Seeking Truth – Accepting Islam in 1950s Europe

Fredy Abdussamad Bollag was born into a Swiss Jewish family in 1935. In a time when Islam was little known in Europe, Fredy Bollag was interested in Islamic mysticism, also known as Sufism. He travelled in search of knowledge to seek the ultimate truth, God, and became a master of the inner dimensions of Islam.

Belief in the One God

Fredy Abdussamad Bollag was born into a Jewish family but soon came in contact with Christianity, especially the church of the east or Eastern Christianity.

He believed in the One and Only God. It was this pure tauhidic belief that brought Fredy Bollag to Islam. His love for the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) led him to his immense love for Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

Seeking Truth

It was in the early 1950s that Fredy Abdussamad came in contact with followers of the Sufi order of Shaykh Ahmad Al-Alawy. The existence of a Sufi order during this time in Europe was probably unique.

In his early twenties Bollag started to study Islam and Islamic Sufism. In search for the truth, Fredy was also interested in deepening his own religious tradition, the Jewish Kabbalah tradition, in Israel.

Kabbalah is an esoteric method in Jewish mysticism. He tried to live according to the Jewish tradition for one year but, he explained, was not successful in it.

His plans to continue in the footsteps of his Jewish forefathers were never realized. He did not find a teacher that he was satisfied with. That is why he returned to Basel, Switzerland, after one month visit to Israel.

He accepted Islam at the hands of Shaykh ‘Abdul Rahman. In an interview, he described his conversion to Islam as his destiny written for him by God.

At the Beginning it was Difficult

Many things changed for Fredy after he accepted Islam. Especially the five daily prayers (salat) changed his daily routine.

“It was quite difficult at the beginning”, he described in an interview, “because  in 1956 there were almost no Muslims in my hometown Basel.”

He further told that he basically had to hide his Islam for some time and also did not tell his parents about it. Fredy retreated to live by himself to protect his Islam for twelve years. Finally he met his wife and she agreed to share this life with him.

Seeking Knowledge

After studying different Islamic texts, Fredy Bollag came in contact with a teacher from the Tidjaniyyah order. He became a student of Amadou Hampaté (1990-1991) from Mali and studied Islam under him until this teacher died in 1991.

His teacher visited Paris regularly and it was there that Fredy traveled to at least once a year to enjoy the blessings of his teacher’s company.

According to Fredy Bollag, Shaykh Hampaté taught him the Islam of love. That means that we have to bring people to God through love.

After years of deep studies, Fredy Bollag was given the responsibility and honor to lead others in the teachings of Islamic spirituality as a shaykh of the Tidjaniyyah order.

Inter-Religious Dialogue

During his life time, Shaykh Fredy Ali Abdussamad Bollag was also active in inter-religious dialogue, especially between the three Abrahamic religions.

He also studied under different other Muslim teachers. And even spent some time to study Hinduism.

In his book “Der Name Allah und die Zahl 66” (The name Allah and the number 66), he published his thoughts about the Godly origin of all religions by displaying interesting proofs from the science and mystic of numerology.

Shaykh Fredy Ali Abdussamad Bollag died in 2011.

About Claudia Azizah
Claudia Azizah is originally from Germany and mother of two children and writer. She served as Assistant Professor at the International Islamic University in Malaysia until August 2019. She is co-founder of the Ulu-Ilir-Institute in Indonesia. She regularly writes for the German Islamic newspaper. She is interested in Islamic spirituality, art and Southeast Asia. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram: #clazahsei