MUHAMMAD JOHN WEBSTER (G.B.)
I was raised with sheer Christian education in London. In 1930, being a young student, I encountered some events like other youngsters, and tried to understand them. One of them was to establish some relation between the religion and the world, or, in other words, to think over how I could utilize the religion for the accomplishment of a more peaceful and more comfortable life.
Then, for the first time in my life, I came to the realization that my religion, Christianity, was too insufficient and too short for that purpose. For Christianity defined the world as a place of torture whose mere contents are evils and vices, and men as creatures sinful from birth. Let alone showing people how to lead a peaceful life in the world, it imposed on them a concept of life like an area
mined with sins, left them on the horns of dilemma by saying that there was nothing they could do on their own to get out of this state of sinfulness, and then degenerated them by saying that on behalf of them priests could invoke Allâhu ta’âlâ. Christianity left people entirely to themselves, and confined their worships to unsatisfactory Sunday masses, which they perform in the
perfunctory air of the church service. In those years Britain was in a great economic depression and poverty. People were very unhappy and therefore totally displeased with the government.
Christianity gave them no help in those days of destitution, nor did they find any sort of heartening quality in it to help them endure. This shortcoming had a considerably ruinous impact on me. Indulging in the rationalizing relaxation of my emotions instead of judging things with the impersonal justice of reason, I reached the conclusion that religion was something meaningless. Rejecting Christianity, I, like many other young people, took to atheism and communism.
From a certain distance, Communism appealed to the young people. Depressed under economic straits and totally hopeless of their future life, the younger generation looked on Communism as a savior because it was being propagated with the promise that it would extirpate differences of wealth and rank. It did not take me long to realize, however, that the communist claims consisted of
sheer propaganda and hollow words. Communism was the very abode of segregation, both of rank and of wealth. Everything was the same in every country. Upon this I gave up Communism and dived into philosophy. Thus I began to specialize as a pantheist in the creed of Wahdat-i wujûd.
It is very difficult to get in touch with Muslims in Western countries. For in those countries there is a deep-seated rancour against Islam, which dates back to the crusading expeditions. Europeans reject Islam with hatred, though they know nothing of it. They raise their children with an education dressed with a strong feeling of animus towards Islam. So much so that talking about Islam means a violation of the established rules of decorum in their society. If someone should bring up this subject in a social gathering, the others will protest with a mute frown. In the meantime, I was sent on an official mission to Australia. Despite the ‘hatred towards Islam’ which had been engraved on my subconscious in the name of education, one day I somehow succumbed to my curiosity and got a translation of the Qur’ân alkerîm.
Yet, I had hardly finished the introduction of the book, when I immediately closed the book. For the translator of the book used such an abusive and defamatory language about the Qur’ân al-kerîm right in the introduction that it meant there was no sense in reading a book of that sort. Afterwards, I pondered on the matter. Since Christians hated Muslims and the translator was
a Christian, it was very well possible that he could have misunderstood some of its parts under the influence of his predisposition and made that blasphemous translation. And there was my curiosity. I took the matter more seriously, and when I went to the city of Perth in western Australia a couple of weeks later, I visited the grand library of the city and queried whether there was a translation of the Qur’ân al-kerîm rendered by Muslims. They found a translation of that sort and gave it to me.
No words could define the emotions that began to stir in the depths of my soul when I opened it and read the first chapter in it, the chapter (sûra) called Fâtiha-i-sherîfa, which began with the phrase, “Hamd (thanks and praise) be to the Rabb (Lord, Creator, Allah) of âlams (classes of beings).” The first chapter ended with the invocations that purported, “Guide us to the right path.” How beautiful it was! I read the Fâtiha-i-sherîfa a number of times. The creator mentioned here was “Rahmân and Rahîm,” which meant “Very Merciful and Compassionate.” Contrary to the Christian dogma, He had not created men sinful. I began to read the Qur’ân al-kerîm, and the more I read the more ecstatic did I become.
Whatsoever I had desired and imagined I found in this holy book. Hours elapsed, and I was completely oblivious of where I was, of the time, and of everything. In addition to that translation of the Qur’ân al-kerîm, they had brought me some books about the life of Muhammad ‘sall-Allâhu ta’âlâ ’alaihi wa sallam’. I was reading them in utter rapture, when at last the librarian came to me and
said, “It’s time we closed the library, sir.” I came back to myself, and left the library. On my way home I was soliloquizing and repeating: “I have now attained my goal. I am a Muslim now.”
With the guidance of Allâhu ta’âlâ, I had eventually attained the hidâya (the right way). On my way back home, I looked for a convenient place to have some coffee. As I walked down the street I had only the Qur’ân al-kerîm, Islam, and Allâhu ta’âlâ in my mind. I was quite unaware of where I was going. All of a sudden my legs stopped on their own. When I raised my head I found myself in front of an entrance built with red bricks. My legs had brought me here on their own. I read the sign hanging on the wall. It was a mosque in Australia.
I said to myself: “Allâhu ta’âlâ has blessed you with the right way and taught you what you should do. You know Islam now. Allâhu ta’âlâ has brought you up to the entrance of the mosque. Go inside right away and embrace this religion.” I walked in, and became a Muslim. Until that time I had not known one single Muslim. I found Islam by myself and accepted it by myself. No one guided me in this respect. My only guide was my common sense.