Ambassador Noel Khokhar: A Bridge between People of Pakistan and Ukraine
2nd July 2021, marks 121st birth anniversary of Muhammad Asad. He was born as Leopold Weiss in Lviv Ukraine and rose to fame as a journalist, traveler, writer, linguist, political theorist, diplomat an Islamic scholar and most importantly as a worker of Pakistan Movement.
During his life time Asad was known by many titles, early in Arabia he was called the “Leopold of Arabia, in likeness to ‘Lawerence of Arabia’. In Pakistan he was titled by people as Allama (a scholar). He is recognized as a religious bridge builder, a mediator between Islam and the West and Europe’s Gift to Islam.
Muhammad Asad, a writer and Islamic Scholar wrote his magnum opus ‘The Message of the Quran’ (1980). An English translation and commentary of the Quran which he published after seventeen years of painstaking scholarly research. It is regarded as one of the most influential translations of the modern era. Earlier his autobiography ‘The Road to Mecca’ (1954) became a best seller. His other literary works include, Islam at Cross Roads (1934), Translation of Sahih Al Bukhari: The Early Years of Islam (1981), The Law of Ours and other Essays (1987) and Home Coming of the Heart which is regarded as part II of ‘The Road to Mecca’.
Lviv in early 1900’s was part of Austro Hungarian Empire and was known as Galicia. Today it is befittingly recognized as the cultural capital of Ukraine. Leopold Weiss was born in Lviv to a Jewish family and after his schooling he traveled to Middle East. He converted to Islam in Arabia in 1926 and adopted the name Muhammad Asad. Indeed he had taken the Road to Mecca very early in his life.
In early 1930’s Asad travelled to Sub Continent where met Allama Iqbal, a world renowned Islamic philosopher and thinker who envisioned Pakistan as home for Muslims of Sub Continent. Allama Iqbal asked him to elucidate the intellectual premises of the future Islamic state and help achieve it as well. His book ‘The Principles of State and Government in Islam’ (1961) describes a democratic political system which is grounded in Islamic principles.
Allama Iqbal also encouraged Asad to translate Sahih Al-Bukhari in English for the first time in history. Asad in order to find a serene place to stimulate his intellectual and spiritual thought, travelled to Kashmir during the summer of 1934. There he became friends with Mirwaiz Muhammad Yusuf. While working enthusiastically on his translation, he also set up a printing press in Srinagar. First two chapters of his translation were printed in Srinagar. Asad in his book Home-coming of the Heart mentions about his special relationship with Kashmir.
During WWII Asad was imprisoned by the British but after his , he continued to work as a dedicated worker of Pakistan Movement. On creation of Pakistan on 14 August 1947 he adopted Pakistan as his home and was honored with citizenship of Pakistan. He was first appointed Director of Department of Islamic Reconstruction and then he joined Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan where he served as deputy secretary to Middle East and then Pakistan’s Envoy to United Nations. Asad Platz in UN Square Vienna is dedicated to honour is services. On 23 March 2013 Pakistan Post issued a postage stamp under the ‘Men of Letters’ series to recognize his literary works and Islamic Cultural Centre has dedicated Centre in Lviv in his name.
To inform people of Pakistan and Ukraine about the numerous contributions of Muhammad Asad, Pakistan Embassy in coordination with Islamic Centre Kyiv will launch Ukrainian translation of his book ‘The Unromantic Orient’ during Kyiv book festival. In concert with State Administrator we will initiate work to place a plaque at his birth place, erect his bust at a suitable location and name a location in Lviv and Kyiv after Muhammad Asad. The Embassy in coordination with Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ukraine plans to hold a reference event in Kyiv and has approached National Book Foundation Pakistan to furnish a complete set of publications of Muhammad Asad for placing in the libraries in Ukraine. We have also invited the universities in Ukraine and Pakistan to sponsor joint research to document Asad’s numerous accomplishments and most importantly to explore his ideas as an Islamic Scholar for benefit of humanity.
Muhammad Asad continues to act as a bridge between Islam and Europe and most importantly between Pakistan and Ukraine. It’s because of Muhammad Asad that Ukraine can claim that it effectively contributed towards making of Pakistan.
Author: Ambassador Dr Noel I. Khokhar
Source: Ukraine in Arabic