The First Citizen of Pakistan

THE FIRST PAKISTANI CITIZEN: ALLAMA MUHAMMAD ASAD: (1900- Feb 20, 1992).

A linguist, a journalist, a traveler, a scholar, and a writer.

He was issued the first Pakistani Passport, immediately after the independence in August 1947 in Karachi.

*Origin and early life:

Muhammad Asad was born into an Austrian Jewish family as “LEOPOLD WEISS” on 12th July 1900 into a small town called “Lemberg” of Astro-Hungarian empire (currently known as “Liviv” in Ukraine). His father Akiva Weiss was a lawyer unlike his grandparents who used to be Jewish Rabbis for generations. While still at school he got fluency in Hebrew and Aramaic beside his native German and Polish Languages. When he reached his mid-twenties, he also mastered in English, French, Persian and Arabic languages.

In 1920, after his graduation was completed, Leopold went to Berlin to become a journalist. He joined one of the most prestigious media houses in Europe “Frankfurter Zietung” and to prove his skills, he went to knock the door of Maxim Gorky, the famous Russian author, without intimation and successfully interviewed his wife.

*In Middle East:

In 1922, he was assigned by the newspaper to go to Palestine. Where he was posted in Jerusalem. Palestine was then under British mandatory rule. There, he had a chance to observe closely the teachings of all the major religions and consequently he was greatly inspired by the Islam.

In 1926, his love for the Islam took him to Saudi Arabia . He traveled all the way on the camelback, from Jerusalem to Macca through the desert to embrace Islam and acquired the name Muhammad Asad. “Asad” is the rendition of his basic name Leo or Lion.

He lived there for next six years and was very well received by the king Ibn Saud. Who appointed him one of his religious advisors and gave him some other responsibilities too.

By the year 1932, the political scenario began to change a little and so was the environment in the court of king. This made many of king’s advisors to flee out of the country. Sensing the change, Muhammad Asad also left the country and came to settle in british India.

*Asad In British India:

Muhammad Asad came directly to Lahore. Being a renowned Islamic scholar and author of many books already, he was warmly welcomed by the political and literary circles of Lahore, particularly Allama Dr. Muhammad Iqbal. Both of them quickly became good friends. Allama Iqbal actually encouraged him to write his book “Islam at the crossroads”. Which he wrote in no time and was published in 1934.

*Asad imprisoned:

At the start of world war-II in 1939, he was imprisoned by the british authorities in Lahore for he was of Austrian origin and thus the friend of their enemy. While his father Akiva was detained by the Germans into a concentration camp back in Austria because he was a Jew.

Asad was freed in 1942 after three years in prison.

After being released, he came to KARACHI and put all his efforts behind the ideology of Pakistan and worked tirelessly through his writings as a free lance journalist.

Finally the dream came true and Pakistan came into existence on 14th August 1947.

Acknowledging his services and unconditional support for Pakistan, none other than Quaid e Azam himself honored him by presenting him the first passport of Pakistan and declaring him officially the first citizen of Pakistan.

*Asad serving Pakistan:

As Asad was a great supporter of the movement of Pakistan. Therefore in 1947, not only he was awarded with the citizenship of

Pakistan but also he was appointed as Director of the “Department of Islamic reconstruction”.The core responsibility of this department was drafting the first constitution of Pakistan. Which he did successfully but after the death of Quaid e Azam, there was change in the goverment policies. So the first constitution of Pakistan was delayed until 1956. Finally, it was promulgated after much changes and additions into it.

Meanwhile, in 1949 Asad joined the ministry of foreign affairs as the head of Middle East division. In 1952 he was appointed as Pakistan’s envoy to United Nations in New York.

At UNO, he met a Polish American woman named “Pola”. which was to be his third wife. He came back to Pakistan along with Pola and submitted a formal application to the foreign ministry for the approval of his marriage. To much of his surprise! He was denied due to security reasons. This made him resign altogether from his responsibilities for Pakistan and he chose to stay back in New York never to come back again except in 1983, when he was invited for a short trip by then president Ziaul haq. Pola was converted and was named as Hamida Asad and they eventually got married.

*Asad’s literary work:

During his stay in New York he wrote his best seller autobiography “Road to Mecca” which is also translated in Urdu as “Shahrah e Macca” but the greatest work of Muhammad Asad is the translation of Holy Quran in English along with commentary to explain the contents of holy verses.

This book “The message of the holy Quran” took him seventeen long years to complete it and it is regarded as the most comprehensive and authentic translation of the Holy Quran in English so far.

Death:

In later years of his life, Asad went to settle in Spain. Where he died on 20 Feb 1992. He is buried near “Alhamra” in Granada. Which is one of the provinces of Former Muslim Andalusia in Spain. (Adapted and corrected article of unknown source)

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About Amin H. Karim MD

Graduate of Dow Medical College Class of 1977.
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