Remembering Maryam Jameelah

This bold and articulate voice of Islam is no more



‘After three and a half years of costly and fruitless psycho analysis, and two years of hospitalization, I was just emerging from a long unhappy adolescence filled with loneliness and frustration and was searching to find myself and my proper place in life. It was only due to all-Merciful and all-Compassionate Allah that at this stage, Maulana Maudaudi gave me the opportunity for a useful life rich in fulfillment by providing the fertile soil from which my endeavor could grow and achieve their fullest expression’
           (Maryam Jameelah)
 Born Margaret Marcus to Jewish family in New York on May 23rd, 1934, Maryam Jameelah grew up in a secular atmosphere. Despite being brought up in a society where ‘to be socially acceptable’ interest in opposite sex, parties, dancing, cinema, cosmetics, night clubs were considered inseparable from life, she remained aloof from such vulgar and indecent habits. She never touched liquor though her parents stressed ‘moderate’ indulgence of wine was part of ‘good things of life’. While being a student of New York University, she attended the class of Jewish rabbi Abraham katsh where he taught ‘Judaism in Islam’ the Rabbi under the guise of ‘comparative religion’ tried to prove that ‘everything good was borrowed directly from the Old Testament’. Interspersed with this ‘comparison’ the students were intoxicated with Zionism and many films and colored slides glorified the Jewish state.
 The study of Judaism taught her that despite some universal concepts of God and high moral ideas contained in the Old Testament, ‘Judaism has always retained its tribal, nationalistic (I must add racial) character’ and  ‘Jewish scriptures are like a Jewish history book’ and ‘their God is a tribal god’.
 The ‘comparative religion’ lecture of Rabbi Katsh and his argument that ‘ethical values cherished as inherent right of every man are absolute and God given, not man-made and relative’ proved turning point in her life. Her search brought her in contact with array of spiritual orders, religious scholars and world of religions. Around 1954 she became acquainted with Islam. Marmaduke Pickthal’s ‘the Meaning of the Glorious Quran’ and the works of Muhammad Asad (himself a convert from Judaism to Islam) like ‘Road to Makkah’ and ‘Islam at cross roads’ greatly impressed her. Her prolonged and concentrated study at the age of 19 of available Islamic literature had taught her what Islam stands for. The more deeply she studied Quran, the more deeply she got convinced that ‘Islam and Islam alone had made the Arabs a great people’.
 More than a year before her acquaintance with renowned Islamic scholar Syed Abu Ala Maudaudi, this zealous young lady had started writing in defense of Islam and was already on the threshold of conversion, nonetheless, her correspondence with Maudaudi marked ‘the most crucial period’ in her life. An article penned down by Maudoodi appearing in February 1960 issue of The Muslim Digest of Durban, South Africa captivated her to Maulana and changed her destiny for ever. In reply to her very first letter, Syed Abu Ala sensing the value of this matchless pearl and realizing that she ‘seems to be just like an equatorial sapling implanted into the Arctic zone’, invited her to visit Pakistan and stay with his family.
 Her conversion to Islam was a complete transformation. Both in mind and soul and body and behavior. In a society where wearing revealing clothes and wearing skirts above the knees was a standard practice of ‘enlightened’ women, Maryam Jameelah lengthened her skirts to the ankles. She became a vociferous spokesperson of the faith and through her writings waged a strong campaign against malicious propaganda directed at Islam by Western critics and westernized Muslims. She took keen interest in Muslim world problems and championed the cause of Palestine. The constant friction between the two opposed mental and moral environments finally made her migrate Pakistan on Abu Ala’s advice. She travelled to Pakistan in 1962 and joined his family in Lahore. Soon she married Muhammad Yosuf khan. She authored nearly seventy books, including Islam versus West, Islam and Modernism, Islam in Theory and Practice, Islam versus Ahal al Kitab, Past and present and Ahmad Khilil and the biography of Palestinian refugee. Since she was educated, trained and nursed in Western traditions, naturally she was in a better position to apprise the world of the ugly dark spots and the source from which the evil springs and which have polluted the Western society.
 We Muslims have inherited Islam as an ‘ancestral property’ from our parents and, therefore, are unaware even ungrateful to the blessings Allah has descended on us. Ask those who have through an unbiased and open mind studied Islam and embraced it. Study the life history of neo-converts and the sufferings and tribulations, the constant conflict with the social surroundings, the mental anguish they had to undergo in search of the Truth – Islam. Here is a young American lady from a Jewish family, biding farewell not only to the Western culture, agnostic philosophy of ‘women empowerment’, citizenship, materialistic pursuits, but her own country and her dearest parents. In a ‘foreign’ land she steps out where no one is known to her. Language, people, customs, traditions, culture all different. But she sacrifices everything. Yes, everything, literally. It is brain and soul drained from a culture of promiscuity to a culture of women dignity. To serve the cause of Islam in a better way.
 May Allah bless His Rehmat on this marvelous Islamic scholar who reinvented glorious pages of Islam. She passed away in Lahore on 31st October last. May her soul rest in peace!    

Lastupdate on : Thu, 8 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 8 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 9 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST

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