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I was supposed to read this book five years agoin an Islamic Religious Thought and Practice class For whatever reason, I couldn t get into it at all which is crazy considering I couldn t put it down this time around.This book is brilliant because you can read it on so many levels first, as a man s personal journey into faith which includes some pretty harsh critiques of the system in which he was raised Second, as a detailed history of a very critical period of recent Muslim history I I was supposed to read this book five years agoin an Islamic Religious Thought and Practice class For whatever reason, I couldn t get into it at all which is crazy considering I couldn t put it down this time around.This book is brilliant because you can read it on so many levels first, as a man s personal journey into faith which includes some pretty harsh critiques of the system in which he was raised Second, as a detailed history of a very critical period of recent Muslim history It was so fascinating to read that he personally knew and was close to so many historical figures Ibn Saud, the Grand Sanusi, etc And third, as an introduction to Islam Asad s writing style is magnificent he is able to articulate, thru his words, things that most Muslims just feel I think in many ways his book is still relevant today although so much has changed been cemented East and West can t necessarily be seen as such diametrically opposing systems, as he posits in this book The Road to Mecca represents a most interesting exceedingly interior pilgrimage tale of Leopold Weiss, born in 1900 in what is today Lvov, Ukraine previously Lemberg in Galicia, then part of the Austro Hungarian Empire , descendent of a long line of rabbis The book is in fact the autobiography of Muhammad Asad and the story of this most radical transformation is quite stunning, a conversion of faith enmeshed in a long pattern of travel work as a journalist by the erstwhile Weiss, whose rat The Road to Mecca represents a most interesting exceedingly interior pilgrimage tale of Leopold Weiss, born in 1900 in what is today Lvov, Ukraine previously Lemberg in Galicia, then part of the Austro Hungarian Empire , descendent of a long line of rabbis The book is in fact the autobiography of Muhammad Asad and the story of this most radical transformation is quite stunning, a conversion of faith enmeshed in a long pattern of travel work as a journalist by the erstwhile Weiss, whose rather affluent family moved to Vienna when Leopold was still fairly young Curiously, his grandfather wanted Leopold s dad to follow his path as a rabbi, though he chose to become a lawyer with a distinctly secular stance Meanwhile, it was hoped that Leopold would complete his university degree in Vienna become a lawyer like his own father, the source of another familial disappointment, as Leonard failed to complete his studies, dropping out to become a journalist, over time based primarily in the Middle East the Arabian Peninsula working for the Frankfurter Zeitung other newspapers Leopold s many constructive encounters while seeking somethingmeaningful in life, include a brief stint in Berlin with early filmmaker F.W Murnau Nosferatu based on Bram Stoker s Dracula , explorations by camel train across Syria Iraq and time with members of the House of Saud, including King Abd al Aziz ibn Saud in what became Saudi Arabia Over time, the outsider who had once attended Hebrew school, thoughfor its cultural content, while even developing a fluency in Aramaic, experiences a gradual but rather complete transformation There is also a memorable intersection involving a discussion of theology with a Jesuit priest on a ship bound for Egypt Turkey and another with the chairman of the Zionist Committee of Action in Palestine, where although of Jewish origin, the author feels a strong objection to Zionism , taking issue with the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and stating his opposition with Dr Chaim Weismann, attempting to point out that long before the Hebrews came to the area as conquerors to Palestine, there were many Semitic non Semitic tribes settled there including the Amorites, Edomites, Philistines, Moabites Hittites, with the descendants of many of these peoples still resident in the area Gradually, the man who began life as Leopold Weiss experiences a metamorphosis, converting to Islam becoming in the process Mohammad Asad In time, some began to refer to him as a Jewish Lawrence of Arabia.Islam did not seem so much a religion in the popular sense of the word as, rather, a way of life not so much a system of theology as a programme of personal social behavior based on the consciousness of God Nowhere in the Koran could I find any reference to a need for salvation or a mention of original or inherited sin sin meant nothan a lapse from the innate, positive qualities with which God was said to have endowed every human being There was also no trace of any dualism in the consideration of man s nature body soul seem to be taken as one integral whole.I found Asad s commentary on the Crusades of considerable interest, calling this a defining moment for western civilization, a wave of intoxication that brought tribes classes together, providing a shared cultural awareness a sense of unity but also causing intellectual damage the poisoning of the western mind Reading about the transformation of Leopold Weiss in becoming Mohammad Asad from an author who has such a keen sense of Islamic history and cultures made The Road to Mecca a fascinating book Asad indicates that he decided to become a Muslim not because I lived among them so long rather I decided to live among them because I had embraced Islam Asad goes on to commentThroughout the years I have spent in the Middle East as a sympathetic outsider from 1922 to 1926 and then as a Muslim