The Road to Mecca

Excerpt taken from: The Road To Mecca.

One Day- it was in September 1926- Elsa and I found ourselves traveling in the Berlin subway. It was an upper-class compartment. My eye fell casually on a well-dressed man opposite me, apparently a well-to-do businessman, with a beautiful briefcase on his knees and a large diamond ring on his hands. I thought idly how well the portly figure of this man fitted into the picture of prosperity which one encountered everywhere in Central Europe in those days: A prosperity the more prominent as it had come after years of inflation… […] But when I looked at his face, I did not seem to be looking at a happy face. He appeared to be worried: and not merely worried but actually unhappy, with eyes staring vacantly ahead and the corners of his mouth drawn in as if in pain- but not in bodily pain. Not wanting to be rude, I turned my eyes away and saw next to him a lady of some elegance. She also had a strangely unhappy expression on her face…[…] And then

I began to look at all the other faces in the compartment- faces belonging without expression to well-dressed, well-fed people: and almost in every one of them I could discern an expression of hidden suffering, so hidden that owner of the face seemed to be quite unaware of it.
[…] The impression was so strong that I mention it to Elsa; and she too began to look around her … and she said: ‘You are right. They all look as though they were suffering the torments of hell… I wonder, do they know themselves what is going on in them?

When we returned home I happened to glance at my desk on which lay open a copy of the Quran…

You are obsessed by greed for more and more
Until you go down to your graves
Nay, but you will come to know!
Nay, but you will come to know!
Nay, if you but knew it with the knowledge of certainty,
You would indeed see the hell you are in.
In time, indeed, you shall see it with the eye of certainty:
And on that day you will be asked what you have done with the boon of you life.

For a moment i was speechless. I think the book shook in my hands [...] I knew now, beyond any doubt, that it was a GOd-inspiring book i was holding in my hand: for although it had been placed before man over thirteen centuries ago, it clearly anticipated something that could have been true only in this complicated, mechanized, phantom-ridden age of ours.

At all times people had known greed: but at no time before this had greed outgrown a mere eagerness to acquire things and become an obsession that blurred the sight of everything else; an irresistible craving to get, to do, to contrive more and more-more today than yesterday, and more tomorrow than today: a demon riding on the necks of men and whipping their hearts forward toward goals that tauntingly glitter in the distance but dissolve into contemptible nothingness as soon as they are reached, always holding out the promise of new goals ahead...

Muhammad Asad