In my previous blog I mentioned that 9/11 attacks affected apprehension of Islam very badly and that Islam world could not tell the beauty of this religion unfortunately So, in this blog I would like to write about a book 'The Road to Mecca' which impressed me a lot. And, I believe that it is one of the best books which explains the essence and beauty of the Islam…It covers the life of the writer and his initial attraction to Islam. The writer of the book is Muhammad Asad (1900-1992) who was a converted Jew (named Leopold Weiss at birth). He not only sought personal fulfillment in his adopted faith, but also tried to affect the course of contemporary Islam, as an author, activist, diplomat, and translator of the Qur'an. He is actually best known for his popular English translation of the Qur'an.
Compared to Judaism and Christianity, he adored Islam's love of the Absolute, and the simplicity and beauty of the Koran, which did not require official interpreters of its wisdom. Compared to the individualism that Western faiths seemed to inspire, he reveled in the sense of community that Islam granted to its believers. Because Islam had no notion of 'original sin', everyone was assumed to be a person of God; this outlook was expressed in courtly and reverential forms of Muslim greeting.
By the way, as every Muslim knows Salat (performing the daily prayers) is the second pillar of Islam and is the most important one of all. There is a passage at the book which is on the first impression of Muhammad Asad about Salat… I would like to translate it into English to the best of my ability:
"They collect several times a day for pray, and if the weather is not rainy they pray in the open air. They move uniformly and Haci was imamating in front of them. They are like soldiers with order and harmony of movement; they turn in the direction of Mecca all together, bend together. And then get up and sit on their knees close together again.
Such a team of sincere prayers of merging with mechanical body movements made me a little nervous for some reason one day, so I asked to the Haci who can speak English a little;
- Do you really believe that God wants you to show that you respect him as bending knee and closing down to the ground? Is not it more appropriate for people only looking into his/her heart, and pray in silence? What is the wisdom of the body movement?
After telling him so, I began to regret, since I did not want to hurt religious feelings of the old man. But, Haci did not seem to be offended at all; smiled with a toothless mouth and said:
- How else can we pray to Allah? Have not He created the body and the spirit together? So, is not it necessitating for a human being should pray not only with spirit but also with her body? I would like to tell you why Muslims pray in this way. We turn our face to the Kaaba, in Mecca, and we know that anywhere in the world, all Muslims praying at that time turned their faces to the Kaaba, so we are like a single body and the center of our thoughts is Him. First of all we read suras from the Holy Qur'an, in doing so, while we are telling these suras, we are in consciousness of that these kelam is given to human being for the sheer survival of human life by Allah. Then, we say 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is greatest!) By doing this we give voice to there is no one or nothing to worship for other than Allah, and we hear this fact again and testify that it is as an obvious fact. Then we show our respect and love of Allah by bowing in front of him; we praise the magnificence of his strength, glory and greatness. And feeling that we are nothing from a dust particle, nothing, nothingness in front of him, but He is the supreme and lofty creative God of us, we put our forehead to ground enthusiastically. And then we sit down and prey him to forgive our sins, to judge us with mercy, direct us to the right way, and favor us with health and livelihood.
We wish his peace and mercy for his prophet Muhammed (s.s.) who delivered his message to us, for prophets before Muhammed, for us, for ourselves, and for everyone who followed the right path. And we pray for him to bestow us goodness and beauty in this world and the other world. Finally, we finish praying by turning our head to the right and left, so we salute all prayers regardless of where they are.
Our Prophet prayed like that and he taught this to his followers. This is for surrender ourselvess to Allah willingly which is the meaning of Islam and to live with ourselves and our destiny in peace."
I believe that if someone has never really understood Islam and the faith that it inspires, this book will be a great teacher…