,
comprised not only of the sexual sicknesses of my family, but the constant
negative judging of my appearance by peers beginning at ages younger than seven.
I was taught from a very early age by American society that my human worth
consisted solely of my attractiveness (or, in my case, lack of it) to others.
Needless to say, in this atmosphere, boys and girls, men and women, often grew
to resent each other very deeply, given the desperate desire for peer
acceptance, which seemed almost if not totally dependent not on one's kindness
or compassion or even intelligence, but on looks and the perception of those
looks by others.
While I do not expect or look for human perfection among Muslims, the social
differences are profound, and almost unbelievable to someone like myself.
I do not pretend to have any answers to the conflicts of the Middle East,
except what the prophets, beloved in Islam, have already expressed. My
disabilities prevent me from fasting, and from praying in the same prayer
postures as most of you.
But I love and respect the Islam I have come to know through the behavior and
words of the men and women I have come to know in AMILA (American
Muslims Intent on Learning and Activism) and elsewhere, where I find a
freedom from cruel emotional conflicts and a sense of imminent spirituality.
What else do I feel and believe about Islam?
I support and deeply admire Islam's respect for same sex
education; for the rights of women as well as men in society; for modest dress;
and above all for sobriety and marriage, the two most profound foundations of my
life, for I am 21 1/2 years sober and happily married. How wonderful to feel
that one and half billion Muslims share my faith in the character development
marriage allows us, and also in my decision to remain drug- and alcohol-free.
What, then, is Islam's greatest gift in a larger sense?
In a society which presents us with constant pressure to
immolate ourselves on the altars of unbridled instinct without respect for
consequences, Islam asks us to regard ourselves as human persons created by
Allah with the capacity for responsibility in our relations with others. Through
prayer and charity and a committment to sobriety and education, if we follow the
path of Islam, we stand a good chance of raising children who will be free from
the violence and exploitation which is robbing parents and children of safe
schools and neighborhoods, and often of their lives.
The support of the AMILA community and other friends, particularly at a time
of some strife on the AMILA Net, causes me to affirm my original responses to
Islam and declare that this is a marvelous community, for in its affirmation of
Allah's gifts of marriage, sobriety and other forms of responsiblity, Islam
shows us the way out of hell.
My husband, Silas, and I are grateful for your presence and your friendship.
And as we prepare to lay the groundwork for adoption, we hope that we will
continue to be blessed with your warm acceptance, for we want our child to feel
the spiritual presence of Allah in the behavior of surrounding adults and
children. We hope that as other AMILA'ers consider becoming new parents, and
become new parents, a progressive Islamic school might emerge... progressive
meaning supportive and loving as well as superior in academics, arts and sports.
Maybe our computer whizzes will teach science and math while I teach creative
writing and horseback riding!
Please consider us companions on the journey toward heaven, and please
continue to look for us at your gatherings, on the AMILA net and in the colors
and dreams of the sunset.
For there is no god but Allah, the Creator, and Muhammed, whose caring for
the victims of war and violence still brings tears from me, is his Prophet.
A salaam aleikum.
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