The Road to Mecca
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The Road to Mecca is the story of a man’s European discovery of Islam and his integration within the Muslim Community. Leopold Weiss was born in Austria to a Jewish family in the 1900s; in 1926 he converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Asad. He converted from Judaism to Islam because he wanted to find happiness, peace, purpose for living, and a sense of belonging. The Road to Mecca is best understood as a spiritual autobiography and why Muhammad Asad chose the Islamic Way of life. Muhammad Asad found his Islamic faith and community as one big spiritually family. He saw violence wasn’t the answer, and with the spirit of God anything could be solved. The life of an Islamic family was all about God and Muhammad Asad found that during his spiritual journey. For Example, on his journey with Zayd they cross paths with a Muslim family who greet them “peace be with you” and Asad answers “and with you be peace and the grace of God.”
In the West you would rarely see Christians cross paths and greet them by saying a prayer, you would normally just say hello and move on. But this is what Muhammad Asad wants us readers to see, that the Islamic faith is so much different than anything else in the world, the spirit of God is always with you and especially whenever you call upon him to help you. The Koran is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God. The Bible is the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. Muhammad explains that the Koran is used by Muslims for intellectual reason as you can see by this quote.
He states “What I saw in the pages of the Koran was not a ‘materialistic’ world view but, on the contrary, an intense God-consciousness that expressed itself in a rational acceptance of all God-created nature; harmonious side-by-side of intellect and sensual urge, spiritual need and social demand.” The Bible was more for Christians who needed a drive to do something, or to conquer something. The Koran is used by Muslims who to find faith in everyday things. The Koran points out the “harmony of the stars and their movement as witnesses of their creator’s glory.”
Muslims see the world in a different light, and that’s what Muhammad Asad found during his spiritual journey, by seeing harmony in the stars, something so simple, you can find the harmony in anything, and that’s what Asad wanted us readers to see. During Muhammad Asad spiritual journey he found that the most sacred duty is to gain knowledge. 6 This is the most important gift you can gain in your life he says. Muhammad Asad tells us that learning basic knowledge in a classroom isn’t the way to really learn what you need to learn. Yes having learned math, science, and core requirements is fine but you need more than that. You also need spiritual guidance. When he was in a crowded bustle of Musky Street he found a courtyard and a mosque.
He saw that students were all dressed in dark jubbas and white turbans and reading in a low voice their books and manuscripts. Several teachers sat and taught all these students, and not once did they ever raise their voices. As Muhammad Asad was observing, all he could see were these students gobbling up the information but not digesting it. It is as if no one could think for themselves anymore, they would just read and repeat. You will never learn anything or explore anything new Asad says if you just read and repeat. Muhammad Asad saw that the Islamic way might be turning into the Western culture and he wanted to change that. He was trying to get an Islamic State to not try to turn into the West. He wanted to help keep the Islamic community intact. Imperialism seemed to be taken a toll on the Islamic way when Muhammad Asad was on his journey, he saw the western way of life was getting close to changing how some Muslims ran their everyday lives, for example would be the education. The students would just read and repeat; they wouldn’t comprehend more.
Asad found that Great Britain and France who were Imperialist power nations were starting to take over the people, example would be Baghdad, he saw that the western way of life was catching up to them. Muhammad Asad during this journey wanted to stop that, he wanted to show the Islamic nation that there is still hope to live the Islamic way, you don’t have to stoop to the Western level. He wanted to stop the nonsense and bring back the Muslim the faith how it should be. Muhammad Asad wrote in The Road to Mecca that the scenery was part of his spiritual journey. During his long trips he explained how houses were beautiful inside but merely so ugly on the outside. He said “such a house- bare and unadorned on the street side, rich and delightful within- was altogether new to me.”
Asad wasn’t used to seeing something so disparate on the outside with having such beauty on the inside. Unlike the Western Culture; appearance was everything to a man or someone’s family, if you had a big house and looked great on the outside must have been amazing as well on the inside, but the Islamic way of life ]was different, they saw that the finer things in life lives within and not on the outside and that’s how Muslims treated their way of life every single day. Muhammad Asad says “Life in its majesty… you always feel it in the desert. Because it is so difficult to keep and so hard, it is always like a gift, a treasure, and a surprise.” He realizes that his journey is taking him places he would never have dreamed of going before converting to Islam. Having to walk in the desert makes him see what truly lies within, that the sights he sees is a blessing and he will never take it for granted.
Music was another part of Muhammad Asad’s journey. Muhammad says that “Western music, in which the entire emotional background of the composer is drawn into each individual composition, reflecting in every one of its moods all the other, possible moods; buts this Arabian music seemed to flow from a single level of consciousness, from a single tension that was nothing but tension and could therefore assume personal modes of feeling in every listener” This music gives Asad a sense of peace and belonging when he listens to it. Like he said that every tension could help a personal a feeling, and that was the Islamic way of life, living for what you feel was right, having your own ‘tambour” rumble within you, which means beat at your own sound of the drum.
The Road to Mecca was Muhammad Asad’s spiritual journey finding Islamic faith. He states that “There has never been any other road for me’ although I did not know it for many years, Mecca has always been my goal. It called to me, long before my mind became aware of it, with a powerful voice; ‘my Kingdom is in this world as well as the world to come.”10 I think that Muhammad Asad’s calling was for him to find his way not just for himself but also for the Muslim people he helped along the way. He wanted the Islamic culture to not be lost, he wanted it to still be known and not forgotten and that is why this is his spiritual autobiography. He showed us readers that’s peace and tranquility can get you somewhere in life. You do not need violence and imperialist countries trying to take over you if you find peace with everything like Asad did, yes he was upset but he always took the high road in trying to help the Islamic country and I feel that he did that.
Asad, Muhammad. The Road to Mecca. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 2000.