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Muhammad Asad

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Muhammad Asad

Muhammad Asad
Born (1900-07-02)2 July 1900
Lemberg, Austria-Hungary
Died 20 February 1992(1992-02-20) (aged 91)
Granada, Spain
Nationality Austrian[1]
Alma mater University of Vienna (dropped out in 1920)
Notable work(s) The Message of Quran, Road to Mecca
Religion Islam (previously Judaism)
Region Middle East, Pakistan
Main interests
Islamic Studies, Islamic Democracy, Muslim world
Notable ideas
Islamic State[3]
Independent Reasoning[4]

Muhammad Asad (pronounced  ( ), Urdu: محمد اسد‎, born Leopold Weiss; 2 July 1900 – 20 February 1992)[16] was a Jewish-born Austro-Hungarian journalist, traveler, writer, linguist, thinker, political theorist, diplomat and Islamic scholar.[4] Asad was one of the most influential European Muslims of the 20th century.[17]

By the age of thirteen, young Weiss had acquired a passing fluency in Hebrew and Aramaic, other than his native languages German and Polish.[18][19] By his mid-twenties, he could read and write in English, French, Persian and Arabic.[20][21][22][23] In Palestine, Weiss engaged in arguments with Zionist leaders like Chaim Weizmann, voicing his criticism of the Zionist Movement.[19] After traveling across the Arab World as a journalist, he converted to Islam and chose for himself the Muslim name "Muhammad Asad"—Asad being the Arabic rendition of his root name Leo (Lion).[24]

During his stay in [8] He also carried out a secret mission for Ibn Saud to trace the sources of funding for the Ikhwan Revolt. Due to these activities, he was dubbed in a Haaretz article as "Leopold of Arabia"—hinting similarity of his activities to those of Lawrence of Arabia.[19]

On his visit to [8][25]

In the [29] An ardent proponent of Ijtihad and rationality in interpreting religious texts, he dedicates his works:

لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
to People who Think.[29][31]

In 2008, the entrance square to the UN Office in Vienna was named Muhammad Asad Platz in commemoration of his work as a "religious bridge-builder".[32] Asad has been described by his biographers as "Europe's gift to Islam" and "A Mediator between Islam and the West".[33][34]

Personal life

The Berliner Gedenktafel (Berlin Memorial Plaque) for Muhammad Asad.


Leopold Weiss born on 2 July 1900 to a Jewish family in Lemberg, Galicia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (which is currently the city of Lviv, Ukraine). Weiss was a descendant of a long line of Jewish rabbis; however, his father, Akiva Weiss, broke from tradition and became a lawyer. Leopold received a religious education and was proficient in Hebrew from an early age, as well as familiar with Aramaic. He studied the Jewish Bible or Tanakh, the text and commentaries of the Talmud, the Mishna and Gemara, also delving into the intricacies of Biblical exegesis and the Targum.

At the age of fourteen he made an escape from school and joined the Austrian army under a false name. After a week or so, his father traced him with the help of the police, and he was ignominiously escorted back to Vienna[35]

Years in wilderness (1920–1922)

After abandoning university in Vienna, Weiss drifted aimlessly around 1920s [2]

Later years and death

Towards the end of his life, Asad moved to Spain and lived there with his third wife, Pola Hamida Asad, an American national of Polish Catholic descent who had also converted to Islam, until his death on 20 February 1992 at the age of 91. He was buried in the Muslim cemetery of Granada in the former Moorish province of Andalusia, Spain.


Asad had a son, Talal Asad, from his second Saudi Arabian wife, Munira. Talal Asad is now an anthropologist specializing in religious studies and postcolonialism. Asad also had a step-son named Heinrich (converted name Ahmad) with his first wife Else (converted name Aziza).[36]

Stay in Middle East (1922–1926)

External images
Muhammad Asad Photo Album

Muhammad Asad in traditional Arabic dress.

