Men Who Embraced Islam [M-R]

Muhammad Alexander Russel Webb (U.S.A.)
Diplomat, Author & Journalist

About the Author:

Muhammad Alexander Russel Webb was born in 1846 at Hudson, Columbia county, New York. Educated at Hudson and New York he became an essayist and a short-story writer. He took to journalism and became the editor of St. Joseph Gazette and of Missouri Republican. In 1887 he was appointed United States Consul at Manila, Phillipines. It was during this assignment that he studied Islam and joined its fold. After becoming Muslim he extensively toured the world of Islam and devoted the rest of his life to Missionary work. He also became the head of the Islamic Propaganda Mission in U.S.A. Mr. Webb died on 1st October 1916.

I have been requested to tell you why I, an American, born in a country which is nominally Christian, and reared under the drippings, or more properly perhaps the drivelling, of an orthodox Presbyterian pulpit, came to adopt the faith of Islam as my guide in life. I might reply promptly and truthfully that I adopted this religion because I found, after protracted study, that it was the best and only system adapted to the spiritual needs of the humanity. And here let me say that I was not born as some boys seem to be, with a fervently religious strain in my character. When I reached the age of 20, and became practically my own master, I was so tired of the restraint and dullness of the Church, that I wandered away from it and never returned to it ... Fortunately I was of an enquiring turn of mind --- I wanted a reason for everything, and I found that neither laymen nor clergy could give me any rational explanation of this faith, but either told me that such things were mysterious or that they were beyond my comprehension. About eleven years ago I became interested in the study of Oriental religions.. I saw Mill and Locke, Kant, Hegel, Fichte, Huxley, and many other more or less learned writers discoursing with a great show of wisdom concerning protoplasm and monads, and yet not one of them could tell me what the soul was or what became of it after death... I have spoken so much of myself in order to show you that my adoption of Islam was not the result of misguided sentiment, blind credulity, or sudden emotional impulse, but it was born of earnest, honest, persistent, unprejudiced study and investigation and an intense desire to know the truth.

The essence of the true faith of Islam is resignation to the will of God and its corner stone is prayer. It reaches universal fraternity, universal love, and universal benevolence, and requires purity of mind, purity of action, purity of speech and perfect physical cleanliness. It, beyond doubt, is the simplest and most elevating form of religion known to man.
From "Islam, Our Choice"

Muhammad Aman Hobohm (Germany)
Diplomat, Missionary and Social Worker

Why Do Westerners Embrace Islam? There are various reasons for it. In the first place, truth always has its force. The basic tenets of Islam are so rational, so natural and so appealing that an honest truth-seeker cannot help being impressed by them. To take, for example, the belief in monotheism. How it raises the dignity of man and how it frees us from the grip of superstition! How naturally it leads to the equality of men, for all have been created by the same God and all are the servants of the same Lord. For the Germans, in particular, the belief in God is a source of inspiration, a source of fearless courage and a source of the feeling of security. Then the idea of life after death turns the tables. Life in this world remains no more the main objective, and [a] great part of human energy is devoted to the betterment of the Hereafter. The faith in the Day of Judgement automatically spurs a man to give up misdeeds, for good deeds alone can ensure eternal salvation, although the wrong deeds may prosper here for a limited period. The belief that none can escape the consequences of the judgement of a Just, Impartial and Omniscient Lord makes one think twice before one does anything wrong and surely this internal check is more effective than the most efficient police in the world.

Another thing that attracts foreigners to Islam is its emphasis on tolerance. Then the daily prayers teach one punctuality and the one month of fasting enables one to exercise self-control over oneself and without doubt punctuality and self-discipline are two of the most important attributes of a good man and a great man.

Now comes the real achievement of Islam. It is the only ideology which has succeeded in instilling in its followers the spirit of observing the ethical and moral limitations without external compulsion. For a Muslim knows that, wherever he is, he is being observed by God. This belief keeps him away from sin. As man is naturally inclined towards goodness, Islam also offers peace of mind and heart --- and this is what is totally absent from the Western society of today.

I have lived under different systems of life and have had the opportunity of studying various ideologies, but have come to the conclusion that none is as perfect as Islam.

Communism has its attractions, so have secular democracy and Nazism. But none has got a complete code of a noble life. Only Islam has it, and that is why good men embrace it.

