Preface to the Second Edition This booklet by Maryam Jameelah is afascinating account of how the author, an American female

, discovered the beautyof Islam through the Qur'an and the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Such an account is of great value, for not only does it helpMuslims to understand the beauty of their own religion (which unfortunately manyof them take for granted), but also serves to spread the message of Islam. To this end, the language of the original has beensimplified, making the work even more effective in demonstrating the beauty andauthenticity of Islam to non-Muslims in general and Westerners in particular. Abu Ammar Yasir Qadhi January1999

How I discovered the Holy Qur'an and realized its impact Upon my life My discovery of the Holy Qur'an wastortuous, and it led me trough strange byways; but since the end of the road wassupremely worthwhile, I have never regretted my experiences. As a small child, I possessed a keen ear for music and was particularly fond ofthe classical operas and symphonies considered high culture in the West. Musicwas my favorite subject in school and that in which I always earned the highestgrades. By sheer chance, when I was about eleven years old, I happened to hearArabic music over the radio. It so pleased me that I was determined to hearmore. As soon as I heard Arabic music, Western music at once lost all of itsappeal to me. I would not leave my parents in peace until my father finally tookme to the Syrian section in New York City, where I bought a stack of Arabicrecordings for my phonograph. The one I liked best was a rendition of SurahMaryam of the Holy Qur'an chanted by Umm Kulthum. Back then, in 1946, I couldnot have foreseen heat an evil woman she would become in her later years, for Iadmired her for her beautiful voice which rendered those passages of the HolyQur'an with such intense feeling and devotion. It was through listening to theserecordings by the hour that I came to love the sound of Arabic, even though Icould not understand it. Without this basic appreciation of the Arabic musicalidiom, which sounds so utterly strange to the Westerner, I could not possiblyhave grown to love the recitation of the Holy Qur'an. My parents, relatives andneighbors thought Arabic and its music dreadfully weird and so distressing totheir ears that whenever I put on my recordings, they demanded that I close allof the doors and windows of my room so that they would not be disturbed! After Iembraced Islam in 1961, I would sit enthralled by the celebrated Egyptian qari','Abdul Basit. But at one Friday prayer the Imam did not play the tapes. Thatparticular time we had a special guest - a short, very thin and poorly dressedblack youth, who introduced himself to us as a student from Zinzibar. When heopened his mouth to recite Surah ar-Rahman, I realized that I had never heardsuch glorious recitation, even from 'Abdul Basit. This obscure Africanadolescent possessed such a voice of gold that I felt that surely Bilal musthave sounded much like him! From the age of ten I developeda passion for reading all of the books about Arabs that I could lay my hands on- at school or at the public libraries in my community - especially thosedealing with the historical relationship between the Jews and Arabs; but it wasnot until more than nine years later that it ever occurred to me to satisfy mycuriosity about the Holy Qur'an. Gradually, as I neared the end of myadolescence, I became convinced that it was not the Arabs who had made Islamgreat but rather Islam which had raised the Arabs from wild desert tribes tomasters of the world. It was not until I wanted to find out just how and whythis had happened that I ever thought to read the Holy Qur'an for myself. In the summer of 1953 I strained myself too hard in collegeby taking an accelerated curriculum of too many subjects. That August I fell illand had to discontinue all work for the remainder of the season. One eveningwhen my mother was about to go to the public library, she asked me if there wasany book I wanted, and I asked her for a copy of the

