The Islamic Bulletin
The Islamic Bulletin
The South Africa Jamaat in
A South African Jamaat of four
brothers left from Nizamudin,
India to the USSR. The journey
also took us to parts of Central
This is a report of that part of our
inspirational journey. Although
the political situation in the
USSR, including Central Asia,
has changed since our visit, the
spiritual needs of the people
After traveling through parts of
the USSR, we went to Samar-
kand. It is a historical city which has been greatly influenced by
Islam. It is the resting place of Kutham ibne Abbas (R.A.), the cousin
of the Prophet (SAW) and brother of Abdullah Ibn Abbas (RA) who
collected Ahadith from various Companions (RA).
The family of the famous King Taimur (Tamerlane) is buried around
Shah-e-Zindah (RA). Here also is the resting place of Abul Laith
Samarkandi (RA) whose story appears in the Fazail Al Ahmal. The
famous Registan Square complex is in the heart of the city.
A Darul Uloom, the jaame masjid and a university was once housed
in this complex. But today it is only a tourist attraction. Eid-ul-Adha
Salat was performed here this year after many years.
Masjid Namaaz, 25 km away from Samarkand is the resting place
of Hazrat Imam Bukhari (RA). Muslims from all over USSR come
here. The Imam of the masjid opened the room where Hazrat
Imam Bukhari used to perform Itikaaf. The Imam served us tea
under 4 large and high trees that were grown about 500 years ago.
From Samarkand we went to Bukhara. We stayed in the Masjid
Madressa complex of Imam Bukhari (R.A.). Salat in one section of
the masjid had started only 2 months before. About 225 students
from all over USSR are staying and studying here.
It is said during the glorious days of Islam, nearly 10,000 people
from all over the world used to listen to the discourses of Hazrat
Imam Bukhari (R.A.) in this Masjid.
This is the city from where emanated the most authentic Kitab
(book), Sahih Bukhari. But alas, we cried when we saw tourists
walking with their shoes inside the masjid and taking photos.
The Imam of the masjid still remembers the first jamaat from India.
He asked one of the brothers to perform the Jumha Khutba. He
gave us a guide who took us to the tomb of Hazrat Bahauddin
Nakhshbandi (R.A.), founder of the Nakhshbandi Sillsila.
30 km from here is the resting place of the famous mathematician,
philosopher, doctor and astrologist, Ibn Sina, who is known to the
Western world as Avicenna.
In Samarkand and Bukhara the work of inviting was established
in a few Masjids. Imams and local brothers told us that jamaats
from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, U.K., and Arab countries have
been coming since many years and have found their effect to be
When we returned to Tashkent, Sharif Bhai suggested very strongly
we go to Mongolia. Unlike Russia, in Mongolia not the slightest
trace of Islam was left. All Masjids and madressas were destroyed.
Islam was totally wiped out. Only a few old people remember the
broken words of Kalima Tayyiba.
There are about 180,000 Muslims out of a total population of 2.2
million. They are mainly in a province on the Chinese border.
Ulan Bator is the capital. 10,000 Muslims are known to live here.
We went for local invitation efforts for two days but did not meet
any Muslims. We then went to Bayan-Ulgi where there are about
80,000 Muslims. There are no Masjids or madressas; people know
nothing about deen (religion).
The only thing they know is that the South African Jamat was
Muslim. Nobody knows when Ramadan starts or ends. No Islamic
calendar. We went to a few houses and demonstrated how to pray
Salat, perform wudu and Azaan. They have igloo type houses with
wooden floors and coal stoves. They are very warm inside. About
50 people can perform salat in them when empty. We also visited
some of the 15 Muslim villages around here. A jamaat from UK
We taught many children Surah Fatiha, Surah Ikhlas, Attahiyaat, etc.
The only thing we could do was to make the people repeat Kalima
Tayyiba. We cried when we left Mongolia, knowing the condition
of our Muslim brothers and sisters. We hope another jamaat could
go there as soon as possible.
The last town we went to was Ashkaba in the republic of Turkmen-
istan. We had a seven hour delay because we missed a flight when
their taxi took them to the wrong airport. However, this gave us
an opportunity to meet Muslims from many parts of the world at
airport and to pray Zuhr and Asr with them.
We arrived at Ashkbad at11.pm.
We had no addresses of Muslims
or Masjid, but Urazmurad, a brother we met on the flight took us
in. He awoke his entire family at midnight, cooked food and slept
with us in one room. The next day the Sheikh and other people of
his town were invited for lunch. About 40 years ago an earthquake
destroyed this town.
Three new Masjids are being built. Many old people have Sunna
beards. Ladies wear veils to observe the Muslim custom of mod-
esty and Muslim schools have started. This concluded our visit to
Central Asia. From here, we returned to Tashkent in the USSR to
complete our work.
[To be continued]
Editor, Islamic Bulletin
P.O. Box 410186
San Francisco, CA 94141-0186, USA
by C. Pedrick
Twenty one years ago, Rosario Pasquini (Danilo) was a heavy
smoker, drank more whisky than was good for him and led what
he now describes as a nightmare existence, tormented by the stress
of having to succeed in his job as a lawyer in the busy northern
city of Milan. Pasquini, born in Fiume in 1934, graduated from the
University of Milan in 1957 and became a Muslim in 1974. Now
in his 50s, Pasquini calls himself Abdurrahman. He leads the Friday
Prayer at the Mosque of Il Misericordioso and is a teacher of Arabic
and Islamic culture. He is also the author of L’Islam Credo, Pilastri,
Vertice e Perfezione and Muhammad, L’Inviato di Dio.
