Monday, December 3, 2012

Quran debate in Musuem of Tolerance

My friend from Israel, Ilan Leibowitz shared the following video, a debate between  Mosab Hassan and Jihad Turk

Ilan and I have been exchanging information about respecting each others religions, and we agree that religion can offer solutions and indeed, it is because of the religion we have peace, without which the world would have been chaotic. 

We are human with our insecurities, and religion, every religion offers guidance, most of us get it, a few don't. If am ugly, bad or good, its me reacting and not my religion.

Hassan is a former Muslim and claims to know Islam well, but made the same mistake that everyone who thrives on hearsay. That Quraan says Jews are decedents of apes and pigs, that Prophet Married a 9 year old, that he ordered killing of Jews in Khaybar.... all of these have been answered in the Quraan conference, and are here on this site. The response by Jihad Turk, is identical to mine.

I really like Jihad Turk, he is the kind of Muslim who should be talking about Islam, of course, besides me.  His language was similar to mine.

It is a good, straight video.

By the way, some of these videos are listed on the right panel of this site

Mike Ghouse

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Criticism of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and free speech

Criticism of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and free speech

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We need to welcome every criticism of Quraan, Islam and the Prophet and deal with it with grace. Let freedom of speech be the corner stone of Islam.

Islam is not going anywhere; prophet is not going anywhere, and by opening ourselves up to criticism, we will learn a lot more about our faith than we would ever know. We need to move away from intolerance to acceptance of a different point of view without having to agree with it. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) lived through it and Muslims can learn from his examples.

Criticism can fade away or rain on us depending on how Muslims respond to it.  Lack of conviction in one's faith breeds intolerance towards criticism, whereas firmness in faith can lead us to learn from criticism, explore the infinite wisdom and realize the strength of our faith (Imaan); a worthy feeling to have, instead of living in doubt and shooing criticism away.

You may ask, "Why are you presenting a different point of view, and why should I believe you?" The great scholars from the past have done it, and what is the need for me to learn?

I will ask you, "Why wouldn't you review the work of Tariq Ramadan, Hamza Yusuf, Ziauddin Sardar, Wahiduddin Khan, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, Asghar Ali Engineer, Chandra Muzaffar, and a host of other critical Muslim thinkers? Why should you believe every word of Maududi, Banna and others? Isn't Islam for all times and all people?

Way back in 1967, my sister had asked me, if I knew more than Allama Iqbal? That question has never left my mind, and I had to scramble for the answer, the answer was a definite no, but I did not want to discard individual responsibility of not learning and knowing it on my own. I was always stuck with one of the most powerful sentences from Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) last sermon, "I leave behind two things, the Qur'an and the Sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray." The responsibility to know was placed directly on us.

Like all Mothers, my Mother taught me responsibility, she said, "if you do wrong, you alone will get punished and not your brother who might have instigated you, it is not what he said, but it is how you respond that matters to me". She would invariably add, "On the Day of Judgment, you stand alone, there will be no one for you, as each one will be busy in reflecting his or her own deeds."

The Qur'an repeatedly reinforces the paramount principle of faith: "O You who believe, on you rests (the responsibility) of your souls"(Q5:105) and (Q53:38), "that no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another's burden." The picture was clear to me.

I don't wish this for others, but the best thing that has ever happened to me was walking away from Islam and Quraan when I was 15. I made the same mistake that every maligner of Islam makes; reading the wrong translations of Quran and blaming the religion for it. After 30 years of searching for the truth on my own as the Prophet had advised "to read the book", I found the truth. Islam is an inclusive faith, it is about co-existence, it is a faith that appreciates all of God's creation and urges one to respect the otherness of others (Quran 109:6) without having to agree, it explicitly says (Quraan 49:13), that all of us are his creation, created to be different, and that we have to learn about each other to mitigate the conflicts and nurture goodwill. Today, I am proud to be a believer, not a blind one, but a critical believer in Islam.

