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

Compiled by Dr. Zahid Aziz

Chapter 4: Revised 1951 Edition and Later: Preface to the revised edition

Two years later, writing in his Preface to the revised edition, which he dated as January 1951, he has outlined the background to the revision as follows:

“There has been a demand for a revised edition of my English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran since the end of the Second World War. Conditions have chan­ged so rapidly since I first took this work in hand in 1909 that I myself felt the need for a revised edition. In fact, it is not only the change of circumstances that called for a revision; my own knowledge of the Holy Book has since increased to a very large extent owing to the fact that I have been engaged day and night in further research in this line, studying the Holy Quran, the Hadith and other religious literature of Islam. During this interval of about 33 years — the first edition was published in 1917 — I made substantial contribution to the religious literature of Islam both in English and in Urdu.

After the English Translation I wrote a voluminous Urdu Commentary, the Bayan al- Quran, in three volumes, and this kept me occupied for another seven years. It extends to over 2,500 pages and is much more explanatory than the notes in the English Translation. During the same period I also wrote a life of the Holy Prophet in Urdu, which was later translated into English under the name of Muhammad the Prophet. A little later was issued a history of the Early Caliphate both in Urdu and in English. About the year 1928 a smaller edition of the English Translation without Arabic Text and with briefer notes was published. Then came the translation and commentary in Urdu of the Sahih Bukhari, the well-known Hadith collection. In 1936 was published another voluminous work in English, The Religion of Islam, which contains full information on almost all Islamic questions of modern days. The New World Order, A Manual of Hadith and The Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad were added after 1940.

Owing to the extensive study which I had to make for these writings I myself felt that I had received more light and was bound to give the English-reading public, which extends over a vast part of the world, a deeper insight into the Holy Quran than I had given in my younger days. I began the work of revising the translation and commentary of the Holy Quran some time late in 1946, but the year 1947 was a critical year for the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent and, on 29th August, 1947, I myself had to flee for my life from Dalhousie, where I used to work in the summer months. The literary work that I was doing there suffered considerably but I took it up later at Quetta, where I passed the summer of 1948. Before making much progress, however, I fell seriously ill and the work had again to be put off for more than six months. The manuscript was ready by the middle of 1950, but another serious illness overtook me at Karachi, where I was then carrying on this work. I was spared, however, by God’s grace, to see the work through the press, and to give it the finishing touches; perhaps also to render some further service to the cause of Truth. Though still on my sick-bed I am able to go through the proofs and revise the Introduction.”

Maulana Muhammad Ali completed the final proof reading on 8 October 1951 and died five days later on 13 October 1951. The revised, fourth edition appeared in print in December 1951, in a quantity of 20,000, and was printed in England at the Verstage Press, Basingstoke.