sharing the aims hopes of the Islamic community ever since I have witnessed the steady encroachment of Muslim cultural life political independence European public opinion that labels any resistance to this incursion as xenophobia The West s main argument is always that the political disruption Western intervention is not merely aimed at protecting legitimate Western interests but also at securing progress for the indigenous peoples themselves.This was of course before WWII the discovery of oil further changed the dynamics of that intervention, eventually leading to independence for many of the countries where Mohammad Asad lived The author later spent time as a compiler of Muslim history, writing books on the nature of the Koran Islam, still later serving as Pakistan s Ambassador to the United Nations when that country became independent, splitting from the Indian subcontinent in 1947 I can not begin to capture the many roads that Asad traveled in The Road to Mecca but the book is extremely thoughtful, quite personally revealing very well written Curiously, at some point I thought of the intriguing novel by Kurban Said, Ali Nino, a novel that featured a Jewish fellow in Azerbaijan who converts to Islam, marrying a Georgian Christian woman, a book that was first published in Vienna just before the outbreak of WWII And yes, Asad does make it to Mecca and speaks candidly about his experiences there.It may be that someone who was raised a Jew within a Christian landscape prior to WWI perhaps survived WWII the Holocaust because he changed both his residence his identity is particularly empowered to provide insight into Islam, a quality that someone who has known no other faith can not The sister father of the former Leopold Weiss, among many other Jews living in Vienna at the time of the Anschluss or the German annexation of Austria, perished in the Holocaust, along with countless others I recommend this book highly to anyone interested in Islamic history or in reading about a unique search for personal identity Interspersed are many black white photographs which add context to Asad s story The first photo image is of Leopold Weiss as a young man, the second after his transformation to Muhammad Asad When I first read this book it instilled in me a wonderous vision When I read it again it filled me with a critical history When I picked it up a few years later, I read it as a man searching In this, it s great.This book changed the direction of my life It was not because I was lost, for I still am lost today, but it showed me that people do change the worlds in changing themselves.The book is an autobiographical account of an Austrian Jew named Leopold Weiss who through time and experience When I first read this book it instilled in me a wonderous vision When I read it again it filled me with a critical history When I picked it up a few years later, I read it as a man searching In this, it s great.This book changed the direction of my life It was not because I was lost, for I still am lost today, but it showed me that people do change the worlds in changing themselves.The book is an autobiographical account of an Austrian Jew named Leopold Weiss who through time and experience becomes Muhammad Asad This is a vignette of his life from his childhood in Europe to his work in Jerusalem and his wandering in Arabia at the behest of then King AbdulAziz Ibn al Saud.Asad is a journalist, and his book is a wonderful anecdote The stories are great, but so is the weightiness of his message It s written in an old world style when there was a heroism to that which people did The house of Saud is characterized as one rarely sees them human But amidst its history, religion, and talks of self, there is this idea of journeying towards something.I like this book the same reason I like Kerouac , but it meanssimply on part with its religious undertone, and the nature of the man.Asad s book leaves him after Arabia, but, in life, he goes on to serve in the U.N., translate an authoritative scholaraly version of the Quran, and befriend kings, ministers, and people who shaped the 20th century.This less review than hero worship, but if the first chapter doesn t grab you I d say nothing I review will Muhammad Asad Leopold Weiss was an Austrian convert from Judaism to Islam in the early 20th century His life took him across the Muslim world and into the orbit of some of its most important contemporary historical figures This book is part travelogue, part biography, and part exploration of his journey towards Islam.Asad was a personal adviser to King Abdulaziz bin Saud during the period in which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was formed, and his reflections and observations of Arabia before t Muhammad Asad Leopold Weiss was an Austrian convert from Judaism to Islam in the early 20th century His life took him across the Muslim world and into the orbit of some of its most important contemporary historical figures This book is part travelogue, part biography, and part exploration of his journey towards Islam.Asad was a personal adviser to King Abdulaziz bin Saud during the period in which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was formed, and his reflections and observations of Arabia before this period are quite remarkable As he himself states at the book s outset he is describing a world which no longer exists and this book is decades old already so this book has an incredible time capsule like feel He travels through Iran, Iraq, Palestine and North Africa as well and provides his insights into what life was like there before the tumult of modernity fully engulfed these places years later Throughout his travels he provides broader reflections on his view of Islam as a Westerner, and explains in sequential detail his decision to ultimately adopt the faith and a completely new identity as a Muslim Asad