The Critical thinking has given me inordinate confidence to the point of challenging Pastor Jeffress in Dallas, that if he finds three faults in Quraan, I will convert to his faith, and if he cannot, all I asked of him was to become a blessed peacemaker and work with me in mitigating conflicts and building a cohesive America, where all of us can aspire to live without the fear of the other. He backed off as we returned the bad challenge with the request to reason and finding the truth. We held a Quraan Conference with ten Non Muslim Clergy on the panel and four Muslims including Imam Zia Shaikh, Dr. Basheer Ahmed, Imam Shakoor and Brother Hamid Shaikh, and I moderated the event. A full accounting of the event, including media interviews and the program is recorded in details at

When you have an issue with your spouse and child, you don't scream and shut them down; the problem will not go away unless you face it and solve the issue. When people accept the solutions willingly, we will have peace. Isn't that Islam is all about, freedom?

Indeed, we must gracefully respond to every criticism of Quraan, Islam and the Prophet and I have the patience to welcome it.

Aren't we supposed to learn and know each other to mitigate conflicts and create the kingdom of heaven right here on the earth, while waiting to go the next heaven? Didn't God say, the best among you is the one who learns about the other (49:13), so the myths, phobias and fears can be dismantled?

I urge fellow Muslims to open to all the criticism with confidence, don't shut it, and let freedom of speech be the corner stone of Islam. Islam stands on its own; it does not need our defense, and it is silly to protect God or the Prophet, they are not weaklings or our property to protect, they belong to the whole universe, don't they?

Muhammad Yunus, a Muslim thinker and a writer at New Age Islam responds,   "Doesn't the Qur'an repetitively say, "repel evil with good" (13:22, 23:96, 41:34). Shouldn't you take the opportunity to demonstrate the good in your faith and remove the cloud of hatred that is forming by the twin growing menaces of the day: Islamophobia and Radicalization? Inscribe on the facade of your mosques in bold and golden letters, the verses of the Qur'an that demonstrate the divine scheme on religious pluralism - 2:62, 2:136, 4:124, 5:69, 22:17, 64:9, 65:11 for example.

Tell the believing world by visual display on billboards at all Islamic centers that the divine Light is lit in all places of pure worship (24:35) and God's name is proclaimed regularly in monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques (22:40). Inform the atheist and all categories of non-believers that they all are recipients of a portion of divine spirit (15:29, 32:7-9, 38:72) and God will judge them as well along with the believing humanity (22:17). Tell the whole world that however they demonize our Prophet, we must ignore them as this is an article of faith for us (6:112, 25:31).

Dr. Tariq Cheema of World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists, adds another point of view, "the Muslim scholars and intellectuals around the world must rise to the challenge and offer guidance to the faith-loving masses on how to encounter the exploitation of freedom of speech, which is often quite provocative and insulting. On the other hand every one must strive for a legislation that guards the sanctity of all religions and their Prophets, scriptures, and symbols alike."

Prioritizing Sunnah

The most important Sunnah (Prophet's example) and the first Sunnah is to be the Amin; the trust worthy (81:21), the truth teller and someone who mitigates conflicts and nurtures good will for the peaceful coexistence of his or her neighbors, communities, tribes and nations.

That was the first example of Muhammad (pbuh) to be a good citizen, wasn't it? Wasn't that the first model prophet had set up for one to follow? Mind you, he was called Amin by non-Muslims. Shouldn't we start with the same first foot forward? To be good citizens, whether in Pakistan, America, Saudi Arabia, China or Indonesia, we have to earn it by being a participant and a contributor towards the wellbeing of the nation. Your presence should relax others, and make them comfortable that you are a peacemaker and they can trust you for your fairness. Do you follow the Prophet?

The second most important Sunna to follow is to be Rahmatul Aalameen (Mercy to mankind) (21:107). To be a Rahmat (Mercy) to fellow beings who are Atheist, Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Sikh, Wicca, Natives, Zoroastrians and others, we must be kind to them, no one should be afraid or apprehensive of us. Should anyone be afraid of a Muslim, then we have not followed the Sunna of the prophet.

Please note that I have stripped the title of Allama or Maulana from all the names above. We have a habit of placing individuals next to God, they are just like you and I, of course with more knowledge, sometimes real, and sometimes looped up. Practicing and rehearsing the same wrong thing over and over again does not make them perfect. We need to reserve the titles to the Prophets; all others must be referred to just by their names with utmost respect.

We should not be loose with titles, unless they have shown that Allah is Rabbul Aaalamen (Universality of the Creator) and Muhammad is Rahmatul Aalameen in their actions and words. How many of them would qualify to be an Allama then?

