Prof. Dr. ABD-UL-KERÎM GERMANUS (Hungarian)
(Prof. Dr. Germanus is a professor of ‘Oriental Languages’ in the University of Budapest and has a worldwide reputation. During the First and Second World Wars, he travelled in India and in the meantime worked as a teacher in the University of ‘Shanti Naketen,’ which was under the directorship of Tagore. ( Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Bengali-Indian writer.) Later he moved to Delhi, and became a Muslim in the ‘Jâmi’a-i- Milliyya’. Prof. Germanus has been looked on as a great authority in literary areas, especially in the Turkish language and Turkish literature.)
I was only a fresh adolescent that could just as soon be called a child. On a rainy day, I incidentally found an old illustrated magazine. It contained pictures of apparently overseas countries. I was leisurely turning the pages, when, all of a sudden, one of the pictures caught my attention. It illustrated some one-storied small houses surrounded with rose-gardens. On the roofs of the houses sat people in elegant attirements listening with rapt attention to someone who must be conducting a conversation under the dusky firmament that was hardly illuminated by the half moon. The people, the dresses, the houses, the houseyards were entirely different from those in Europe. As far as I could figure out from the writings under the picture, the picture was an illustration of some Arabs listening to a public story-teller in a small Arabian town. I was sixteen years old then. As an hungarian student seated comfortably in an armchair in Hungary, I looked at the picture and imagined myself being there, among the Arabs, listening to the mellow and at the same time strong voice of the public storyteller, which gave me unusual pleasure. This picture gave a direction to my life. Immediately, I began to study Turkish. For the orient had already entered my periphery of concern. As I improved my Turkish, I observed that the Turkish language contained very few Turkish words and that the Turkish poetry had been enriched with Persian and its prose had been reinforced with Arabic. Then, learning both these languages was prerequisite for a wholesome understanding of the orient. As soon as I took my first vacation I decided to go to Bosnia, which was closest to Hungary. I set out immediately. When I arrived in Bosnia, I checked in to a hotel, where the first question I asked was: “Could you tell me where to find the local Muslims?” They directed me to a place. I went there. I had picked up only a smattering of Turkish. Would that be enough for me to communicate with them? The Muslims had come together in a coffee-house in their quarter, basking in the relaxation of a peaceful environment.
They were grave-featured, big-bodied people wearing baggy trousers belted with sashes and carrying bright-sheathed daggers tucked into their sashes. The turbans on their heads, their ample baggy trousers and daggers gave them a somewhat weird appearance. Bashful and timorous, I stole into the room and skulked into a corner. Sometime later, I noticed that they were talking secretly and softly among themselves and casting quick glances at me. I was sure they were talking about me. I recalled the stories we used to hear in Hungary about those Christians killed by Muslims. Frozen with fright, I helplessly awaited the time when they would “slowly stand up, stride towards me, unsheathe their daggers, and slaughter me.” I began to make plans of escape, yet I was too frightened to move. Minutes passed, I do not know how many. At last, the waiter sauntered towards me with an odorously steaming cup of coffee. As he gently placed the coffee on the table before me, he politely gestured with his head towards the source of the offer: the very Muslims who were only a moment before the source of my thrilling dread. When I looked at them with trepidation, one of them looked back with a cordial and amiable smile and nodded a hello to me. Trying to curve my lips quivering with terror into a smile, I nodded back. There! My imaginary enemies rose to their feet and made for me. My violently palpitating heart on the verge of cessation, I waited, saying to myself, “They are going to attack me now.” Yet, to my amazement, they sat around me in a friendly manner. They greeted me once again. One of them held out a cigarette. As I lit the cigarette, in the dim light of the match, I perceived in amazement that these men, whom we had been prejudging as barbarians in the distance, had a very deeply venerable expression of blessedness on their faces. My awe-stricken stiffness began to thaw. With my extremely poor Turkish, I attempted to talk with them. By the time the first Turkish word left my mouth, their features had already been suffused with all the graces of a blissful expression. We were friends now. The very men whom I had been expecting to attack with daggers invited me to their homes. They showed me warm hospitality. They treated me with tender kindness. All they wanted was to provide me comfort and to do me good.
Such was my first contact with Muslims. It was followed by a number of events in succession. Every new event raised another curtain from before my eyes. I visited Muslim countries one by one. For some time, I received education in the University of Istanbul. I visited lovely places in Anatolia and in Syria. During this time, I learned Arabic and Persian as well as Turkish, on account of which I was later appointed by the University of Budapest as a professor in the Institute of Islamic Works of Art Research. I found many old works of art that had been collected in the university for centuries. I began to study them. I learned many beautiful facts. In the meantime, I gathered information about the Islamic religion. The more I studied those works, the deeper into my heart did Islam penetrate, and the more highly was I impressed by the books that I read, [especially by the Qur’ân al-kerîm and by the books of Hadîth-i-sherîf]. At last, I decided to go to the orient and to examine the Islamic religion more closely. This time my journey took me all the way down to India. My soul was empty, and therefore it was thirsty.
