Muhammad Asad

Austrian-born Pakistani writer and social activist (1900–1992)

Muhammad Asad (2 July 190023 February 1992), born Leopold Weiss, was a journalist, traveler, writer, social critic, linguist, thinker, reformer, diplomat, political theorist, translator and scholar. Asad was one of the 20th century's most influential Jewish Muslims.

Quotes edit

  • It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with my interpretations, even the classical Quran commentators disagreed on many details. Disagreement deepens our understanding of the Quran.
    • Documentary, A Road To Mecca
  • Jew or Arab. Both here are brimming over with an intolerant hatred that leads them nowhere. Each side says to the other: You do not belong here.
    • Documentary, A Road To Mecca.
  • Some Muslim scholars argue that the concept of Democracy is not compatible with the concept of an Islamic state. But of course it is and the Quran outlines the essence of Democracy.
    • Documentary, A Road To Mecca.

Islam at the Crossroads (1934) edit

Islam at the Crossroads, The Other Press, 2005
  • 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.
    • Preface to the first 1934 edition, p. xviii.
  • By imitating the manners and the mode of life of the West, the Muslims are being gradually forced to adopt the Western moral outlook: for the imitation of outward appearance leads, by degrees, to a corresponding assimilation of the world-view responsible for that appearance.
    • Chapter 5, p. 72.

The Road to Mecca (1954) edit

  • We allow ourselves to be blown by the winds because we do know what we want: our hearts know it, even if our thoughts are sometimes slow to follow- but in the end they do catch up with our hearts and then we think we have made a decision.
    • Page 68.
  • 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.
    • Page 48.

The Principles of State and Government in Islam (1961) edit

Page numbers refer to the 1961 edition published by Islamic Book Trust

  • Islam is a complete, self-contained ideology which regards all aspects of our existence—moral and physical, spiritual and intellectual, personal and communal—as parts of the indivisible whole which we call "human life."
    • Chapter 6: Conclusion, p 95
  • The ideology of Islam is as practicable or as impracticable as we Muslims choose to make it.
    • Chapter 6: Conclusion, p 107
  • True progress is not possible without a variety of opinions, for it is only through the friction of variously constituted intellects and through the stimulating effect they have on one another that social problems are gradually clarified and thus brought within the range of solution.
    • Chapter 3: Government By Consent And Consent, p 48
  • A state inhabited predominantly or even entirely by Muslims is not necessarily synonymous with an "Islamic state": it can become truly Islamic only by virtue of a conscious application of the sociopolitical tenets of Islam to the life of the nation, and by an incorporation of those tenets in the basic constitution of the country.
    • Chapter 1: The Issue Before Us, p 1
  • It is only within the framework of an independent ideological state built on the principles of Islam and endowed with all the machinery of government, legislation, and law-enforcement that the ideals of Islam can be brought to practical fruition.
    • Chapter 6: Conclusion, p 96
  • Our reason tells us that a community based on ideas held in common is a far more advanced manifestation of human life than a community resulting from race or language or geographical location.
    • Chapter 6: Conclusion, p 96
  • The Law-Giver meant us Muslims to provide for the necessary, additional legislation through the exercise of our Ijtihad (Independent Reasoning) in consonance with the spirit of Islam.
    • Chapter 1: The Issue Before Us, p 14
  • There can be not the least doubt that an Islamic constitution to be evolved thirteen centuries after the Right-Guided Caliphs may legitimately differ from that which was valid in and for their time.
    • Chapter 2: Terminology And Historical Precedent, p 27
  • There is not only one form of the Islamic state, but many; and it is for the Muslims of every period to discover the form most suitable to their needs—on the condition, of course, that the form and the institutions they choose are in full agreement with the explicit, unequivocal shariah laws relating to communal life.
    • Chapter 2: Terminology And Historical Precedent, p 23
  • Human ingenuity has not evolved a better method for corporate decisions than the majority principle.
    • Chapter 3: Government By Consent And Consent, p 50
  • A "Presidential" system of government, somewhat akin to that practiced in the United States, would correspond more closely to the requirements of an Islamic polity than a "Parliamentary" government in which the executive powers are shared by a cabinet jointly and severally responsible to the legislature.
    • Chapter 4: Relationship Between Executive and Legislature, p 61
  • The duty and the right to express one's opinion freely may be meaningless—and on occasion even injurious to the best interests of the society—if those opinions are not based on sound thought, which, in its turn, presupposes the possession of sound knowledge.
    • Chapter 5: The Citizens And The Government, p 86
  • A state, in order to be truly Islamic, must arrange the affairs of the community in such a way that every individual, man and woman, shall enjoy that minimum of material well-being without which there can be no human dignity, no real freedom and, in the last resort, no spiritual progress.
    • Chapter 5: The Citizens And The Government, p 89
  • Instead of being given a true, simple—and therefore easily understandable—picture of Islamic Law, the Muslims are presented with a gigantic, many-sided edifice of fiqhi deductions and interpretations (a secondhand Islam, as it were) arrived at by individual scholars and schools of thought a thousand years ago.
    • Chapter 6: Conclusion, p 100
  • Their [Conservative Muslims'] insistence that a modem Islamic state would have to be an exact replica of the "historic precedents" of our past is apt to bring the very idea of the Islamic state into discredit and ridicule.
    • Chapter 6: Conclusion, p 97