Holy Qur'an. An hour latershe returned with one - translation by the eighteenth-century Christianmissionary and scholar, George Sale. Because of the extremely archaic languageand the copious footnotes quoting al-Baydawi and Zamakhsahri out of context inorder to refute them from the Christian viewpoint, I understood very little. Atthat time, my immature mind regarded the Qur'an as nothing more than distortedand garbled versions of the familiar stories from the Bible! Although my firstimpression of the Holy Qur'an was unfavorable, I could not tear myself away fromit. I read it almost continuously for three days and nights, and when I hadfinished, all of my strength had been drained away! Although I was onlynineteen, I felt as weak as a woman of eighty. Indeed, I never recovered my fullstrength or energy afterwards. I continued to nurse thispoor opinion of the Holy Qur'an until one day I found in a bookshop aninexpensive paperback edition of Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall's translation. Assoon as I opened that book, it proved to be a revelation! Its powerful eloquenceliterally swept me off my feet. In the first paragraph of his preface Pickthallwrote: " The aim of this work is to present to English readers whatMuslims the world over hold to be the meaning of the words of the Qur'an and thenature of that Book in not unworthy language and concisely with a view to therequirement of English-speaking Muslims. It may reasonably be claimed that noHoly Scripture can be fairly presented by one who disbelieves its inspirationand its message: and this is the first English translation by an Englishman whois a Muslim. Some o the translations include commentaries offensive to Muslims,and almost all employ a style of language which Muslims, at once, recognize asunworthy. The Qur'an cannot be translated. That is the conviction of theold-fashioned shaykhs and the view of the present writer. The Book here isrendered almost literally, and every effort is made to choose befittinglanguage. But the result is not the Glorious Qur'an, that inimitable symphony,the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy; it is only an attempt topresent the meaning of the Qur'an - and peradventure, something of the charm -in English. IT can never take the place of the Qur'an in Arabic nor is it meantto do so "[1]. I then realized why George Sale's translation was mostunfair. From then on, I refused to read his or any other renderings of the HolyQur'an by non-Muslims. After reading Pickthall's rendition, I discovered otherEnglish translations by Yusuf 'Ali, Muhammad 'Ali Lahori and Maulana 'AbdulMajeed Daryabadi. I found the commentaries by Yusuf 'Ali and Muhammad 'AliLahorie offensive because of their apologetic tone and farfetched, unconvincingattempts to explain away those passages which conflict with modern philosophiesor scientific concepts. Their translations of the text were also weak. AlthoughMaulana Daryabadi's attempt to pattern his translation of the Holy Qur'an on thearchaic style of the King James's version of the Bible most annoyed me, I foundhis commentary excellent - particularly the parts dealing with comparativereligion - and learned much from it. However, Pickthall's rendition remained myfavorite, and to this day, I have never found any other English translation thatcan equal it. The sweep of eloquence, the virility and the dignity of thelanguage is unsurpassed in any others. Most other translations commit themistake of using the word "God," but Pickthall retains

"Allah" throughout. Thismakes the message of Islam strike the Western reader as more authentic andeffective. Throughout the darkest days during my years of hospitalization, Ikept a paperback edition of Pickthall's translation with me as my constantcompanion, which I read over so may times that I must have worn to pieces a halfdozen copies. May Allah abundantly reward Pickthall with the choicest blessingsfor making the knowledge about the Qur'an so easily and cheaply available toEngland and America! Were it not for him, I would not have been able to come toknow and appreciate it. After my discharge in 1959 I spentmuch of my leisure time reading books about Islam in the Oriental Division ofthe New York Public Library. It was there that I discovered four bulky volumesof an English translation of Mishkat ul-Masabeeh by al-Hajj Maulana FadhlurRahman of Calcutta. It was then that I learned that a proper and detailedunderstanding of the holy Qur'an is not possible without some knowledge of therelevant ahadeeth, for how can the Holy Qur'an be interpreted correctly exceptby the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with him), to whom it was revealed? Thosewho disbelieve the ahadeeth also disbelieve the Qur'an, for its revelationexplicitly tells us that one cannot follow what Allah wants us to do without anunquestioning acceptance of the authority of Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bepleased with him). Once I had studied the Mishkat, I beganto accept the Holy Qur'an as divine revelation. What persuaded me that theQur'an must be from Allah and not composed by Muhammad (may Allah be pleasedwith him) was its satisfying and convincing answers to all of the most importantquestions of life - answers which I could not find elsewhere. As a child, I was so mortally afraid of death - particularlythe thought of my own death that after nightmares about it, sometimes I wouldawaken my parents, crying in the middle of the night. When I asked them why Ihad to die and what would happen to me after death, all they could say was thatI had to accept the inevitable, that was a long way off and because medicalscience was constantly advancing, perhaps I would live to be a hundred yearsold! My parents, the remainder of my family and all of our friendscontemptuously rejected as superstition any thought of the Hereafter, regardingthe Day of Judgment, rewards in paradise, and punishment in Hell as outmodedconcepts of bygone ages. In vain I searched all of theverbose chapters of the Old Testament for any clear and ambiguous concept of theHereafter, but all I found was that the prophets, patriarchs and sages of theBible all received their rewards or punishments in this world. The story of Job(Ayyub) is typical of this concept. God destroyed all of his loved ones andpossessions, and He afflicted him with a loathsome disease in order to test hisfaith. Job plaintively lamented his situation and asked God why He would make arighteous man suffer. At the end of the story, God restored all of his earthlylosses, but nothing was ever mentioned about any possible consequences in theHereafter. Although I did find the Hereafter mentioned in the New Testament,when I compared it with that of the Holy Qur'an, I found that it was vague andambiguous. Additionally, I found no answer to the question of death in OrthodoxJudaism, for the Talmud preaches that even the worst life is better than thebest death.

