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Englishman Alfred Frantz: “I embraced Islam due to the civilized approach of the Sultan of Oman. The then Heir to the Throne Crown Prince of Oman advised me that in order to become righteous, I should know my religion first. That was the turning point of my life” Author: Ahmad Hamid Compiled by: Emeel Ameen Translation from Arabic: Dr. Syed Bashir Ahmad
“Many a harmful things are beneficial,” thus says an Arabic proverb. As every one knows, the events of September 11, 2001, were denounced throughout the Muslim World. Although Islam and Muslims had nothing to do with those horrible acts of violence, murder and bloodshed, many true concepts - like Islam being a message of peace and mission of mercy - were confused to some and muddle up by others. Yet those events prompted the western world to understand the meaning of Islam, deliberate over its message and study its constituents. In fact, the events opened the gates wide open for many to acquaintance themselves with the great religion of Islam that is followed by one and a half billion people including most of the Arabs and hundreds of millions of other nations all over the globe.
The book “Why Did They Embrace Islam - From MOSAD to ISLAM” deals with the experiences of individuals of different nationalities, both devout and no devout, from various parts of the world. These are those individuals, for whom Islam became the asylum and sanctuary from wilderness and estrangement of long periods, because, as the author says: “Islam is the religion that encompasses every small and big components and reality of the universe with absolute accuracy. It leads the human being in all aspects of his life and elevates him to the highest state of being the vicegerent of the Omnipotent on the earth.” The book contains the biographies of some fifty individuals who declared to have embraced the faith of peace and whose hearts were illuminated by the faith and that they modelled their lives, in word and practice, according to the Islamic faith.” One of the most beautiful and impressive among these individuals is the case of the Englishman Alfred Frantz. For this detailing the case of this fortunate individual, the author has dedicated a whole chapter entitled “I embraced Islam due to the civilized approach of the Sultan.” The Sultan is none but our beloved His Majesty Qaboos Bin Said, Sultan of Oman, who was pursuing his studies in U.K. at that time. Who is this Alfred Frantz, what is his story and what was the role of his majesty in wisely guiding him to the shore of Islam? Alfred Frantz was born in 1940. Although his parents belonged to British aristocratic lineage with strict adherence to traditional British values, he rebelled against the tradition and, like his generation of European youth in late fifties and early sixties, preferred to renounce allegiance to any inherited customs and to live an unrestrained life with freewill. His family failed in reining him back from the life of libertinism and he turned the family’s mansion into a place of impertinence for the gang of his friends from both the sexes. When the time came for his admission to the famous college where traditionally only sons rich, princes and gentry were admitted, he refused to study there. Under severe pressure form his parents he somehow joined the college. As if the divine will was so, it coincided with something that had to change the course of his life forever. In the college, as reported by the author, he came to be acquainted with an Arab prince. Alfred Frantz, who at that time was had extricated himself from personal moral integrity, wanted to invite the prince to attend some pastime activity of his permissive friends. The prince courteously turned down the invitation. The young Englishman, instead of being able to influence the Arab prince, found becoming him more and committed to his studies,
He would not approach the proximity of alcohol, nor would flirt or date women. He would be seen punctually offering his prayers, reciting the holy Qurân. Initially this exceptional personality in that environment became a source of astonishment for the young Englishman, but soon the astonishment transformed into curiosity and gradually into admiration of the young Arab prince. The prince was very much different from the stereotyped Arab and Muslim men in the West, an image that is typically attributed to apathy towards studies, research, negligence of essential Arabic values and violation Islamic integrity. Alfred Frantz says: “I found this prince different from what I used to hear about Arabs and especially about the princes and aristocrats. With his dispositions and integrity, the prince turned the clock back to my olden days. Upon seeing this young Arab, I started feeling ashamed of my own self, for he awoke me from my slumber and made me recover my consciousness after having wandered in labyrinth of rebellion. He made me revert back to my religion.” What does he mean by reverting? The Englishman Alfred Frantz, who has embraced Islam, reports: “One day I asked the young Arab prince about his religion. Contrary to the usual and customary response, the prince did not surprise me by suddenly descending upon explanation of the fundamentals of Islamic faith or by inviting me right away to embrace Islam, rather composedly and confidently, he replied: “know your religion first, try to abide by it and then acquaint yourself with Islam and other religions. It is important that you know your religion first, adhere to its prayers, commandments and rituals.” The intellectual grandeur of the young prince, who was to become later on as one of the great and wise leaders of the Arab and Muslim world, was manifest from what he then discreetly told the young Alfred Frantz, “Originally the source of religions has been one. A devotee should abide by what his religion actually ordains, so that with his steadfastness and compliance, he can lead a life of righteousness.” In this setting of conversation between the pious prince and the young Englishman, the reader can realise the wisdom of His Majesty. In fact, he was inline with the Qurânic guidance that “there is no compulsion in the religion (of Islam)”and that whosoever seeks the message of Islam and wants to pursue its mission, should first study thoroughly what he already has. Vain utterance of Islam with hollow spirit is of no avail to its claimant; it should rather be the out come of sincere conviction based on consciousness, comprehension and appreciation of Islam as the way of life.