(See also: Other photos from album covering important events of his life).

In 1922 Weiss moved to the [8]

Foreign correspondent for Frankfurter Zeitung

He picked up work as a stringer for the German newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung, one of the most prestigious newspapers of Germany and Europe, selling articles on a freelance basis. His pieces were noteworthy for their understanding of Arab fears and grievances against the Zionist project. He published a small book on the subject in 1924, and this so inspired the confidence of the Frankfurter Zeitung that it commissioned him to travel more widely still, to collect information for a full-scale book. Weiss made the trip, which lasted two years.

Conversion to Islam (1926)

Weiss's assignments led him to an ever-deepening engagement with and understanding of Islam, which, after much thought and deliberation, led to his religious conversion in 1926 in Berlin and adopting an Arabic name, Muhammad Asad.

Asad spoke of Islam thus:

"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; and the result is a structure of absolute balance and solid composure."[2]

Magazine [2]

Years in Arabia (1927–1931)

After his conversion to Islam, Asad moved to Saudi Arabia making a journey by camel across the Arabian Desert, from Tayma to Mecca.[37] He stayed there for nearly six years during which he made five pilgrimages.[38] Alongside, he started writing essays for Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and continued to do so till 1934.[39]

Ibn Saud's confidant and Bolshevik allegations

After the sudden death of his wife Elsa, Asad stayed on in the holy city where, in a chance encounter in the [2] Ibn Saud allowed Asad to visit the Najd region (in the King's company), which was forbidden to foreigners at that time.[1]

In late 1928, an [8]

Ikhwan Rebellion

According to Asad, he did finally become a secret agent of sorts. [8] Asad, after traveling day and night through the desert without lighting fire, reached Kuwait to collect first-hand evidence. He concluded that the British were providing arms and money to Ad-Dawish to weaken Ibn Saud for the purpose of securing a 'land route to India' – a railroad from Haifa to Basra ultimately connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian subcontinent.[40] [41]

Years In British India and Pakistan (1932–1952)

Muhammad Asad (seated right) and his wife Pola Hamida Asad (seated left) at the residence of Chaudhry Niaz Ali Khan in Jauharabad, Pakistan. Circa 1957

Adoption of Iqbal's idea

Asad left Arabia and came to British India in 1932 where he met South Asia's premier Muslim poet, philosopher and thinker, Muhammad Iqbal, who had proposed the idea of an independent Muslim state in India, which later became Pakistan. Iqbal persuaded Asad to stay on in British India and help the Muslims of India establish their separate Muslim state. Iqbal introduced Asad to Chaudhry Niaz Ali Khan, a philanthropist and agriculturalist, who, on the advice of Muhammad Iqbal, established the Dar-ul-Islam Trust Institutes in Pathankot, India and Jauharabad, Pakistan. Asad stayed on in British India and worked with both Muhammad Iqbal and Chaudhry Niaz Ali Khan.[42]

Internment as enemy alien (1939–1945)

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Asad's parents were arrested and, subsequently, murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Asad himself was arrested in Lahore in 1939, a day after the war broke out, by the British as an enemy alien. This was despite the fact that Asad had refused German nationality after the annexation of Austria in 1938 and had insisted on retaining his Austrian citizenship. Asad spent three years incarcerated in a prison, while his family consisting of his wife, Munira, and son, Talal, after being released from detention earlier, lived under the protection of Chaudhry Niaz Ali Khan at the latter's vast 1,000-acre (4.0 km2) estate in Jamalpur, 5 km west of Pathankot. Asad was finally released and reunited with his family in Jamalpur when the Second World War ended in 1945.[42]

