Tribute by Omer Riza
Dogrul of Turkey
Published in The Islamic Review, May 1952
Omer Riza Dogrul (died March 1952) was a Turkish
Islamic scholar, writer and a deputy to the Grand National Assembly
of Turkey. He wrote the following article about Maulana Muhammad
Ali after the Maulana’s death in 1951, in which he pays tribute
to his services to Islam and also gives an account of meeting him
in Lahore in February 1951. See below for further
information about the author.
A heavy loss for the Muslim world,
Muhammad Ali and his work
by Omer Riza Dogrul
The debt I owe to Muhammad Ali
With the death of Muhammad Ali we have lost a man who devoted his
whole life to the service of Islam; a savant and a thinker, he was
a hard worker and a prolific writer. I was profoundly moved on learning
this sad news through reading The Islamic Review for November,
1951. He was certainly the greatest Muslim thinker and writer of
our time, and was possessed of a sound and fertile brain, a pure
heart full of enthusiasm, a faith which was profound and unshakable
and a knowledge that was limitless. During his lifetime he devoted
all his capabilities and talents to one object, the revival of Islam,
the brushing aside of useless superstition among Muslims, and re-establishing
the original doctrine of Islam in its pristine beauty. And he rejuvenated
its lost force. This good worker in a saintly cause, whose days
of work are over, was called Muhammad Ali of Lahore, famous translator
and commentator of the Quran into English. He was an eminent personality
who left his mark on the world by this supreme work and a host of
other books on Islam.
It so happened that after taking part in the World Muslim Conference
at Karachi in February, 1951, we spent several days in Lahore. Here
our first duty was to pay a visit to Maulana Muhammad Ali. We had
read his writings in Turkey for 30 years with great benefit to ourselves.
He enlightened us on many matters, for he had penetrated deeply
into the spirit of Islam and understood its aims and objectives,
and had set out to explain them to others. He wrote with equal facility
in English and his native tongue. Through his writings in English
we were able to understand what he had to say. It has been calculated
that he wrote altogether 7,000 pages in English and 10,000 in Urdu.
I can truthfully say that I have read in full the 7,000 pages written
in English. These are quite sufficient for me to judge the full
extent of my great debt of knowledge to him.
On our arrival at Lahore we were confronted with a very full programme
of activities, but when I was told that he wished to see me, I solved
my difficulty by scrapping the official scheduled arrangements,
and taking his emissary by the arm, said to him, Lets
go to see Maulana.
On the way I asked him, How is he getting on and what is
he working on? He replied:
At one time all hope of saving his life was given up, as
he was greatly incapacitated by severe heart attacks. But thanks
to the care of his entourage he has pulled through. He ought not
to work, but none the less he does. Whenever we request him to
rest he replies:
Let me work; rest is death, it is only by working
that I feel that I am alive.
He is at present revising the new edition of his translation
of the Holy Quran into English, and will not rest until he has
checked all the proofs himself. His only wish is that he will
live long enough to complete this work. Insha Allah he
will live long enough.
Face to face with Muhammad Ali
On our arrival at the Maulanas house I asked that we should
cause him no inconvenience. I will go to his room and kiss
his hand, I said. I was promised that my wishes would be fulfilled,
and so I waited in the drawing room. After one or two minutes I
saw a light shining through the open door; I was irresistibly drawn
towards it, and a moment later was embracing Muhammad Ali. His form
had really acquired a sort of transparency and translucidity which
were not of this world. His hair and beard, which were exceptionally
white, surrounded his face like a halo. He was of striking stature.
His eyes were pale and dim, and gave the impression that his thoughts
were already not of this world. I spoke in order not to tire him;
I treated subjects which I knew would interest him, and as I was
very well informed about these ideas, he received my remarks with
a sympathetic smile.
Somebody brought him some sheets of paper on a roller. These
must be your proofs, I said. Please let me look them
over with you. He appeared to appreciate my efforts not to
tire him. I was able to observe that his work was well on the way
to its final completion. As far as I can remember, 20 parts of the
Quran had already been corrected and only ten remained to be completed.
