In the section I read last night [on p. 184], Asad (a European Jew) is asked by his friend Mansur:
"Tell me, O Muhammad...how did it happen that thou hast come to live among the Arabs? And how didst thou come to embrace Islam?"As I continue my reading of Thomas Cleary's English translation of the Qur'an, I am trying to remain sufficiently open-minded to recognize, if possible, whether I too discover anything that "I have always known without knowing it."
"I will tell thee how it happened," interposes Zayd. "First he fell in love with the Arabs, and then with their faith. Isn't it true, O my uncle?" [Though Zayd is a few years older than Asad, he calls him uncle out of respect.]
"What Zayd says is true, O Mansur. Many years ago [it was actually well fewer than ten], when I first came to Arab lands, I was attracted by the way you people lived. And when I began to ask myself what you thought and what you believed in, I came to know about Islam."
"And didst though, O Muhammad, find all at once that Islam was the True Word of God?"
"Well, no, this did not come about so quickly. For one thing, I did not then believe that God had ever spoken directly to man, or that the books which men claimed to be His word were anything but the works of wise men..."
Mansur stares at me with utter incredulity: "How could that be, O Muhammad? Didst thou not even believe in the Scriptures which Moses brought, or the Gospel of Jesus? But I have always thought that the people of the West believe at least in them?"
"Some do, O Mansur, and others do not. I was one of those others..."
And I explain to him that many people in the West have long ceased to regard the Scriptures—their own as well as those of others—as true Revelations of God, but see in them rather the history of man's religious aspirations as they have evolved over the ages.
"But this view of mine was shaken as soon as I came to know something of Islam," I add. "I came to know about it when I found that the Muslims lived in a way quite different from what the Europeans thought should be man's way; and every time I learned something more about the teachings of Islam, I seemed to discover something that I had always known without knowing it..."
And clear enough minded to understand what the significance might be of "always having known."