Friday Sermon: The Second Happiest Occasion of My Life (Completion of the Revision of the English Translation of the Quran)
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
19 August 1949 (Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat-e-Islam Lahore)
Editor’s Note: I have translated below a Friday khutba [sermon] by Maulana Muhammad Ali, delivered in Karachi on 19th August 1949, upon completing the massive task of revising his English translation of the Holy Quran which had been first published in 1917. It bears some relation to an event to take place later this year. — Dr. Zahid Aziz.
We acquired knowledge of the Quran by sitting at the feet of the Promised Messiah.
Benefit from this inherited knowledge and take the Quran to the world
After reciting the Surah Fatihah [Chapter 1 of the Holy Quran], the Maulana said:
It is, in any case, usual for us to praise Allah and thank Him five times a day, or even more frequently. Even when we are facing difficulties, and trials and tribulations, or suffering from illness, we are taught to say:
اَلۡحَمۡدُ لِلّٰہِ رَبِّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ۙ﴿۱﴾
Al-hamdu li-llahi Rabb-il-alamin
“Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds”. [The Holy Quran, 1:1]
It is greatly consoling to be reminded by this, that within our problems and difficulties Allah has placed the means of our betterment. There is nothing else that can bring as much solace and comfort to the heart as does faith in God. He who believes and is convinced that the suffering which is upon him contains the means of his welfare and improvement truly finds peace in his heart, and the pains and afflictions which make life intolerable are, to him, a source of contentment.
If there is a secret of success in this world, it is just this, that man must not panic at the time of difficulty and trials. He who believes and is certain that God brings us difficulties for our own good will definitely lead a successful life. The teachings given by God seek to create such a belief and conviction within us, which is why we are required to praise Allah in prayers five times a day even in the midst of suffering and affliction.
However, some events take place which lead a man to say: Al-hamdu li-llahi Rabb-il-‘alamin with greater emotion and passion. Each person fixes some aims in life, and he attains pleasure by achieving them, according to what they are. The person who has high aims receives pleasure from attaining high things. The one who has low aims is pleased at the attainment of inferior things.
The Second Happiest Occasion of my Life:
The verse I have recited today, Al-hamdu li-llahi Rabb-il-alamin, I have recited on a specially joyous occasion. In my life there have been many other happy moments but this is the second occasion of special happiness. The first occasion was when I completed the English translation of the Holy Quran, and today it is the second when I have completed the revision of the translation. Today, at about 1.45, I have just completed the last part of the work. The reason for happiness is that man’s life is very uncertain. Many a time, he faces circumstances in which he could lose his life.
Starting such a monumental task and taking it to completion depended entirely on the grace and favour of God. Many friends had been asking me for several years for this revision, but at my age I could not muster the strength required for this stupendous hard work. It was a task both huge and difficult. My earlier experience was there, when I had worked day and night for seven years. But those days were different. Then I had much more physical strength and energy than I have now. I used to work twelve or even fourteen hours daily. When I got tired sitting down, I would work standing up. Now due to my age on the one hand, and the magnitude of the revision work on the other, I did not feel I had the strength to do it. But Allah’s grace and mercy knows no bounds, and with His help and enablement this work has been completed today.
By coincidence, when I wrote Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad, the gist of the teachings of the Quran on most subjects appeared in this book, and many points were included in it which had not occurred to me when I was doing the translation and commentary of the Holy Quran. This new light that thus illuminated my mind created a renewed strength within me, and a determination arose in my heart that, whatever the difficulties, I should begin the work of revision. As to how much change I have made in this revision, you can find out from three friends who are at this time doing the typing as honorary work only for the sake of Allah, namely, Chaudhry Khushi Muhammad, Muhammad Hasan Khan and Chaudhry Ghulam Rasul, or you will see after the translation is published.