Through bitter experience I discovered thatself-indulgence leads only to misery and that nothing great or even worthwhileis ever accomplished without struggle through adversity and self-sacrifice. Fromearliest childhood I have always wanted to accomplish important and significantthings. Above all else, before my death I wanted the assurance that I had notwasted my life in sinful deeds or worthless pursuits. All ofmy life I have been intensely serious-minded. I have always detested thefrivolity which is the dominant characteristic of contemporary culture. Myfather once disturbed me with his unsettling conviction that there is no hingeof permanent value and that because everything in this modern age continuallychanges all of the time, the best we can do is accept the present trends asinevitable and adjust ourselves to them. I, however, was thirsty to attainsomething that would endure forever. It was from the Holy Qur'an that I learnedthat this aspiration was possible. No good deed done for the sake of seeking thepleasure of Allah is ever wasted or lost. Even if the person concerned neverachieves any worldly recognition, his reward is certain in the Hereafter.Conversely, the Qur'an tells us that those who are guided by no moralconsiderations other than expediency or social conformity and who crave thefreedom to do as they please - no matter how much worldly success and prosperitythey attain or how keenly they are able to relish the short span of theirearthly life - will be doomed as the losers on Judgment Day. Islam teaches usthat in order to devote our exclusive attention to fulfilling our duties toAllah and to our fellow beings, we must abandon all vain and useless activitieswhich distract us from this end. These teachings of the Holy Qur'an, made evenmore explicit by ahadeeth, were thoroughly compatible with my temperament. WhenI embraced Islam, my parents, relatives and their friends regarded me almost asa fanatic because I could think and talk of nothing else. To them, religion is apurely private concern which, at the most, perhaps could be cultivated like anamateur hobby among other hobbies. But as soon as I read the Holy Qur'an, I knewthat Islam was no hobby. It was life itself! From the onsetof my adolescence until my migration to Pakistan at the age of twentyeight, Iwas a hopeless misfit. A young girl as serious-minded as I was - who was alwayswith a pile of books at the library, who abhorred the cinema, dancing and popmusic, who did not enjoy dating and mixed parties and who took no interest inromance, glamour, cosmetics, jewelry or fashionable clothes - had to pay thefull penalty of social ostracism for being "different". Froma bleak future in America which had no place for a person like me, I escaped andmigrated to Pakistan. Although Pakistan, like every other Muslim country, isbeing increasingly contaminated by the most noxious "dirt" from Europe andAmerica, a sufficient number of Pakistanis still remain good Muslims so as toprovide an environment which makes it possible for the individual to lead a lifein conformity with what Islam teaches. At times, I must admit, fail to apply tomy own life what Islam demands that we practice, but I never indulge infar-fetched interpretations of the Qur'an or the sunnah to justify my weaknessesand shortcomings. Whenever do wrong, I readily admit it and try my best torectify my mistake. The happiness I have found in my new life is entirely due tothe fact that those very qualities of character and temperament which

Westernsociety ridicules and scorns are most keenly appreciated and esteemed in Islam. [1] Slight changes have been made to the quoted material for the purpose of improving the English.

