Quran translation blatant plagiarism of the first edition
of Maulana Muhammad Alis translation
Deception perpetrated on readers of the Holy
We provide here conclusive and irrefutable evidence to show that:
- The English translation of the Quran purported to have been
done by one M. H. Shakir has been plagiarised from Maulana
Muhammad Alis translation of 1917.
- The Shakir to whom this translation is attributed could not
possibly have done it.
The English translation of the Quran attributed to the name M.
H. Shakir has been widely available in print since the 1980s. It
is probably the most widely accessible English translation of the
Quran on websites, including reputable academic websites such as
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. The main changes are as follows:
- Translations of the titles of a few chapters have been changed
in order to reflect certain traditional interpretations. For example,
the title of chapter 5 is translated as The Dinner Table
instead of The Food, and that of chapter 27 as The Ant
instead of treating the original An-Naml as a proper
noun as Maulana Muhammad Ali does.
- The abbreviations in the Quran, known as muqattaat,
for example Alif, Lam, Mim in 2:1, are given verbatim,
while Maulana Muhammad Ali translated into English the words that
these letters are considered to stand for, as reported by some
- Names of prophets are given in Shakir in their Arabic form rather
than the Biblical English form (for example, Musa for Moses
and Isa for Jesus as in 2:87 etc.). Similarly, the
word shaitan is not translated as devil but given in its
- A few changes have been made in the stories of the prophets
to reflect a traditional interpretation. Examples are the story
of Harut and Marut in 2:102, the story of Solomon and the Queen
of Sheba in 27:20 and 27:44, and of course the death of Jesus
in 3:55 and 4:157158.
It is rather amusing to find that in certain places similar
changes have not been made, due most likely to an oversight!
- In 5:117 the death of Jesus has been retained by forgetting
to change Maulana Muhammad Alis translation: but
when Thou didst cause me to die. Such a change was made
in the translation of 3:55 to reflect the belief that Jesus
was taken up to heaven alive. On an Internet discussion forum
someone has quoted 5:117 from a Shakir copy and thinks that
the Shakir translation supports that Jesus died!
- As noted above, the title of chapter 5, Al-Maida,
is translated as The Dinner Table, instead of The
Food as by Maulana Muhammad Ali. However, verse 112 of
chapter 5, in which this word occurs, after which this chapter
is named, is translated exactly the same as by Maulana Muhammad
Ali: will your Lord consent to send down to us food
- The title of chapter 27 has been changed to The Ant
from Maulana Muhammad Alis retention of An-Naml
as a proper name. However, someone obviously forgot to carry
this change through to 27:18 because that is left unaltered
as: Until when they came to the valley of the Naml,
a Namlite said: O Naml! enter your houses
not changed to “when they came to the valley
of the ants, an ant said: …”
Plagiarised works usually show inconsistencies of this kind.
Plagiarists often fail to find all the places in the text
which need amendment to give the work their own identity.
Who was Shakir?
The publication information of a recent edition of this translation
Author: Mohammedali H Shakir (M H Shakir)
Publisher: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an (2004) US 9th Edition
See, for example, Islamic
According to this, the M in M.H. Shakir stands for
Mohammedali. We wonder if this has been done teasingly, as
if to say that they are quite brazen and open about this plagiarism
of Maulana Muhammad Alis work. Mohammedali is not one word,
but two. If that was his name, it would appear as M.A.H. Shakir.
(Update: In relation to the above publication information, please see the Update Notes given at the end of this article.)
In other sources his name is given as Mohammad Habib Shakir. Even
a brief note about his life is found in some places, as follows:
Mohammad Habib Shakir (1866-1939)
Mohammad Habib Shakir was an Egyptian judge, born in Cairo and a
graduate from Al-Azhar University. He occupied many prominent positions,
such as: Sudan's Supreme Judge for four years, Dean of Alexandia's
Scholars, Al-Azhar Secretary General, and a member of its board
of directors and Legislative Committee. He died in Cairo in 1939
AD. Some of his famous works include: an English translation of
the Holy Qur'an and Explanation of the Primary Lessons in Religious
(See the Islamonline.net
The question arises here that if the man named here did actually
produce this translation, then why did it not appear in print till
forty years after his death?
We have been able to trace a mention of a Shakir matching the above
biographical information. It is in a paper entitled Muslim Discourse
in The Early Twentieth Century on The Translation of The Qur’an
written by one Mohamed Abou Sheishaa of Al-Azhar University and
online on the website www.quranicstudies.com. However, the context
in which this paper mentions this Shakir is that in 1925 he wrote
a lengthy article in an Arab newspaper arguing that:
“it is not lawful to make a translation of the Quran just
as it is not lawful to proceed to change any single one of its
sacred words and substitute another Arabic one for it”.
In another paper by Abou Sheishaa on the same website, entitled
of the Fatwa by Rashid Rida on the Translation of the Quran,
it is stated that when the English translation of the Quran by Maulana
Muhammad Ali reached Egypt in 1925:
both Sheikh Rashid Rida and Muhammad Shakir
labeled it as a ‘deviate’ translation of the Qur’an
which contradicted the principles of Islamic belief and attempted
to destroy Islam from within.
This same Shakir is also mentioned by Marmaduke Pickthall in his
account of his visit to Egypt in 1929 to have his translation of
the Quran checked before publication. Pickthall writes:
Next day, in Al-Ahram, appeared a notice of me and
my work under the heading: A Translation of the Quran.
Two days later in the same newspaper and under the same heading
appeared two columns of denunciation of translation and the translation
of the sacred Book from the pen of Sheykh Muhammad Shakir,
a retired professor of Al-Azhar, who (as I learnt) had been leader
of the hue-and-cry against Muhammad Ali’s translation. The
translator and all who read his translation, or abetted it, or
showed approval of it, were condemned to everlasting perdition
according to the learned writer
Pickthalls full account, from his biography entitled
That this is the same Shakir as the one who allegedly translated
the Quran into English is clear by comparing:
The dates of birth and death, studying at Al-Azhar, being Sudans
chief justice for four years, being a member of the legislative
committee or society of Al-Azhar, are the same in both cases.
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. Also, there is no evidence that he produced any writing
It is an established, undeniable fact that the so-called Shakir
translation is a verbatim copy of Maulana Muhammad Alis first
edition, with alterations of the kind mentioned above. Moreover,
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
The publishers of the Shakir translation since 1983 have been Tahrike
Tarsile Quran, Inc. of Elmhurst, New York, U.S.A. If they
wish to throw any light on the mystery of Shakir, or if they wish
to refute my conclusions, I look forward to reading any such statement
Compiled by Dr. Zahid Aziz, October 2005.
Update note April 2017: Referring to this point in the above article, sometime after I first published this article in October 2005, the author field at the link given above from Islamic Bookstore was amended to the following:
Author: Mohammedali Habib Shakir (M H Shakir) based upon the translation of Mawlana Muhammad Ali
So the publisher has admitted that this translation is derived from that of Maulana Muhammad Ali.
Also, my conjecture that making M stand for Mohammedali may have been done teasingly was proved wrong by the later information which I published in the sequel article.
Read sequel to this article:
related article about first edition of Maulana Muhammad
Alis English translation of the Quran.
online here the 1917 edition
of Maulana Muhammad Alis English translation of the Holy Quran
with commentary at the website: aaiil.org