All other Sunna emanates from these two basic steps, clearly and unambiguously corroborated by the Qur'an (81:21, 21:107).

We cannot compromise on free speech, however much a few may abuse it, but free speech is an enduring value and the hallmark of civilization. I believe in free speech and that is the only way societies will grow. As Muslims we need to seriously consider the gains Muslims have had, that far outweigh the tensions given by a handful of loonies.

Islam is a universal inclusive faith, it is from Rabbul Aalameen (creator of the universe, its prophet is Rahmatul Aalameen (Mercy to mankind) and we should be Mukhlooqul Aalameen (Universal, all embracing beings). Islam is about goodness and not forcing others, and not domineering but co-existing, just as the Prophet did and proclaimed in the Madinah treaty. Islam is about appreciating everything God has created on this universe (55:16).

If they curse the prophet, prophet is not going to be cursed, have the strength in your faith and return badness with Good; we know all the examples of his work. When you hear someone curse the prophet, just say I am sorry you feel that way, but if you wish to seek the truth, find it on your own or I will connect you with someone who can guide you, if you don't that is your choice and nothing will come off me or the prophet, your words do not have the power to reduce Islam or the prophet, I will pray peace of mind to you. 

Don't feel compelled to convince anyone, let go. What did Allah say to Prophet when he was frustrated that people were not getting his message? You do your dharma (duty) and let them have the freedom to accept. Elsewhere God says there is no compulsion in matters of faith (2:256).

Have confidence, read what is good in Islam and ignore the bad things others say, write, or put it in the film about Islam or its Prophet.  From the very first day of his mission, the Prophet was criticized and the Qur'an reviled and the criticism and revulsion only gained momentum through the medieval ages as Islam continued to win the hearts of other people. It has come to surface again with greater ferocity, but we the Muslims as peace makers must act peacefully.    

Islam is not going anywhere, prophet is not going anywhere, and by opening up you will enjoy your Imaan (faith) immensely with genuine admiration for its wisdom. I thank Allah for helping me see the light and beauty of Islam, and you can too.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, activist, pluralist and a writer committed to building cohesive societies. More about him at

Related Articles:

• Huffington Post -Muslims don't get it

• Dallas Morning news -Separation of church and state

• Dallas Morning news - right to free speech

• Critical Muslim by Ziauddin Sardar

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Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace making, foreign policy, Islam, Israel, India, Pakistan, interfaith, and cohesion at work place or social settings. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at Mike has a strong presence on national local TV, Radio and Print Media, and is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News, fortnightly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site indexes everything you want to know about him.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Boycotting Quran application on i-phone


An email has been forwarded a few times from respected Imam Zafar Anjum and other Muslim groups like Frisco Masjid and Irving Muslims. I am posting this at, and to the World, and other Muslim groups of Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh where it could hurt fellow Muslims. 

There are 25 Quraan translations on the market today, most of them are alright, a few of them are great and two of them are ugly. One was written in 1042 AD and is the foundation for Islamophobia, and the other one was translated by a Muslim Hilali Khan in 1920’s.

The hate and Islamophobia we see today emanated from this translation with 60 deliberate mistranslations, causing ill-will towards Jews and Christians. The Hilali Khan translation has projected God (Muslim God?) as hateful towards Christians and Jews. Thank God, much of this is corrected since 2011 - but millions of copies are out there promoting hatred. By engaging with the right wingers like Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and others, I have learned the sources of their false premises. It is this translation. 
Full story and a whole lot of links at

The merciful God does hates his creation nor Prophet Muhammad hates the universe. Indeed Prophet is the mercy to mankind (Q 21:107) and God is Lord of the Universe (1:2). We need to believe in this rather than uttering it without meaning it. 

There was another translation by evangelist that got distributed in Kuwait after the desert storm, and thank God, it got stopped immediately.

And now there is a claim about another translation by Ahmadiyya Muslims that has been urged to boycott.

We are Muslims, and not Mozzies, the African Americans are African Americans and not the “N’,  the Ahmadiyya Muslims are Ahmadiyya and not Qadianis.  What did Allah and Prophet say about this?  I am sure each one of us can Quote a lot of Quraan and Hadith without meaning it. It is time we believe in what we quote. 

