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by Dr. Saeed Ahmad Khan
and Mr. N. A. Faruqui

The English Translation of the Holy Quran with Commentary, by Maulana Muhammad Ali (d. 1951), has been highly acclaimed all over the world, ever since the first edition appeared in 1917, and holds the position of a renowned classic of religious literature. It was the first English translation by a Muslim to be generally available and to be made accessible to the West, printed as it was in England. Its publication was all the more remarkable as it took place at a time when there was a grossly distorted, misconceived and dark image of Islam generally prevalent, making the atmosphere extremely hostile to this sublime faith and to prospects of its progress.

Besides being a pioneer work, there are several other important respects in which this Translation and Commentary holds an outstanding and unrivalled position. Two may be noted here. Firstly, it presents the faith of Islam in its pure and pristine form by treating the Quran itself as the direct supreme authority, rather than approaching it through the medium of later interpretations. It thus corrects the deep-seated and widely-held misconceptions about Islamic teachings, and shows Islam to be an entirely peaceful and tolerant religion, a faith which seeks to convince and not to coerce, and one which is concerned not only with outward forms but with the inner spirit as well. Secondly, this work has had an incalculable influence in drawing non-Muslims towards Islam, as well as rescuing Muslims themselves from doubt and disillusionment, as evidenced by the wealth of glowing tributes which have been paid to it.

Maulana Muhammad Ali thoroughly revised the whole work in the last five years of his life, the revised edition being published in 1951 followed by several reprint editions over the years.

So immense has been the impact, success and popularity of this work that efforts were started many years ago to render it into other languages. Recently, the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam Lahore Inc. U.S.A. has renewed these endeavours with fresh vigour, and work is being energetically done to make this book available in more and more languages of the world.

This edition has been entirely re-typeset with improved design and layout. A new footnote numbering scheme has been introduced, which gives a neater appearance to the translation as well as being more convenient for locating footnotes. The new scheme is explained fully in the Key to References and Authorities. The Index has also been substantially expanded.

We thank Dr. Zahid Aziz of England for carrying out the improvements and revisions mentioned, and correcting misprints in the previous edition.

We conclude below with some extracts from the Foreword to the 1963 reprint edition of this work, contributed by Maulana Muhammad Yakub Khan, one-time Imam of the Woking Muslim Mission, England, outlining the very great service rendered to Islam by Maulana Muhammad Ali and his devotion to the cause of the Holy Quran.

Dr. Saeed Ahmad Khan
President, Ahmadiyya Anjuman Lahore, Pakistan

N. A. Faruqui
Vice-President, Ahmadiyya Anjuman Lahore, Pakistan

Lahore, October 1990

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From the Foreword to the 1963 Edition

by Maulana Muhammad Yaqub Khan

Maulana Muhammad Ali’s Translation marks a definite epoch in the understanding of Islam. Among the Muslim intelligentsia it positively arrested the creeping decay of faith as a result of the Western materialistic influences, and the sceptical trends of Western philosophic thought. Typical of this reaction of the Muslim mind was the fulsome acknowledgement by a well-known devout Muslim thinker and writer, referred to by the author in the Preface, who ascribes his own rescue from the wilderness of atheism to this Translation.

In the realm of Western scholarship, the impact of this Translation is noticeable in the changed outlook on Islam and the changed tone of literature about Islam that has since appeared. The very first indications of such wholesome change are met with in the writings of a man of no less scholarly stature than H.G.Wells. In 1920, when his work The Outline of History, appeared, it carried the whole of Section 16 of Chapter 3 as rendered in this Translation, describing it as an example of the Quran’s “majestic utterances from the recent orthodox translation by the Maulvi Muhammad Ali”.

Interpreting the Word of God calls for great gifts of scholarship, no doubt, but it requires something much more, which no scholarship can confer — the gift of inner purity. Maulana Muhammad Ali wielded a scholar’s pen with a saint’s hands, and that is where lay the secret of this Translation becoming a real spiritual force and a beacon of light for seekers-after-truth. By the very cast of his mind, Maulana Muhammad Ali was deeply religious. Having obtained three university degrees, when the prospects of a bright worldly career lay at his feet, he dedicated his life to the service of Islam. And what a dedication! He took up his pen in that cause in 1902 as a young man in his twenties, wielded it incessantly, untiringly and devotedly for half a century, and did not lay it down until it was actually snatched from him by the hand of death.

Work on the first edition of the English translation of the Quran took him seven long years (1909 –1916). The amount of original research that went into tracing the meanings of the words and verses, finding the underlying sense of Sections and Chapters, and linking it up with the preceding and succeeding text, so that the whole of the Quran was shown to have the thread of a continuous theme running through it — it is simply staggering to think of all this stupendous and most taxing labour put in single handed, day after day, for seven long years. But that is exactly what made Maulana Muhammad Ali’s translation the boon of the world of scholarship in the West as well as the East when it appeared in print in 1917. It was a pioneer venture breaking altogether new ground, and the pattern set was followed by all subsequent translations of the Quran by Muslims. It meets every criticism that has been levelled against the Quran. The Introduction is a whole mine of research, which throws light on all the salient features of a truly Divine religion. There is no attempt at pedantry or literary flourishes. Nor is there any pandering to preconceived popular notions or a bid for cheap popularity. It is a loyal service to the Word of God aiming at scrupulously honest, faithful rendering.

About the closing years of his life, when the Translation had already run into three editions, and the Maulana was stepping into his seventies, he felt he owed it to the world to give it the fruit of his deeper insight into the Quranic truths, which more extensive study in the meantime, and advancing years, had brought him. Once more he plunged himself into another long spell of the most taxing labour to bring out a revised edition. This took him another five years (1946-1951). He forgot that he was no longer a young man. The strain proved too much for him, so that he had to do the proof reading in his sick-bed, which finally proved his death-bed.

“On arrival of the proofs from England,” write his biographers, “the Maulana would get his head raised in his bed, and with hands quivering would correct the proofs and give the final touches.” The final proofs were corrected on October 8, 1951, and five days later he breathed his last. He died in harness in the service of the Quran.

The Quran describes the battle for the minds of men as the highest jihad. Maulana Muhammad Ali was undoubtedly the greatest mujahid of his day in the cause of the Quran.

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