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Preface to the Abridged Edition

The Religion of Islam by Maulana Muhammad Ali is a comprehensive, almost encyclopaedic, work, first published in 1936. It was immediately hailed by renowned Muslim scholars and intellectual leaders as a magnificent book, and was described in their reviews as “greatly needed at the present day”, “exhaustive, bold and authentic”, “almost indispensable to the students of Islam”, and as revealing “great learning, deep research and a thorough mastery of the subject”.1 Marmaduke Pickthall, famous British Muslim and a trans­lator of the Quran into English, began his review of this book with the words: “Probably no man living has done longer or more valuable service for the cause of Islamic revival than Maulana Muhammad Ali of Lahore”.2 He added that “in many Muslim coun­tries we see persons eager for the reformation and revival of Islam, making mistakes through lack of just this knowledge”, the know­ledge contained in this book.

As the author related in his Preface, he was approached to write this book by his friend Chaudhry Sir Shahab-ud-Din, President of the Punjab Legislative Council in British India.3 Upon pub­li­cation, Sir Shahab-ud-Din described this book as “a monumental collection of exceptional merit”. He was one of the most prominent leaders of Muslims of the Punjab, and his request to Maulana Muhammad Ali to write this book, and his endorsement of it, shows that this publication had the approval of the highest level of Muslim leadership and was tantamount to being a work commissioned by them.

A second edition of The Religion of Islam was published in 1950, during the author’s lifetime, with insignificant changes. In a brief note to that edition, he stated that he had been unable to add the two chapters, on The Ethics of Islam and The Muslim State, which he had promised in the preface of the first edition to add to the second edition. He had, however, dealt with these subjects briefly in some later books, to which he referred the reader for information on these topics.

The third edition of The Religion of Islam appeared in 1971. It was revised by the author’s son, Muhammad Ahmad. The major part of the revision was to use Maulana Muhammad Ali’s later, 1951, edition of the English translation and commentary of the Quran, for the quotations in this book, and to add or amend some footnotes in accordance with that later work. Also, the two chapters, as mentioned above, were added from some of the Maulana’s later books. There were some stylistic revisions as well. Certain points of detail were moved from the main text to become footnotes, the language in some places was made more formal,4 and some Arabic terms were replaced by English equivalents, for example replacing “Hadith” by “Tradition”.

Subsequent editions of The Religion of Islam have been reprints of the 1971 edition, with corrections to some references.

This abridged edition

Due to the all-comprehensive and highly detailed nature of the book, a need has been felt for an abridged version, more suiting the general reader. The book treats certain points of doctrine at a great depth which is necessary only for researchers and scholars. On the other hand, it provides details regarding the practices of Islam for those who, in the past, had no other means of accessing the information; for example, full details of the conduct of prayer, which later became widely available. In this abridgment, material and discussions of these kinds have been curtailed or omitted.

The source of this abridgment is the third revised edition of 1971, but the original edition of 1936 has also been carefully kept in view. In a few cases the 1971 revisions have been undone, for example in reverting to using “Hadith” instead of “Tradition”.

Near the end of the book, three short chapters from the original book have been combined to form the chapter 17, Economics and Finance. The chapters on Penal Laws and the State have been combined as one, and under Penal Laws a supplement by the Editor has been added, in a small typesize, to correct widespread misconceptions relating to Islamic laws in four areas. The material on the State and Ethics, as added in the 1971 edition, has been rechecked from the Maulana’s later books from which it had been added, and has been revised and expanded from the same books.

Most of the references to original sources have been rechecked, and references to the ‘Six Reliable’ collections of Hadith are now provided to easily accessible editions of these works in both Arabic and English. See the section Sources and References at page here. An extensive index of subjects has also been compiled specially for this edition.

As regards the formatting, quotations have been laid out as indented blocks for ease of reading; only very short quotations are set inside paragraphs of the author’s own text. Notes containing references and extra material for each chapter are grouped together at the end of the chapter. Any substantial note added by the Editor is prefixed as Editor’s Note, while other explanatory notes are from the author’s own writing. I wish to thank Mr Shaukat Ali, Coordinator of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Lahore for the Asia and Pacific Region, for helping me in the proof reading and making several useful suggestions.

Zahid Aziz, Dr.


April 2015

Notes to this Preface:


1. From reviews by, respectively, Marmaduke Pickthall, Shaikh Mushir Husain Kidwai, Sir Muhammad Iqbal, and Justice Abdur Rashid.

2. Islamic Culture, Hyder­abad Deccan, India, October 1936, pp. 659–660.

3. Chaudhry Sir Shahab-ud-Din (d. 1949) was President of the Punjab Legislative Council three times between 1925 and 1936, later Speaker of the first Punjab Legislative Assembly, 1937–1945. These bodies were the Punjab provincial legislature under British rule of India.

4. For example, amending the informal style of writing “as I have said above” to the formal “as stated above”.