From the authentic hadith of Imam Bukhari and Abu Dawud, we’re told every good word is sadaqa (charity) and the sadaqa of writing benefits writers beyond their lives1.
Muhammad Asad wrote an autobiography in 1954 and in it he practiced a piece of advice I was given in light of the aforementioned ahadith: be particular about the stories you transcribe. Think about their impact in years to come.
Asad was a journalist who travelled from Austria deep into Jerusalem when he discovered Islam. For most of his life, Asad took on the adventurous lifestyle of a nomad and sought nothing more than understanding. His stories of close companionship later with King Ibn Saud and philosopher-poet Muhammad Iqbal give unexpected access into history of the Muslim world. One would expect full accounts of his interactions to be the bulk of this book. Asad, however, wrote The Road to Mecca to share his reflections throughout “a European’s discovery of Islam and his integration within the Muslim community”2.
The Road to Mecca was paved for us over fifty years ago and without a Western bias. What Asad left for us is a personal understanding of modernity and Islam. His descriptions of how he learned about topics such as theology, psychology, Zionism, and world issues align him intellectually and emotionally with the Arabs and Bedouins he moved amongst.
Perhaps the charity of Muhammad Asad’s work, now known to be a bestseller, is by describing that the art of “understanding” is developed gradually. By sharing with readers his journey to Mecca, readers are inspired to reflect upon their own experiences and recognize that through those experiences, we’ve paved a way to Mecca too.
2 – The Road to Mecca, pg. 1