The Road to Mecca

The Road to Mecca

Penulis (Author) : Muhammad Asad
Genre: Autobiography
Tarikh Tamat (Date Finished) : 28 March 2017
Rating: 5 / 5

“ While I thus cogitate in disquiet and perplexity, half submerged in dark waters of a well in an Arabian oasis, I suddenly hear a voice from the background of my memory, the voice of an old Kurdish nomad: If water stands motionless in a pool it grows stale and muddy, but when it moves and flows it becomes clear: so, too, man in his wanderings. Whereupon, as if by magic, all disquiet leaves me. I begin to look upon myself with distant eyes, as you might look at the pages of a book to read a story from them; and I begin to understand that my life could not have taken a different course. For when I ask myself, ‘What is the sum total of my life?’ somthing in me seems to answer, ‘You have set out to exchange one world for another-to gain a new world for yourself in exchange for an old one which you never really possessed.’ And I know with startling clarity that such an undertaking might indeed take an entire lifetime.”

The book talks about the journey of an Austrian who’s a Jew to Islam.

The bulk of the book took place between 1900-1932 and he talked about various incidents, ideas, thoughts and events; ranging from philosophy of religions, the loss of the soul among Europeans due to materialistic inclination, Wahabbi, Shia, Islam itself, Grand Sanusi Order, to politics and social issues.

Some of the things he touched:-

I) That Islam does not separate the body and the soul. It celebrates both, where the former is the means of nourishing the latter towards journey to the ultimate goal. Prayer is the ritual of body and soul.

2) The degradation of religion as simply a matter in private sphere brought about the demise in the soul of the Western world. Where as Islam is not merely a private matter but instead a way of life that affects society. It came to illuminate mankind. Muhammad, can be said to be the first man to bring religion into politics.

3) The regression of the Muslim community. Firstly in the sense that they have lost the pride and religious culture and ceased to be a global power. Secondly, in terms of imitating the Western culture, not in Science and Technology, but in terms of ideology and lifestyle.

4) Some thoughts on Wahabbi. A religious movement that labeled as “imposing their views on others”. The culture of Arab as being stout and adamant in their views is a part of the Wahabbi ideas and hence when it encounter other cultures(or countries), it is also a clash of culture.

5) Some thoughts on Shia. In Iran particularly. Asad is of the view that part of the reason why Shia is entrenched well in Iran has got the influence of political, cultural and historical reasons behind it.

i) Before Umar conquered Iran(or Parsi) they were on the verge of a Renaissance of their own, although still at an initial stage. However, it never materialises because of Umar’s conquest. Since Shia’s ideology is to venerate Ali, and subsequently meant to condemn the other 3 caliphs, which meant Umar, it bodes well with them. Hence, the religious reasoning mix well with political reasoning that embedded deep in the Iranians.

ii) the Persians/Iranians are melancholic people. Deep in emotions. Also, their folklore and traditions of venerating individuals to godly level bode well with the idea of Shia that ascend Ali to a supreme status.

6) The history of Ibn Saud’s ascend to power. It is very dramatic. A coup d’etat of 40(not sure about the number. But less than 100) army of people ambushed the governor of Riyadh from Ibn Rashid. All the guards and the governor died and hence King Abdul Aziz retained the power of House of Saud.

7) The uprising of the Bedouins, Ad-Dawish with the help of British to usurp Ibn Saud from power. One of Ibn Saud’s faults is to not emphasis the education of his people and the lack of patience in building up Hejjaz through meticulous and long planning. The hope that people put on him to bring Islam back to glory dashed with his negligence in that sense despite his initial success.

8) The Grand Sanusi Order in Libya, and how their struggle for spiritual awakening of the Muslims and enhancing the political integrity. They had success initially, until a clash with the declining Ottoman Empire, and subsequently the war and clashes with France and Italy. The final nail to the coffin can be said when the leader heeded the call of the Ottoman Caliphate to wage war during World War 1 against the British, who were then neutral to the Senussi Order. Now, the Order has to fight on three fronts; British, French and Italians. The Senussi Order never fully recovered and Gaddafi led a military coup in 1969.

These are some of the takeaways from the book. A smashing book indeed. Apart from these 9 points, the other aspects of the books are similarly, if not more, majestic.

From the play of words, to the in-depth description of the settings, the people and the events totally sucked me into the story. As if, it is the life of I, and not Asad is being told.

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