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Review in Christian journal shows how closely Pickthall followed Maulana’s 1917 edition

When Pickthall’s translation of the Holy Quran first appeared, a Christian quarterly journal, The Moslem World, edited by the Rev. Zwemer, compared his translation with existing ones in its July 1931 issue. It noted:

“A careful comparison of Mr. Pickthall’s translation with that of the Ahmadiyya translator, Maulvi Muhammad Ali, shows conclusively, that Mr. Pickthall’s work is not very much more than a revision of the Ahmadiyya version” (p. 289).

“We have made a thorough examination of about forty verses in the second chapter, sixty verses in the third, forty verses in the nineteenth, and all of the last fifteen chapters, comparing his renderings with those of Sale, Rodwell, Palmer and Muhammad Ali; as well as with the Arabic. From this careful investigation we have come to the conclusion that Mr. Pickthall’s translation, in all that part of his work which we have examined, resembles very closely the version of Muhammad Ali, the difference between the two versions in many passages being merely verbal” (p. 290).

“Now if we compare the above passage (3:57–63) with the versions of S, R and P, we shall see that Mr. Pickthall is very much nearer to MA than he is to any of the three previous translators, so that one gets the impression that although he may have taken a word here and there from R and P, yet he has not followed them so closely as he obviously followed MA” (p. 292).

“The dependence of Mr. Pickthall upon the work of MA is also indicated in an occasional footnote, and those who will compare these footnotes with the notes in the 1920 edition of MA, which contains his commentary, will find that throughout chapter 2 almost every footnote is based on the Ahmadiyya Commentary” (p. 293).

“We think it will now be evident to the reader how much Mr. Pickthall is indebted to the version of Maulvi Muhammad Ali, not only for his footnotes but also for the translation itself ” (p. 293).

“In the passages which we have examined carefully, namely the verses at the beginning of the second, third and nineteenth suras, and the last fifteen, the translation of Pickthall follows MA so closely that one finds very few evidences of original work” (p. 297)

(The Moslem World, v. 21, issue 3, July 1931, paper entitled Can a Moslem translate the Koran? by W.G. Shellabear, p. 287–303)

Return to article about first edition of Maulana Muhammad Ali’s English translation of the Quran.