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

Compiled by Dr. Zahid Aziz

Chapter 2: Publication and Reviews: As being the “first” English translation by a Muslim

The heading of the above announcement describes this translation and commentary as

“the first by a Muslim theologian”.

Before this translation, three English translations of the Quran by Muslims had been published. These were by Abdul Hakim Khan (1905), Mirza Abul Fazl (1911), and Mirza Hairat of Delhi (1912), and were all published in India. They were, however, of limited circulation and little known. In a book The Student’s Quran, the author Hashim Amir Ali has listed several English translations of the Quran in chronological order, including those by Abdul Hakim Khan and Mirza Abul Fazl as numbers 5 and 6 in his list. Maulana Muhammad Ali’s is at number 7 and he writes of it as follows:


The first work published by any Muslim with the thoroughness worthy of Quranic scholarship and achieving the standards of modern publications.”1

The author of a review of English translations of the Quran, written around 1999, entitled Translating the Holy Quran: Is There An Ultimate Translation Of The Quran?, Dr. A. Nihamathullah of Tamil Nadu, India, has listed some criteria for determining which of the numerous English translations of the Quran are worthy of a detailed review, comparison and examination. On that basis, he eliminates the English translation attempts by Muslims before Maulana Muhammad Ali as being

“of just historical interest”


“inconsequential translations”.2

The description in the Islamic Review announcement quoted above, that Maulana Muhammad Ali’s work is the

first … by a Muslim theologian

is also accurate as the three preceding Muslim translators were not Islamic scholars or theologians. More­over, it is a fact that the Maulana’s English translation of the Quran was the first by a Muslim to be published in the West, as it was printed at the famous Gresham Press of Unwin Brothers Ltd. in Woking, England, and published in 1917 from the Islamic Review Office at the Woking Mosque in a quantity of 5000 copies. It was thus the first by a Muslim to be available in the world generally.



  1. Hashim Amir Ali, The Student’s Quran, Asia Publishing House, India, 1961, p. iv.
  2. This article is available at: https://www.scribd.com/document/20171108/Translating-the-Holy-Quran