I urge Imam Zafar Anjum and all others involved in passing the following note, to be specific as to where it is wrong, otherwise we become part of the propaganda machine. Before declaring it is wrong, how does it stack up with 25 other translations? If it is not wrong, why pick on it? Let people read multiple versions of translations, at least it makes them think, the true Iqra will take place with that.
If Maulvi She Ali's translation is wrong, we have a solution; we can ask the Ahmadiyya Muslims to correct it. Insha Allah, I will undertake that mission. Let not our prejudice cause us to be unjust, isn't that what God says?

This is the note in circulation:


Important Warning! 

            As-Salamu 'Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatu
A new version of the Quran has been released on the Apple APP STORE by the ahmadiyyah/qadiani community.

The name of the app is "The Holy Quran, Arabic text and English translation". "Translated by Maulvi Sher Ali, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community" has been clearly mentioned in the app information in iPhone App Store.|

Please make Muslims aware not to buy/download this app!

Boycott this product as the contents of this application are incorrect/misleading & contradict the teachings of the Holy Quran and Hadith.

Please forward this to everyone so they are made aware even to those without androids or iPhones so they can inform others insha-Allah

Jazak Allah Khair
Mike Ghouse

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Muhammad Asad - the Quraan translator

t is such a delight to read about Muhammad Asad, Insha Allah, I will be posting another item about him written by his don today.
Mike Ghouse

From Leopold Weiss to Muhammad Asad

The Impact International

    Writer, traveller and explorer, Muhammad Asad had a truly chequered life spanning three continents and two cultures. Born Leopold Weiss in the summer of 1900 in the Polish city of Lwow, then under Austrian empire, he was 14 when he escaped school and joined the Austrian army under a false name, only to be recovered by his father and taken home, now in Vienna. But about four years later when he was drafted in the army, he had ceased to have any longing for a military career. He was lucky. The Austrian Empire collapsed a few weeks after and he went on to study history of art and philosophy at the University of Vienna. 

    His father wanted him to get a Ph. D. Leopold wanted to try his hand at journalism and one summer day in 1920 he boarded the train for Prague. In doing so, he had followed in the foot-steps of his own father and a great-great-uncle. One of his great-great-uncles had been a rabbi. One day, he left home, shaved off his beard and sidelocks and after drifting for a while, he arrived at Oxford. He graduated as a scholar, converted to Christianity, married a ‘gentile’ and sent a letter of divorce to his Jewish wife. The uncle became a distinguished astronomer and a university don and given British knighthood. In the family, however, his name was never mentioned aloud. Nor does Asad himself record it.

    Leopold’s grandfather, an orthodox rabbi in Crzernowitz, Bukovina, had wanted his father to follow the family’s rabbinical tradition, but he chose to be a barrister. For Leopold, however, he made sure that by the age of 13, he not only read Hebrew with great fluency, but also speak it freely and have a fair acquaintance with Aramaic. The young boy studied the Old Testament in the original; the Mishna and Gemara that is, the text and commentaries of the Talmud and became immersed in the intricacies of Biblical exegesis, called ‘Targum’.

    From Prague Leopold went to Berlin, but there was no journalistic job for this total novice. His lucky break came when the famous director, F.W. Murnau, took him as a temporary assistant for two months. The experience gave him self-confidence as well as opportunity to flirt with the leading lady of the film – a well-known and a very beautiful actress. His next job was writing a film scenario along with a friend. In order to celebrate their entry into the world of films, they threw a party in a fashionable Berlin restaurant practically spending their entire earning in lobster, caviar and French wines. After sometime Leopold succeeded at last in breaking into the world of journalism. The United Telegraph press agency started by a Catholic politician in co-operation with the United Press of America took him as a telephonist – to relay the agency’s news stories. He was promoted a journalist after he had made a first-class scoop by snatching an interview with Madame Gorky. 

    Happy and vaguely alienated, one day in the spring of 1922, the young journalist received a letter that was to change the course of the following 70 years of his life. Uncle Dorian, his mother’s youngest brother had invited him to Jerusalem, to live in his delightful old Arab stone house. Dorian headed a mental hospital in Jerusalem. He was not a Zionist himself… nor, for that matter attracted to the Arabs. 

