Charles de Foucauld, Silent witness for Jesus, 'in the face of Islam'

When Charles recovered his 'childhood faith' (an undeveloped faith, hidden in the womb of his family 'piety'), it was, as he explicitly and repeatedly affirms, through Islam.

'Yes, you are right, Islam produced in me a profound 'over- turning' ('a profound bouleversement') - the sight of this faith, of these souls living in the continual presence of God, made me catch a glimpse of something greater and more true, more real, than earthly occupations: 'ad majora nati sumus' .. .7

This clearly refers to the two years he spent in Algeria as an army officer and particularly to the eighteen months of his exploration of Morocco. In the following letter to the same correspondent, Charles goes further, affirming:

'Islam is extremely seductive: it seduced me to excess.'8

Did Charles 'wish to become a Muslim', as his friend Laperrine wrote in a letter to a fellow officer? He was undoubtedly 'seduced' by the beauty of certain quranic prayers with their classical Arabic cadences and traditional melodies, using them himself both before, and at times after, his conversion. Was this attraction due primarily to that sense of beauty dear to the aesthete, as Hugues Didier, 9 the historian, supposes? To my mind, it almost certainly went well beyond this aesthetic attraction, as we can judge by its consequences. But, as Jean-Francois Six 10 carefully argues, it implied no real voluntary wish to convert to Islam, let alone the wish to make the act of pronouncing the 'Shahada', the act of witness in which Islamic conversion consists. As Charles' lengthy correspondence with Henry de Castries makes clear, when taken as a whole, the key concept for Charles is that of 'adoration':11 adoration as the human response to that 'something greater', a reference to the famous Allah akbar of the asser ritual prayer.