Centenary of Maulana Muhammad Ali’s English Translation of the Quran (Background, History and Influence on Later Translations)

Compiled by Dr. Zahid Aziz

Chapter 1: Work on the Translation: Death of Maulana Nur-ud-Din and subsequent events

On 13 March 1914 Maulana Nur-ud-Din died. With that came a turning point in the life of Maulana Muhammad Ali and his literary and missionary activities, changing their course forever. A split and schism took place in the Ahmadiyya Movement when Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, a son of the Founder, was controversially made head of the Movement by his supporters. He proclaimed the doctrine that a person is not a Muslim unless he believes in, and formally acknowledges, the claims of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. In his view, a Muslim who did not accept Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was, in terms of Islamic theology and law, exactly like the non-Muslim who does not accept the Holy Prophet Muhammad. He declared that social and community relations between members of the Ahmadiyya Movement and other Muslims should be on the basis that the former are Muslims and the latter are non-Muslims just as Christians or Hindus are non-Muslims.

Maulana Muhammad Ali and many others in the Ahmadiyya Movement refused to accept these pronouncements, which they regarded as being contrary to the teachings of Islam, and of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement himself, and his successor Maulana Nur-ud-Din. Consequently, in May 1914 they established at Lahore the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‛at Islam. A few days earlier, Maulana Muhammad Ali declared:

“…con­si­der­ing that the doctrine of calling other Muslims as kafir (unbelievers) poses a danger to the work of the propagation of Islam and the progress of the Movement, and in order to prevent damage to the work of spreading Islam in Europe that has just now been started [i.e., at Woking, England], it has been deemed advisable that … an Anjuman be created in Lahore for the purpose of the propagation of Islam whose main aim should be to streng­th­en the real objective of this Move­ment, which is the pro­pagation of Islam.”1

After fifteen years of scholarly, literary and administrative work for the Ahmadiyya Movement at Qadian, Maulana Muhammad Ali left for Lahore empty handed, but he had with him one thing, and that was the English transla­tion of the Holy Quran which he brought with him from Qadian to Lahore.



  1. Paigham Sulh, 2 April 1914, appendix, fourth page, col. 1.