Sheikh Muhammad Asad Leopold Weiss

Muhammad Asad Leopold Weiss (ra) was a notable Austrian revert to Islam from Jewish origins, he was an important journalist, statesman, Muslim scholar, traveller and a writer. Born in the then Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1900 CE he lived much of his life in Spain and Pakistan (his adopted nationality was Pakistani). He was a Muslim thinker and scholar with somewhat Modernist leanings, one of the most influential European Muslims in the 20th century CE.

He became a Muslim in 1926 CE after realizing that Islam is like a perfect work of architecture, harmoniously conceived, with nothing superfluous and nothing lacking. He spent time traveling in the Muslim lands during the colonial era and the imperialist authorities saw him as a potential troublemaker. In 1932 CE Muhammad Assad came into contact with Muhammad Iqbal who encouraged him to remain in India and help work for a Muslim state in the continent.

During WWII the British had incarcerated Muhammad Assad for three years due to his Austrian origins, despite him being of Jewish stock. During the war his parents were murdered by the Nazis. He was given the post of Director of the Department of Islamic Reconstruction by the fledgling Government of Pakistan soon after partition and later he served in Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He knew Hebrew and Aramaic and had a strong knowledge of the Old Testament, coming from a long line of Rabbis. He wrote an account of his journey from Judaism to Islam, called ‘The Road to Mecca’ and also ‘The Message of the Qur’an’, which is a translation and commentary on the meanings of the Holy Qur’an. He was living in Spain when he passed away in 1992 CE. He was buried in the Muslim cemetery of Granada, in what was once the Muslim land of Andalusia. His son Talal Asad is an eminent anthropologist.