Muhammad Assad was born is Lemberg, Galicia (part of Austro-Hungarian Empire, now part of Ukraine). Muhammad Assad was born on 2 July 1900 as Leopold Weiss to a Jewish family.
From Weiss's own account, his roots in Judaism were deeper on his father's side. His paternal grandfather, Benjamin Weiss, had been one of a succession of Orthodox rabbis in Czernovitz in Bukovina. His grandfather wanted him to be a rabbi but young Leopold Weiss had plans of his own. He left his house at the tender age of 14 and joined Austro-Hungarian army. He didnít serve long in army and he was brought back home by his parents.
After finishing his school he went to Austria to study psychoanalysis. During his time in Vienna he met many well-known writers and scientists. This is where he got his first taste of journalism but deep inside he felt very unhappy. Assad was a precociously gifted young correspondent for the prestigious Frankfurter Zeitung newspaper, and made hundreds of trips within Arabia, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. During his years of the travel, he managed to see the Muslim world closely and with different angle that what he had imagines in the West.
Conversion to Islam
When his uncle, "a student of Dr. Freud" who ran an asylum in Jerusalem invited him to Palestine. Here, Weiss came to know and love Arab and Bedouin culture. He describes its "free humanity" and its "quiet, proud affirmation of reality and one's own life". The Arabs, he enthuses, are "people who venerate one another and the simple things in life". His passion inflamed, Leopold Weiss converted to Islam in April 1927 - in Berlin Wilmersdorf, in Germany's first-ever mosque - calling himself Muhammad Assad from then on.
Despite his being a Jew, in Palestine Assad did not care for the Zionist cause, believing that an influx of Europeans into a land that had not been theirs for two thousand years was an artificial solution and destined to cause problems. He noticed that the European Jews saw the local Arabs like colonial powers saw Africans - as a backward people of little consequence. After his hajj to Mecca in 1927, Muhammad Assad settled in Saudi Arabia for several years. This brought unique opportunity to Assad to get closer to the Saudi King Ibn Saud. After their first meeting, Assad writes, the King sent for him every day. Ibn Saud even allowed Assad to visit the Najd region (in the King's company), which was strictly forbidden for foreigners during that time. Despite the closeness to the House of Saud, Assad strikes a critical tone concerning Wahhabism: "As s??n as the followers of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahbab achieved power, his idea became ? mummy: for the spirit cannot be ? servant of power - and power does not want to be a servant of the spirit", Assad writes.
Assad fought the Italian fascists in Libya alongside Sidi Muhammad (King Idris I of Libya), literally hiding in the sand, smuggling arms to the freedom fighters, bullets flying over his head, comrades dying to the left and right. While European soldiers were raping, ransacking and killing in Libyan towns and villages, Muhammad Assad and Muslim fighters of the Senoussi tribes alongside Omar Mukhtar were fighting against the brutal oppression of the invaders. In his quest for moral integrity, all this seemed to prove right Assadís decision to turn away from Europe and become a "naturalized Arab".
Travel to India
Assad arrived in Karachi by ship in June 1932, and left promptly for Amritsar. There and in neighbouring Lahore, he involved himself with the local community of Kashmiri Muslims, and in 1933 he made an appearance in Srinagar, where an intelligence report again had him spreading Bolshevik ideas.
For Assad, the real attraction of Kashmir would have resided in its predicament as contested ground, where a British-backed maharaja ruled a discontented Muslim population. Beginning in 1931, Kashmiri Muslims in Punjab organized an extensive "agitation" in support of the Muslims in Kashmir. Hundreds of bands of Muslim volunteers crossed illegally from Punjab into Kashmir, and thousands were arrested. By early 1932, the disturbances had subsided, but the Kashmir government remained ever-wary. Just what Assad did in Kashmir is uncertain. But on learning of his presence, the Kashmir government immediately wanted him "externed," although the police had no evidence to substantiate the intelligence report, and there appeared to be legal obstacles to "externing" a European national.
Assad soon retreated from Kashmir to Lahore. There he met the poet-philosopher Muhammad Iqbal (1876-1938), himself of Kashmiri descent, who persuaded Assad to remain in India and work "to elucidate the intellectual premises of the future Islamic state." From this point forward, Assad would be a Muslim intellectual, thinking, lecturing and writing on Islamic culture and law.
In 1949, Assad left domestic politics to join Pakistan's foreign service, eventually rising to the position of head of the Middle East Division of the foreign ministry. His transformation was now complete, down to his Pakistani achkan and black fur cap. In the beginning of 1952, after twenty years of continuous residence in the subcontinent, he came to New York, as Pakistan's minister plenipotentiary to the United Nations.
Close to his death, Assad became very upset by the state affairs of the Muslim World and its leaders. He believed that the umma wasnít that great, Islam was a beautiful religion but the corruption of people was bringing it close to the disaster. His writing was burned in public during his time in Morocco - one reason for his return to Europe. Muhammad Assad died in Spain's Andalusia on 20th February, 1992. He is buried in Granada (Spain).