Alexander Russel Webb
Muhammad Alexander Russel Webb was born in 1846 C.E. in Hudson, Columbia county, United States of America. After completing his education at Hudson and New York, he began to write as a short-story writer and an essayist. In a short time, he excelled in journalism and served as the Editor of ‘St. Joseph Gazette’ and ‘Missouri Republican’.
In recognition of his broad knowledge and expertise in American and international affairs, he was appointed as the United States consul at Manila, Philippines in 1887. During his stay in Manila, he studied Islam as a way of life, interacted with native Muslims and some Muslim businessmen from India, and after protracted study embraced Islam. Soon after that Muhammad Webb traveled to several predominantly Muslim countries and developed a lasting interest in sharing the truth of Islam with his fellow Americans through the ‘Islamic Propagation Mission.’ In 1893, he wrote a book entitled “Islam in America.” Muhammad Alexander Webb died on October 1, 1916.
The following is Muhammad Webb’s account of his journey to Islam as reported in the abridged version of “Islam – Our Choice” published by Begum Aisha Bawani Wakf, Karachi, 1970.
“I have been requested to tell you why I, an American, born in a country which is nominally Christian, and reared under the drippings, or more properly perhaps the driveling, of an orthodox Presbyterian pulpit, came to adopt the faith of Islam as my guide in life.
I might reply promptly and truthfully that I adopted this religion because I found, after protracted study, that it was the best and only system adapted to the spiritual needs of the humanity. And here let me say that I was not born as some boys seem to be, with a fervently religious strain in my character.
When I reached the age of twenty, and became practically my own master, I was so tired of the restraint and dullness of the Church, that I wandered away from it and never returned to it…
Fortunately I was of an enquiring turn of mind – I wanted a reason for everything, and I found that neither laymen nor clergy could give me any rational explasm and monads (explanation of this faith), and yet not one of them could tell me what were mysterious or that they were beyond my comprehension.
Eleven years ago I became interested in the study of Oriental religions… I read Mill (J.S., died1873) and Locke (J., d. 1704), Kant (I., d.1804), Hegel (G.W.F., d.1831), Fichte (J.G., d. 1814), Huxley (A., d. 1963), and many other more or less learned writers discoursing with a great show of wisdom concerning protoplasm and monads, and yet not one of them could tell me what the soul was or what became of it after death…
I have spoken so much of myself in order to show you that my adoption of Islam was not the result of misguided sentiment, blind credulity, or sudden emotional impulse, but it was born of earnest, honest, persistent, unprejudiced study and investigation and an intense desire to know the truth.
The essence of the true faith of Islam is resignation to the will of God (Allah) and its corner stone is prayer. It teaches universal fraternity, universal love, and universal benevolence, and requires purity of mind, purity of action, purity of speech and perfect physical cleanliness. It, beyond doubt, is the simplest and most elevating form of religion known to man.”