As the proofs had been prepared with the greatest of care, and the
text and corrections had been treated with equal attention, the
checking was quickly carried out. I asked him: What are your
other occupations? He replied slowly in a deep voice:
I have sworn an oath to send a complete set of my
works to all the libraries of the world. I have 5,000 complete sets
of my works, for which my friends have collected money in order
to send them to all the important libraries of the world. Would
you kindly give me a few addresses of libraries that would be interested
in receiving them?
I immediately wrote down several addresses, and he gave them to
his secretary. I made as though to retire, but he stopped me. He
I have read your translation of the Holy Quran entitled
Tanri Buyrugu (The Order of God). I have the first and second
editions in my library, and I hope that you will publish a third.
I beseech you to do all that lies in your power to express the enlightenment
of Islam. I am sure that you will never in any way give satisfaction
to the fanaticism of the narrow-minded people or even consider supporting
the views of the intolerant.
I kissed his hand and asked permission to leave.
This was my first and, alas, my last, interview with him.
His life and work
Muhammad Ali was born about 1874, in the village of Murar, in the
province of Kapurthula. His education was a sucess; he was an excellent
mathematician as well as a man of letters. He studied law at the
University of the Punjab and started to embark on a legal career,
but destiny had ordained that he should contribute to the revival
of Islam. He met Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya
Movement. He joined forces with him at the same time as Khwaja Kamaluddin,
and for many years they were engrossed in profound religious studies.
He was editor of The Review of Religions, and was asked by
the Ahmadiyya Anjuman in 1909 to translate the Holy Quran into English.
It took him eight years working twelve hours a day to complete the
translation and the Commentary.
Meanwhile, there had been a split in the Ahmadiyya Movement. On
the death of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in 1908 some of his supporters who
wrongfully interpreted his intentions attributed to him the claim
of a prophet, and treated those who would not accept this view as
unfaithful. Muhammad Ali broke with them, and in 1914 set up, with
the help of his associates, Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam,
at Lahore. He was elected president of the organization. Muhammad
Ali believed that the Prophet Muhammad was the Last of the Prophets,
and there were none to come after him. Furthermore, nobody has the
right to dub another an unbeliever (kafir) once he has recited
the Kalima, which says: there is but one God, and that
Muhammad is His Messenger.
Later, Muhammad Ali published a translation and Commentary on the
Holy Quran in the Urdu language, and this was followed by other
works. As most of these works were written in English, they helped
to spread the light of Islam across the whole world.
Until he breathed his last, Muhammad Ali gave his life to the spreading
of the publications of Islamic literature, and published without
interruption many new works; this activity went on without hardly
His chief objective was to reveal the true meanings of Islam, to
show it in its full glory so that it would give satisfaction to
human beings brought up under modern education. For this purpose
his first field of activity was to combat all false legends and
superstitions prevalent among Muslims which were in contradiction
with common sense. He wished to restore the simplicity of Islam,
and reject all that was opposed to this. But his chief objective
was not that of pleasing this generation, but the search for historical
truth. His work was essentially of historic value which will live
for ages to come.
About Omer Riza Dogrul,
the writer of the above tribute to Maulana Muhammad Ali
knew English and Arabic. After graduating from al-Azhar University
of Cairo, he devoted his life to the study of Muslim problems. He
translated the works of the late Indian Muslim scholar, Shibli Numani,
into Turkish. He also translated passages from the Quran published
in a book Tanri Buyrugu (The Commandments of God). The late
Omer Riza Dogrul was a great admirer of Iqbal. He translated some
of the writings of Iqbal and published them in his publication Selamet
Review. He was a regular writer in the Turkish daily Jumburiyyet,
Istanbul, and its French edition, La Republique. In 1950
he was elected Deputy for Konya to the Grand National Assembly of
Turkey. He performed the Hajj in 1950 and visited Pakistan as a
delegate to the World Muslim Conference held at Karachi in February