Abdurrahman still lives in Milan, but he has traded his lawyer’s
briefcase for something that gives him more satisfaction. He is
now editor of a newspaper called “Il Messagero del Islam”, (The
Messenger of Islam) an eight page tabloid written for the growing
numbers of Italians who, like the former lawyer himself, decided
to convert to the Muslim faith.
In Italy the ranks of Christians who have converted to Islam are
swelling daily. Just as in France and England whose most famous
convert is the former pop singer Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), a growing
number of Italians are turning to the Muslim faith for spiritual solace.
“Every day, people come in wanting to know more about Islam and
the conversion process,” said Abdurrahman, who edits his newspa-
per from an office at Milan’s Islamic Center. “Yesterday it was one,
today there were two. They come from all over, from different classes
and backgrounds, and they all have different reasons for doing it.”
Italian Christians who have decided to embrace Islam include en-
gineers, artists, intellectuals, students and even a nun. Some have
taken the step because they married a Muslim, while for others it
is a purely intellectual or religious choice. But whatever the initial
reason, converts say their final decision has almost always been
accompanied by a feeling of frustration with too much consumerism
and stress, and a yearning for a spiritual dimension that has become
lost in most of Western society. Some of the people who decide to
become Muslims do so because, like me, they are going through a
very difficult period in their life,” he says. “Others have family prob-
lems. There are even some who are high school students and have
converted in secret because they are scared to tell their parents.”
Abdurrahman himself received support and understanding from his
own family. He says, “They took the view that I was old enough to
make my mind up for myself, and let me get on with it. In fact, my
mother, who is 85 years old and has remained a Catholic, recently
said to me: “I Praise Allah, because if you had continued to live the
way you did before you converted, you would be dead by now.”
He continues, “At the time I was prey to a terrible mental stress,
brought on by the competitiveness that is so prevalent in our type
of society. After a long period of searching, I finally arrived at
Islam which says that no one except God has the right to judge
and dominate other men. This is what I was looking for. For me it
represented a liberation from a society which believes itself to be
free, but which instead forces its members to bow under the yoke
of many, many different demands.”
Like many converts, Abdurrahman embraced his new faith whole
heartily. He learned Arabic so he could read the Quran and par-
ticipate in mosque life without having to rely on translations. His
command of the language has become so good that he now teaches
it. The former lawyer’s interpretation of the Muslim faith is strict
and unyielding. As well as announcements of births, marriages and
conversions, his Muslim newspaper carries advice on how Italian
converts should behave. For example, he advises that a woman
who intends to drive her car beyond the boundaries of her own
neighborhood should make sure she is accompanied by a relative.
One of the factors that contributed to his conversion was a meeting
that developed into a strong friendship with Jordanian born, Ali
Abu Shwaima, then a medical student, now the director of the
Milan Islamic Center. Shwaima’s wife is also Italian. Like Pasquini,
she decided to convert to Islam and changed her name from Paola
Moretti to Khadija, after the Prophet Muhammad’s first wife. To-
day, she recalls with some amusement the first time she ventured
out into the streets wearing a veil. That was 15 years ago, when
Italians were far less used to seeing Muslims than they are now. “I
felt everyone’s eyes on me. It was rather embarrassing,” she said.
“I could hear the other women in the supermarket whispering things
like, “who is she, a nun?’ Or ‘Maybe she belongs to some sect.’ But
that kind of attitude no longer bothers me, she said. I’m sure of
the choice I made. It certainly wasn’t easy at the beginning, when
I made my conversion. But wearing the veil is a duty for women. I
couldn’t accept one part of the Quran and not the other.”
Guiuseppina, now known as Fatima, was a Roman Catholic nun,
studying theology and living in a convent in Modena in central Italy.
She began reading the Quran, and as her interest grew she started
having doubts about her own religion and vocation. She took to
visiting the Islamic Center in Milan, and finally after a great deal of
soul searching, she renounced her vows and converted to Islam.
Today, she is married to a fellow Muslim.
Daniela was born in Sicily and became a convert nine years ago,
when she married an Egyptian. She willingly obeys all the rules of
her new faith. “When I go out, I always wear a scarf over my head
and I keep my legs and arms covered,” she said. “A woman should
keep all parts of feminine beauty covered, because only her hus-
band has the right to see them. It seems perfectly right to me.” In
spite of her acceptance of what other Western Women might see
as limitations, Daniela claims her relationship with her husband is
one of absolute equality.
Franco Leccesi, who prefers to be known as Omar, claims the precise
rules laid down by Islam help a person gain greater self discipline,
which in turn leads to physical and spiritual improvement. Looking
back to the old days before he converted seven years ago, he said:
“I always used to try to impose my own self discipline, but it never
lasted very long,” added the 42 year Neapolitan artist, “but in the
past six years I’ve noticed a dramatic improvement in myself. If you
pray five times a day it also forces you to break off from the daily
treadmill. It makes you stop and reflect and prevents you from
becoming an automation, who lives his life mechanically.
“One thing that strikes me very deeply is the dramatic difference
between old people in many Muslim countries, and those in the
West.” he added. There, the elderly are often far more lucid and
energetic, right up until old age, they often have remarkable phys-
ical and mental powers in comparison with people of the same age
over here. It’s largely due to the lifestyle they learn from childhood,
which enables them to eliminate stress and to do without the kind
of things that poison our systems. We westerns have lost so much
of the spiritual dimension of our lives. It’s as though we’ve fallen
into a deep sleep. We’re living in a world that is so empty- it’s very
frightening to contemplate.”