Tributes to Maulana Muhammad Ali and The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement

[ BACK ] Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938)

This renowned poet-philosopher of Muslim India, regarded as the `ideological' founder of Pakistan, made the following comments which may be read today in published collections of his speeches and letters:

In a letter dated 7 April 1932, he wrote:

``As for the Ahmadiyya Movement, I believe that there are many members of the Lahore Jama`at whom I regard as honourable Muslims, and I sympathise with their efforts to propagate Islam.''

(Makatib Iqbal, Part II, collection of letters of Iqbal, published by Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1951, p. 232)


Mohamed Ali (d. 1931)

He was a famous Indian Muslim political leader from the first world war till his death. In his well-known English autobiography, he writes:

``It was about this time (December 1918) that a kind friend sent to us a gift than which othing could be more acceptable, a copy of the Quran for my brother and one for myself… with an austerely faithful translation in English and copious footnotes based on a close study of commentaries of the Quran and of such Biblical literature as could throw light upon the latest Holy Writ. This was the work of my learned namesake, Maulavi Muhammad Ali of Lahore, leader of a fairly numerous religious community, some of whose members were doing missionary work in England…The translation and the notes which supplied the antidote so greatly needed for the poison squirted in the footnotes of English translators of the Quran like Sale, Rodwell and Palmer, the fine printing, both English and Arabic, the India paper and the exquisite binding in green limp Morocco with characteristic Oriental Tughra or ornamental calligraphy in gold, all demonstrated the labour of love and devoted zeal that so many willing workers had obviously contributed. This beautiful book acted like the maddening music of the Sarod, according to the Persian proverb, on the mentally deranged, and in the frame of mind in which I then was I wrote back to my friend who had sent these copies of the Quran that nothing would please me better than to go to Europe as soon as I could get out of the `bounds' prescribed by my internment and preach to these war maniacs from every park and at every street corner, if not within the dubious precincts of every public house, about a faith that was meant to silence all this clamour of warring nations in the one unifying peace of Islam.''

(My Life --- A Fragment, edited by Afzal Iqbal, published by Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1966 reprint, p. 115; extract above is quoted in original English.)


Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi (d. 1977)

He was a well-known Muslim theologian of India, and a recognised leader of orthodox opinion.

[i] In a book about his contemporaries, he includes a section on Maulana Muhammad Ali, in which he writes:

``It was 1909…Through reading English books written by agnostics, I had turned from a good believer to a heretic…My apostasy continued till 1918…At that time, I read the English Quran commentary by Muhammad Ali of Lahore. It convinced me that the Quran is no collection of hearsay stories, but a collection of deep and sublime truths, and if it was not `heavenly', it was almost heavenly.''

(Mu`asareen, Lucknow, India, 1979, p. 43)

[ii] In his autobiography, he wrote:

``When I finished reading this English Quran [translation and commentary by Maulana Muhammad Ali], on searching my soul I found myself to be a Muslim. I had recited the Kalima unhesitatingly, without deceiving my conscience. May Allah grant this Muhammad Ali paradise! I am not concerned with the question whether his belief about Mirza sahib was right or wrong. What should I do about my personal experience? He was the one who put the last nail in the coffin of my unbelief and apostasy.''

(Aap Beti, Shadab Book Centre, Lahore, 1979, pp. 254,--,255)

[iii] Reviewing Maulana Muhammad Ali's English translation of the Holy Quran in the newspaper Such of Lucknow, which he edited, Abdul Majid Daryabadi wrote:

``To deny the excellence of Maulana Muhammad Ali's translation, the influence it has exercised and its proselytising utility, would be to deny the light of the sun. The translation certainly helped in bringing thousands of non-Muslims to the Muslim fold and hundreds of thousands of unbelievers much nearer Islam. Speaking of my own self, I gladly admit that this translation was one of the few books which brought me towards Islam fifteen or sixteen years ago when I was groping in darkness, atheism and scepticism. Even Maulana Mohamed Ali of the Comrade [see ref. 2 above] was greatly enthralled by this translation and had nothing but praise for it.''

(Such, Lucknow, 25 June 1943)


Marmaduke Pickthall

He was a famous British Muslim whose English rendering of the Quran is one of the best known and most popular translations today. Shortly before his death, he wrote a review of Maulana Muhammad Ali's book Religion of Islam as follows:

``Probably no man living has done longer or more valuable service for the cause of Islamic revival than Maulana Muhammad Ali of Lahore. His literary works, with those of the late Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, have given fame and distinction to the Ahmadiyya Movement. In our opinion the present volume is his finest work…

``Such a book is greatly needed at the present day when in many Muslim countries we see persons eager for the reformation and revival of Islam making mistakes through lack of just this knowledge…

``We do not always agree with Maulana Muhammad Ali's conclusions upon minor points --- sometimes they appear to us eccentric --- but his premises are always sound, we are always conscious of his deep sincerity; and his reverence for the holy Quran is sufficient in itself to guarantee his work in all essentials. There are some, no doubt, who will disagree with his general findings, but they will not be those from whom Al-Islam has anything to hope in the future.''

(Islamic Culture, quarterly review published from Hyderabad Deccan, India, October 1936, pp. 659,--,660; extract above is quoted in original English.)


