Thursday, December 15, 2022

Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1872-1953): A Genius Who Translated the Holy Quran into English and Succumbed To Amnesia Wandering In the Snowy Terrain of London

By Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef, New Age Islam 15 December 2022 Despite The Fact That Reading Was The First Word Of The Holy Quran To Be Revealed, The Ummah Of Iqra Has Changed In The Ummah That Does Not Read. This Explains Why Muslims Forgot About Yousuf Ali So Swiftly Main Points: 1. 1-One of the most popular English translations of Quran is Abdullah Yusuf Ali's translation with brief commentary. He quickly vanished into obscurity, though. 2. 2-Muslims are subject to a mobocracy. Scholars and ulama who perform for the public while singing their favourite songs are frequently remembered. 3. 3-Knowledge is typically useless in Muslim societies; here, only money matters. ------- Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1872-1953) ------ The best-ever English translation of the holy Quran is that rendered by Yousuf Ali alias Abdullah Yousuf Ali. It was first published during 1934-1937, with brief commentary notes. In recent times, the Saudi government appointed a team of distinguished Ulama and scholars to revise, edit and authenticate the sublime translation then published and distributed it worldwide. Though some Ulama still have some reservations about Yusuf Ali's rendition in some places, nevertheless, without any exaggeration, it is the most prestigious, most readable, and most beautiful and lucid authentic English translation of the holy book. It has made a record with 200 editions since Ali first accomplished it. Yusuf Ali, it is stated, had spent 40 years on this project. He first published this translation in 1905 with brief commentary notes. Besides this translation, Yousuf Ali extensively talked about the different aspects of Islam and gave many lectures in England and elsewhere. Yet his perception of Islam was as a spiritual and moral religion. He opposed political Islam vehemently. Nevertheless, it is bizarre that Ali died in 1953, yet our recent annals of history are totally unaware of him and his life account. Even the Encyclopaedia of Islam (Urdu) in 24 volumes, published under the patronage of Punjab University Pakistan, does not mention Ali. On April 4, 1872, Ali was born to a Daudi Bohra family in Surat. In his later academic life, he did not mention at any point his Bohra background or its impact on his life and thoughts. I infer from this that he would have changed his creed when he became mature enough in consonance with the majority of Muslim opinion. Because he was a devout Muslim who led prayers in Sunni mosques in the UK, US, and Canada, served as a trustee for London's principal mosque, and was instrumental in the construction of Masjid Al-Rasheed in Canada. Ali was also one of the tall personalities from the subcontinent who were educated in Oxford or Cambridge and trained at Lincoln Inn, the famous law school in London. Then played a key role in their respective fields, for instance, sir Mohammad Iqbal, M.A Jinnah, and Mohammad Ali Jauhar; nonetheless, Ali was also of unique literary and academic qualities. Ali was first instructed at Anjuman Islamia High school Mumbai, then at Wilson College Mumbai. He got a scholarship for Saint Jackson College of Cambridge University and passed the Tripos in 1895. Then started studying law at the famous law school of London, the Lincoln Inn, and became a barrister. In 1896 Ali started his career in advocacy. Yet, he also appeared in the competitive exams of I.C.S. or Indian Civil Service. He got 375 marks in Urdu paper out of a total of 400. Soon abandoning his law career, he joined the service when he was hardly 24 years old. On June 23, he was first appointed as district magistrate and collector in the Saharanpur commissionary. Along with the duties of the magistrate, he was responsible for collecting taxes from the farmers, traveling and surveying lands. The journey would be on horseback. This is why horse riding at those times was included as a subject in the examination of I.C.S. After two years, his post was transferred to Bareilly. Aligarh was not very far away from Bareilly, wherein Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was busy cultivating M.A.O. College, so Ali came into contact with Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. "In the last days of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, I was graced to meet him. I still remember my conversations with him about the revival of Muslims. It was the beginning of my career; I put my educational ideas