    Like the average European, Asad had come to the Middle East with ‘some romantic and erroneous notions’ about Arabs. He had never thought of Palestine as an Arab land, thought it did not take him long to realize that the Jews were not coming to it as one returns to one’s homeland; they were rather bent on making it into a homeland conceived on European patterns and Europeans aims. He asked Chaim Weizmann, the leader of the Zionist movement and the future president of Israel: How can you ever hope to make Palestine your homeland in the face of the vehement opposition of the Arabs who, after all, are in the majority in this country? ‘We accept that they won’t be in a majority after a few years’, Weizmann ‘answered dryly’. 

    But neither Dorian nor Jerusalem could stop Leopold from his wanderings. He became a correspondent for Frankfurter Zeitung. Sometimes in Cairo, sometimes in Amman, back to Jerusalem; and on road again to Syria (which then included Lebanon as well) and Turkey. It was a moment at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus that he became aware how near their God and their faith were to these people. 

    End of 1923 saw him back in Vienna, reconciling with his father and reporting to his editor-in-chief Dr Heinrich Simon. Leopold Weiss had established himself as a writer on Arab and Middle Eastern affair and Frankfurter Zeitung was now willing to remunerate him properly and keen that he returned to the area as soon as he had finished the book he had contracted to write. 

    He finished the book, Unromantisches Morgenland, and in Spring 1924, he was off again to the Middle East. The book did not sell well. It saw the Middle East in its day-by-day realities, and not as an exotic or romantic Orient. It was also ‘anti-Zionist’. However, crossing the Mediterranean, Leopold’s first stop was at Cairo where he tried to learn Arabic and spend some time with Shaikh Mustafa Maraghi. He wanted to gain a fuller picture of Islam. Mustafa Maraghi subsequently became the Shaikh of Al-Azhar. Early summer 1924, the special correspondent was on the move again. To Amman, to Damascus, Tripoli and Aleppo, to Baghdad and to the Kurdish mountains, to that strangest of all lands, Iran, and to the wild mountains and steppes of Afghanistan. 

    Islam had been revealing itself to Leopold in bits and pieces, but it was on a winter day in Afghanistan that a man, fixing an iron shoe to his horse, told him: ‘But thou art a Muslim, only thou dost not know it thyself’. ‘Why don’t you say now and here: "There is no god but God and Muhammad is His Prophet" and become a Muslim in fact, as you already are in your heart’, said the horseshoe-smith. ‘I will go with you tomorrow to Kabul and take you to the amin, and he will receive you with open arms as one of us’, he asserted. 

    But Leopold travelled on: from Kabul to Ghazni, Kandahar and Heart. Early 1926, he was homeward bound: via Marv, Samarkand, Bokhara and Lashkent and thence across the Lurkoman steppes to Urals and Moscow. Crossing the Polish frontier he arrived straight in Frankfurt. His next engagement was to deliver a series of lectures at the Academy of Geopolitics in Berlin. He also married Elsa, 41 a widow, whom he had met in Berlin during his previous visit. She had a nine-year old son.

    His editor wanted him to write another book. He wanted to return to the Muslim world. Leopold felt that he was being driven to Islam. He was surprised to discover that the very aspect of Islam which had attracted him in the first instance – the absence of a division of reality into physical and spiritual compartments and the stress on reason as to why faith – appealed so little to intellectuals who otherwise were wont to claim for reason a dominant role in life. Because of Europe’s long, almost exclusive association with Christianity, even the agnostic European had subconsciously learned to look upon all religious experience thought the lens of Christian concepts, and would regard it as ‘valid’ only if it was accompanied by a thrill of numinous awe before things hidden and beyond intellectual comprehension. Islam did not fulfil this requirement: it insisted on a co-ordination of the physical and spiritual aspects of life on a perfectly natural plane.

    Some time after September 1926, he sought out a Muslim friend of his, an Indian who was at that time head of the small Muslim community in Berlin, and told him that he wanted to embrace Islam. Elsa followed a few weeks alter. Leopold had become Asad, something which was strongly disapproved by his father and his sister. The relationship resumed in 1935, after his father had at last come to understand and appreciate the reasons for his conversion to Islam. 

