Yusuf Ali, ?Abdullah (1872-1953)

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YUSUF ALI, ˓ABDULLAH (1872-1953)

Author of the most widely read English translation of the Qur˒an, ˓Abdullah Yusuf Ali presents a unique figure in Islamic modernism at the turn of the twentieth century. Yusuf Ali was the son of a police officer of Gujarati parentage. With communal Muslim schooling in Bombay, he looked beyond his Bohra Sh˓ite origins and was extremely concerned about the fate of Muslims in British India and beyond. But he was very successful in achieving the highest rank in British schooling. He earned a scholarship at Cambridge, and after graduation won a place in India's civil service. Yusuf Ali honored these two traditions, British and Muslim Indian, with equal vigor. For his devotion to the British cause in the First World War, he was awarded the title of Commander of the British Empire. He was called upon to represent loyal British Muslims against pan-Islamic tendencies in India. Yet, he was still respected by Muslims like Muhammad Iqbal, who called upon him to head a Muslim school.

Yusuf Ali, however, was more than an anglophile and communal Muslim. His translation of the Qur˒an represents the kernel of his ideas on Islam, mysticism, and progress. In addition, he wrote a number of pamphlets and articles on Islamic issues in which he took a critical stance on both Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Sir Muhammad Iqbal. His was a vision of Islam that stood on an equal footing with other religions, just as he viewed Indian Muslims on an equal footing with the family of nations.

In the closing years of the twentieth century, Muslims revisited the legacy of Yusuf Ali's widely read translation. Perturbed by the modernist and mystical tendencies in his translation, Islamist groups have tried to expurgate his commentary of so-called unorthodox leanings.

See alsoQur˒an ; Translation .


Sherif, M. A., Searching for Solace: A Biography of Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Interpreter of the Qur˒an. Islam in South Asia Series. Islamabad: Islamic Research Institute, 2000.

Yusuf Ali, Abdullah. The Holy Qur˒an. Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1934.

Abdulkader Tayob