with a youthful regur and zeal before this experienced educationist whose life spanned from the struggle of independence of 1857 to the period of the Victorian era". wrote Ali. Apart from being a District magistrate, Ali had been an under secretory and also a joint secretary in the finance ministry of the Indian government. In 1914 he retired from the civil service and devoted his life to reading and writing. Ali also gave a lecture on the gesture of his mentor: "Indian Mohammadans and their past and future." He was welcomed by lord Aimbithel who became acting viceroy of India in 1904 in his royal style. In his welcoming remarks Ali expressed his loyalty to the British. "Religion or history doesn't prevent Indian Muslims from becoming dignified citizens of a progressive and liberal Britain." Ali was as loyal to the British as sir Syed Ahmad Khan, unlike other Ulama and Muslim intellectuals who were waging a jihad against the British. He opposed Wahhabism and condemned the murder of the chief justice of Bengal by Indian revolutionaries in 1917. However, he did not let his unwavering loyalty to the British stop him from opposing the UN's resolution on the division of Palestine. He spoke out in favour of the Palestinian cause and also wrote a lovely poem for Palestine. He also supported that there should be a progressive religious institution for Indian Muslims. And there must be a powerful move to the empowerment of Muslim women in India as they were most backward, contrasting to women of, say, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Algeria, etc. On his address, Ali was awarded a silver medal by the Royal Society of Arts in 1907. After that, he was called to deliver an address by the famous More Edward Institute of London. A collection of his addresses and lecturers was published in 1907 titled "Life and Labour of the People of India." During the independence movement, there was a big issue of Hindu-Muslim future relations. Muslim intelligentsia mostly belonged to Bombay's elite class. All these people were economically comfortable and politically prominent, and probably in view of their 'social status, they didn't come into contact with the problems of Hindu-Muslim understanding or conflict, nor did they realize its importance, even until thirties M.A. Jinnah considered a separate Muslim constituency an unnecessary proposal. Representing this intelligentsia's concern Ali expressed his views. On the one hand, he wondered why Muslims were demanding from the government that they should be treated with special concessions as a minority and not under the terms of merit and capability. While on the other he also hoped that the Hindu majority would stop treating the minorities with bigotry and arrogance. Ali lived a very active and busy public life in both India and England. In 1909 he presided over the UP industrial conference. In December 1910, he presided over all India Muslim Educational Conference held in Nagpur, and also, presided over its conclave held in Kolkata in 1923. He had been a professor of Hindi, Indian religion, and religions of Sindhu valley at the school of Oriental studies in London. He also had been an officer of the Indian Committee at Imperial Institute during those three years. In April-May 1918, Ali toured to Denmark, Sweden, and Norway and delivered lectures on various aspects of Islam. Also, he went to Holland in October-November 1920 and gave lectures on Islam. In 1922 he was a finance minister in Hyderabad Deccan; from 1922 to 1925, he had been principal of Islamia College Lahore for three years. Moreover, he had been associated with the law departments of Panjab and Aligarh Muslim University Aligarh and also stood as a member of AMU Court. In 1928 Ali represented India at the ninth session of the League of Nations. In 1929 Ali was called for by the National Education Council of Canada to deliver lectures. In the meantime, he toured to different countries such as America, Algeria, Japan, the Philippines, China, Salone, and others and gave lectures on Islam. In 1935 on the persuasion of Iqbal, Ali accepted the responsibility of the principal of Islamia College Lahore once again for three years. In 1939 he was called for by Nizam of Hyderabad to participate in his silver jubilee celebrations. Family Life Yusuf Ali's family life was not a successful one. He first married Terisa Marrey, a Christian woman aged 27, on September 18, 1908, in Yarn Mouth when he was 28. Three children, Idrees, Asghar, and Ilyas Haider, were born to him. Since Ali's public life was hectic, he could not spare time for his wife and children. As there was a cultural gap between the couple. That is