    Having earlier resigned from Frankfurter Zeitung and signed withNeune Zurcher Zeitung of Zurich, the Telegraat of Amsterdam and the Kolnische Zeitung of Kologne, Asad left Europe and Elsa accompanied him. The major part of the following years, 1927-1932, was spent in Arabia with missions in between to Egypt and Cyrenaica (Libya) in support of the Sanusi mujahidin who had been fighting a desperate guerrilla battle against the Italians. For Asad, however, the Arabian years were, home coming of the heart. Early in 1927, he was received by King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud. He was impressed by the King and the King took a great liking for this new Muslim and he would send for him almost daily. Elsa died and Asad, now a little over 32, acquired an Arab wife, an infant son and a library full of books on early Islamic history. But none of these prevented him either from wandering or marrying over and over again. 

    Asad rode and rode and explored the peninsula from the northern confines of Arabia towards the south until 1932 when the dust of India replaced the desert clear air of Arabia. He had planned to move on, to Eastern Turkestan, China and Indonesia, but the Islamic poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal persuaded him to remain in India to help elucidate the intellectual premises of the future Islamic state. Iqbal had presented the idea of Pakistan only two years earlier in 1930 and it was not before 1940 that Iqbal’s idea was adopted as a political goal by the All India Muslim League. But to Asad, Pakistan was a dream that demanded to be fulfilled. 

    His first title on an Islamic theme, Islam at the Crossroads, published in 1934, proved to be extremely popular and was translated in several languages. The Crossroads was a plea of Muslims to avoid a blind imitation of Western social forms and values, and to try to preserve instead their Islamic heritage which once upon a time had been responsible for the glorious, many-sided historical phenomenon comprised in the term ‘Muslim civilization’.

    The outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 saw Asad interned as an enemy alien in the Punjab hill town of Dalhousie, and thus there is scant record of his work from 1935 till 1945 when he was freed from internment. He then started a periodical, Arafat, which ceased after publishing about ten issues. Pakistan was achieved in 1947 and the Government of Punjab put Asad in charge of newly established Department of Islamic Reconstruction in Lahore. He embarked on translating Bukhari� the famous Hadith collection and revivedArafat. Asad also contributed eloquently to the debate about Pakistan having an Islamic constitution. Two years later he was seconded to the Pakistan Foreign Service and made director of the Middle East Division in the foreign ministry. 

    Early in 1952, Asad was sent to New York as Pakistan’s minister plenipotentiary to the UN. But problems had begun to develop between Asad and the foreign ministry bureaucracy. Some people were perhaps jealous for their own petty reasons. Some were suspicious because of his religious and adventurous background. Matters, however, came to head when the ministry refused to give him permission to marry Pola Hamida, an American convert to Islam. Asad resigned toward the end of 1952 saying his private life was more important to him and started to write the story of his wanderings and discovery of Islam. The story, The Road of Mecaa (1954), covers the period before he had left Arabia for India. There are gaps but the story is fascinating and the style inimitable. Asad had promised to narrate, perhaps at other time, the story of the years ‘spent working for and in Pakistan’. It did not appear in his life-time, but, it is reported, he had been working on the remaining part of his story. 

    Muhammad Asad had quit diplomacy but his intellectual exertions did not come to and end. Encouraged by Pola Hamida, supported morally and materially by the secretary general of the Muslim World League, the late Shaikh Muhammad Sarur as-Sabban and the Shaya family of Kuwait, he embarked on rendering the Qur’aninto English. The first volume of Asad’s English rendering, fromAl-Baqarah to Al-Tawbah, The Message of the Qur’anappeared in 1964. By far the most elegant and lucid of the English translations, Asad’s rendering would have had normal reception from critical to laudatory, but what made it draw a little different attention was its sponsorship by the Muslim World League. 

    The league had lent its name as a sponsor and had bought several thousand copies for distribution all over the world. Members of the League’s Constituent Council, which included some very distinguished and independent Islamic scholars from the Muslim world, came to know of it only when they presented their own copies. They assumed that the League had satisfied itself that the rendering was faithful and its explanations within the range of general consensus since it had been sponsored by a responsible Islamic body and, therefore, could not be seen as the work of an individual. ‘No they had not’, explained the secretary general. A committee of scholars appointed to review the work found it was too controversial to be distributed on behalf of the Muslim World League. 