The advice of the young Arab prince, as Alfred Frantz acknowledge, had an impact of cool breeze and peaceful inspiration upon his young intellect. “It prompted me to retrospect over my religion so that I could acquaint myself with it once; I explored deeper into it; then I restarted reading the Bible; I started frequenting the church once again. My family noticed this strange turn of events. They were astonished with the transformation and it was quite natural for them to enquire about the impetus behind this extraordinary shift.” “I explained to my rich aristocratic parents that my spiritual encounter with my new Arab friend - who was consciously devout to his faith with a candid heart and preponderant intellect - was behind the sea change. When I further told them that the prince did not see to my state as a chance to exploit and convert me overnight from my religion to his own, they thought high of him and expressed high regard for him. They advised me to strengthen my friendship with him. They believed that being acquainted with person with a person of these attributes and being near to a prince of such morality is a matter of honour. They even asked me to invite him so that they too could be introduced with him. They started reading about his country to gain information, so that when my Arab colleague came to visit them, they could talk to him while being well aware about his father and about the country, he ruled.” Alfred Frantz further continues with his narration and finally concludes it saying, “my colleague Qaboos Bin Said Bin Taimoor accepted my invitation to visit us at our mansion and did really visit us. The noble aristocratic English family was amazed and astonished with the wisdom and sophisticated etiquette of the young prince. The prince was not overwhelmed by the grandeur and splendour of the mansion nor was he moved by manifestation of the family’s wealth and affluence. He conducted himself naturally. As I had always observed him, he had a tranquil smile on his face and talked soberly. Although every word he uttered was as if weighed in golden scale, yet there was neither artificiality nor any air of pretence. Signs of principality were very much obvious on his face, yet without any arrogance; he looked confident, yet without any haughtiness.” “The bond of our friendship was destined to grow stronger and persist. My parents felt fortunate for our association. Even though I had imposed friendship on him and although I was importunate and meddlesome wanting to know every detail his privacies, yet he never showed any displeasure weariness, until the arrival of an unforgettable day. That day was certainly of my first encounter with Islam, as if, on that day, it was being personified through the personality of the young Arab prince it in its most magnificent form and in its purest costume.”
“I asked him a question that took him by surprise. I asked: does your behaviour, conduct and morals vest in your being crown prince of your country and heir to the throne of your father, or in anything else? I am curious to know this, especially because your commendable morals and praiseworthy conduct have been an impetus behind the change in my personality and making me upright in my affairs compared to what I used to be. Although my question was out of the blue, the prince replied spontaneously, as if he was all set for the occasion. He replied eloquently with clarity of crystal: As you imagined or as you might have been made to believe and as you put it, the matter has nothing to do with royal morality. It is rather morality and genuineness. As I have explained to you earlier about Islamic morality, whether it is a Sultan or a common man, all are equal in front of Exalted Almighty, the Creator. Everyone is supposed to comply with the sublime Islamic code of conduct, to implement it and to stick to it. This qualifies them to be the true representatives of the creator of the universe. According to Islam, human being is the vicegerent of Allah on the earth, and whosoever declares faith in His oneness, should wholeheartedly confirm to responsibilities and implications of the testimony that ‘there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah’. Whosoever is earnest in this essential testimony and conducts his life with devotion, is a true envoy of Allah. All individuals are going to vanish from the scene of this life and none except the creator of the existence shall exist forever. He is has no companion or partner and none is like Him. He went on to say: If you want to further your knowledge on the subject, you will have to read. Upon reading about Islam, you will be impelled to admire the followers of this great religion, whether they are successors to thrones of their countries or common folk.” The course of study separated the two, Alfred and the prince, after the former discontinued the tough study, as it required strong psychological susceptibility and hard work, and only those with dedication, determination and unwavering resolution to complete the mission could pursue and accomplish. The idyllic image of the Omani prince kept alluring his heart and fascinating his thought. Alfred intended to maintain the bond of spiritual friendship with his Arab colleague and to visit the latter’s homeland. He kept reading about Oman, its history and its rendezvous with Islam, the faith that all its citizens hold dear to their heart. Alfred says, “I found that Oman had a history that was deep rooted in time. Before Islam the people of Oman worshiped idols. When the envoy of the Messenger of Allah (praise and peace be upon him) brought the message of Islam to the twin rulers of Oman (Abd and Jaifar sons of Julanda), they received the envoy with courtesy and honour. When the envoy (Amr ibn Al-Aass) conferred with them and explained to them fundamentals of the religion of Islam and the way of life it wants to be led in light of the holy
