Dr. Murad Wilfried Hofmann

Dr. Murad Wilfried Hofmann

Dr. Murad Wilfried Hofmann (b. 1931)

Dr. Murad Hofmann

“I began to see Islam with its
own eyes, as the unadulterated, pristine belief in the one and
only, the true God, Who does not beget, and was not begotten,
Whom nothing and nobody resembles … In place of the qualified
deism of a tribal God and the constructions of a divine Trinity,
the Qur’an showed me the most lucid, most straightforward, the
most abstract – thus historically most advanced – and least
anthropomorphic concept of God. The Qur’an’s ontological
statements, as well as its ethical teachings, impressed me as
profoundly plausible, “as good as gold,” so there was no room
for even the slightest doubt about the authenticity of
Muhammad’s prophetic mission. People who understand human nature
cannot fail to appreciate the infinite wisdom of the “Dos and
Don’ts” handed down from God to man in the form of the Qur’an.”

Dr. Hofmann, who accepted Islam in 1980, was born as a
Catholic in Germany in 1931. He graduated from Union College in
New York and completed his legal studies at Munich University
where he received a doctorate in jurisprudence in 1957. He became a
research assistant for the reform of federal civil procedure, and in
1960 received an LL.M. degree from Harvard Law School. He was
Director of Information for NATO in Brussels from 1983 to
1987. He was posted as German ambassador to Algeria in 1987 and then to
Morocco in 1990 where he served for four years. He performed umrah
(Lesser Pilgrimage) in 1982 and Hajj (Pilgrimage) in 1992.

Several key experiences led Dr. Hofmann to Islam. The first of these
began in 1961 when he was posted to Algeria as Attaché in the German
Embassy and found himself in the middle of the bloody guerilla warfare
between French troops and Algerian National Front which was fighting for
Algerian independence for the past eight years. There he witnessed the
cruelty and massacre that the Algerian population endured. Every day,
nearly a dozen people were killed – “close range, execution style” –
only for being an Arab or for speaking for the independence.
“I witnessed the patience and resilience of the
Algerian people in the face of extreme suffering, their overwhelming
discipline during Ramadan, their confidence of victory, as well as their
humanity amidst misery.”
He felt it was their religion that
made them so, and therefore, he started studying their religious book –
the Qur’an. I have never stopped reading it,
to this very day.”

Islamic art was the second experience for Dr. Hofmann in his journey
to Islam. From his early life he has been fond of art and beauty and
ballet dancing. All of these were overshadowed when he came to know
Islamic art which made an intimate appeal to him. Referring to Islamic
art, he mentions,

Its secret seems to lie in the intimate and universal
presence of Islam as a religion in all of its artistic manifestations:
Calligraphy, space filling arabesque ornaments, carpet patterns, mosque
and housing architecture, as well as urban planning. I am thinking of
the brightness of the mosques which banishes any mysticism, of the
democratic spirit of their architectural layout; I am also thinking of
the introspective quality of the Muslim palaces, their anticipation of
paradise in gardens full of shade, fountains, and rivulet; of the
intricate socially functional structure of old Islamic urban centers (madinahs),
which fosters community spirits and transparency of the market, tempers
heat and wind, and assures the integration of the mosque and adjacent
welfare center for the poor, schools and hostels into the market and
living quarters. What I experienced is so blissfully Islamic in so many
places … is the tangible effect which Islamic harmony, the Islamic way
of life, and the Islamic treatment of space leave on both heart and
mind.

Perhaps more than all of these what made a significant impact on his
quest for the truth was his thorough knowledge of Christian history and
doctrines. He realized that there was a significant difference between
what a faithful Christian believes and what a professor of history
teaches at the university. He was particularly troubled by the Church’s
adoption of the doctrines established by St. Paul in preference
to that of historical Jesus. “He, who never met
Jesus, with his extreme Christology replaced the original and correct
Judeo-Christian view of Jesus.”
He found it difficult for him to
accept that the mankind is burdened with the “original sin” and that God
had to have his own son tortured and murdered on the cross in order to
save his own creations. “I began to realize how
monstrous, even blasphemous it is to imagine that God could have been
fallen short in his creation; that he could have been unable to do
anything about the disaster supposedly caused by Adam and Eve without
begetting a son, only to have him sacrificed in such a bloody fashion;
that God might suffer for mankind, His creation.”

He went back to the very basic question of the existence of God.
After analyzing works done by philosophers, such as Wittgenstein,
Pascal, Swinburn, and Kant
, he came to an intellectual conviction of
the existence of God. The next logical question he faced with was how
God communicates to human beings so that they can be guided. This led
him to acknowledge the need for revelations. But what contains the truth
– Judeo-Christian scriptures or Islam?

He found the answer to this question in his third crucial experience
when he came across the following verse of the Qur’an:

… no bearer of burdens shall bear the burdens of another (Qur’an
53:38
)

This verse opened up his eyes and provided the answer to his dilemma.
Clearly and unambiguously for him, it rejected the ideas of the burden
of “original sin” and the expectation of “intercession” by the saints.
“A Muslim lives in a world without clergy and
without religious hierarchy; when he prays he does not pray via Jesus,
Mary, or other interceding saints, but directly to God – as a fully
emancipated believer – and this is a religion free of mysteries.”

According to Hofmann, “A Muslim is the emancipated
believer par excellence”
.

For his son’s upcoming 18th birthday in 1980, he prepared
a 12-page manuscript containing the things that he considered
unquestionably true from a philosophical perspective. He asked a Muslim
Imam of Cologne named Muhammad Ahmad Rassoul to take a look at
the work. After reading it Rassoul remarked that if Dr. Hofmann believed
in what he had written, then he was a Muslim! That indeed became the
case a few days later when he declared “I bear
witness that there is no divinity besides Allah, and I bear witness that
Muhammad is Allah’s messenger.”
That was September 25, 1980.

Dr. Hofmann continued his professional career as a German diplomat
and NATO officer for fifteen years after he became Muslim.
“I … did not experience any discrimination in my
professional life”
, he said. In 1984, three and half years after
his conversion, then German President Dr. Carl Carstens awarded
him the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. The German
government distributed his book “Diary of a German Muslim” to all German
foreign missions in the Muslim countries as an analytical tool.
Professional duties did not prevent him from practicing his religion.
Once very artistic about red wine, he would now politely refuse offers
of alcohol. As a Foreign Service officer, he occasionally had to arrange
working lunch for foreign guests. He would be participating in those
luncheons with an empty plate in front of him during Ramadan. In 1995,
he voluntarily resigned from the Foreign Service to dedicate himself to
Islamic causes.

While discussing the evils caused by alcohol in individual and social
life, Dr. Hofmann mentioned an incident about his own life caused by
alcohol. During his college years in New York in 1951, he was once
traveling from Atlanta to Mississippi. When he was in Holy Spring,
Mississippi all on a sudden a vehicle, apparently driven by a drunken
driver, appeared in front of his car. A serious accident followed,
taking away nineteen of his teeth and disfiguring his mouth. After doing
surgery on his chin and lower hip, the hospital surgeon comforted him
saying: “Under normal circumstances, no one
survives an accident like that. God has something special in mind for
you, my friend!”
. As he limped in Holy Spring after release from
the hospital with his “arm in a sling, a bandaged knee, an
iodine-discolored, stitched-up lower face”, he wondered what could be
the meaning of the surgeon’s remark.

He came to know it one day, but much later.
“Finally, thirty years later, on the very day I professed my faith in
Islam, the true meaning of my survival became clear to me.”

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