Difficulties and Obstacles faced during Work:
I started this work on 25th June 1947 when I was staying at Dalhousie. Hardly had I worked for a month and a half when calamity befell.1 For those who were residing far from large populations, as the handful of us were, as we were living three miles away from the centre of Dalhousie, escaping safely was only by the grace of God. Merely three or four men, that is, myself, Mian Ghulam Rasul, Shaikh Mian Muhammad, Khan Bahadur Mian Afzal Husain, were living cut off from the world in a place like a wilderness. The jealous opponents of the Muslims had us marked as targets, so much so that their first action after we left was to burn down the residences of myself, Mian Muhammad and Mian Maula Bakhsh. They had this in mind since long before. Some men came to me, about whom I suspected that they had ulterior motives.
So, such was the disaster that was faced just a month and a half after starting this work that it had to be postponed for a long time. Then I took it up again and continued it in Quetta [during the summer] last year . There I went through another ordeal [of illness] but I was granted a new lease of life by the grace of God. Having passed through these two difficult phases, completing the revision of the translation of the Quran is a source of tremendous joy for me.
Service of the Quran is the Best Service of Humanity:
On this joyous occasion I have read the words: Al-hamdu li-llahi Rabb-il-alamin. The service of the Holy Quran is the work by which we can best serve mankind. It must be remembered, with the fullest faith in the heart, that the welfare and betterment of the world lies nowhere but in the Word of God which He revealed to his last Messenger. Nothing can rescue the world from its present troubles except the Quran. It is absolutely true that the reason for my happiness is not that Allah has granted me some further knowledge of the Quran, but that with His help I had the opportunity to place the Holy Quran before the world in a way which shows that it contains a solution for its present problems. Perhaps this may serve as a source of guidance for the world and illumine the hearts of people with the light of God.
Treasures of Quranic Knowledge lie within the Depth of Meaning of its Words:
Reading the Quran illuminates your heart, but this depends on the concentration with which you read this word of God. The more you concentrate on it, and the deeper you go into it, the more it will enter your heart. This can be made clearer by the following example. Just as pearls are found in the depths of the oceans, likewise the boundless treasures of knowledge contained in the Quran, which will continue to be unfolded till the Day of Judgment, are to be found in the depths of the meanings of its words. It is an ocean that no one is denied access to, but to obtain those valuable pearls from it, which give us light to solve our problems, is dependent on how much effort and exertion we put in for their acquisition.
Try to solve the Problems of the World from the Quran
Therefore, I advise my friends to try to find solutions to the problems of the world from the Holy Quran. Apply thought to these problems and then ponder over the Quran. Remember this principle that the solution of the problems of the world lies in developing faith in God, and nothing else can create as much faith in God as can the Holy Quran. But to develop faith requires a struggle. Faith and striving have a reciprocal relationship. Faith creates the desire to strive, as a result of which a person sees the truth and can shed light upon it for others.
Knowledge of the Quran is an Inheritance of the Lahore Jamaat [Movement] from the Mujaddid [Reformer]:
I must tell you that the true knowledge of the Holy Quran has in this age been disclosed particularly to your Jamaat, and this blessing is in reality due to that man at whose feet we gained this knowledge. He set us on the right path. To gain true knowledge, a balanced mind is required, and it is the blessing of God that this Jamaat has maintained its mental equilibrium. This is why the Promised Messiah’s [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian] intellectual heritage has passed to this small Jamaat. The larger, Qadiani Jamaat has not been able to benefit from it sufficiently because, on the one hand, through exaggeration it elevated a Mujaddid to the rank of prophethood, and on the other hand due to its system of blind obedience by the followers to the leader, it lost its mental balance. Its own leader complains that his Jamaat has lost its mental equilibrium. Followers come under complete control of their spiritual leader just as animals are under the control of man. Their potential for development, placed in human nature by God, is suppressed and their development comes to a halt. You will observe that the circumstance which deprived the Muslims of knowledge, and reduced them to a stagnant, static state, was just this blind following of religious leaders which paralysed the human brain and darkened the light of their intellect, making them incapable of further progress.
Differing with the Promised Messiah [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian] in Secondary Matters:
It is perfectly true that we accepted Hazrat Mirza sahib as Mujaddid, as Mahdi and as the Messiah. However, we never accepted him as one to be followed blindly. We used to differ with him sometimes. The Nawab of Mongrol felt much attraction and love for this Movement. To a large extent he believed the Ahmadiyya Movement to be true. When once we were with him, a Maulvi tried to incite him against us and said to him:
‘These people whom you respect and honour so much, who believe Mirza sahib to be the Promised Messiah, they have differences with their own Promised Messiah; he did not believe that Jesus was born of a father, but these people believe he had a father.’
