Born in Illinois, U.S.A., completed his studies at
the Universities of Washington and Columbia, where he won many scholastic
honours. Poet, literary critic, author, and editor-in-chief of Radio
Personalities. Wrote Beyond the Brim and Bazar of
From the Islamic Review, April 1935.
The above issue of the Islamic Review also
contains an article by Colonel Rockwell about his acceptance of
Islam. It is reproduced below.
HOW ISLAM WON ME
By COL. DONALD S. ROCKWELL
The simplicity of Islam, the powerful appeal and compelling
atmosphere of its mosques, the earnestness of its faithful adherents,
the confidence inspiring realization of the millions throughout
the world who answer the five daily calls to prayer these
factors attracted me from the first. But after I had determined
to become a follower of Islam, I found many deeper reasons for confirming
my decision. The mellow concept of life fruit of the Prophets
combined course of action and contemplation, the wise counsel,
the admonitions to charity and mercy, the broad humanitarianism,
the pioneer declaration of womens property rights these
and other features of the teachings of the Man of Mecca were to
me among the most obvious evidence of a practical religion so tersely
and aptly epitomized in the cryptic words of Muhammad: Trust
in Allah and tie your camel. He gave us a religious system
of normal action, not blind faith in the protection of an unseen
force in spite of our own neglect, but confidence that if we do
all things rightly and to the best of our ability, we may trust
in what comes as the Will of Allah.
The broad-minded tolerance of Islam for other religions
recommends it to all lovers of liberty. Muhammad admonished his
followers to treat well the believers in the Old and New Testaments;
and Abraham, Moses, Jesus are acknowledged as co-Prophets of the
One God. Surely this is generous and far in advance of the attitudes
of other religions.
The total freedom from idolatry, even in the modified
form of image-worship and adoration of the myriad figures and faces
of saints in church windows, statute niches and shrines, is a sign
of the salubrious strength and purity of the Muslim faith. There
literally is but One God in mosque, home, mind and heart
Allah, undiluted by adulation of gilded pictures and tinted plaster
models of many saints, unconfused by likenesses of the Prophet himself,
forbidden by the wisdom of the inspired mind which gave to a pagan
people the monotheistic Quran. The concept of the Unity of God is
not dimmed by the separate worship of a prophet as the son of God,
by prayers to the mother of the prophet, nor by belief in the division
of the godhead into a trinity, with divine inclusion of a saviour
in the spiritual person of the deity, as in the Christian faith.
Muhammad, revered as a human revealer of Divine wisdom, has not
been elevated to divine status by overzealous disciples and the
reflected glory of the roseate glow which martyrdom always casts
over its victims.
The original teachings of the Prophet of Allah have
not been engulfed in the maze of changes and additions of doctrinarians.
The Quran remains as it came to the corrupt polytheistic people
of Muhammads time, changeless as the holy heart of Islam itself.
Moderation and temperance in all things, keynote
of Islam, won my unqualified approbation. The health of his people
was cherished by the Prophet, who enjoined them to observe strict
cleanliness and specified fasts and to subordinate carnal appetites.
This summer I visited all of Spains great cathedrals,
many originally built as mosques, and immediately afterward I knelt
with thousands of Moors in the mosques at Fez, Marakesh, Rabat,
Meknes, Tetuan and other Moroccan cities.
As the noble strains of organ music and sonorous chanting
reverberated through the vaulted arches of the dim cathedrals, and
the pleasant odour of incense was wafted between the lofty columns
of the colossal Spanish churches, I had to admit that these are
valuable aids to the staging of a good show. But religion should
not lean on the props of a stage spectacle rather austere
purity of prayer without embellishment. Music and incense produce
emotional reactions, the products of ecstasy instead of spiritual
fervour. They have their place as stimulants for the religious sluggards;
they are the wine and coffee of Christendom.
But when I stood in the inspiring mosques of Istambul,
Damascus, Jerusalem, Cairo, Algiers, Tangier, Fez and other cities,
I was conscious of a more powerful reaction the potent uplift
of Islams simple appeal to the sense of higher things, unaided
by elaborate trappings, ornamentation, figures, pictures, music
and ceremonial ritual. The mosque is a place of quiet contemplation
and self-effacement in the greater reality of the One God, Allah.
It does not need to employ a three-ring circus of sight, sound and
smell to attract and hold its faithful congregation.
The democracy of Islam has always appealed to me.
Potentate and pauper have the same rights on the floor of the mosque,
on their knees in humble worship. There are no rented pews nor special
With full respect for the traditions of another great
religion, monasticism does not seem to me a necessary or healthful
adjunct of spiritual guidance. Men of normal family lives can appreciate
the problems and understand the frailties of their fellow men better
than a priest leading an ascetic life, and of course the spectacle
of a renegade priesthood, betraying the code of their cloth for
the temptations of the flesh, is a deplorable one. Naturally Islam
has never developed a priesthood nor bureaucratic church government.
The Muslim accepts no man as a mediator between himself
and his God. He goes direct to the invisible Source of creation
and life, Allah, without reliance on a saving formula of repentance
of sins and belief in the power of a teacher to afford him salvation.
The universal brotherhood of Islam, regardless of
race politics, colour or country, has been brought home to me most
keenly many times in my travels, and this is another feature which
drew me toward the Faith. I have been hospitably received by Muslim
brothers from London, Paris, New York, Morocco, India, Persia, Turkey,
Syria, Egypt and Poland; and my heart has warmed to them all as
earnest workers in this great cause.
The copies of the Islamic Review which reached
my hands in America were a source of further encouragement to cling
to my adopted Faith, and it is a pleasure to pause in my editorial
duties to express my appreciation and admiration of the noble work
being done at Woking, and to assure my friends throughout the Muslim
world of my zealous purpose to aid in the Islamic Renaissance and
to establish the Crescent more firmly in the Western world.
The Islamic Review, April 1935, pages