Muhammad Asad Interview on God Man Relationship Part 1 Transcription

Muhammad Asad about his religious inclination before came to Islam:

“I had no religious inclination, precisely. And I was originally Jew… I did not like the regulations of Judaism, and the insistence of man serving God. This is one thing. God does not need service as such. And the second thing it was the exclusivity of each Jews. They think that the whole world, whole creation, is for them, made for their sake only. Whatever happens in the world is a result of their doings. If they behave well so rewards come from God, and if they behave badly, the world turns against them. So that displeased me. This egocentric self centered idea. But I have no religious inclination as such. And my approach to Islam was quite different.”

Muhammad Asad and his vision of God or God concept:

“My concept of God is that God exists that I cannot understand Him. I cannot comprehend Him. That He is infinite. My brain cannot operate with the concept of infinity, or in time and in space. I can have no idea of what God is and how He is. I only know that He is, and that He is The Creator, All powerful and He embraces everything in His knowledge.”

Muhammad Asad about his transitional process from not believing to believing in God:

“That was very strange. It was by the Arabs. When I was very young, I was 22 years old. I was invited by a relative of mine to Palestine. To live for some months in Jerusalem. And almost from the very beginning, I fell in love with Arabs. I like their way of approach in life of truth. I like the way they spoke , and their openness, directness. And later when I was a journalist at that time, and I was travelling for years as a special correspondent of German and Swiss newspapers in the Middle East and Farther East. And gradually I became interested to know what the Arabs think, what are they ideas. My Arabic was very limited at that time so I had to rely mostly on writings in European languages, which didn’t satisfy me. But gradually, more and more, I came accustomed to speak especially when I traveled in Iran and Afghanistan, I spoke Persian already very fluently and could discuss things. In Afghanistan especially, I spoke with people who were deeply imbeud with Islam and interested, and talked with them, went learned through talking with them more and more. Then finally, when I returned to Europe after my second long trip after many years, 1926, I began to read seriously the Quran with the translation. German translation, because my Arabic, as I told you, was still insufficient. And my wife, my first wife, who was older than me, shared these things with me.

“One day I was reading the Quran in a German translation, and for some reason or rather we had to go out, I think I described that in The Road to Mecca this experience, when I became convinced suddenly that this book could not have been composed by a man who lived in Arabia thirteen or fourteen hundred years ago. Who did not know the outside world, except a little bit of Syria or so. Who did not read and write. It must have been inspired, but inspired by whom? Inspired by God. And it became like a flash. I became convinced that the Quran is the word of God.

“(What German translation is that?) That was I think by Rikrt. But I don’t know exactly or any or something like that. There are several German translations, none of them good. All biased of course, they are made by Orientalists. Orientalists, as you know, are descendants of missionaries. The Orientalists science in the west was developed by missionaries in the middle ages in order to convert Muslims to Christianity. So they carry, Orientalists carry that weight with them to this day, but they are improving gradually. But what I read in those days, 60 years ago, was not very good.

“(But still it made quite an impression on you.) It made an impression on me because the text was there, and not their concept of Islam impressed me but what they reproduced. And especially the Surah Ahqaf, Takathur, Zukhruf, that impressed me enormously because that is the picture of the world of today, nowadays, in Takahtur, striving for more and more, the lack of knowledge of what may happen later and Gods statement, that you will see you will find you are in hell now (speaks Arabic). Now if you would look at it you would see you are in hell, but one day you will see it in the eye of certainty, and on that day you will be asked what did you do with the boom of life. This gave me a shock, practically. And I was really physically shaken when I read this. The Quran was pronounced fourteen hundred years ago, shows conditions of society of our days. That nobody could have predicted that.”

Muhammad Asad on the difference when learning the Quran and Arabic what changes did it have on his perception:

“No, there were no changes it was a deepening only. And I say, and when I started working on my translation of the Quran, The Message of the Quran, I thought the work would take me 2 years and it took me 17 years. Because every day I discovered more layers and more layers and more layers. One above the other, one end of the other. And I became convinced that I know less of the Quran than I knew before because I realized how much more is left which I dont understand here which I dont know. So this is, if I every time I am thinking of my word of my translation and my commentary, I say Oh my God I would like to restart it and improve it in going deeper. Perhaps one day I will. (There is a science in commentary, to doing commentary) Yes, but you see what I would like now is to write it with consecutive meditations on the Quran. Thinking on various parts of the Quran and trying to find these exactly, these deeper layers, which escape on the first glance and on the second glance. And if God gives me life I will work on it.”

Muhammad Asad on mans relationship to God and Gods relationship to man:

“Man is Gods creature, is utterly dependent on God, and is nothing without God. God, on the other hand, is entirely independent, does not need men. God does not need anything. God does not need our prayers. God does not need even our statement that He is one and unique. It is for our benefit that He asks us to realize these things, to pray and to realize His oneness. Not for His own sake because He is in no need of anything. (What about this oneness/the unity?) Oneness, oneness it means that there is absolutely no reality apart from God no deeper reality. That God embraces everything, that everything that exists or could potentially exist comes from God and is a result of Gods will. (So this unifies man with God and with nature and with the rest of creation.) First, it unifies God with men. It gives him inner peace also. It unifies men with men because all are cogs of the same wheel. And this is for our benefit that the Quran stresses from the beginning to the end that men must recognize the oneness of God.”

Muhammad Asad on Islams concept of oneness:

“Of course, I don’t know of any religion which stresses the oneness in that sense. Now, for example, Judaism is very monotheistic. It has the concept of oneness. But the concept of God by the Jews is mainly the God of the people of Israel. It is a remnant of a tribal concept of deity. While in Islam, we are taught to understand as much as human brain can understand, that God is everything. That everything that exists (speaks Arabic). Everything comes back, and this *come back* has two meanings. One is that returns to Him after death. Which is the destiny of every human being, every living being. And the other coming back in the linguistic sense. Coming back to its roots of thought, you see. And when I say for example, this goes back to Greek roots. That means that it goes back logically in a chain until it reaches its origin in Greek in a Greek concept or so. And the Quran stresses that everything goes back to God as it is source. God is the source of everything.”

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