The Holy Prophet and his impact on my life Ever since the days of my early childhood,my life has been dominated by a religious outlook. This does not exclude myadolescence and early youth when, dues to my disillusionment with theestablished Jewish synagogues and Christian churches, I professed atheism; foreven then, my life was religious in the sense that I was always in search of theabsolute truth, which alone gives human life its meaning, direction and purpose.I was not, however, raised in a religious atmosphere. My family and theirfriends, having been thoroughly integrated into American life, were Jews onlynominally. They were completely decent, respectable, intelligent, broadminded,cultured people who firmly believed in and observed all the basic moral laws,yet they denied that ethical behavior was dependent upon theology' in fact, theycould not even understand the relevance between the two. All of them regardedany conception of divine reward and punishment in the Hereafter as an outmodedsuperstitious belief of bygone ages. Any concept of personal deity who directlyintervenes into human affairs and who listens to the supplications of Hisdevotees was rejected. Divine revelation and prophethood were also scorned forthe same reasons. As soon as I was able to think andcomprehend at all, I was repelled by the dominant values of my society, thepurpose of which is happiness, pleasure and enjoyment, because I longed aboveall else to achieve something eternally worthwhile. Since, according to myparents; outlook, there are no answers to the "ultimates," one must avoidthinking about them and just enjoy, as best one can, the transitory pleasureslife has to offer at the moment. - good health, tasty food, comfortable living,the love of family, the companionship of congenial friends, and the variety ofentertainment and amusements which modern America makes available in suchabundance. One was never to ask oneself why we were born, who created us, whatis the purpose of our life, why we must die and what will happen to us afterdeath or else one would be afflicted with depression, pessimism and despondency.Americans are often praised by outsiders because they are not static and becausethey love (nay, worship) change. According to these "progressives," America issynonymous with progress because it is supposedly the only country unimpeded byrigid, archaic, philosophies - social and religious - and which, therefore, isable to nourish creative change. In contrast to these people, I never sharedthis worship of change for its own sake. To me, the absence of permanence andstability in anything means the outright denial of its value and makes lifefrivolous and superficial. My quest was always for absolutes. As a result of my outlook on life, neither Judaism orChristianity could satisfy me. I was repelled by the narrow parochial-mindednessof the synagogue and horrified by the

atrocities of Zionism against theindigenous Arabs of Palestine. I could never reconcile myself with thecomplicated, incomprehensible theology of the Christians and the endlesscompromise of the Church with moral, social, political and economic evils. Boththe synagogue and the Church, as I encountered them, were filled with corruptionand hypocrisy. In the course of what Jewish training I received, it was butnatural for me to be curious about the faith which was historically most closelyakin to Judaism. I found that I could not learn about the Arabs and theircivilization without also learning about Islam; and as soon as I discovered thatit was not the Arabs who had made Islam great but the other way around, I wantedto know as much about this faith as I could. To me, the superiority of theQur'an over the Bible lay in the Qur'an's all-embracing universality, whichcontrasted the narrow, rigid nationalism of the Jewish scriptures. As thisuniversality makes for superior morality, it has exerted a drastic effect on thehistorical development of theses religions and the civilizations shaped by them. My quest for absolute values was satisfied by Islam. In it Ifound all that was true, good and beautiful and that which gives meaning anddirection to human life (and death). On the other hand, in other religions thetruth is deformed, distorted, restricted and fragmentary. If anyone were to askme how I came to know this, I could only reply that my personal life experienceswere sufficient to convince me. My adherence to Islamic faith is thus a calm,cool but very intense conviction. Unlike some other converts, I never saw theProphet (may Allah be pleased with him) in my dreams during sleep at night, Inever experienced any mystical visions, and nothing dramatic at the time of myconversion ever happened. Since I have, I believe, always been a Muslim at heartand by temperament, even before I ever knew there was such a thing as Islam, myconversion was mainly a formality, involving no radical change in my heart atall. Rather, I only had to make official what I had been thinking and yearningfor many years. Soon after I began the study of the Qur'an,I discovered that a proper understanding of it is impossible without someknowledge of the relevant ahadeeth, for who is better qualified to interpret theQur'an than the man to whom it was revealed? The Qur'an provides us with thegeneral outline of the life ordained by Islam, but only ahadeeth provide all ofthe necessary details. To those who deny the validity of this only authoritativeinterpretation of the Qur'an, I present the following:“ When the Prophet'swife, 'A'ishah, was asked to describe the mode of the Prophet's life andconduct, she replied: His morals are the Qur'an. In other words, his daily lifewas a true picture of the Qur'anic teachings. He was an embodiment of all of thevirtues which have been enunciated by the Qur'an. The record of his life, whichsheds light on his conduct as a father, as a neighbor, as a merchant, as apreacher, as a persecuted fugitive, as a friend, as a warrior, as an armycommander, as a conqueror, as a judge, as a law-giver, as a ruler, and aboveall, as a devotee of Allah, was all an exemplification of the Book ofAllah”[2]. The sincerity and purity of his pious life was evident inhis daily routine:“ The daily routine of his life was extremely rigorous.After the fajr prayer, he would receive people so as to educate them - he wouldeven settle disputes and administer justice, receive envoys and dictatedispatches. Then the assembly would be adjourned. When the public