had an utterly incredible life I won t recap it all here , starting as a young aspiring journalist in Vienna and ending up as Pakistan s first ambassador to the UN upon the creation of that state The writing is riveting, and his ruminations on spirituality and culture are a moving accompaniment to a story which would have been enthralling for its content alone Especially interesting to me were his observations of Islam, but particularly of Muslims fitra the Islamic concept of human nature and the synthesis of spirituality and action in their lives The honesty and clarity of his writing about the religion was moving and brilliant He covers ostensibly heavy topics in a manner which makes them flow effortlessly.This book has a really timeless quality, and as I mentioned it is a wonderful time capsule of these countries and of a world which exists only in fragments today On top of all this the book is a page turner, fantastically written and exciting Unreservedly recommended to anyone Just read it even if you do not care to know about Islam A great traveller s story. By turns achingly beautiful, exasperating, illogical, and penetrating, The Road to Mecca is one extraordinary man s transformation from disaffected European to devout Muslim Along the way, this journalist became friends with the King of Saudi Arabia, got to know the Shah of Iran, and met just about every player in the Middle East in the first part of the 20th Century His perspective is skewed, flawed, and deeply insightful It s a huge corrective to the Western media s simplistic and idiotical By turns achingly beautiful, exasperating, illogical, and penetrating, The Road to Mecca is one extraordinary man s transformation from disaffected European to devout Muslim Along the way, this journalist became friends with the King of Saudi Arabia, got to know the Shah of Iran, and met just about every player in the Middle East in the first part of the 20th Century His perspective is skewed, flawed, and deeply insightful It s a huge corrective to the Western media s simplistic and idiotically one sided reporting on the Arab world Yes, he s annoyingly dismissive of Western attitudes at times, but that s to help us better understand the Arab point of view And he s simply wrong a good deal of the time, because he s made the journey of transformation and it has made a partisan out of him, a partisan who sees deeply but not always fairly I don t think anyone in the West can understand Iran, or Iraq, or any of the other countries of that part of the world, without reading this book as a starter And his lyrical descriptions of traveling by camel will make you want to put down the book and jump on a plane to make your way through the desert too I recommend the book highly, not because it s a complete guide to anything, but because we of the West desperately need to understand other parts of the globe better, and this is a good corrective to begin with This is a fascinating book half travelogue and half conversion memoir Muhammad Asad was born a Jew, Leopold Weiss, in the Austro Hungarian empire in what is now Ukraine, the city of Lvov He was prominent both in interactions with the West in the 20th Century, for example as Pakistani ambassador to the UN, and in theological work, including translation and exegesis of the Q uran Asad is regarded, and should be evenregarded in these days of Al Qaeda and ISIS, as a voice for a revitaliz This is a fascinating book half travelogue and half conversion memoir Muhammad Asad was born a Jew, Leopold Weiss, in the Austro Hungarian empire in what is now Ukraine, the city of Lvov He was prominent both in interactions with the West in the 20th Century, for example as Pakistani ambassador to the UN, and in theological work, including translation and exegesis of the Q uran Asad is regarded, and should be evenregarded in these days of Al Qaeda and ISIS, as a voice for a revitalized, mainstream he would accurately reject the term moderate Islam But long before that, he was just a Westerner adrift and looking for spiritual answers.Asad found those answers in Arabia In many ways, The Road To Mecca is of the same genre as other travel books of Western men fascinated by Arabia in the first third of the 20th Century, such as Lawrence of Arabia, or lesser known figures such as Wilfred Thesiger Arabian Sands A certain type of Western man a woman could not have had the opportunity fell in love with the people and landscape of pre petroleum Arabia, believing that the people had unique virtues though they admitted the people were not composed only of virtues and the land brought out the best in men Some of this smacks of na ve love of the idealized noble savage, of course, and you see the same thingcommonly with Westerners and East Asian cultures like Tibet hello, Richard Gere Conversion to Islam was not the norm, though, for Westerners entranced by Arabia and the Arabs But Asad was simultaneously on a spiritual quest, and, like others before and since, after rejecting much else found what he was looking for in Islam.Asad s memoir is told in the form of flashbacks during a desert trip in 1927 with a traveling companion, ultimately to Mecca not for his first time at the time he lived in Medina, so he had made the hajj pilgrimage several times already In his book, he alternates descriptions of Arabian geography as well as Syria, Iraq and Iran, and a little of the Maghreb , with descriptions of key Arabs and their personal and political doings he knew Ibn Saud well, along with a host of lesser players, although not, apparently, the Hashemite kings of the Hejaz, deposed by Ibn Saud but later kings of Jordan to this day, and, briefly, Iraq And all along in his book Asad is narrating his own life, and his own religious development, with apparently great honesty and clarity.Asad rejected Judaism and became agnostic early, although he came