Role in Pakistan Movement

Asad supported the idea of a separate Muslim state in India and after the independence of Pakistan on 14 August 1947, in recognition for his support for Pakistan, Asad was conferred full citizenship by Pakistan and appointed the Director of the Department of Islamic Reconstruction by the Government of Pakistan,[43] where he made recommendations on the drafting of Pakistan's first Constitution.[2] In 1949, Asad joined Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs as head of the Middle East Division and made efforts to strengthen Pakistan's ties with the Muslim states of the Middle East. In 1952, Asad was appointed as Pakistan's Minister Plenipotentiary to the [2][44]

Asad loved Pakistan, his conception of Pakistan, even when it turned its back on him, and he never felt resentment at the treatment he had received from it. He remained a citizen– the first citizen of Pakistan– until the end, although he had been strongly tempted to accept the generous, spontaneous gestures of many heads of Islamic States to have their citizenship and passport, which would have made his life so much easier.

Career as a diplomat

Asad contributed so much to Pakistan’s early political and cultural life but was unfortunately shunted from the corridors of power. He served this country as the head of the Directorate of Islamic Reconstruction, Joint Secretary of the Middle East Division in Pakistan can be dealt with in detail.

Marriage controversy and resignation

By chance, at a reception Asad met Pola, an [2] He applied through the proper channels but the Governor-General rejected his application. So, he submitted his resignation from the Foreign Service, divorced his Arabian wife (Munira, d. 1978) and in the inspiring company of his new wife, he sat down and wrote his extraordinary book entitled The Road to Mecca.

During his stay in Switzerland, Asad received a letter from the President of Pakistan, General Ayub Khan, who was a great admirer of his book named The Principles of State and Government in Islam (1961). In a subsequent exchange of letters, he proposed to Asad to come to Pakistan and have the membership of a seven-man group of Muslim scholars – who both supposedly knew the world and were experts on Islam – to advise him with regard to everyday matters as well as the drawing up of a new Islamic constitution for the country.[25] At that time, Asad was immersed in his cherished work on the Qur'an, and so he regretfully declined.

After many years, Asad was again invited by another President of Pakistan, [2] On one point he was firm and insistent that Muslim women should have exactly the same rights in the political sphere as had men, to the extent of becoming Prime Minister. Asad also spared some time to meet with his surviving friends in Lahore and Islamabad and at the request of the President made several radio and television appearances, as always spontaneous. On his return, he was besieged by letters from literally hundreds of admirers in Pakistan, offering him land, a house, everything but he refused politely, as his concept of Pakistan was beyond all these worldly trivialities.

Honors and recognition

Muhammad Asad Square in Donaustadt, Vienna

Muhammad Asad Platz

In April 2008, a space in front of the [45] The step was taken as part of a two-day program on the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue focusing on Islam and its relationship with Europe.[46] The program commemorated the life and work of Asad, described as a great Austrian visionary, who earned international recognition by building bridges between the religions.[47] The honoree's son Talal Asad, the President of the Islamic Community of Austria Anas Schakfeh and Vienna's cultural adviser Andreas Mailath-Pokorny were present at the unveiling of the square. Mailath-Pokorny, while talking to the media said:
"There is probably no more appropriate place to honor Muhammad Asad than that in front of the UN-City. Muhammad Asad was a citizen of the world, who was at home, and left his mark, everywhere in the world, especially in the Orient."[32]

Honorary postage stamp

On 23 March 2013, Pakistan Post issued a stamp with denomination of Rs. 15 under the "Men of Letters" Series in honor of Allamah Muhammad Asad.[48]



In documentaries:

In books:

  1. Hasan, Pipip Ahmad Rifai (1998). The Political Thought of Muhammad Asad. Concordia University. 
  2. Windhager, Günther (2002). Leopold Weiss alias Muhammad Asad : Von Galizien nach Arabien 1900 – 1927.  
  3. Butler-Bowdon, Tom (2005). 50 spiritual classics : Timeless Wisdom from 50 Great Books on Inner Discovery, Enlightenment and Purpose. London: Nicholas Brealey.  
  4. Halilović, Safvet (2006). Islam i Zapad u perspektivi Asadovog mišljenja (in Bosnian).  
  5. Chaghatai, M. Ikram (2006). Muhammad Asad : Europe's gift to Islam.  
  6. Andrabi, Abroo Aman (2007). Muhammad Asad : His Contribution to Islamic Learning.  
  7. Wolfe, Michael (2007). One Thousand Roads to Mecca: Ten Centuries of Travelers Writing about the Muslim Pilgrimage. New York: Grove Press.  
  8. Sherif, M. A. (2009). Why An Islamic State: The Life Projects of Two Great European Muslims.  
  9. Hoenger, Tobias (2010). Muhammad Asad: A Mediator Between the Islamic and the Western World.  

In journal entries:

Literary works

The Road to Mecca, which covers his life from 1900–1932, is not the only autobiography written by Asad. He wrote another memoir tentatively titled Home-Coming Of The Heart—covering the rest of his life (1932–1992).[50] Due to his deteriorating health, Asad couldn't complete this book, and could only record his experiences up to his resignation from the United Nations Envoyship. That's why, the book consists of two parts: the first part (covering 1932–1952) is written by Asad himself, while the second part (covering 1952–1992) is written by his wife Pola Hamida (d. 2007). Although the book hasn't been officially published, a Pakistani writer Ikram Chaghatai has published its Urdu translation under the title Muhammad Asad: Banda-e-Sehrai.[26][50]

Another book titled Meditations, which was intended to clarify [51] Furthermore, the short book published under the title The Spirit of Islam, is not a separate book but a republication of the first chapter of his book Islam at the Crossroads.[52]


  1. The Unromantic Orient (1924)
  2. Islam at the Crossroads (1934)
  3. The Road to Mecca (1954)
  4. The Principles of State and Government in Islam (1961)
  5. The Message of The Qur'an (1980)
  6. Sahih Al-Bukhari: The Early Years of Islam (1981)
  7. This Law of Ours and Other Essays (1987)
  8. Home-Coming Of The Heart (1933–1992) (Officially Unpublished)
  9. Meditations (Unpublished)


Video interviews:

  • Muhammad Asad and Dr. Hathout on Ijtihad
  • Muhammad Asad – God Man Relationship

Other publications:

Title Original
Jerusalem in 1923: The Impressions of a Young European 1923 Later published in Islamic Studies, Islamabad in 2001. Translated by Elma Ruth Harder.[53][54]
The Concept of Religion in the West and in Islam 1934 Later published in The Islamic Literature , Lahore in 1967.[55]
The Spirit of the West 1934 Later published in The Islamic Literature, Lahore in 1956.
Towards a Resurrection of Thought 1937 Published in Islamic Culture, Hyderabad, Deccan.[56]
Aims and Objectives of the Department of Islamic Reconstruction 1947 Published his thoughts as the Director of the Department of Islamic Reconstruction.[57]
Calling All Musliam 1947 A collection of seven Radio Broadcasts delivered at the request of Government of Pakistan.[58]
Islamic Constitution Making 1948 Essay published under the auspices of the Government of Punjab in March, 1948. It was later expanded to the book The Principles of State and Government in Islam.[26]
The Encounter of Islam and The West 1959 Talk delivered on Radio Beromunster in Switzerland.
Islam and the Spirit of Our Times 1960 Talk delivered on Radio Beromunster in Switzerland.
Answers of Islam 1960s Answers to questionnaire posed by German publisher Gerhard Szczesny in the 1960s.
Islam and Politics 1963 Pamphlet series by Islamic Centre.[2][59]
Can the Qur’an be Translated? 1964 Islamic Centre.[2]
Jerusalem: The Open City 1970s Talk sent for delivery at a conference of Muslim Students Association, United States in the late 1970s.
My Pilgrimage to Islam 1974 Published in Majalla al-Azhar.[2]
The Meaning and Significance of the Hijrah 1979 Published in London in November 1979.
The Message of the Qur'an 1980 Address delivered at a Conference of the Islamic Council in London.
A Vision to Jerusalem 1982 Published in Ahlan Wasahlan, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Jerusalem: A City for all People 1982 Later published in Arabia: The Islamic World Review in 1985.[60]
A Tribe That Kept Its Name 1985 Published in Arabia magazine.[56]
The City of the Prophet 1991 Published in Muslim Africa.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Muhammad Asad: A Jewish Lawrence of Arabia". 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Islamic Encyclopedia". 
  3. ^ a b Mirage, p. 10.
  4. ^ a b c d "Muhammad Asad's Journey into Islam". 
  5. ^ "'s biography of Asad". 
  6. ^ "Remembering Muhammad Asad, the West’s gift to Islam". 
  7. ^ a b c " – From Leopold Weiss to Muhammad Asad". 
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Martin Kramer's research on Asad". 
  9. ^ "Muhammad Asad Between Religion and Politics". 
  10. ^ "Arabic Article". 
  11. ^ "Huffington Post article". 
  12. ^ "Tariq Ramadan's tribute to Muhammad Asad". 
  13. ^ Khan, Imran (2011). Pakistan: A Personal History. p. 53. 
  14. ^ "Maryam Jameelah – Islamic Encyclopedia". 
  15. ^ "Express Tribune on Maryam Jameelah". 
  16. ^ Windhager, Günther (2002). Leopold Weiss alias Muhammad Asad: Von Galizien nach Arabien 1900–1927 (in German). ISBN 9783205993933. p. 203
  17. ^ "Leopold Weiss alias Muhammad Asad: Von Galizien nach Arabien 1900–1927". 
  18. ^ Harder, Elma Ruth (1998). "MUHAMMAD ASAD AND "THE ROAD TO MECCA": Text of Muhammad Asad's Interview with Karl Günter Simon". Islamic Studies: p. 536. 
  19. ^ a b c "Leopold of Arabia". 
  20. ^ Road, p. 49.
  21. ^ Road, p. 54.
  22. ^ Banda-e-Sehrai, p. 123.
  23. ^ Road, p. 105.
  24. ^ "The unusual journey of Muhammad Asad". 
  25. ^ a b c "The First Citizen Of Pakistan". 
  26. ^ a b c d "Criterion Quarterly". 
  27. ^ a b c "Al Jazeera". 
  28. ^ Hofmann, p. 237.
  29. ^ a b c "Hasan Zillur Rehman's Piece". 
  30. ^ Hofmann, p. 242.
  31. ^ "Asad IRF Event". 
  32. ^ a b "Austrian Times". 
  33. ^ Hoenger, p. 1.
  34. ^ Ikram Chaghatai, p. 1.
  35. ^ Road, p. 56.
  36. ^ The Truth Society – Muhammed Asad
  37. ^ "Lure of Mecca". 
  38. ^ "Journey of a lifetime". 
  39. ^ Banda-e-Sehrai, p. 265.
  40. ^ "Umar Mukhtar – The Lion of the Desert". 
  41. ^ Road, p. 228.
  42. ^ a b Azam, K.M., (A Righteous Life: Founder of Dar ul Islam Chaudhry Niaz Ali Khan), Lahore: Nashriyat, 2010 (583 pp., Urdu) [ISBN 978-969-8983-58-1]
  43. ^ "Documentary: A Road To Mecca". 
  44. ^ "The True Call". 
  45. ^ "UN Vienna.Org". 
  46. ^ "Young Muslim digest on Vienna Square". 
  47. ^ "Dawn Story on Muhammad Asad Platz". 
  48. ^ "Pakistan Post". 
  49. ^ "Mischief Films site". 
  50. ^ a b c Banda-e-Sehrai, p. 19.
  51. ^ "IN MEMORIAM: Muhammad Asad – An Intellectual Giant". 
  52. ^ Hofmann, p. 238.
  53. ^ "Jay Editore pdf list". 
  54. ^ Harder, Elma Ruth (2001). "Jerusalem in 1923: The Impressions of A Young European". Islamic Studies: 697–720. 
  55. ^ "Rupee News article". 
  56. ^ a b Hasan, p. 8.
  57. ^ "Al-Ilm Trust". 
  58. ^ "Scribd Calling All Muslims". 
  59. ^ "World Catalog". 
  60. ^ "World Catalog". 