function wasover, he would go to one of his wives and do any work that she had for him Hewould even go to the market for shopping. Then another short prayer would beperformed, after which he would visit the sick and the poor, and call at thehouses of his friends. Then he would go to the mosques for the dhuhr prayer.After returning from the mosque, he would take his meal, if it was available,and then return to his private room for some rest. Then he would go again to themosques for the 'asr prayer. Afterwards, the Holy Prophet would go to his wivesand sit with them until children claimed his time. Then he would lead themaghrib prayer and take his evening meal, returning home for prayers in solitudeand rest. After this, he would sleep for a few hours only. Then he would prayand meditate and again retire to bed only for a brief time, rising again for thefajr prayer when the day's work began once more. His energy was extraordinary.He seldom complained fatigue”[3]. The following illustrates how this piouslife affected the activities of the women:“ Ali once asked one of hispupils: Should I tell you the story of Fatimah, the dearest and most-loveddaughter of the Prophet? When the pupil replied in the affirmative, 'Ali said:Fatimah used to grind the grain herself, which caused calluses on her hands. Shecarried water for the house in a leather bag, which caused calluses on herhands. She carried water for the house in a leather bag, which caused scars onher breasts. She cleaned the house herself, which made her clothes dirty. Oncewhen some captives were brought to Madeenah, I said to her: Go to the prophetand request from him a servant to help you in your housework. She went to himbut found many people around him. As she was very modest, she could not be boldenough to request the Prophet in the presence of other people. The next day theProphet came to our house and said: O Fatimah, what made you come to meyesterday? She felt shy, and so she kept quiet. I said, : O Messenger of Allah,Fatimah has developed calluses on her hands and breasts as a result of grindinggrain and carrying water. She is constantly busy cleaning the house andperforming other domestic chores which cause her clothes to remain dirty. Iinformed her about the captive and advised her to go to you and request aservant! The Prophet replied: O Fatimah, fear Allah! Acquire taqwa (piety), andwhen you got to bed, recite, "Subhanallah" 33 times, "Alhamdulillah" 33 timesand "Allahu akbar" 34 times. You will find this more helpful than a servant. Atthat, Fatimah said: I am content with Allah and His messenger”[4]. And the following statement by 'A'isha is an example of how the Prophet's wivesspent their time. 'A'ishah said:“ Maymunah was themost pious and most faithful of her kin among all of the Prophet's wives. Shewas almost always seen either engaged in prayer or in domestic duties. And whenshe was doing neither, she was busy cleaning her teeth with miswak”[5]. The aforementioned examples of the lives of the women during the time of theProphet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would not appeal to theadvocates of the socalled Women's Liberation. The immediate reaction of themodern-minded woman to this would be dismay. She would certainly ask my how I, atwentieth-century woman born and