why not before long, his wife and children deserted him in India and went back to England; then, both were separated. In 1916 Ali got married to another English woman Gertrude Anne Mauby, who was renamed as Masooma, and a son was born to him. The tragedy was that this marriage also became a victim of separation. He obtained legal possession of his kids, gave up his job, and moved to London to be with them. But the youngsters also ridiculed him and destroyed his heart. In his will from 1940, crestfallen and depressed as he was, he spoke of "the ill will of these children towards me." Despite the agonising and depressing episode, he continued with his scholastic achievements and started translating the holy Quran into English. Main Features and Peculiarities of Yusuf Ali's Translation There are so many translations done by Muslim or non-Muslim translators. Several orientalists also translated Quran into English, and other European languages, such as George Sale , A.J. Arbury and Marmaduke Pikthale et al. And they did that before Ali. None the less, Ali's translation got fame and unparalleled acceptance. Its peculiarities are as follows: 1-He made tremendous efforts to be very near to Arabic words and idioms. While most often, European translators, in this context, quickly become victims to their thoughts and far-fetched interpretations. 2- His commentary notes are very brief and succinct. All unnecessary details and theological, jurisprudential, and religious discussions have been entirely avoided in his discourse. 3-He has given Quranic chapter’s (suras) backgrounds and their subject matter in very brief, succinct notes. 4- Yusuf Ali generally mentioned the best of what was narrated by the ancient commentators and avoided giving his own ideas and comments. However, he didn't follow them blindly but chose what was nearest to Sharia's spirit. 5-Yousuf Ali spent so many years on this project he did not rely only on his efforts. But to solve the complex issues and difficult places, he went to faraway places and had taken consultations with the expert ulama and scholars of his times. For that purpose, he travelled to Jamia Azhar of Egypt too. Sources: Apart from the translations and commentaries of the Quran, Ali utilized the following sources: 1- Al-Qamoosul Muheet by Firouzabadi 2-Lisanul Arab, the encyclopaedic Arabic dictionary by Ibn Manzoor. 3-Soura: Persian Arabic dictionary. 4- Mufradatul Quran by Isfahani’s English version by J.P. Pelerick A 5-English-Arabic dictionary by Lane. 6- Dictionary of Islam by Hughes 7-German translation of Quran by Nodabe Shedy 8-Siratun Nabi by Shibli Nomani 9-Sirat Ibn Hisham 10- Fathur Rehman by Faizullah 11- Encyclopaedia of Islam 12- Encyclopaedia of Britannica Tragic Death Yusuf Ali knew many languages, such as Hindi, Gujrati, Marathi, Telugu, English, Urdu, Arabic, and Persian. He led a very full and proactive life. A very busy man indeed. But the last years of his life were not good. The unfaithfulness of both his wives and his children broke his heart. The result was that this man of great intellectual abilities succumbed to amnesia. Wandering in the snowy regions became his fate. People and the world around him forgot him. In this fit, he silently passed away from this world. M.A. Sherif, who latterly wrote a book on him, namely: Searching for Solace, wrote: "Sixty years ago, on December 10, 1953, few in the Muslim world noticed a minor tragedy unfolding in London. The previous day, a sick man was found sitting on the steps of a house in London on a bitterly cold British winter day and was taken to hospital by police. On this day, a man whose name was already known around the Muslim world died a pauper's death without even a companion by his side. British authorities contacted the Pakistani High Commission in London to arrange his funeral and burial. " What could be a better sign of the immobilised Muslim intellect, its inertia, indifference, incompetence than the fact that Muslim-owned publications were only able to cover the headlines of Yusuf Ali's passing away? While he had been extensively covered in articles in the Daily Telegraph and Times of London. How many of Ali's contemporaries were far less knowledgeable and skilled than he was. Despite the fact that we have entire books on them, Yusuf Ali received zero attention from modern Muslim history. ------ A regular columnist for New Age Islam, Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef is a Research Associate with the Centre for Promotion of Educational and Cultural Advancement of Muslims of India, AMU Aligarh. URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

No comments:

Post a Comment