Islam is not theoretical; it is practical. Islam is not a departmental affair; it means complete submission to the will of God.
From "Islam, Our Choice"

Muhammad Asad (Austria)
Statesman, Journalist, and Author

About the author:

Muhammad Asad, Leopold Weiss, was born in Livow, Austria (later Poland) in 1900, and at the age of 22 made his visit to the Middle East. He later became an outstanding foreign correspondent for the Franfurtur Zeitung, and after his conversion to Islam travelled and worked throughout the Muslim world, from North Africa to as far East as Afghanistan. After years of devoted study he became one of the leading Muslim scholars of our age. After the establishment of Pakistan, he was appointed the Director of the Department of Islamic Reconstruction, West Punjab and later on became Pakistan's Alternate Representative at the United Nations. Muhammad Asad's two important books are: Islam at the Crossroads and Road to Mecca. He also produced a monthly journal Arafat. At present he is working upon an English translation of the Holy Qur'an. [Asad completed his translation and has passed away. -MSA-USC]

In 1922 I left my native country, Austria, to travel through Africa and Asia as a Special Correspondent to some of the leading Continental newspapers, and spent from that year onward nearly the whole of my time in the Islamic East. My interest in the nations with which I came into contact was in the beginning that of an outsider only. I saw before me a social order and an outlook on life fundamentally different from the European; and from the very first there grew in me a sympathy for the more tranquil -- I should rather say: more mechanised mode of living in Europe. This sympathy gradually led me to an investigation of the reasons for such a difference, and I became interested in the religious teachings of the Muslims. At the time in question, that interest was not strong enough to draw me into the fold of Islam, but it opened to me a new vista of a progressive human society, of real brotherly feeling. The reality, however, of presentday Muslim life appeared to be very far from the ideal possibilities given in the religious teachings of Islam. Whatever, in Islam, had been progress and movement, had turned, among the Muslims, into indolence and stagnation; whatever there had been of generosity and readiness for self-sacrifice, had become, among the present-day Muslims, perverted into narrow-mindedness and love of an easy life.

Prompted by this discovery and puzzled by the obvious incongruency between Once and Now, I tried to approach the problem before me from a more intimate point of view: that is, I tried to imagine myself as being within the circle of Islam. It was a purely intellectual experiment; and it revealed to me, within a very short time, the right solution. I realised that the one and only reason for the social and cultural decay of the Muslims consisted in the fact that they had gradually ceased to follow the teachings of Islam in spirit. Islam was still there; but it was a body without soul. The very element which once had stood for the strength of the Muslim world was now responsible for its weakness: Islamic society had been built, from the very outset, on religious foundations alone, and the weakening of the foundations has necessarily weakened the cultural structure -- and possibly might cause its ultimate disappearance.

The more I understood how concrete and how immensely practical the teachings of Islam are, the more eager became my questioning as to why the Muslims had abandoned their full application to real life. I discussed this problem with many thinking Mulsims in almost all the countries between the Libyan Desert and the Pamirs, between the Bosphorus and the Arabian Sea. It almost became an obsession which ultimately overshadowed all my other intellectual interests in the world of Islam. The questioning steadily grew in emphasis -- until I, a non-Muslim, talked to Muslims as if I were to defend Islam from their negligence and indolence. The progress was imperceptible to me, until one day -- it was in autumn 1925, in the mountains of Afghanistan -- a young provincial Governor said to me: "But you are a Muslim, only you don't know it yourself." I was struck by these words and remained silent. But when I came back to Europe once again, in 1926, I saw that the only logical consequence of my attitude was to embrace Islam.

So much about the circumstances of my becoming a Muslim. Since then I was asked, time and again: "Why did you embrace Islam ? What was it that attracted you particularly ?" -- and I must confess: I don't know of any satisfactory answer. It was not any particular teaching that attracted me, but the whole wonderful, inexplicably coherent structure of moral teaching and practical life programme. I could not say, even now, which aspect of it appeals to me more than any other. Islam appears to me like a perfect work of architecture. All its parts are harmoniously conceived to complement and support each other: nothing is superfluous and nothing lacking, with the result of an absolute balance and solid composure. Probably this feeling that everything in the teachings and postulates of Islam is "in its proper place," has created the strongest impression on me. There might have been, along with it, other impressions also which today it is difficult for me to analyse. After all, it was a matter of love; and love is composed of many things; of our desires and our loneliness, of our high aims and our shortcomings, of our strength and our weakness. So it was in my case. Islam came over me like a robber who enters a house by night; but, unlike a robber, it entered to remain for good.

