first edition of Maulana Muhammad Alis translation of the
Holy Quran with commentary, 1917
We present for online viewing the first edition of the English
Translation of the Holy Quran and commentary by Maulana Muhammad
Ali, including the original Arabic text, printed in England and
published in 1917 from the office of The Islamic Review,
the Woking Mosque, Woking, England.
It was the first English translation and commentary by a Muslim
to be generally available and to be accessible to the Western world.
The author of a review of English translations of the Quran entitled
Translating the Holy Quran: Is There An Ultimate Translation
Of The Quran?, Dr. A. Nihamathullah of Tamil Nadu, India, has
listed some criteria for determining which of the numerous English
translations of the Quran are worthy of a detailed review, comparison
and examination. On that basis, he eliminates the English translation
attempts by Muslims before Maulana Muhammad Ali as being of
just historical interest and inconsequential translations.
The chronological list of translations that he has produced, as
being those that deserve inclusion in a serious comparison, shows
Maulana Muhammad Ali at number 4, after Sale, Rodwell and Palmer;
thus making Maulana Muhammad Alis as the first proper translation
by a Muslim. (This review was at this link of the islamic-paths.org website,
from which we have saved a local copy of it
here. It is no longer at the Islamic-Paths website but can be found at the well-known website scribd.com at this link.)
The next major translation, that of Marmaduke
Pickthall, was published thirteen years later in 1930, but it had
no commentary. Abdullah Yusuf Alis work appeared later still
in 1934. Thus all the well-known Muslim English translations and
commentaries in circulation today benefitted much from this 1917
edition of Maulana Muhammad Alis work.
Shakirs plagiarism of Maulana Muhammad Alis first
The widely-available English translation of the Quran purported
to have been done by one M. H. Shakir has been plagiarised
from Maulana Muhammad Alis first edition. For
details read here.
The 1917 edition was reprinted in 1920 and 1935. Later Maulana
Muhammad Ali thoroughly revised his translation and commentary in
the last five years of his life. This revised edition was first
published in 1951 and is the version in print today.
Certain features of the 1917 edition which were amended in the
revised 1951 edition are noted below:
- It had a lengthy Preface consisting of sections on the
basic teachings of Islam, details of the Islamic prayer with Arabic
text, transliteration and translation, and an extensive discussion
on the collection and arrangement of the Holy Quran. This material
was later revised by the author for inclusion in his other writings
such as Islam The Religion of Humanity, The Muslim Prayer
Book and The Religion of Islam. This Preface was replaced
by a different Introduction in the 1951 edition.
- The translation had a left hand margin in which alternative
meanings or literal translation of certain words were noted, as
well as some cross references. In the revised edition this margin
was removed, the information in it being incorporated in the footnotes.
- The instances of explanatory words being added within brackets
in the translation have been considerably reduced in the revised
edition. The revised edition translation was simplified and brought
closer to the original Arabic. It is quite amazing to find the
translation in the revised edition following even the sequence
of the Arabic very closely and yet remaining in idiomatic English.
- The footnotes were longer and more verbose. They were made more
succinct in the revised edition.
A copy of the 1917 edition at the Exploring Surreys Past website
A copy of the 1917 edition was found in the belongings of an Indian Muslim soldier of the British Indian Army from the First World War, Mahrup Shah. These belongings are kept at the Surrey Heritage Centre in Woking and their photographs have been published on the website Exploring Surreys Past (see link). The copy is inscribed: ‘B.W Addison’ of Freckleton, Lancashire.