    Asad had been greatly influenced by the liberal apologetics of the late 19th and early 20th century Muslim scholars, specially Shaikh Muhammad Abduhu and his disciple, Rashid Rida, who sought to find a version that they thought would be more easily acceptable to the so called western mind. Asad was not just rendering the accepted meaning of the Qur’an into a really idiomatic English, he was, in his view, trying ‘to reproduce, as closely as possible, the sense which it had for the people who were as yet unburdened with the conceptual images of later Islamic developments’. The previous renderings, he thought, suffered in many cases from what he termed ‘institutionalization’ of Islam ‘into a definite set of laws, tenets and practices’. 

    ‘The Qur’an cannot be correctly understood’, he wrote, ‘if we read it merely in the light of later ideological developments, losing sight of its original purport and meaning’. That in fact was the whole stress in the vast body of existing Tafsirliterature (renderings and explanations of the Qur’an) that took great care to reach and stick to the understanding of the original sources, the Messenger himself (sws), his Companions (rta), and those after them in the natural order of precedence. Such developments do not allow an easy comprehension of, for example, miracles, the historicity of Abraham (sws) passing the test of fire, the nightly journey and ascension of heaven by Muhammad (sws), the recalling of Jesus (sws) alive into Heaven, or even the Heaven (Jannah) itself etc. Asad is not alone in taking such a ‘rationalistic’ view while reading the Qur’an. What he seems to have done is to put together a number of individual ‘rationalizations’ under one cover. 

    Asad was dismayed but not discouraged. With the support of his other Arab benefactors, he went ahead with his work and in 1980 produced and published the complete edition of The Message of the Qur’an. Finding him in difficulty in distributing his work, the former Saudi oil minister, Shaikh Ahmad Zaki Yamani bought 20,000 copies of the book. 

    The great strength of Asad’s rendering, however, lies in its elegant and powerful prose, fluent and highly enjoyable. That is also its weakness, if and when, in the course of its long journey, the language happens to take a swing, the enchanted reader is unlikely to discern any gap between words and meaning.

    Asad’s last book, This Law of Ours and other Essays, was published in 1987 and he remained intellectually active until the last days of his life. Nor did he give up his taste for travel and migration, moving between East and West, North and South, yet spending a record 19 years in Tangier, Morocco, before moving finally to Mijas in the Andalusian province of Spain. 

    However as he travelled in time, his ideas and constructions were overtaken by intellectual and political developments in the Muslim world. Asad himself acknowledged the change in 1980 by adding a new author’s note and 12 footnotes to Islam at the Crossroads, published 46 years ago in 1934, because, he thought that some Muslim readers and leaders had failed to grasp the full implications of his call to cultural creativeness. ‘Alas’, he said, ‘the present re-awakening to the true values of the Qur’an and Sunnah but rather a confusion resulting from the readiness of so many Muslims to accept blindly the social forms and thought processes evolved in the medieval Muslim world instead of boldly returning to the ideology apparent in the only true sources of Islam: the Qur’an and the Sunnah’.

    The reference to the medieval Muslim world seemed to hark back to the orientalist comparison of Islam’s prime age, the Qarun al-‘ula with their own dark ages. But otherwise the remarks appeared to be too sweeping and too imprecise for, in fact, the present re-awakening was a call for return to the Qur’an andSunnah and that is what the Islamists the world over were accused of seeking as their goal. It seems when Asad called for a return ‘to the ideology apparent in … the Qur’an and Sunnah’, he wanted the whole exercise to be undertaken virtually de novo, away from what he calls ‘institutionalization’ of Islam ‘into a definite set of laws, tenets and practice’. It is doubtful if that course would take one to the Qur’an and Sunnah as explained and exemplified by Muhammad (sws) and understood and practiced by his Companions (rta).

    There lay the gap between Asad’s understanding of Islam and the popular Islam of an entirely new generation of young and enthusiastic Muslims owing no apology to the liberals and rationalists of the colonial era. Islam was challenging the rationality of the whole liberal secular construction and was being challenged in turn by the total might and power of its former colonial adversaries. 

Leopold Weiss was born on 2 July 1900. Muhammad Asad died on 20 February 1992. He was buried in the Muslim cemetery in Granada, Andalusia.