Ever since then I endeavoured to learn as much as I could about Islam. I studied the Qur'an and the Traditions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him); I studied the language of Islam and its history, and a good deal of what has been written about it and against it. I spent over five years in the Hijaz and Najd, mostly in al-Madinah, so that I might experience something of the original surroundings in which this religion was preached by the Arabian Prophet. As the Hijaz is the meeting centre of Muslims from many countries, I was able to compare most of the different religious and social views prevalent in the Islamic world in our days. Those studies and comparisons created in me the firm conviction that Islam, as a spiritual and social phenomenon, is still in spite of all the drawbacks caused by the deficiencies of the Muslims, by far the greatest driving force mankind has ever experienced; and all my interest became, since then, centred around the problem of its regeneration.
From "Islam, Our Choice"

Muhammad John Webster (England)
President, The English Muslim Mission

Born in London I was brought up Christian of the Protestant persuasion. In 1930, in my teens, I was confronted with the problems normal to a reasonably intelligent young man, these problems being basically relating to the reconciling of everyday affairs with the claims of religion and here I came across the first weakness of Christianity. Christianity is a dualism which regards the world as sinful and seeks to turn its back on the realities of life, projecting its hopes into a future world. As a result of this there is created a Sunday attitude towards religion which has no place in the rest of the secular week. At this time in England there was a great deal of poverty and social discontent which Christianity made no attempt to resolve. More emotional than knowledgeable, with the enthusiasm of youth I rejected the Church and became a Communist.

Communism has a certain satisfaction at an emotional adolescent level but again it did not take long to realise the hateful nature of Communism based upon class warfare, in itself immortal. Having rejected the materialism of Communism I turned to the study of philosophy and religion. The unity which I observed all around me led me to identify myself with what is known as Pantheism, a natural law religion.

We in the West find it difficult to acquaint ourself with Islam for since the days of the Christian Crusades there has been either a conspiracy of silence or a deliberate perversion of Islamic matters. Anyway at the time living in Australia I asked for a copy of the Holy Qur'an at the Sydney Public Library, when I was given the Book and was reading the preface by the translator, the bigotry against Islam was so obvious that I closed it up. There was no Qur'an translated by a Muslim available. Some weeks later in Perth, Western Australia, I again asked at the library for a copy of the Qur'an stipulating that the translator must be a Muslim. It is difficult to put into words my immediate response to the first surah, the Seven Opening Verses: Then I read something of the life of the Prophet (peace be on him). I spent hours in the library that day, I had found what I wanted, by the mercy of Allah. I was a Muslim. I had not at this time met any Muslim. I came out of the library exhausted by the tremendous intellectual and emotional experience I had received. The next experience, I still ask myself: was it true or was it something I had dreamed up, for in cold print it seems impossible to have happened. I came out of the library intending to get myself a cup of coffee. I walked down the street and raising my eyes to a building beyond a high brick wall I saw the words `Muslim Mosque' I straightway said to myself `You know the truth, now accept it'.

`La illaha illalah Muhammad ur Rasul Allah' and so by the mercy of Allah I became a Muslim.
From "Islam, Our Choice"

Muhammad Yahya

Taken from Why We Embraced Islam, Books 9 & 10. Edited by Dr. Arafat El-Ashi (1419H/1998), Toronto, Canada

Brother Muhammad Yahya, embraced Islam in 1989 whilst studying politics and modern history at Manchester University. He was originally an atheist, but was struck by the behavior and piety of a muslim friend of his. He began to explore Islam for himself. He was particularly impressed by the purely monotheistic teachings of Islam, coupled with the exemplary life of the Prophet Muhammad, (peace be upon him). He is currently studying at the University of London and is actively involved with the student's Islamic Society there.

He begins his story in the following words:

My reversion to Islam is only Allah's mercy and his guidance upon myself, otherwise I would never have been guided to Islam. As an undergraduate of Western history, I became disillusioned with an unending story of exploitation and materialism. There seemed no one of selfless good, willing to aid mankind for no fee.

I never thought of God or religion, except to satirize them in my ignorance. I remember starting across night-club dance floors wishing for more than just mindless hedonism and a lifetime of chasing the next job promotion. One point, however, which had provoked my curiosity was the contentment I observed in the faces of the religiously inclined. I often wondered how they had achieved that.

A fellow student, who was a muslim, came to be an inspiring example for me. In the four years that I knew him before embracing Islam, it was his actions, more than anything, which convinced me of the truth. He looked after me like I was his younger brother, he was full of patience and concern. He never became angry. He was kind, solicitous, generous and hospitable.

I often watched him perform his prayers in such a way that I instinctively felt that such devotion could not be false. Gradually I realized that his fulfillment in life came from the awareness that Allah is One and He has created us to worship Him alone. I saw that goodness for oneself and for mankind could only come from the ultimate source of goodness, Allah.

Every year has brought new certainty to my faith. My reversion to Islam was instinctive, a recognition of the heart. Continuing studies show the unfathomable depth of understanding of human nature that lies within Islamic teachings and the comprehensive reformation that it brings; proof upon proof of its Divine origin.

