Revised 2010 edition of
the English Translation of the Holy Quran
Originally by Maulana Muhammad Ali
Language updated and notes abridged
by the Editor
Extracts from the Preface
The English translation of the Holy Quran with extensive explanatory
footnotes, by Maulana Muhammad Ali (d. 1951), was first published
in 1917. It was the first English translation and commentary by
a Muslim to be generally available in the world. The 1917 and several
subsequent editions were printed in England and distributed from
the Muslim mission at the Woking Mosque in England. This work remained
the only Muslim English translation for several years. It was widely
acclaimed as being an accurate, faithful, and true rendering, one
which was desperately needed. It influenced all the major later
Maulana Muhammad Ali’s translation was not merely an academic
or literary exercise. It was done to refute the vast mass of misrepresentations
of Islam by its Western critics, to convey the faith-reviving and
heart-inspiring light of Islam to the world, to show how Islamic
teachings are applicable to solving the problems of modern times,
and to teach and guide both the Western-educated Muslims and English-speaking
new Muslim converts. Towards the end of his life, Maulana Muhammad
Ali thoroughly revised his translation and commentary, the revised
edition being published in 1951. The translation was made simpler
and the commentary was brought up to date with the changed circumstances
prevailing after the Second World War.
The language of the translation was solemn and dignified, as befits
a Divine scripture, yet it was also plain and easy to understand,
aimed at the level of an educated reader having a reasonable standard
of English. However, due to changes in the usage and teaching of
English in the second half of the twentieth century, such a reader
today is much less familiar with certain forms and styles of literary
expression used in the translation than was the case with previous
generations. To bring the language closer to the general readership,
it became necessary to replace some expressions by more modern forms.
This has been my aim in producing the present updated version of
the translation, while showing reverence to the original work and
remaining as close as possible to the language used by Maulana Muhammad
The factor of greatest assistance during this editing work has
been that the Maulana has himself in some places used more modern
terms and in other places older styles to translate the same original
words. Utilising this, I have been able to select his own phraseology
to replace the older expressions. Thus, in the work of updating
the translation in various places, I have applied the wording used
by him elsewhere if such could be suitably found.
The most noticeable change is the replacement of the second person
singular forms, ‘thou’, ‘thee’, ‘thy’,
etc. by ‘you’ and ‘your’. In fact, in the
Preface to his first edition published in 1917, the Maulana wrote:
“I have, however, given up the antiquated thou (except when
the Divine Being is addressed)”. In that edition he added
a marginal column on the left of the translation, in which he indicated
whether ‘you’ in the line of text opposite was the singular
‘thou’. In his revised 1951 edition, he removed this
margin as unnecessary and used the ‘thou’ forms within
the translation itself. I have reverted to the usage of the 1917
edition, but have employed the convention that whenever ‘you’
is in the singular the letter y is printed in italics as
in: you, your. When God is addressed, which is
always in the singular in the Quran, I have also used “You”,
with capital “Y”, instead of “Thou” and
The next most prominent change is also a reversion to the first
edition, and that is in the use of the negative. In the revised
1951 edition the Maulana has used constructions such as “you
know not”, “they see not”, etc. I have restored
the style of his 1917 edition in which these are of the form: “you
do not know”, “they do not see”, etc.
In clarification of certain points, I have consulted not only
the 1917 edition of the Maulana’s English translation but
also his Urdu translation with extensive commentary known as Bayan-ul-Quran.
I would also mention that in case of some verses I have compared
other English translations of the Quran, old and new, to form a
judgment as to the most suitable level of language.
It is clear that Maulana Muhammad Ali produced his translation
to the highest standard of literary scholarship and he used words,
expressions, phrases and styles that reflect the original Arabic
with great precision, perhaps unmatched by any other English translation.
In my effort to update its language, and bring it closer to current
usage, it was inevitable that in some places its high literary level
would be reduced and the new expressions employed be somewhat less
precise than those which they replace.
Maulana Muhammad Ali had also produced two editions of his translation
without including the Arabic text and with much condensed footnotes,
in order to make available a handier book for the general reader.
Following the same approach in the present work, the Arabic text
has not been included, and the footnote content has been abridged
although not nearly by the extent of reduction in the Maulana’s
two editions. Taking the footnotes from his revised 1951 edition
(as also found in its subsequent reprints), I have eliminated the
detailed lexical discussion of the range of meaning of words and
the explanation of the variety of views about the interpretation
of the text. Only the conclusion reached by the Maulana as to the
explanation of the verses is retained. Occasionally the abridgment
has required some insignificant re-phrasing of his original words.
Those who wish to benefit from the Maulana’s full, scholarly
commentary are referred to the reprints of his 1951 edition.
At certain points in the footnotes it was necessary to make some
further comment on a text, due mainly to issues and questions that
have arisen in recent years. To meet this need I have added my own
comments, marked as Editor’s Note. These occur within
existing footnotes and also as additional footnotes.
The introductory notes at the head of the chapters have had to
be abridged considerably and therefore they have been re-worded.
As in the two editions produced by the Maulana which do not include
the Arabic text, I have laid out the translation in continuous running
form, not starting each verse on a new line. However, for ease of
reading as well as comprehension I have divided most sections further
This edition carries an Introduction consisting of a life of the
Holy Prophet Muhammad and some information about the Quran, its
teachings, and the history of its compilation, all taken from writings
of Maulana Muhammad Ali as indicated there.
The responsibility for all aspects of this revision rests with
me, and I crave forgiveness from Allah as well as from the readers
of this edition for any flaws in this production.