Qurân, the two answered the call of Islam without any hesitation or delay. Instantly the Omani nation as a whole followed the suit by embracing the true religion. It was due to this wise and genuine decision of the Omani nation that the Messenger of Allah (praise and peace be upon him) supplicated to Allah “May Allah shower his mercy upon the people of Gubaira (ancient name of Oman). They believed in me without having seen me.” With his involvement in managing of his the expanding and thriving ancestral business, Alfred became a globetrotter. “During my tours and flights across the “globe, the ideal character of the young Arab prince - Qaboos bin Said bin Taimoor - had been alluding me and his words kept echoing in my mind until one fine day I decided to set about studying Islam seriously. I went to the Islamic Centre of London where I met a magnificent elderly man, an Azharite Egyptian scholar, Dr. Abdul jaleel Shalabi. We had a lengthy meeting; I kept enquiring and he answered all my questions with magnanimity like a great visionary. I could see the bliss on his face while he was answering my questions.” The first meeting was not the last meeting between us. It led to many meetings, through which Alfred came to know significantly about Islam. He read many books about Islam, but what struck his mind most, was the view of Muslim congregational prayers, wherein everyone, with different descent and nationalities, stood, kneeled and prostrated together in utmost devotion and submissiveness in marvellous unity and synergy. “it was an extraordinary illustration of unity; it enchanted and captivated me….. I purchased books and read a lot. I dived even deeper in study of biography of the Prophet Muhammad (praise and peace be upon him). As soon as I finished reading one book, I immediately caught hold of another one. My rendezvous with Dr. Shalabi continued. He was very contented with my progress in seeking knowledge about Islam and for my passion for seeking truth.” One day the mentor, Dr. Shalbi, told his English student, “You read about Islam through English language and read English translation of the holy Qurân, yet your love for this religion is so fervent. What will happen to you if you read the through Arabic, the language of Islam? I presume that people will take you as an Azharite scholar like me. I pray to Allah that you get to know Arabic. These earnest words were tantamount to an incitement for me to learn Arabic to know Islam through its own language and to study Qurân though the language in which it has been revealed.”
The day when I pronounced the witness of Islamic faith, it emanated from the heart of my hearts, from my intellect, from my soul, from my inner self and from my whole existence. I felt as if I was born again; as if I was throwing away from my shoulders all those years of rebellion to embark on an entirely new life. In Islam, I found peace and real life, a life that is realised and enjoyed only by a faithful and practicing Muslim, one who complies with its commandments. Only practical effectuation of the Islamic faith reflects on the faithful with grace, reverence and magnificence, which emanates form absolute devotion to the Almighty. In the end of account of his tryst with Islam, the English businessman Abu Muhammad (Alfred Frantz) confesses saying, “it was only the grace of Allah that guided me through bewilderment. He chose me for guidance. It is He who guides to His right path whom He wishes to. Upon acknowledging the divine mercy and blessing upon him, Abu Muhammad does not forget to make mention of the man who was instrumental in bringing him to the shore guidance. It was none but his fellow student, whose exemplary behaviour showed him the light. That fellow student later became the Sultan of Oman and held the helm of affairs with great wisdom and strength, undoubtedly derived from his strong Islamic roots.” Abu Muhammad concludes, “Allah blessed me and I married a compatriot Muslim woman, who bore lovely sons and daughters for me. I pray to Allah to bless them. I was fortunate to perform Hajj and Umrah with my family. I wrote to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, Sultan of Oman about what his wise words, while we were classmates, has done to me.” Abu Muhammad wraps up his narration by saying, “I visited Egypt where we spent time at Al-Azhar campus. My family enjoyed fasting of Ramadhan there. I still keep visiting Egypt, because I feel tranquillity and serenity while being among the people of Egypt. They are very courteous and very devout.” This is one of the best narratives of “Why Did They Embrace Islam.” The young prince played the role model of a wise herald call ing with while enjoying
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