Asad, Muhammad (2004). The Unromantic Orient. Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust.  
Asad, Muhammad (2000). The principles of state and government in Islam. ([New ed.] ed.). Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust.  
Asad, Muhammad (2000). This Law of Ours and Other Essays (1. malaysian ed., 2. repr. ed.). Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust.  
Asad, Muhammad (1999). Islam at the Crossroads. Kuala Lumpur: Other Press.  
Asad, Muhammad (1980). The Road to Mecca (4th rev. ed. ed.). Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae.  
Sherif, M. A. (2009). Why An Islamic State: The Life Projects of Two Great European Muslims.  
Chaghatai, M. Ikram (2006). Muhammad Asad : Europe's gift to Islam.  
Andrabi, Abroo Aman (2007). Muhammad Asad : His Contribution to Islamic Learning.  
Hoenger, Tobias (2010). Muhammad Asad: A Mediator Between the Islamic and the Western World.  
Windhager, Günther (2002). Leopold Weiss alias Muhammad Asad : Von Galizien nach Arabien 1900 – 1927.  
Hasan, Pipip Ahmad Rifai (1998). The Political Thought of Muhammad Asad. Concordia University. 
Halilović, Safvet (2006). Islam i Zapad u perspektivi Asadovog mišljenja (in Bosnian).  
Fatah, Tarek (2008). Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State.  
Butler-Bowdon, Tom (2005). 50 spiritual classics : Timeless Wisdom from 50 Great Books on Inner Discovery, Enlightenment and Purpose. London: Nicholas Brealey.  
Wolfe, Michael (2007). One Thousand Roads to Mecca: Ten Centuries of Travelers Writing about the Muslim Pilgrimage. New York: Grove Press.  
Asad, Muḥammad (2009). Muḥammad Asad Banda-e-Sehrai (in Urdu). Lahore: The Truth Society.  
Harder, Elma Ruth (1998). "Muhammad Asad and 'The Road To Mecca': Text of Muhammad Asad's Interview with Karl Günter Simon". Islamic Studies 37 (4).  
Nawwab, Ismail Ibrahim (2000). "A Matter of Love: Muhammad Asad and Islam". Islamic Studies 39 (2): 155–231.  
Hofmann, Murad (2000). "Muhammad Asad: Europ's Gift to Islam". Islamic Studies 39 (2): 233–247.  

External links

English biography articles

  • By Ikram Chaghatai
  • Profile on Islamic Encyclopedia
  • Mushtaq Parker piece in The Independent
  • Impact International piece
  • Martin Kramer's piece
  • By the editor of IQRA Magazine
  • By the editor of Saudi Aramco World

Non-English articles

  • Spanish: Muhammad Asad-Leopold Weiss
  • Polish: Leopolda Weissa droga do islamu
  • Urdu: "Mufaad Parast Club" by Javed Chaudary
  • Indonesian: Mengapa Kami Memilih Islam
  • اليهـــود: ماذا يقول عنهم محمد أسد (اليهودى السابق)؟Arabic:

Book links

  • books collection

Journal Links

  • Journal articles on Muhammad Asad


  • Documentary: A Road To Mecca
  • MBC report on Vienna Square naming
  • Tariq Ramadan on Asad
  • Murad Hofmann on Asad
  • Risalah Reformis Tafsir Muhammad Asad


  • International Symposium on Muhammad Asad
  • Tribute to Muhammad Asad
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