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 Reviews of major English works of Maulana Muhammad Ali

  1. English Translation of the Holy Quran with commentary
  2. The Religion of Islam
  3. A Manual of Hadith
  4. Muhammad The Prophet
  5. The Early Caliphate
  6. Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad

1. English Translation of the Holy Quran with commentary

Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi, a leader of Sunni Muslim opinion, editor of Such, Lucknow, India, 25 June 1934:

“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.”

United India and Indian States, 21 December 1929:

“Among human productions of literary masterpieces, the English translation of the Holy Book by Maulvi Muhammad Ali undoubtedly claims a position of distinction and pre-eminence. But the real charm and value of the book lies in its introduction and footnotes which show Islam and its Founder in their true perspective. The book is of immense use and benefit to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and deserves to be extensively read and mastered by all and sundry.”

The Quest, London:

“It is certainly a work of which any scholar might legitimately be proud. The skilful presentation of the researches shows that he has been an apt scholar in the school of Western methodology.”

The Hindustan Times, Delhi, 6 May 1935:

“Maulana Muhammad Ali’s name is known to every lover of the holy literature of Islam. … Very illuminating notes are provided by the translator which will be of great use to students. Maulana Muhammad Ali’s language is restrained and eminently suitable for the purpose.”

Atlas of the Islamic World Since 1500 by Francis Robinson, Times-Life Books, 1991 reprint:

“Notable for its precision is that of Muhammad Ali of Lahore, the version used with one exception throughout this book.” (page 229, column 2)

The Madras Mail, 15 October 1929:

“Maulvi Muhammad Ali’s name is a guarantee that the translation is as accurate as it could be, and a careful persual of the work really justifies the expression of the opinion that few translations into English have reached such a high standard. … The book will not only serve to enable Muslims to know their Islam better, but will also dispel many of the fictions fostered in the minds of the non-Muslims regarding the Quran and the religion it preaches.”

The Advocate, Lucknow, 24 October 1935:

“Maulana Muhammad Ali, M.A., Ll.B., is a well-known personality, a great scholar, and as a translator he has the good reputation of being accurate and reliable, and his translation in English is of high standard.”

Wakeel, Amritsar, India, Sunni Muslim Urdu newspaper:

“We have seen the translation critically, and have no hesitation in remarking that the simplicity of its language and the correctness of the version are all enviable. The writer has kept his annotations altogether free from sectarian influence with wonderful impartiality, and has gathered together the wealth of authentic Muslim theology. He has also displayed great skill and wisdom in using the new weapons of defence in refuting the objections of the opponents of Islam.”

Urdu monthly Islamic Digest, Karachi, March 1996, in its series Tashrih-ul-Quran:

“This commentary of Maulana Muhammad Ali appeared in 1917, seventeen years before the commentary of Allama Abdullah Yusuf Ali. This is why the Allama, in the Preface of his commentary, besides mentioning other English commentaries, has also appreciated this commentary and written as follows: ‘Its Lahore Anjuman has published Maulvi Muhammad Ali’s translation, first edition in 1917, which has passed through more than one edition. It is a scholarly work, and is equipped with adequate explanatory matter in the notes and the Preface, and a fairly full Index.’ ”

Famous Indian Muslim leader, Muhammad Ali Jauhar:

Read at this link in full his detailed letter of February 1918, praising Maulana Muhammad Ali’s translation, in which he writes:

“…I am impressed so far as I have read with the simplicity and precision and the adherence to the text which indicate the reverence due to God’s own Word from a true believer. … If you see Maulvi Mohammad Ali thank him for me as a Moslem who feels proud of his devoted and fruitful labours…”

2. The Religion of Islam

Marmaduke Pickthall in Islamic Culture, October 1936:

“Probably no man living has done longer or more valuable service for the cause of Islamic revival than Maulana Muhammad Ali of Lahore. His literary works, with those of the late Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, have given fame and distinction to the Ahmadiyya Movement. In our opinion the present volume is his finest work…

It is a description of Al-Islam by one well-versed in the Quran and the Sunnah who has on his mind the shame of the Muslim decadence of the past five centuries and in his heart the hope of the revival of which signs can now be seen on every side. Without moving a hair’s breadth from the traditional position with regard to worship and religious duties, the author shows a wide field in which changes are lawful and may be desirable because here the rules and practices are not based on an ordinance of the Quran or on an edict of the Prophet, and should be altered when they cease to meet the needs of the community. Such a book is greatly needed at the present day when in many Muslim countries we see persons eager for the reformation and revival of Islam making mistakes through lack of just this knowledge…

We do not always agree with Maulana Muhammad Ali’s conclusions upon minor points — sometimes they appear to us eccentric — but his premises are always sound, we are always conscious of his deep sincerity; and his reverence for the holy Quran is sufficient in itself to guarantee his work in all essentials. There are some, no doubt, who will disagree with his general findings, but they will not be those from whom Al-Islam has anything to hope in the future.”

