FADL-UD-DÎN AHMAD OVERING (Hollander)
I cannot figure out precisely the time of my first contact with the oriental civilization. This contact owes primarily to language. To be more clear, my aspirations to learn the oriental languages ended in my beginning to study Arabic when I was only in my early teens. Naturally, with no one to help me, it was rather an onerous work for me to get over. Primarily with a view to learning Arabic, I bought some books written by Europeans about the Arabs and about Islam. I think most of the information they gave about Islam were far from being correct or unbiased. Nevertheless, the passages about Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâm’ caused me to develop a strong admiration for his personality. Yet the information I collected about Islam was both incorrect and insufficient. Nor was there anyone to guide me.
In the long last, I came across a perfect work, namely a book entitled, ‘History of Persian Literature in Modern Times’, written by T.G. Browne. I found two elegant poems in the book. One of them was the Terjî’i bend of Hâtif Isfahânî, and the other one was the Heftbend of Mohtashim Kâshânî. I cannot describe to you the greatness of the excitement that I felt when I read Hâtif’s poem. How delicately the poem depicted and depression and seeking for a murshid to guide him to salvation! As I read it, I felt as if the great poet had written it about me and as if the poem were describing my struggles to find the truth.
He, alone, exists; there’s no others in existence; He, alone, is worthy of worship by all existence. To fulfil my mother’s wishes and to satisfy my curiousity, I registered in a high school with a religious curriculum. Despite its religious system of education, the school did not follow a fanatical policy. The students could discuss their ideas freely, and their ideas were held in high regard. The religious lessons consisted of religious essentials that a person needed to know. However, the answer, “I feel deep respect for the Islamic religion,” which I gave to a final exam question querying our opinions about other religions must have consternated the school director. In those days, the strong feelings of sympathy I had had for the Islamic religion had not developed into a definite belief yet. I was still in a state of indecision. Nor had I completely recovered from the morbid hostility against Islam that the church had engraved into the depths of my soul.
Firmly resolved to disentangle myself from the influence of those books with European authors, I embarked on an entirely personal study of Islam; this time the only criterion would be my personal evaluation. How thoroughbred the facts that the study yielded were! It began to dawn on me why so many people abandoned the religions inculcated into them during their childhood and embraced Islam. For the first feature of Islam reflected man’s own essence, his personal world, his true belief and trust in Allâhu ta’âlâ, and its second feature involved his unconditional submission to Allâhu ta’âlâ, his Owner, and obedience to His commandments. In the following paragraphs I shall attempt some quotations from the Qur’ân al-kerîm, which I consider relevant to the subject. Stripped as they may be of the magnificent harmony inherent in their Arabic originals, translations of these divine statements still have very strong attraction.
The twenty-seventh and later âyats of Fajr Sûra purport, “O (thou) soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction!” “Come back thou to thy Allah, well-pleased (thyself), and well-pleasing unto Him!” “Enter thou, then, among My devotees!” “Yea, enter thou My Heaven!” (89-27, 28, 29, 30) This statement alone would be enough to prove the fact that the Islamic religion, quite unlike the superstitious Christianity, or the other religions, which are even worse, is an extremely pure, true, and genuine religion. In contrast with the Christian credo which imposes a tenet wherein mankind is sinful from birth and even a newly born baby has a share from sins of earlier generations, the hundred and sixtyfourth âyat of An’âm Sûra in the Qur’ân al-kerîm purports, “… Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but himself: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another. …” (6-164) In fact, the forty-second âyat of A’râf Sûra purports, “… No burden do We place on any soul, but that which it can bear, – …” (7-42) As you read these statements, you feel deep in your heart that they are divine statements of Allah, and you willingly have belief in Islam. I did so, too; I chose Islam, the truest religion of Allâhu ta’âlâ, and I became a Muslim willingly.