Mr. Yusuf Ali of the English Translation of the Qur’an
Dr. Firdaus Kamalodeen
May Allah have mercy on Allama Yusuf Ali. And forgive him and give him Jannat.
That is how Islam teaches Muslims to bless: not only the living but also the dead.
For, Islam, as Dr. Pasha says, is blessing: blessing one and blessing all.
And Muslims, again to quote Dr. Pasha, are Blessers!
How can we not be grateful to this most remarkable man: Yusuf Ali?
How can we fail to recognize or appreciate the great mentoring role he has played in the lives of so many of us, even though he has been dead from way before most of us were born?
I am referring to his English Translation of the Qur’an. What a masterpiece of love and dedication. And what an enduring monument in the English language.
And what amazing standards of excellence and exactness he has set for generations to come. For all those who love the English language.
For all those like ourselves in Trinidad and in the Caribbean whose mother tongue, and for many of whom the only language they know, is English.
And all those throughout the world who love Allah’s book the Qur’an.
And all those who love to see those two things together:
Allah’s own book in its original Arabic and a very high quality rendering thereof in our own beloved mother tongue, the English language.
But there are lessons to be learned from Yusuf Ali’s life about who we are as Muslims, and as people, and how we sometimes treat the people we have every reason to love and to revere.
Every time I mention Yusuf Ali, or he is mentioned to me, I can’t help but think of the state in which he was when he died. More or less: penniless; uncared for; unattended; abandoned; unloved; untended.
Oh how the Muslims treat their scholars and their benefactors!
What a people, we Muslims! My, My, My! What else can we say?
I and the rest of the English-speaking Muslims owe Yusuf Ali a huge debt. For it was through his work that many of us were first introduced to the meaning of the Qur’an.
For many of us, it was through his work that we become Muslims.
And I suppose many if not the majority of subsequent English translations of the Qur’an are based upon his work in one way or another.
How can we then not know about this man who is so pivotal in our lives?
And these words of Shaitaan keep haunting me as it were, as the Qur’an documents them:
Wa Laa Tajidu Aktharahum Shaakireen!
As Dr. Pasha translates these words:
“And you shall find not a grain of gratitude in most of them!”
And you wonder if our attitude to Yusuf Ali, and others like him, has anything to do with that lack of gratitude that Satan celebrated and bragged about so brazenly before God.
Allah bless Dr. Pasha for guiding and nudging so many of us toward Yusuf Ali.
As Dr. Pasha himself points out repeatedly, Yusuf Ali translation of the Qur’an is full of issues and problems and limitations. But the work he did, and when and how he did it, remains unrivaled.
Members of the English-Speaking Ummat of Islam owe Yusuf Ali an everlasting debt of gratitude, as much as to their own parents – and school and college and university teachers.
For, that is what Islam means:
Respect for parents, and for elders, and for teachers at all levels, regardless of whether they taught you Arabic or English or Math – or only catching Cascadoo in the Caroni river.
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