(Islamic Culture, India, October 1936, pages 659 –660)

Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Lahore, 6 February 1936:

“Thank you so much for your kind present to me of your new book ‘The Religion of Islam’. I very much appreciate the gift. I have glanced through parts of it, and find it an extremely useful work, almost indispensable to the students of Islam. You have already written a number of books; one cannot but admire your energy and power of sustained work.”

Antony T. Sullivan, Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, The University of Michigan, 1994:

“This book is among the most important single-volume studies of Islam written during the 20th century. It reads as freshly today as when first published in 1936. Now, when prejudice, stereotypes and extremism are all too common in both the West and the Islamic world, Maulana Muhammad Ali’s master-work should be required reading for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The Religion of Islam remains especially useful for all those interested in Christian-Muslim relations, and is indispensable to any serious student of Islam.”

The Times of Ceylon, 21 May 1936:

“In 1916, Maulana Muhammad Ali published a translation of the Holy Quran with Arabic and notes, which arrested the attention of all educated Muslims in the British Empire, by its deep learning and exhaustive research.

The volume under review will be welcomed by all Muslims and those who are interested in the science of comparative religion; if for no other reason than the fact that the book contains full references (numbering 2500, according to the author) to original authorities, especially the Quran, the Hadith, and well-known Arabic writers.

No less valuable and interesting is the discussion of modern problems confronting Muslims all over the world.

The volume under review is a deeply engrossing one, which reflects the author’s scholarship and sincerity in every line. The style of the author is lucid; the controversial points are dealt with in crisp and logical form…”

The Hindustan Review, June 1935:

“The author is a profound scholar, already known to the world of learning as the translator into English of the Quran, which is accepted by many as the best rendering in that language. He has applied his scholarship to good purpose in the work under review which presents the salient features of Muslim belief accurately, in systematic order, supported by appropriate reference to the Quran and the Hadith.”

3. A Manual of Hadith

The Tribune, Lahore, 31 December 1944:

A Manual of Hadith is, in reality, a digest of Islam, being an excellent collection of the Quranic quotations and significant sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad on numerous subjects which almost cover the whole range of human experience… For students of comparative religions it will serve as an exceedingly useful guide to Islamic studies. The book is written in gripping style and will be considered in the religious world as a standard work of enduring value and a lucid exposition of the Muslim culture.”

Islamic Culture, Vol. xviii, 1944:

“His great zeal for Islam has enabled him at his present advanced age to produce yet another work of great interest and importance, viz., A Manual of Hadith. It is a collection of the traditions of the Prophet arranged according to their subjects such as Faith, Revelation, Prayer, Alms, Fasting, Jihad, Marriage, Gifts, Wills and Inheritance, Food and Drinks.

The translation combines the qualities of accuracy, clarity and readability to a high degree.”


4. Muhammad The Prophet

Islamic Culture, April 1935:

“Indeed two books: (1) Muhammad The Prophet, (2) The Early Caliphate, by Muhammad Ali, together constitute the most complete and satisfactory history of the early Muslims hitherto compiled in English.”

The New Orient, March 1925:

“A translation of the Holy Quran into English with brief commentary, a truly monumental work, already stands as a witness to the achievements of the Maulana’s labour of love. He has now produced a biography of the Prophet of Islam in English … It is not only Muslims who should feel grateful to him for the publication. The book should, indeed, give greater gratification to the English-speaking non-Muslims, whom it gives an opportunity of knowing the truth about the life and personality of one who is admitted on all hands to be the greatest reformer in the history of the world.”

The Civil and Military Gazatte, Lahore, 14 March 1925:

“Of the manner in which the life of the Prophet has been described, there is hardly any necessity to speak, beyond saying that it is written in authoritative and interesting fashion, and from a historical point of view will be well worth perusal by adherents of religions other than Islam.”