from a rabbinical family His main objection to Judaism is that he could not believe in a God that was focused nearly to exclusion on one people he repeatedly and accurately contrasts Islam s ability to embrace all kinds of people and form a new community from them with the exclusive aspects of Judaism But Asad does not fall into the kind of crude anti Judaic attitudes so common among modern Muslims, even though such an attitude is well supported in the Q uran and the Sunnah, and is the historical norm in Islam Q uranic verses such as 2 62, frequently quoted to make Islam seem universalist, Surely those who believe, those of Jewry, the Christians and the Sabaeans whoever has faith in Allah and the Last Day, and works righteousness, their wage awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be upon them, and neither shall they sorrow are not to the contrary their exclusive interpretation in Islam has always been that those verses only apply to Jews before Jesus, and then to Christians before Muhammad, and have zero application today, after Muhammad See The Reliance of the Traveler, the main Shafi i catechism, at w4.4 He was, however, very opposed to Zionism and the founding of Israel, and friendly with Jews such as Jacob de Haan, a Dutch Jew assassinate by the Haganah in 1924 for favoring negotiations with Arab leaders.Asad also seems to have considered Christianity, or so he asserts If I had an objection to this book although to object to someone else s reasons for his personal conversion is obviously pretty silly , it is that he does not seem to understand Christianity at all, in that he ascribes to Christianity critical doctrines not actually found there, and ascribes his rejection of Christianity to his aversion to those bogus doctrines The core doctrine, to which he returns repeatedly, is that Christianity supposedly believes matter and the body evil, and the spirit good He contrasts this to Islam s holistic approach, in which nothing Allah has made can be bad, and each human s physical body and spirit are both key concerns of Islam.But of course this is a false view of Christianity More precisely, it is a heretical view It is the view of the early Gnostics, the Manichees, and the Albigensians, all rejected by mainstream Christianity They posited dualism that, as Asad says, the body is bad and the spirit good But mainstream Christianity holds the opposite like Islam, it holds that all what God has created is good, though of course Islam and Christianity both hold it can be mis used Asad appears to have missed the key doctrine of Christianity of the resurrection of the body, found in both the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed There is a difference between Christianity and Islam, in that Islam does not recognize original sin and Christianity does have non heretical strains that emphasize spiritual precedence, such as the eremitic monks, but it is just not correct to posit the dualism that Asad appears to be believe to be central to Christianity Asad also falls into silly historical errors, such as supposing Islam s view of the West is dictated by the Crusades, and that the Crusades were the formative moment of Western civilization, whereas in reality the Crusades were forgotten by Muslims who won, after all until their memory was resurrected for political purposes in the 19th Century, and were and are of minor importance in the West as well, except as a modern day tool for ignorant Americans to traduce Christianity and the West He in passing also follows the common Muslim habit of erroneously ascribing important scientific inventions to Muslims, from algebra and trigonometry to Arabic numerals and the compass, in the usual effort to compensate for Muslim lack of scientific contributions in modern times or, really, since the 11th Century, and even then mostly by non Muslims under Muslim domination, and nearly all second order scientific contributions But these flaws are understandable and not at all germane to Asad s basic narrative.He also points out what are today interesting historical nuggets, such as that until the 19th Century Wahhabi revival, the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula were seen as the laxest Muslims at all, and are now the most religious not always to everyone s benefit, then or now Asad, while recognizing certain virtues, notes that it made them proud, haughty men who regard themselves as the only true representatives of Islam and all other Muslim peoples as heretics Finally, he inadvertently confirms a variety of Western views of Islamic cultures as retrograde in certain areas as entirely correct, as when he notes how a family desperately tried and succeeded in hoodwinking him into marrying an 11 year old virgin He divorced her when he discovered her age on their wedding night, and did not consummate the marriage Her mother was stupefied by his demand to immediately divorce the girl She had never heard of a man who refused so choice a morsel an eleven year old virgin and must have thought that there was something radically wrong with me Presumably this doesn t really matter for Asad s personal conversion He was attracted to the community of believers in Islam the fact that Islam provides answers to nearly every question in life, particularly those not directly related to spiritual matters, but to all matters of life in this Islam is not dissimilar to such Christian groups as Opus Dei or Third Order Franciscans, though the comparison probably shouldn t be stretched the harmony of Muslim belief and the peace Islam brought to the people he knew He says himself that what he had was a longing to find my own restful place in the world, and he found it in Islam One thing to keep in mind, of course, was that the 1920s were a time when many in the West, after the First World War, despaired of any future for the west As Asad says A