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The Road to Mecca Paperback – January 1, 2000

4.7 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A very rare and powerful book, raised completely above the ordinary by its candor and intelligence."  —New York Post

"A book trenchant with adventure magnificently described, and a commentary upon the inner meaning of Arab and Muslim life, helpful to all who would achieve a more accurate understanding of the Arabs and their lands."  —Christian Science Monitor

"['The Road to Mecca'] combines the adventure and scenic beauty of a good travel book, some unusually informed comments on near Eastern affairs, and a deeply thoughtful account of one man's finding of his own path."  —Book of the Month Club, New York

About the Author

From his work as a journalist in the Middle East before his conversion, Muhammad Asad became an author, translator of Islamic literature, and international diplomat. His written works include his famed English translation of the Qur'an and translations of the Prophet's oral teachings.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 375 pages
  • Publisher: Fons Vitae; Eighth Edition, Eighth edition edition (January 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1887752374
  • ISBN-13: 978-1887752374
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
After reading this magnificent book, I am still puzzled as to why such a remarkable personality like Mohammad Asad still remains obscure to both the Western world, and most importantly, the Muslim world. A person who has seen and experienced all of the main events of the 20th century at first hand, and has lived to describe it lucidly truly deserves to be on the map of personalities of the last century. His contribution to 20th century socities of the Middle-East is immense. A first class traveller, a journalist, a writer, a philosopher, an adventurer, a statesman, a diplomat, a scholar, and most of all a believer in the faith of Islam through experience, at least should be considered on par with lawrence of Arabia, if not above, for the sole reason that he was involved in the shaping of more than one country, not just Arabia.
Let me get to the book. This book is actually four journeys fitted into one. It is a geographical, historical, linguistic, and spiritual journey all in one.
- Geographical: for it a first class travelogue of the Middle-East region during the twenties, before the current borders ever existed or were drawn. He provides a very graphic description of places, lands, moods, cities, and people that he has come across, that virtually transports you to those times. He is not the romantic orientalist, nor is he the underminning military observer, but somehow a mixture of both with a flair of adventure. He traveled during a period of time when it was still possible to join caravans, hire horses and guides, and buy camels when embarking on a journey, which makes it all the more exciting to read.
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Format: Paperback
I consider myself an admirer of Islam, if not a believer, and I was interested in reading this book from the time I first heard of it. A well-reasoned apologia of the faith by a respected Western convert, I felt, could only be a useful and enlightening book. I was not prepared for the reality.
On beginning the book I was initially disappointed by two things. First of all, Mr. Assad was a journalist. Secondly, the book was first published some 50 years ago - and the events described in it happened 20 years earlier than that. I have no objection to reading old books - far from it! - and I have in general no objection to reading books by journalists, but I tend to avoid old books by journalists. The journalist, by definition, you might say, is absorbed in the ephemera of current events; when he refers to the past, it is usually only to make a point about the present. And what may be a cogent observation about current events tends to pall quickly with time. At best, most old books by journalists are old news; at worst, downright laughable. Anybody who has tried to read an erstwhile best seller by Lowell Thomas or John Gunther will know what I mean. In addition, I feared that a book on religion by a journalist could only be superficial, so I resigned myself to making the best of what I feared was to be a bad situation; after all, I had already bought the book.
It was true that the book seemed steeped in the current events of 1930: the French and British "mandates" in the Middle East, the Saudi struggles against the Beni Hashim and their English friends for control of the Arabian peninsula, the Sanusi battling Fascist Italy in Libya, Shah Reza Khan building a new Iran. Most of these events are ancient history to Western readers, if indeed they ever heard of them at all.
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Format: Paperback
Books about Islam and Arabia abound. Not surprisingly, most have a Western bias if for no other reason than they view events through Western eyes. Professor Edward Said once advised that to gain an understanding of Islam and Arabia one should read more than Bernard Lewis. He suggested two books: Classical Arab Islam (by Tarif Khalidi) and The Road to Mecca. Perusing the latter, one understands his point.

Muhammad Asad was a Polish-Austrian Jew born to an orthodox rabbi in Lwow (then a part of Austro-Hungary) in the summer of 1900 whose spiritual journey led him eventually to leave Judaism and embrace Islam. Though published in 1957, Asad is recounting events from the 1920s and early 1930s. The central thread is a haj to Mecca in 1932 via camel from the northern reaches of Saudi Arabia. He uses flashbacks to give the history of his travels and conversion.
His conversion started in adolescence. "Under the influence of an agnostic environment, I drifted...into a matter-of-fact rejection of all institutional religion." (61) Seeking adventure he joined the Austrian army toward the end of 1914. He was only 14, but tall. This made it easier to convincingly lie about his age. His father tracked him down, though, so his enlistment didn't last more than a few weeks. Four years later he was drafted into the army, "but by then was searching for other avenues to self-fulfillment." His draft enlistment was only a little longer than his previous one for soon Austria-Hungary was out of the war.
After attending a university for a time, he gave up his studies to pursue journalism. It wasn't the profession that drew him, per se, but rather wanderlust leavened with spiritual restlessness.
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