(Note: The article below was first published in June 2006 as a sequel to, and completion of, an earlier article published in October 2005. Subsequently, update notes have been added to it at the end. — May 2023)
Correspondence with a descendant of ‘Shakir’
Challenge to publishers of Shakir translation
to add note about the truth of the matter
In a detailed earlier article,
entitled Shakir’s Quran translation — blatant plagiarism
of the first edition of Maulana Muhammad Ali’s translation,
I summed up my findings about this plagiarism as follows:
“A comparison shows the Shakir translation to be an entire
and wholesale plagiarism of the first, 1917, edition of the English
translation of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali, with alterations
in a few places to reflect more traditional interpretations. Even
these alterations have not been made consistently and have obviously
been forgotten to be done in some places.”
In the second half of the article I attempted to discover further
about the identity of ‘Shakir’ by collating all published
information that I could locate. The only specific information available
on some book distributors’ websites described Shakir as an
Egyptian Judge with some connection to Al-Azhar University who died
in 1939. However, I was able to show that:
“It is abundantly clear that the Egyptian Shakir to whom
this translation is attributed could not possibly have translated
the Quran as he was opposed on religious principle to translating
the Quran into any language. … it is most probable that
M.H. Shakir is merely a fictitious name, and the name of the Egyptian
judge Shakir has no connection with this translation.”
Beyond this, I was unable to identify Shakir any further.
E-mail from Shakirs great-grandson
It was both surprising and exciting, therefore,
to receive an e-mail on 7th March 2006 from one Sadiq Hassan, who
M. Shakir was my great-grandfather, the paternal grandfather
of my mother.
This led to an exchange of e-mails, which in the end was broken
off by him. The information provided by Sadiq Hassan in his e-mails
- His real name was Mohammedali Habib. He took on Shakir
as a pen name.
- The late Mr. Mohammedali Habib was well known throughout
the country (Pakistan) for having devoted his life to the cause
of humanity. He with his brothers founded many educational and
benevolent institutions, the most important being Masoomeen Hospital.
This translation was completed by him on the 14th Shaban and the
very next day he suffered a severe heart attack and passed away
on the 20th of Ramadhan, i.e. 30th March 1959.
- M.H. Shakir did not speak Arabic. He supervised the translation
of the Quran which was done by a group of people.
Link to read our e-mail
exchange in more detail.
Working from this information, I have
established that this Mohammedali Habib was the well-known financier
who founded the famous Habib Bank of Pakistan. He was a well-known
figure in the financial and political circles of Indian Muslims
before Partition and in Pakistan after the Partition of 1947.
(For further information about him, please see the update note below.)
It is now clear that Mr. Mohammedali Habib got a group of people
to go through Maulana Muhammad Alis 1917 edition of the English
translation of the Quran and make a few verbal changes in places
where the Maulanas translation gave an interpretation differing
from the commonly-held one so that it reflected the more generally-accepted
view. This was subsequently published, a few years after his death,
as the translation of the Quran by M.H. Shakir. The overwhelming
bulk of the text of the translation remained the same as in Maulana
Muhammad Alis 1917 edition.
Therefore, to call Shakir as the translator
of the Quran is even more misleading than I had described
in my earlier article. I now press upon all publishers of the so-called
Shakir translation, whether in printed form or on websites, to insert
a note along the following lines:
The Shakir translation is to a great extent a verbatim
reproduction of Maulana Muhammad Alis 1917 edition of the
English translation of the Quran. In a few places some verbal
changes have been made to express the more traditional interpretations.
If the publishers of the Shakir work have the least integrity and
sense of decency, they will preface their publication with the above
(Added 16th November 2010)
There is a comprehensive bibliography of translations of the Quran
entitled World Bibliography of Translations of the Meanings
of the Holy Quran, 15151980, compiled by Ismet Binark
and Halit Eren, published in Istanbul 1986.
On page 93 it lists the Shakir translation as having been published
by Habib Bank, Karachi, 1968.
This confirms the connection between this translation and the Habib
Another discovery: Shakir donated funds
for distribution of Maulana Muhammad Alis books
(Added 24th September 2011)
In the biography of Maulana Muhammad Ali (Urdu: Mujahid-i Kabir,
English: A Mighty Striving), a long statement by Maulana
Muhammad Ali is quoted in reference to the expenditure and income
of the Anjumans Book Depot as relating to his books. In it
The fact is that funds for free distribution came from
external donations. Just one such sum of 7,500 Rupees was donated
by Seth Muhammad Ali Habib, and similarly from time to time other
friends donated considerable sums for free distribution of literature,
(A Mighty Striving, p. 321; Mujahid-i Kabir,
The Seth Muhammad Ali Habib mentioned here is quite obviously Shakir
(Seth being a title used for a financier or businessman).
It may be noted that Maulana Muhammad Ali visited Karachi during
1949, 1950 and 1951, where, among his other activities, he appealed
to the prominent Muslims of Karachi for donations for free distribution
of his books to Western countries, and Muhammad Ali Habib had settled
in Karachi after the partition of India.
The Maulanas visits were for the summers of these three years,
and a special visit in November-December 1949. Regarding this visit,
it is recorded in his biography:
Maulana Muhammad Ali went again to Karachi on 8 November
 and stayed there for over a month. During this stay he
approached selected members of the general Muslim community outside
the Ahmadiyya Movement, explaining to them the need and importance
of this task and asking for monetary assistance. Before taking
this practical step, he requested and urged the [Lahore Ahmadiyya]
Jama‘at to say special prayers for its success.
Charged with this passion and zeal, and accompanied by humble
prayers beseeching God the Most High for help, Maulana Muhammad
Ali in his second brief stay in Karachi promoted his proposal
for the free distribution of five thousand sets of books before
government officials, businessmen, industrialists and other affluent
persons belonging to the general Muslim community. The Almighty
answered his prayers, and those of a large number of members of
the Jama‘at, and as a result of these efforts arrangements
were completed during his stay to enable the distribution of 3500
sets whose total cost was 250,000 Rupees.
(A Mighty Striving, p. 374375; Mujahid-i Kabir, p. 310311)
It appears that among the businessmen, industrialists and
other affluent persons belonging to the general Muslim community
was Muhammad Ali Habib.
More about who was Shakir
(Added 21 May 2023)
Please see the following links for more information on Muhammad Ali Habib (spelt also as Mohamedali Habib and
Mohammad Ali Habib):
The Express Tribune newspaper
— a tribute (24 March 2020)
Wikipedia entry on House of Habib
Institute for South Asia Studies at the University of California, Berkeley
The Mahomedali Habib Lecture Series
House of Habib website (scroll down to 1941)
Compiled by Dr. Zahid Aziz