The first day I arrived there I dreamt of Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâtu wassalâm’. He was wearing plain but extremely valuable garments. A very fragrant scent emanated from the garments and reached me. His polite, extremely beautiful, lovable and bright face and his light-radiating and sweet eyes benumbed me. With a very sweet but imperative voice, he spoke to me in the Arabic language, and said: “Why are you sad? You already know the path ahead of you. You have attained the level to choose the right path. Do not wait any longer, and immediately join that path!” My body was shaking all over. I said to him, in Arabic, “Yâ Rasûlallah (O the Messenger of Allah) ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’! You are the Prophet of Allah. I believe in this now. But will I attain peace if I become a Muslim? You are a very great being! You always overcame your enemies and always showed the right way. But will I, a poor, helpless born slave, be able to keep in the path that you will show?” Muhammad ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam’ looked at me gravely and recited the seventh, the eighth, the ninth and the tenth âyats of the Naba’ Sûra in the Qur’ân al-kerîm, which purported, “Have We not created the earth as a dwelling place for you and the mountains as a support? We have brought you in pairs to the world, and We have given you the blessing of sleep so that you may rest.” As he recited them, the words that he uttered rang sweetly like the tuneful sound of silver bells. I was all of a sweat when I woke up. I began to wail, “O my Allah, I cannot sleep any longer. I cannot solve the mysteries around me and hidden under thick covers. O Rasûlallah! O Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâtu wassalâm’! Help me! Illuminate me!” I was, on the other hand, afraid to hurt that great Prophet ‘sall-Allâhu ta’âlâ ’alaihi wa sallam’. Sounds that I could not understand came out of my throat, and I was in convulsions all over. Finally, I felt as if I were rolling down into an abyss, and woke up, soaked in sweat. My heart was palpitating vehemently, and bells were ringing in my ears.
On a Friday, the following incident took place in the Shâh Jihân Mosque in Delhi: A fair-haired, dull-and-whitecomplexioned young stranger was entering the mosque among some old Muslims. It was me. I was clad in Indian garments. Yet a gold medal that I had been awarded in Istanbul shone on my chest. The Muslims in the mosque were eyeing me with amazement. I and my friends reached a spot close to the Minbar.
A while later the voice calling (the invitation to prayer termed) the adhân was heard. I watched the approximately four thousand people stand up with a quick motion softened with reverent solemnity and make lines, with the same orderliness and speed as you could see in a military drill. So they began to perform the (prayer called) namâz, and I joined them. It was an unforgettable moment for me. When the performance of the namâz and the khutba was over, Abd-ul-Hayy held me by the hand and took me to the Minbar. As we were edging our way towards the Minbar, I was extremely careful lest I should disturb the worshippers squatting on the floor. At last, I reached the Minbar and began to climb the stairs. No sooner had I taken the first step than I saw myriad faces under white turbans like in a field of daisies turn towards me. The scholars surrounding the Minbar were encouraging me with heartening looks. This look of theirs gave me the strength that I needed. I looked around. A tremendous sea of people lay before me. With their heads raised, they awaited my speech. I began to talk slowly in Arabic, “O you the highly respectable people who have assembled here! I have come here from a very distant country in order to learn what I could not learn there. I have attained my goal here, and my soul enjoys full peace now.” Then I went on, explaining the high position Islam occupied in history and the various miracles which Allâhu ta’âlâ had created through the hands of His great Prophet Muhammad ‘alaihissalâm’, and adding that the recent decline of power observed in Muslim states was consequent upon the general laxity that Muslims had been showing in their religious obligations. I continued my speech by stating that some Muslims had been putting forth the pretext that an individual’s efforts would have no effect on events because everything depended on the Will of Allâhu ta’âlâ and therefore it would be futile to work, and that, on the contrary, Allâhu ta’âlâ declared in the Qur’ân al-kerîm, “Nothing shall be corrected unless men correct themselves, and nothing shall be accomplished unless they exert themselves,” and that He had promised to help anyone who worked. I quoted âyati kerîmas from the Qur’ân al-kerîm commanding that people should avoid helpless situations by working hard, and I explained them one by one. Finally, conducting a general prayer, I dismounted from the Minbar.
As I left the Minbar, an extremely loud expression, “ALLÂHU EKBER”, ( Allah is the greatest.) articulated in chorus, thundered in the mosque. My intense excitement had built to such a climax that I could not see my whereabouts. All I could sense was that my friend, Aslan, was holding my arm and trying to pull me out of the mosque as soon as possible. “Why are we in such a hurry,” I wanted to know. “Look round,” was the warning reply. I turned my head. O my Allah! Right behind me was the entire congregation, running hard, trying to catch me. And catch they did. Some of them were holding me, hugging me, some were trying to kiss my hand, and others were begging me to invoke a blessing on them. And I was begging, “O my Allah, do not let an incapable born slave like me to appear as an exalted personage in their eyes!” I was so embarrassed that I felt as if I had stolen something from these pure Muslims, or as if I had betrayed them. That same day I realized that being a popular politician meant possessing immense power. Misusing such power given by the people of a country would lead the country to total destruction.
That day, I told my brothers that I was an incapable born slave, and went back home. But their friendliness and love and the respect they showed to me lasted for weeks. They showed so much love to me that its effects will be adequate for me till the end of my life.