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

Compiled by Dr. Zahid Aziz

Chapter 3: Later Translations: Abdul Majid Daryabadi rescued from agnosticism

Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi of Lucknow, India (d. 1977) was a recognised leader of orthodox Muslim opinion, and a prolific author who himself wrote a commentary of the Quran. In 1934, in the Urdu newspaper, Such (‘Truth’), of which he was editor, he wrote:

“To deny the excellence of Maulvi Muhammad Ali’s trans­lation, the influence it has exercised and its prosely­tising utility, would be to deny the light of the sun. The translation certainly helped in bringing thousands of non-Muslims to the Muslim fold and hundreds of thousands of unbelievers much nearer Islam. Speaking of my own self, I gladly admit that this translation was one of the few books which brought me towards Islam fifteen or sixteen years ago when I was groping in darkness, atheism and scepticism. Even Maulana Muhammad Ali [Jauhar] of the Comrade was greatly enthralled by this translation and had nothing but praise for it.”1

In an autobiographical work, he has also mentioned the influence of Maulana Muhammad Ali’s translation as an important factor in rescuing him from atheism and scepticism and bringing him back to Islam. He relates that this period of

“heresy and apostasy”

in his early life lasted for ten years till late 1918 and then he gradually began to return to belief in Islam. As he writes:

“By these gradual inner changes, I was slowly returning to Islam. In fact, I had become more than fifty percent Muslim when in October 1920 during a journey to the Deccan I had occasion to stay with a relative Nazir Yar Jang, a judge, at Orangabad. In his English library my eye fell on the English translation and commentary of the Holy Quran by Muhammad Ali of Lahore, the Ahmadi (Qadiani in common parlance). Feeling restless, I took it from the cupboard and started to read it. As I read through it, praise be to Allah, my faith kept on increasing. The necessary result of the Westernised mentality which dominated over my mind at that time was that the very same explanations which, when expressed in Urdu, had no effect on me and seemed uninspiring, in English garb they became effective and life-giving. Whether this be self-delusion or not, in my case it was a reality.

When I finished reading this English Quran, on searching my soul I found myself to be a Muslim. Now I was able to recite the Kalima unhesitatingly, without deceiving my conscience. May Allah grant this Muhammad Ali paradise in every way! I am not concerned with the question whether his belief about Mirza [Ghulam Ahmad] sahib was right or wrong. Whatever the case, what should I do about my personal experience? He was the one who put the last nail in the coffin of my unbelief and apostasy.”2



  1. Newspaper Such, Lucknow, 25 June 1934; see Paigham Sulh, 3 August 1934, p. 3, col. 2.
  2. Aap Beti, Shadab Book Centre, Lahore, 1979, pp. 254 – 255.