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THE BRUNEI TIMES Islamia

The Journey of a German


Ambassador to Islam

M li W ld
MuslimWorld

By Raya Shokatfard

Conversion
I was rather embarrassed
to ask such a renowned dignitary to tell me his conversion
story to Islam. So I asked if
there was any material I could
read about him which told his
story. He said, yes, The Diary

of a German Muslim, which is


written in German, and
Journey to Islam, in English.
He went on to say that these
books were also translated
into many languages, including Arabic.
I was still too reserved to
say that although I would be
very interested to read the
book, I still wanted to hear
some of the story from him
personally. So, I asked if there
was a short version of his
story. He said, "Yes, you could
find it in Wikipedia, but it only
tells part of the story."
Then he started asking me
about my own story. I knew
that mine was a long one, and
it was not the time for my
story, but rather, his. But how
to begin?
Without asking, he sensed
what I wanted. He began by
telling me that three things
were the deciding factors for
his conversion.
The first was when he was
a diplomat to Algeria. It was
in 1962, during Algeria's eight
year war of independence.
France had made a treaty with
the rebels that if they were to
hold a cease fire for six
months, then they would be
handed sovereignty.
The
French
settlers,
however, were very harsh
with Algerians, and did all they
could to provoke them to
fight, but they resisted, as
they had promised.
"I was so taken by the level
of discipline these people

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hen I heard the


name,
Dr.
Hofmann, listed as
being one of the speakers at
the Fanar Expo in Qatar, I was
pleasantly surprised. Would I
get to meet one of the greatest Islamic dignitaries of our
time?
We were both commissioned to give lectures to
non-Muslim audiences in the
very well organized Expo
sponsored by the Qatar Ministry of Endowment, aimed at
providing a better understanding of Islam to non-Muslims
as well as new Muslims.
I had heard about him previously, but never thought I
would ever have the opportunity to meet him, and here
he was, staying at the very
same hotel as I was.
I decided to contact him by
phone, and he graciously
accepted my offer to meet.
As I walked toward him in
the lobby, I saw a big difference between this Dr.
Hofmann and the one from
the picture I had seen previously perhaps a 20 year
difference in age.
A kind-looking, grey-haired
man greeted me, and only his
face told me he was the man I
was to meet, as the hair had
taken a major colour change.
He first wanted to tell me
that he found many Muslim
children in one of his lectures
in this Expo. He was moved to
pay special attention to them,
thus turning the lecture into a
question and answer forum
for the kids. His face looked
gracious and kindly as he
talked about the children's
enthusiasm to ask and learn.
He was also pleasantly
surprised to see so many Arab
kids speaking and understanding English very well.

Friday, February 26, 2010

tific historian who was critical


and particular about sources.
He was one man, and the
founder of two sciences. Yet,
he did not get acknowledged
in Europe until the 20th
century, even though some
Europeans had discovered
him in the 19th century
already.
In 1980, the German
Foreign Office organized a
comprehensive presentation
on Islam in order to teach the
diplomats who were going to
be stationed in Islamic countries. "It just so happened that
close to that time, was my
son's birthday," said Hofmann.
"So I told him that I would be
giving him something not
monetary, but of great value. I
began writing all that I
thought was important about
my discovery of Islam. It
ended up being 14 pages."

showed that I was prompted


to read Al-Quran to see what
is giving them such a power,"
he said. "In my mind, I was
converted, but not yet
officially. It was this time that I
left all my Christian ideology."
The second factor was
Islamic art, he said. "Before
that, I was a ballet critic and
traveled nearly 50 times a
year, especially to the US, to
watch and critique ballet
performances. As a critic, one
has to have standards," he
said. "But all that left me cold,
until I saw Islamic art. The first
one was in Spain's cities of
Granada, Cordoba, Seville in
south Spain and Andalusia."
He came to me asking me if I
believed in what I had written.
I said, "Yes." He said, "If you
believe in this, then you are
Muslim." I said, "If you say I
am a Muslim, then, I am one."
"Islamic art touched me in a
way no other art touched me,"
he said.
"The third factor was
philosophy. I was not trained
as a philosopher, but at any
available time, I read philosophy."
Some of the greatest
philosophers of all times were
Muslims. Ibn Sina, Ibn
Khaldun, Al-Ghazali and Ibn
Rushd were among them. "I
was outraged for not knowing
them before," he explained.
Some famous philosophers
were highly influenced by Ibn
Khaldun who is the founder of
sociology and the first scien-

Writing
The imam, who was the
teacher at this training, was
the imam of Dusseldorf. I told
him about what I had written
and gave it to him to read. The
next day, he came to me
asking me if I believed in what
I had written. I said, "Yes." He
said, "If you believe in this,
then you are a Muslim." I said,
"If you say I am a Muslim,
then I am one."
He later published these
pages, and they were distributed in many locations.
Hofmann also wrote The
Philological
Approach
to
Islam, as his first booklet. He
also informed the Foreign

Dr. Murad Hofmann

Ministry that he was a Muslim


now, so he wouldn't be sent
to Israel or the Vatican. "I
wrote my first book, The Diary
of a German Muslim, which
was printed in various
languages and sent all over
the world."
"After I retired from the
Foreign Service in 1964, I
became a member of Central
Council of Muslims. I toured
around the world, wrote 13
books and over 250 published
book reviews for the following
organizations: Islamic Studies
in
Islamabad,
American
Journal of Islamic Social
Science Studies of Virginia,
and Muslim World Book
Review of UK. I performed haj
twice and Umrah five times
during my various tours."
When asked for his present
activities, he said, "I am 78
years old now, and my wife is
voicing some concern. So, I
am cutting back on travels and
some of the activities."
www.readingislam.com

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12

A German Muslim female student

Thousands of Algerians gather in Constantine to welcome French President


Nicolas Sarkozy, who during his visit said France's colonial rule was
"profoundly unjust".