That there is no contradiction in its teachings shows the oneness of Allah. Whereas I could never accept polytheism or the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, the knowledge of our All Powerful and All Merciful Creator, who has no partner, is in harmony with human reason.

Upon the open declaration of:" I testify that there is no one worthy of worship except Allah, and I testify that Muhammad, (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), is the servant and Messenger of Allah" the heart expanded.

A Muslim is one who has surrendered to the will of Allah, and through this submission comes peace. A secular society, which has made personal desires its God, satisfaction can never come to it as desire will never be fulfilled. The chase for material well-being has brought the exploitation of whole continents and the destruction of the environment.

Man, as vice-regent of Allah, cannot walk arrogantly on the earth, and must fulfill the rights of the Creator and of all of Allah's creation. The true believer values all life, opposes injustice, protects the weak, leads a simple life, content with what Allah has ordained for him, enjoins righteousness, forbids evil, and remains in ever constant consciousness of his Lord.

One might ask, show me such a person? There are many examples throughout Islamic history; but even they are but dim reflections of the last and final Prophet of Allah, Muhammad, (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).One may see him as a universal man, described as "the walking Qur'an" by his wife. His life is the most exemplary life with all the virtues, it is among the signs of Allah. His greatest miracle given to him from Allah, the Qur'an, remains unblemished and incomparable, a challenge to all deviant ways of thinking until the end of time.

Anyone, considering embracing Islam, should not pause to think of negative reactions from friends, family, or from society at large. Those who love you truly, will accept you, in time, and if you reflect the teachings of Qur'an in your life, they may accept Islam also. Once the truth is perceived, to deny it would be like denying ourselves.

True refuge is with Allah and the real life is in the Hereafter. To die without true faith is to be eternally unsuccessful. Death is certain whilst the span of our life is not. Also the unity and fellow feeling amongst Muslims is such that you would feel your family to number in millions on declaring your Islam.

The Prophet (may the peace be on him) said: "Religion is sincere advice". We (his companions) said:"To whom?" He said:" To Allah and His book, and His Messenger, and to the leaders of the muslims and their common folk." (An-Nawawi's 40 Hadith)

Rob Wicks

[In the following article, "NOI" refers to the Nation of Islam, which in spite of its name, is a group far removed from Islam. -Ed.]

I grew up Baptist, in a family of ministers, in rural Mississippi. I went to college at Morehouse College in Atlanta, so I was exposed to the NOI, but I had the good fortune to become friends with an orthodox Muslim who explained to me the difference between NOI and Islam, and the lack of knowledge most NOI have of true Islam. Later, after I left school and began working, I got an internet account, and started to study some of the religions of the world. I had never really been a particularly religious person, due to my somewhat scientific nature. I always insist on proof. I started to delve deeper into Christianity, and studied it intently on the Web. I was somewhat disdained however by some inconsistencies in the Bible. I principally was troubled by the Trinity, though. I just did not see it. The one passage I saw as being most supportive (1 John 5:7) was partially forged. When I read Mathew 19:16-17, and Jesus (pbuh) says "Why callest thou me good?, it was clear to me that he was saying that he was not good, and only God was. But most of the Christians seemed to think Jesus was being tongue-in-cheek at this point. I found that I would have to be dishonest to accept this.

Then fortune? smiled upon me. I hit a deer in my car. It was out of service for almost a month. During that time, I was unemployed, but had saved money, so I could live (I also have two roommates). I still had my internet account, and I decided to study more. After I had studied the Biblical contradictions, in addition to the inherent idolatry and unscriptural nature of the Trinity, along with other things, I rejected Christianity as a religion. Even Jesus did not seem to teach it, he taught belief in God. I went a time without any religion, thinking maybe it was all a sham. I have a friend who is in the 5% NOI, and I saw how much he hated religion, and I decided that I did not want to be like that. I believe that God kept my mind open and my heart from hardening against Him, and I studied Islam. Everything just seemed to fit: a reasoned faith which was very prayerful to keep us on the straight path, yet did not disdain acquisition of knowledge (the preachers back home loved to rail against education, as if ignorance is preferred by God). Islam seemed to be made for me. A good Muslim was the exact sort of person I aspired to be. After another month of study and prayer, I decided that if Muhammad (pbuh) was not a prophet, then there had never been prophets in the first place. The moment of decision came one night when I was reading the Qur'an and I read 21:30, and I read of God expanding his creation. Now, I almost became an astronomer at one point, and I still am interested, and these verses hit me like a sledgehammer. I became fearful of God, and wanted to worship him better.

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