This Law of Ours and Other Essays (1987) edit

Page numbers refer to 2001 edition published by Islamic Book Trust, Kuala Lumpur

  • A Muslim is he who carries the fear of God in his heart and tries, by following the ways of Islam, to rise in spiritual stature: and not merely he who happens to have been born in a Muslim house and bears a Muslim name.
    • Chapter: Calling All Muslims, Radio Broadcast # 7, p 117
  • For let there be no mistake about it: freedom is not an end in itself—it is only a means to an end. The moment you achieve freedom from something, the question arises: What is this freedom for? It is this question which the Muslim millah is now being called upon to answer.
    • Chapter: Calling All Muslims, Radio Broadcast #1, p 92
  • Literally, this word (Islam) denotes "self­-surrender" and, in the deeper sense, "man's self-surrender to God". As soon as we become fully aware that God exists, and thereupon surrender ourselves to Him both in our faith and in our attitudes, we fulfil the meaning of our life.
    • Chapter: Answers of Islam, Answer to Question # 17, p 158
  • To give a valid Islamic content, as well as a creative, positive direction to the people's dreams and desires; to prepare them not only politically (in the conventional context of this word) but also spiritually and ideologically for the great goal of Pakistan: this is the supreme task awaiting our leaders.
    • Chapter: What Do we Mean by Pakistan, p 84
  • We are neither a racial nor a national entity in the conventional meaning of this term; we have become a nation only on the strength of an ideology, a common belief in a particular way of life: and that ideology, that way of life is expressed in one single word: Islam.
    • Chapter: Calling All Muslims, Radio Broadcast # 4, p 105
  • The poet-philosopher put greater stress on the spiritual aspect of our struggle, while the Quaid-e-Azam was mainly concerned with outlining its political aspect: but both were one in their intense desire to assure to the Muslims of India a future on Islamic lines.
    • Chapter: Calling All Muslims, Radio Broadcast # 5, p 108
  • They (the British Rulers) devised for us an educational system in which all independence of thought would be stifled from the very first stages of one's school life—for, according to Macaulay, such a system was the best means of obtaining suit­able clerks for the offices of the East India Company and, besides, of training obedient subjects.
    • Chapter: Calling All Muslims, Radio Broadcast # 6, p 112
  • No nation can prosper unless the men and women of whom it is composed apply to their own behaviour the same high standards of social morality as they demand of the officers of their government; for it is your fathers, your sons and your brothers—in a word, it is yourselves—who are responsible for the country's administration.
    • Chapter: Calling All Muslims, Radio Broadcast # 6, p 114
  • It is not quite reasonable to expect of our Govern­ment that it should lead us in the direction of Islamic integrity and solidarity—while that integrity and solidarity are absent in our own behavior.
    • Chapter: Calling All Muslims, Radio Broadcast # 7, p 116
  • The cause of the intellec­tual and spiritual decadence of the entire Muslim world is not to be found in a supposedly overwhelming "worldli­ness" of the Muslim people but, on the contrary, in the insufficient worldliness on the part of their religious leadership: a failure which resulted in the gradual alienation of the Muslim faith from the Muslim reality.
    • Chapter: Islam And The Spirit Of Our Times, p 133
  • Although science is well qualified to make us progressively comprehend something of the world around us and of the life within us, it is neither able nor called upon to pronounce a judgment regarding the spiritual goal of human life and thus to provide us with ethical guidance.
    • Chapter: Answers of Islam, Answer to Question # 3, p 142
  • Within the Islamic concept of society there is no room for the concept of a "secular" state for the simple reason that Islam does not admit of any separation between "religious" and "mundane" life-concerns.
    • Chapter: Answers of Islam, Answer to Question # 24, p 165
  • In the last resort, the moral quality of a government—of any government—is conditioned by the moral quality of the people whom it governs: for it is the people themselves who produce the personnel of the great administrative machinery which we describe as "government".
    • Chapter: Calling All Muslims, Radio Broadcast # 7, p 116
  • All scientific research is of utmost sig­nificance in the world-view of Islam, for it enables us to comprehend better and better the fact that all creation is based upon a definite divine plan, and is thus apt to strengthen and deepen our conviction of God's existence and omnipotence
    • Chapter: Answers of Islam, Answer to Question # 3, p 141

Quotes about Muhammad Asad edit

  • Every born Muslim must be reconverted to Islam sometime during his life; Islam cannot be inherited. In view of this, it was alarming when a levelheaded and realistic man like Muhammad Asad, towards the end of his long life, revealed to me serious doubts as to whether as in 1926, he would again find his way to Islam, if he were again a young man in today’s Muslim world.

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