A Living Model of Spiritual Perfection: Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
Ramon Hegedus was born in 1982 in Hungary. He has been married to a Hungarian Muslim woman for 3 years. He earned a Master and a PhD degree in biological physics at Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest. Since then he has been working as a postdoctoral scientist and a professional consultant for small enterprises.
Ramon became Muslim 4 years ago, and also adopted the Muslim name Abdurrahman. While in Budapest, he started to work actively together with his brothers and sisters in the HANIF Islam Cultural Foundation, which is devoted to maintaining a Hungarian Islamic community and to inform non-Muslim people about Islam (within the framework of sohbets and public events, and conferences organized by the community); in short, the HANIF Islam Cultural Foundation encompasses the religion and anything that is related culturally or in any other way.
How did you come to embrace Islam? Is there any "one" incident you can pinpoint? Can you explain what the process of conversion is like?
The way from complete heedlessness towards the Light of Islam, by the Mercy of Allah Almighty, is a unique journey for anybody who embarks on it. For a Westerner who was born and brought up within an essentially atheist and materialist atmosphere, however, it is usually a quite long process, which can even take years. The course towards the acceptance and witnessing of Islam was like this in my case. The whole story would probably fill several pages, but certainly there were incidents and decisive turning-points that laid down the tracks to be followed along the path.
The very first one was a complete disillusionment in everything I had previously believed in and which I had accepted as the compass in my life. I had been an atheist and did not have a religion, which is nowadays more and more the case for people in Western countries, even if formally they were Christian. Nevertheless, everybody has some sort of belief, however concrete or obscure it may be, that govern his or her life. I had put my entire faith into science and having completed my high school studies I was prepared to dwell deeper on modern physics at university. I had the naive expectation of finding the answers to the most important questions about life from the professors, but this high esteem for science and its representatives quickly turned into great disappointment. I realized that neither the origin or purport, nor the appropriate guidelines of human life (for the individual or for society as a whole) can be derived from science, which is only capable of presenting various theories and ideas; it could not provide me with the solid truth I was seeking.
After this disillusionment I turned to seek the answers in religion. I came across a wide range of books, including some that were written by Muslim authors. What really grabbed my attention and left a deep impression on me were those which were directly or indirectly related to Sufism. In these passages I encountered several quotes from some of the greatest sheikhs, like Jalaladdin Rumi or Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi (may Allah bless them IS ENOUGH ); the effect of their spiritual purity was so overwhelming that from that time on I wanted to know more and more about Islam, and about Sufism in particular. Later on I started to read the Hungarian translation of the Holy Qur'an as well as the book by Martin Lings about the life of our blessed Prophet. In addition to these studies, while I did not know any Muslim people personally at that time, looking at the beauty of Islamic architecture provided me with evidence for all that I had read: an imprint of the spiritual light was emanating from the heart of Islam. All these made me wonder whether today Muslims really do practice their religion not just by cultivating it with an outward form that is void of its essence, but rather whole-heartedly committed; only then could I decide if I was to follow this religion or not. Thanks to Allah, I had the opportunity to meet some Muslims who demonstrated that this is indeed possible. At the end of this long story I finally embraced Islam, which in reality was not an end but a beginning.
How did people, such as your family, respond to you converting to Islam?
It came as a surprise to everybody, including family members, friends and colleagues. This surprise, however, often was associated with a keen interest in the motives for my embracing Islam. Most Hungarian people are not familiar with Islam at all and even the little they know about it is usually from the media and press. But we have to admit that in spite of the misrepresentation of our religion in the press, still, most people are usually not hostile towards Muslims. When they realize that you are a Muslim people become interested and ask you for an explanation of the religion, sometimes also asking for clarification on some points that might have caused misunderstandings for them. Of course, there are certain customs that can prove quite difficult to accept, especially for family members and parents. Naturally, a fear arises that you have perhaps entered into some obscure sect or that you may get stigmatized in society because of your religion or at your workplace and people may treat you with hostility. These fears, although they may seem totally pointless for us, for others can be quite real, as Islam today is widely associated with violence or terrorism. It is our duty to show others the true face of Islam, with a particular emphasis on the fact that peace and mercy are inherent to the religion. Sure, it was difficult once it became clear to my parents that converting to Islam was not just a mere fancy that I would simply abandon over time (may Allah protect us from this). But, after a while, our relationship once again became harmonic and peaceful.
How would you compare the notion of prophethood in Christianity and in Islam?