Hafiz Ghulam Sarwar

Hafiz Ghulam Sarwar produced an English translation of the Quran in 1929. In the introduction to this work, he gave the following evaluation of the earlier translation by Maulana Muhammad Ali:

``The English translation of the Holy Quran is not the only book he has written, but it is the one by which he will perhaps become an immortal amongst those who have written about the Holy Quran…The English of the Preface and the notes is unimpeachable, and Maulavi Muhammad Ali has corrected the mistakes of the previous translators in scores of passages; and wherever he differs from them his rendering is either the correct and most authoritative one or has at the back of it full support to be found in the standard dictionaries of Arabic…

``There is no other translation or commentary of the Holy Quran in the English language to compete with Maulavi Muhammad Ali's masterpiece… It was reprinted in 1920, and both editions have had phenomenal success and popularity amongst all classes of Muslims.''

(Translation of the Holy Quran, by Hafiz Ghulam Sarwar, second edition, National Book Foundation, Pakistan, 1973, pp. xxxvi,--,xxxvii; extract above is quoted in original English.)


Shaikh Muhammad Ikram

He is the author of a well-known triplet of books on the history of Islam in the Indian subcontinent. In Mauj-i Kausar, covering the period from 1800 to 1947, he writes about the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement:

``An important work which this [Lahore Ahmadiyya] Jama`at is doing is the propagation of the Quran, especially among English-reading Muslims and also non-Muslims. The translation and commentary of the Quran by Muhammad Ali, head of the Ahmadiyya Jama`at, was the first translation in the English language done by a Muslim…

``Besides translations of the Holy Quran, the [Lahore] Ahmadiyya Jama`at is also producing books on Hadith and Islamic history…Some time ago, the Anjuman issued a very high standard quarterly, The Muslim Revival, in English from Lahore, containing very valuable articles on literary, political and religious issues. Allama Iqbal wrote so many articles for it…

``Another most important work done by the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jama`at is the propagation of Islam in foreign countries…

``The missionary efforts of the Ahmadiyya Jama`at are not limited to only England, but they have missionary centres in many other countries as well. Among all the Muslims of the world, the Ahmadis and the Qadianis were the first to realise that, although this is the age of the political decline of Islam, yet the freedom of preaching under Christian governments gives Muslims an opportunity from which full advantage should be taken.''

(Mauj-i Kausar, Idara Saqafat Islamia, Lahore, 1979, pp. 181--187)


Dr Israr Ahmad

He is one of Pakistan's leading theologians today. In his book on the Jama`at-i Islami, the prominent political and religious party of that country, he comments as follows regarding this organisation's stand on the Ahmadiyya issue in the 1950's:

``In the initial stages, the leaders of the Jama`at-i Islami, when asked about their view of [the conflict between] the Qadianis and the Ahrar movement against them, gave the following answers in private meetings:…

`4. Even if the question of the Qadianis is clear, the question of the Lahore Ahmadis is not so clear. As they accept Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as only a Mujaddid, it is not right from any aspect to call them kafir.'

``The meaning is that `Qadianism' is itself not worthy of being made an issue…However, in 1952, when the leaders of the Ahrar did make it an issue, and provoked the passions of the masses, principle and courage demanded that the above should be said publicly, and the people be told that they were needlessly being incited, and that the issue was not so important, nor was the solution that which was being proposed…

``Sacrificing its principles, the Jama`at-i Islami added as the ninth point to its eight point demand, that Qadianis should be declared as a non-Muslim minority.''

(Tahrik Jama`at Islami, Darul Isha`at Islamia, Lahore, 1966, pp. 189--190)


Ja`far Khan

In a critical analysis of the whole Ahmadiyya Movement, Muhammad Ja`far Khan, a Pakistani advocate, writes about the Lahore Ahmadis:

``We consider the Lahore Group in a sense to be victims of injustice. As compared to the Qadianis, they are much fewer in number, but they have done much more solid work for the propagation of Islam than the Qadianis. In this connection, the names of Maulana Muhammad Ali and Khawaja Kamal-ud-Din are specially worthy of mention. The Maulana has translated the Holy Quran into English, and written a three-volume Urdu commentary on the Quran as well. The English translation was very important at that time because, probably, only non-Muslims had translated the Quran into English up to that time. The Maulana's decision to bring out another edition of the English translation without the Arabic text is also praise-worthy, because we consider this to be necessary in translating and spreading the Quran in other languages. Besides these books the Maulana has also translated the Sahih Bukhari into Urdu. This two-volume book also has useful explanatory notes. Although the manner of deduction in many of his explanatory notes will not be acceptable to many people, it will be conceded by everyone that these books have been written after great labour and full research, and are a useful and thought-provoking addition to Islamic literature. The Maulana has also written some other books such as Collection of the Holy Quran, and Position of Hadith. Khawaja Kamal-ud-Din has written countless books and pamphlets on a diverse range of religious subjects in Urdu and English. His English books, especially, have proved valuable in the propagation of Islam in Europe.''

(Ahmadiyya Tahrik, Sind Sagar Academy, Lahore, 1958, pp.312--313)


Sayyid Abul Ala Maudoodi

In a private letter dated 23 Muharram 1357 A.H. (about 1937), Abul Ala Maudoodi wrote:

``From among the followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, I also do not consider Qadianis and Ahmadis to be in the same category. I consider the Qadiani group to be excluded from Islam. However, the Ahmadi group is included in Islam…We cannot issue a valid verdict of the Shari`ah against them because they deny the prophethood of Mirza.''

(A photocopy of the original, hand-written is available.)