reared in modern America, could possiblyendorse such an apparently poor and limited life. The answer is that, to theProphet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), depth of experience was moreimportant than breadth. In the fast pace of modern, mechanized living - wherebeing active and always "on the run" are, in themselves, regarded as supremevirtues - the experiences of modern men and women may be broad and varied, buttheir minds remain superficial, fickle and shallow. I would point out to a"women's libber" the fact that many modern American women are unhappy eventhough they can do virtually anything they please. They enjoy the higheststandard of living in history; they are the best-dressed, best-groomed,best-fed, best housed women anywhere in the world and endure the least drudgery;they have the most freedom and the greatest variety of interesting socialcontacts; they are unexcelled in the extent of their secular education and havethe widest possible opportunity to enrich their self-indulgence. Basically, theycan do whatever they want. Yet, despite all of these material advantages, toomany American women are restless, dissatisfied and even neurotic. For the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him),the purpose of life was achievement, not enjoyment. In Islam pleasure andhappiness are but the natural byproducts of one's emotional satisfaction inconscientiously performing one's duties for the pleasure of Allah in order togain salvation in the life to come. In a materialistic world, achievement isequated with the capture of political or economic power, fulfillment in the artsand sciences, and the acquisition of fame, if one is exceptionally gifted. Ifnot, achievement is measured by income from business and commerce. However, inIslam, achievement is base on accomplishing what is enduring and worthwhilethrough useful, benevolent and productive work and on refraining from wastingone's time on empty selfgratification disgraced by sinful deeds. The supremeachievement is the attainment of eternal salvation in the world to come throughimplicit obedience to the Quran and the sunnah. In Tabuk in9 A.H. the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) proclaimed:“Verily, the most veracious discourse is the Book of Allah: the most trustworthyhandhold is a word of piety; the best of religions is the faith of Ibrahim; thebest of precedents is the precedent of Muhammad; the noblest speech is theinvocation to Allah; the finest narrative is this Qur'an; the best affairs isthat which has already been firmly resolved upon, and the worst things inreligion are innovations. The best of the ways is the path of the prophets; thenoblest death is the death of martyrdom; the greatest blindness is going astrayafter guidance; the best of actions is that which benefits; the best guidance isthat which is followed in practice; the worst blindness is the blindness of theheart the little but sufficient is better that the abundant but alluring; theworst apology is that which is made a the point of death; and the worst regretis that which will be felt on the Day of Resurrection”[6]. Thus the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has revealed to mepersonally as well as to all mankind for all times in all places the purpose ofhuman life as it pertains to that which is important and that which is not.Unlike Hinduism, Buddhism and classical Christianity, Islam repudiatesmonasticism and self-mortification as the path to spiritual life. With hisperfect emotional balance, the Prophet (peace and blessings of

Allah be uponhim) did not shun the legitimate pleasures of this life. As a matter of fact, hewas endowed with a fine sense of humor and occasionally even joined children intheir games. Nevertheless, he never ceased to emphasize that the interests ofthis world must always be subordinated by the believer to those of the nextworld. He often told his companions:“ If you knew that which I know, youwould laugh a little and weep much”[7]. And as a final point, theprayers and supplications of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be uponhim) are sufficient to prove his unmatched devotion to Allah as the supreme endof life above all worldly considerations. Before going to sleep each night, henever failed to plea:“ O Allah, save me from the pangs of the Day ofResurrection! O Allah, in Your name do I die and live”[8].

[2] The Life of Muhammad, Abdul Hamid Siddiqui, Islamic Publications, Lahore, 1969, p.384. Slight changes have been made to the quoted material for the purpose of improving the English. [3] Ibid., p.389. Slight cahnges have been made to the quoted material for the purpose of improving the English. [4] The Stories of Sahabah, Maulana Muhammad Xakaria, Malik Brothers, Lyaalour, no date, pp. 157-158. slight changes have been made to the quoted material for the purpose of improving the English. [5] Ibid., p.197. Slight changes have been made to the quoted material for the pupose of improving the English. [6] Ibid., pp.552-553. Slight changes have been made to the quoted material for the purpose of improving the English. [7] Related in Saheeh al-Bukhari. [8] Prayers of the Prophet, translated by Abdul Hamid Siddiqui, shaikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1968, p.13.