5. The Early Caliphate

Islamic Culture, April 1935:

“Indeed two books: (1) Muhammad The Prophet, (2) The Early Caliphate, by Muhammad Ali, together constitute the most complete and satisfactory history of the early Muslims hitherto compiled in English.”

The New Orient, March 1925:

“Maulana Muhammad Ali’s interesting narrative of the history of Early Caliphate in Islam would show that ideal democracy and ideal theocracy are nothing but synonymous and interchangeable terms in actual practice. The book, which has ample evidence of the author’s learning, would be found a most useful source of information to students of Islamic history and political ideals.”

The Muslim Times, Madras, 14 January 1933:

Early Caliphate is bound to have unique authority in Islamic history. The author has shed light on an obscure corner and demonstrated that the work of the disciples and followers was a continuation and completion of the Holy Prophet’s mission. The book is written in a simple, idiomatic style and got up splendidly.”

The Hindu, Madras, 9 January 1933:

“Maulana Muhammad Ali … a leading writer on Islamic subjects, is well known throughout the English-speaking world by his translation of the Holy Quran. In bringing out the handy volume before us, The Early Caliphate, which makes us understand in a clearer light what Mr. H. G. Wells has characterised as ‘the most amazing story of conquest in the history of our race’, he does a signal service to the cause of Islam. It is a natural sequel to its predecessor Muhammad, The Prophet

The main object of the author in this publication is to remove the prevailing misconceptions about the great and noble deeds of the most righteous Caliphs.”

United India and Indian States, Delhi, January 1933:

“Maulana Muhammad Ali is very well known in this country and abroad as a writer on Islam and comparative religion. His books are widely read and widely circulated.

The author gives convincing and cogent arguments to show that the wars fought by the Muslims were forced on them by their enemy…

The author has a few admirable pages on the decisive battle of Yarmuk fought during the days of Umar… The glorious deeds of Muslim soldiers, their sense of duty, the strength of their character, their generous treatment of non-Muslims, as related here, are sufficient to excite the admiration of even the most uncharitable critics of Islamic wars.”


6. Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad

Times of Ceylon, 3 September 1948:

“Muhammad Ali needs hardly any introduction to the student of Islam. His translation of the Holy Quran and fragments of the Prophet’s traditions, besides other masterly contributions towards Islamic literature, are well known, both in the East and the West.

The book under review is the latest study of the Prophet Muhammad who, within a period of a little over 20 years, changed the destiny of the whole of Arabia and whose followers became masters of a state much bigger than that of Rome, seven decades after the Prophet’s demise.

The beauty of this small book is that it embraces cultural, social and political activities of the Prophet within the compass of hardly 142 pages. The qualities of the Prophet, his lively human understanding, his sensibilities and penetrative intellect are illumined in an entertaining manner.

Apart from the biographical sketch of the Prophet so beautifully done by Muhammad Ali, the last few chapters of the book like ‘Character Building’, ‘Wealth’, ‘Work and Labour’, ‘Home Life’ and ‘The State’ help the reader to have a graphic view of Islam’s attitude to such important subjects.

I think this entertaining book should form part of the education of every person who aspires to know the life and career of a great historical personality.”

Dublin Magazine, July-September 1948:

“In this admirably written and carefully documented account of the Prophet’s life and work, Muhammad Ali indicates the sources of the latter’s power over the Arab world: his complete integrity, simplicity, and exalted spiritual vision. The quotations from the Quran, his actions and his sayings show an extraordinary understanding of men and his unwavering faith in the mercy and justice of God.”

The Bulletin, 22 April 1948:

“No reader will be able to doubt the sincerity either of the author or the Prophet himself, whose thoughts are illustrated by many quotations from the Koran.”

Sunday Statesman, 30 May 1948:

“A welcome addition to the ‘Living Thoughts’ series, for the Prophet still needs just presentment to the Western world, long misled by prejudiced writers who have never accounted for the amazing success he achieved in changing the lives of a whole people sunk in the depths of idolatrous degradation, nor for the miraculous spread of the faith and the deep hold it has today on the hearts of men.”

Aryan Path, September 1948:

“This is an admirable presentation of the living and luminous thoughts of the Prophet of Arabia. It reveals clearly the soul of the Quran, the understanding of which, even in translation, is not seldom difficult for a non-Muslim. There is also a brief sketch of the Prophet’s life which serves as a useful avenue to the mind and message of the illustrious teacher… The ‘presenter’ is a well known authentic interpreter of Islam; so his rendering is stamped with correctness and competence.”
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