The Nawab sahib put this question to me. I replied that this just shows that we have not accepted the Promised Messiah without thinking, but after thinking and understanding, with open eyes, which are still open. The Promised Messiah has declared the Holy Quran to be supreme over everything. So if we see something clearly in the Quran, then in a secondary matter we consider it permissible to hold a different interpretation from the Promised Messiah, provided it is supported by strong arguments. We have learnt the Quran from the Promised Messiah but he did not shut the doors of knowledge upon us; rather, he opened them. The words of Hazrat Umar deserve to be written in letters of gold which he uttered when a woman drew his attention to a verse of the Quran according to which there can be no limit to the amount of mahr [nuptial gifts] that a wife is given by the husband. Hazrat Umar said:
“The women of Madina have more understanding of religion than Umar”.
After the Founder of the Religion, difference with anyone is Allowed:
Therefore, it is no sin to differ, even with the greatest of persons. Of course, one cannot differ with the founder of the religion, the Holy Prophet Muhammad. After him, one can differ with anyone from Hazrat Abu Bakr to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. The concept that such differences are not allowed caused Muslims to become stagnant. Prior to that, the Muslims were racing on the path of progress, in terms of both knowledge and deeds. They led the world in all aspects of life. But when this nation got stuck in the mire of taking religious leaders,
اَرۡبَابًا مِّنۡ دُوۡنِ اللّٰہِ
“for lords besides Allah” (The Holy Quran, 9:31),
it went into decline.
Read the Quran with Understanding:
You must read the Holy Quran, and read it with thought and concentration. Only God knows to whom He will grant knowledge for the benefit of His creatures. Allah has given a brain to everyone and placed a light within each person as well. As you take more and more interest in the Quran, and make your connection with it stronger, the things in it which appear remote and distant will seem to be emerging from your own heart.
After Revision, the Stage of Printing and Publication:
I have related to you my experience, that Allah accepted my effort and enabled me to complete this work. There remains another stage, which is the crucial one. There is not only the question of printing, for which the manuscript has yet to be prepared, but there is the question of its dissemination in the world. The Holy Quran is already in our homes. If, after translation, it remains confined to our homes, will it reach the world? The real objective is its propagation.
Idea of Translation occurs to Recluse of Qadian:
I look with amazement as to how the idea occurred to a recluse living in Qadian [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian], occurring at the same time as he made his claim, that the Quran should be translated and sent to the peoples of Europe and America. Perhaps the second resurgence of Islam would take place by their hands. It would not be surprising if Islam spreads among them and makes them the more capable of serving the Quran.
Serve the Quran along with your other Business:
So the other task is to spread the Holy Quran. In this, everyone of you can participate, whether you are great or small. You can do whatever work you wish to, but make this task the aim of your life. There are some people who devoted their lives entirely to the service of Islam and the Quran. There are others who carry on their own business or employment, and along with that they serve the faith. Dr Basharat Ahmad, although he was in employment, devoted his life to the service of the Quran, and the light of the Quran had brightly illuminated his heart. Anyone who reads his commentary on two parts of the Quran can feel that. It brings such enjoyment and contentment that one’s faith in God is revived.
Try to acquire and pass on Knowledge of the Quran:
Those people who are employed in jobs can follow whatever profession they wish. But each one, according to his aptitude, can also perform service of the Quran at the same time. Try to acquire knowledge of the Quran and pass it on. Allah never wastes anyone’s effort and struggle. The brains of all human beings have more or less the same capability. The difference is in man’s effort. The person of average intelligence can achieve through effort what a highly intelligent man cannot achieve without effort. (Paigham Sulh, 7 September 1949)
- The events mentioned here occurred at the partition of India. Many Muslims from the Punjab used to spend the summer in Dalhousie, a salubrious place in the mountains. At partition it was awarded to India, and many Muslims fled from it, as from many other such places, to the new state of Pakistan. ↩︎