Friday, April 11, 2014

Yousuf Ali, the great scholar of Qur’an

When Khan Bahadur Yousuf Ali retired from the police force, he never knew that his son Abdullah will take his name and the fame to the four corners of the world. He raised Abdullah well and arranged for his good education. Abdullah memorized the whole Holy Qur’an and was entitled as Hafiz. Later he was sent to England for higher education. He studied English language and literature at several European universities including Cambridge and Leeds. He secured M. A. then L.L.M. then he faired I.C.S.

His main interest was in the Qur’anic sciences. For this purpose he studied many Tafseer written by early scholars. He attained fluency in speaking and writing Arabic language. When he gained mastery on both English and Arabic languages he decided to get the best fruit of his knowledge. At the mature age of 60 years he embarked on the great project of translation of Holy Qur’an. This was the first attempt by a born Muslim in history. He coined the historic sentence in his preface that “We should Islamize the English language. “  This proved well when many other Muslim scholars produced large Islamic literature in English during the last century. He began his translation work in 1934 and completed it in 1938 with more than 6000 thoroughly studied footnotes, producing the marvelous title of “The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation and Commentary.

 In the Preface to First Edition, Lahore 4th April, 1934 he wrote: "Gentle and discerning reader! What I wish to present to you is an English interpretation, side by side with the Arabic text. The English shall be, not a mere substitution of one word for another, but the best expression I can give to the fullest meaning which I can understand from the Arabic text. The rhythm, music, and exalted tone of the original should be reflected in the English interpretation. It may be but a faint reflection, but such beauty and power as my pen can command shall be brought to its service. I want to make English itself an Islamic language, if such a person as I can do it, and I must give you all the accessory aid which I can".

And again after returning from Haj on the Preface of 1938 edition he wrote: “Since I last greeted my readers collectively I have been able to perform the Pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah and the sacred territory around it and seen with my own eyes the city and territory of Madinah, with all the country around and between the holy cities. I have realized for myself the scenes in which the revelations came which I have humbly sought to interpret. I hope that some glimpses of this experience will have been conveyed to my dear readers.”
These noble works were published from UK and USA simultaneously. In India it was published in 1937 by Sheikh Mohammed Ashraf of Lahore.


This great Islamic scholar from India was born on 4th Safar 1289 AH (April 14, 1872) at Surat. In India he met eminent personalities like Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Sayed Ameer Ali, Mohammed Ali Johar, Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan and Sikander Hayat. Allama Iqbal was so impressed with him that he got him appointed as principal of Islamia College Lahore at lavish salary of Rs. 1300 per month at that time. He visited North America in 1938 and inaugurated Al Rashid Mosque at Edmonton which was the first mosque in Canada and the third mosque in North America.


He married twice and got four children from his first wife. During his last days he lived alone in a house in London where only a few Muslims knew about him. Once when emaciated by the old age of 81 years and long sickness he fell down from the steps. The ambulance took him to the hospital where he died on 2nd Rabi II, 1373 (Dec. 10, 1953) unsung and unmourned. A small group of Muslims attended his Salat Janaza and he was buried in Brookwood Muslim cemetery in Surrey near Woking, about an hour’s drive west of London. The tombstone on a three-feet high arch on his plain grave reads: Abdullah Yousuf Ali, CBE, MA, LLM, FRSL, ICS, (Islamic Scholar)Born Surat India, April 14th 1872, died London Dec. 10th, 1953.


There may be certain weaknesses in his thoughts and personal life but his achievement of the translation of Holy Qur’an is so magnanimous that it keeps his name shining on the literary horizon.
Hundreds of scholars have used his translation for their other works. This writer selected about 1,000 passages from his translation for completion of his two books named “The Fragrance of Holy Qur’an” and the “Word of God” published during the last decade.

Today millions of people, Muslims and non-Muslims, study his monumental work and pray for him around the world.
May Almighty Allah rest his soul in peace. Amen.