It is not easy to give a proper answer and a comparison might not be the best thing to do. Prophethood is certainly important in both religions, but it probably does not bear such a central role in Christianity as it does in Islam. This can be explained by the fact the while in Christianity an overwhelming emphasis is put on the role of Jesus (peace be upon him) who is considered as more than a prophet, the Holy Qur'an commands us not to differentiate among the prophets, all of whom we must believe in from Adam (peace be upon him) until , Muhammad. We must understand that such differences in perspectives are already present at the historical outset of religions, due to their distinct nature and not necessarily all of them arise from later alterations, as is suggested. Therefore, it is not at all easy to discern whether these differences fall within the parameters of exaggerations and transgressions that are deemed impermissible for the Muslim. For this reason, it could be dangerous to indulge in further comparisons. Let us confine ourselves to the teachings of the Holy Qur'an and Prophet Muhammad; accordingly it is Allah Almighty Who will judge the differences that have arisen among us on the Last Day, and He knows best.
What did you find closest to your heart about our Prophet? What is the most appealing thing about him?
One of the most appealing features about Prophet Muhammad was the mercy that he showed to every human being and to every creature, regardless of their origin or background; this mercy was as exquisite and all-embracing as is possible for human limits. How many times have we lost our patience and become angry with other people or even innocent animals? It is in these situations that we can immediately find the best teachings in the merciful character of our beloved Prophet, thus immediately knowing how we should behave correctly. Indeed, we Muslims unfortunately often forget about showing mercy to the other people around us and are ready to judge them at once, based merely on outward appearances. We tend to overlook our own fallible nature when criticising others and even we form hasty judgements by looking only at their most outward actions. Particularly today we have an urgent need to assimilate the teachings of Prophet Muhammad about bearing and showing mercy to others. This is also an important point for us in order to being able to convey the message of Islam. Most of all, what I have found closest to my heart about the Prophet is that he is a living model of spiritual perfection. I say living, because first even though he is not physically present, he is the Messenger of Allah regardless of time, and we testify to this with our faith, words and actions. He said: "I was a Prophet before there was Adam and before there was clay." Second: thanks to the perseverance of the blessed Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and of the Islamic scholars who came after them, we can learn about even the smallest details of his humanly perfect character and actions from the wide range of hadith collections. Finally, and of particular importance: throughout the entire history of Islam there has existed and exists today people among Muslims who cultivate and attain proximity to this spiritual perfection by assimilating the blessed character of Prophet Muhammad to the degree they are capable, both inwardly and outwardly. Those people are the Sufis, the spiritual masters and their heirs and this inheritance is not in name alone, but by state. They are living examples of the spiritual perfection and they are rays of light from our Prophet and means by which we can become acquainted with him not only through the words of "historical documents", but by a living essence. In this way these blessed people take a great share in the meaning and reality of the second part of the shahada, that is: "Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah", and they call on us to take our share in it according to our capabilities, however limited they are. Indeed, their examples demonstrate that it is not enough for us to testify the shahada in words alone, but we should also make it the reality of our faith
How is Prophet Muhammad perceived and received where you live?
Since in my country little is known about Islam in general, the same is true regarding our Prophet. Even though occasionally the media attempts to direct public opinion towards a negative prejudice against Islam and Prophet Muhammad, one rarely encounters hatred or discrimination against him in my country. Rather, on many occasions they demonstrate an openness to learn more about his personality and life if it is offered by Muslims.
How is the Mawlid of Prophet Muhammad celebrated in your country?
In our Muslim community there is no long tradition of celebrating the Mawlid, for the very reason that our community is very small and quite young; however, we are very much inclined towards this celebration, as it is something enjoyed by our Turkish brothers and sisters. We gather with our brothers and sisters on this special occasion to perform a sohbet, which is filled with the remembrance of the noble character of our blessed Prophet, and in the last few years we have also managed to organize conferences that open to the public on the occasion of the Mawlid. Nevertheless, our celebrations are still in a formative phase and insh'Allah they will become more complete and more encompassing for the Hungarian Muslim community as time passes.
In Turkish culture, the rose is a frequently used symbol for Prophet Muhammad. Have you ever heard about this? Do you have such a symbol for our Prophet in your culture?
Yes, we are aware of the rose being used as a symbol for the Prophet in Turkish culture and during our celebrations of Mawlid we have also adopted this symbol. This adoption was quite straightforward and easy for us, since for a Hungarian it is natural to see this symbol as one that is connected to both beauty and righteousness; this is something that is found in Hungarian folklore, including our folktales, where the rose is frequently used. Therefore, it is easy for us to make the transposition of this beautiful symbol by applying it to our blessed Prophet, who is indeed the most important human source of beauty and righteousness.
What do you think about our website?
I find your website informative and very well designed. I like the idea of concentrating on the noble personality of the blessed Prophet and everything that is related to him. May Allah reward you for all your efforts and make it easy for you to further improve your work. It might perhaps draw more attention if there were more pages about Islamic arts (particularly about calligraphy, but also architecture is very important), with more pictures and explanations, in keeping with the main concept of the website.