world in upheaval and convulsion that was our Western world Islam offered a world united in itself, without any upheaval and convulsion, if properly ordered according to its own principles.Asad is broad minded, tolerant, and fascinating Those are not characteristics in good odor among many strains of modern Islam, which tends in many cases to be anything but modern His translation exegesis of the Q uran, The Message of the Koran, is banned in Saudi Arabia for supposed Mu tazili tendencies perceived as undermining the alleged divine nature of the Q uran and a willingness to strongly endorse ijtihad, or continued analysis and reasoning, in exegesis of the Q uran But whatever your theological predilection, these characteristics are what make Asad s memoir very much worth reading One of the best autobiographies I ve ever read It s one of those books which you don t read but actually live Asad wrote this book to tell his journey of transmutation from Leopold his old name, representing his Jewish life to Asad his new name, showing his Muslim life This journey includes his adventures in the Middle East, his understanding of local cultures and most importantly, the religion transcending personal territories and becoming a part of cultural, social, political and spiritu One of the best autobiographies I ve ever read It s one of those books which you don t read but actually live Asad wrote this book to tell his journey of transmutation from Leopold his old name, representing his Jewish life to Asad his new name, showing his Muslim life This journey includes his adventures in the Middle East, his understanding of local cultures and most importantly, the religion transcending personal territories and becoming a part of cultural, social, political and spiritual life of those communities The book can be divided into three parts His biography, his childhood, how he went to journalism and what adventures he had in different countries His travel log, the places he visited and his meetings with the influential personalities of that era The way he described those places, a reader actually lives those moments and meet those personalities And the most important part where he described the transformation in his faith and the things which caused that transformation By reading this part, a born Muslim like me, actually learns his own religion He beautifully and logically explaided every aspect of the religion He not only pointed out that Muslims have stopped moving and they are just depending on old ideas, but also tried to give a new form to the religion compatible with modern times In short, this story is about a man who is in search of soul and how he found that soul TheI try to make sense of my path so far as a Muslim, thethe experiences seem to expand themselves in front of me and escape words I cannot pin down what I m living, seeing, realizing into language I can only approximate, and at times try to make sense of it through the writings of others The idea of Islam being a consummation of all primordial divine truth, and therefore not a late religion, but ONE religion is the concept that has spoken to me most as of late In this light, TheI try to make sense of my path so far as a Muslim, thethe experiences seem to expand themselves in front of me and escape words I cannot pin down what I m living, seeing, realizing into language I can only approximate, and at times try to make sense of it through the writings of others The idea of Islam being a consummation of all primordial divine truth, and therefore not a late religion, but ONE religion is the concept that has spoken to me most as of late In this light, the particular message of this book is one of return through new beginnings Or as we in Islam describe our conversion process, it is a RE version to the primordial Religion through submission Islam to the ultimate Muhammad Asad narrates his story through a method of weaving in and out of past and present events related to his journey to the Arab and Persian worlds Immersed in this back and forth narrative is his spiritual progression and viewpoints on Islam derived from his esoteric experience of the divine as related to his outer experience of brotherhood In this way, Asad s style is a beautiful metaphor for Islam as a faith, and for the way that The Qur an itself is written What we know as existence or creation intersects at all points of the physical, spiritual and mental, and with this life altering paradigm of unity in all areas, we can see where the many strains of reality constantly cross one another, and in Islam, are inseparable parts of a totality Asad describes a restlessness in this book that I ve felt since my teens, and that compelled him as a European to travel to the Arab world and ultimately embrace Islam It was a cultural shift, an acceptance of a new way of life that was exemplified through physical emigration This resonated profoundly when I first looked at this book Asad s conception of this restlessness is not a need for adventure per se, butof a desire to get to the root of things, and therefore the need to experience It s also not a sensual addiction, it s just a drive to get to the authentic I m there, and looking back, I ve always been there Islam to me offers an opportunity of full immersion into not only a faith and faith has meant dualism in my past , but a complete life Tawhid Unity Sociological and cultural acceptance Discovering through a journey physical, mental and spiritual Asad describes it best on p 374 Longing need no longer remain small and hidden it has found its awakening, a blinding sunrise of fulfillment ^DOWNLOAD ☞ رحلة محمد أسد: الطريق إلى مكة ⇷ In this extraordinary and beautifully written autobiography, Asad tells of his initial rejection of all institutional religions, his entree into Taoism, his fascinating travels as a diplomat, and finally his embrace of Islam