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Thursday 26th of May 2022
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Abdullah Yusuf Ali's Qur'an commentary, the deletion of

Synopsis:

Abdullah Yusuf Ali was a renowned Sunni translator and commentator of the Qur'an.  His translation and commentary has been very popular in the Islamic and Western world, wherever English is read and understood.

A comparison of the explanatory notes between the old versions and the newer 'revised' versions of his Commentary reveals many discrepancies.  These 'revisions' include the deletion of merits of Imams Hasan and Husayn [a], who were the grandchildren of the Prophet Muhammad [s], members of his Household (Ahl al-Bayt), and the second and third Shi'a Imams.  In addition, certain other interesting changes have taken place! 

Click on  below to see full scanned image of page and links to biographical information about author
In addition to the libraries indicated, try the Guide to Online Libraries to locate these texts elsewhere in the world

Source of the Allegation

[Miscellaneous Sources]
 

Evidence, Analysis and Conclusion

Abdullah Yusuf Ali was a renowned English translator and commentator of the Qur'an.  He lived many years of his life in England where he died in 1952.  His translation and commentary has been published many times and is used widely in the English speaking world as well as in places where English is read and understood.

A couple of 'revised' editions have appeared within the last fifteen years or so.  An investigation into the changes made in these new editions reveals a pattern which may be educational to the readers of this case study. 

Three editions of Abdullah Yusuf Ali's work were used to research and document this case study.  The details of these are:
 

Original
The Glorious Kur'an - Translation and Commentary
(Dar al-Fikr, Beirut)
(n.d.)

Amana
The Meaning of The Holy Qur'an
New Edition with Revised Translation, Commentary and Newly Compiled Comprehensive Index
Amana Publications
First edition, 1408 AH/1989 AC by Amana Corporation

IFTA
The Holy Qur'an - English Translation of the Meanings and Commentary
Revised and Edited by The Presidency of Islamic Researches, IFTA, Call and Guidance
King Fahd Holy Qur'an Printing Complex

[Harvard]
[London]

[Ohio State]

[Toronto]

[Library of Congress]

[Harvard]
[London]

[Ohio State]

[Toronto]

[Library of Congress]

[Harvard]
[London]

[Ohio State]

[Toronto]

[Library of Congress]

Both the revised editions make it clear in their introductory pages that the original translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali has been modified.  For example the Amana edition, in its 'Preface to the New Edition' (page ix), states:

The explanatory footnotes and the appendices, however, were subject to more frequent, and occasionally more substantial, changes than those in the translation and the commentaries.  The reason being there was a greater need of general updating of information and clarification of certain explanations which were subject to misinterpretation.  There were also a few instances in which certain portions of the material were deleted, either due to its outdatedness or due to its proneness to misinterpretation.

This edition also puts an "(R)" next to the passage it modifies in most, but not all, cases.

The IFTA edition, after acknowledging on page vi that it was Abdullah Yusuf Ali's work that was chosen for revision, states on page vii:

Finally, a fourth committee was formed to look into the findings of the second and third committees and to implement the recommendations made by them.  Furthermore, this committee had to finalise the text by adopting the most accurate expression where needed, besides checking the notes vigilantly so as to clear any misconceptions regarding the articles of faith, varying juristic opinions and thoughts not in conformity with the sound Islamic point of view.

This edition does not attempt to show where it has changed the commentary from that of the original Abdullah Yusuf Ali or even that of the already revised Amana edition, which it changes further in some places!

The changes selected for this case study are only some of the large number of both minor and major alterations present in the revised editions.  Throughout this case study, a red line is used to indicate deleted or changed text.

 

Martyrdom of Imams Hasan and Husayn [a]

The two Imams were members of the Ahl al-Bayt, the Family of the Prophet, and are respected by both the Ahl al-Sunnah and the Shi'a with the latter believing in their imamah (leadership) after Imam 'Ali [a].  Imam Hasan [a] was poisoned on the instigation of Mu'awiyah, the Umayyad despot,  in 50 AH and his son Yazid was responsible for the massacre of Imam Husayn [a] and his family and friends in Karbala in the year 61 AH.  The fact that they were martyred is undisputed by those who have studied history.

Abdullah Yusuf Ali gives the example of their martyrdom in the commentary to two different verses of the Qur'an.  Both the revised editions have deleted this reference!

Chapter 3, Verse 140

If a wound hath touched you, be sure a similar wound hath touched the others. Such days (of varying fortunes) We give to men and men by turns: that Allah may know those that believe, and that He may take to Himself from your ranks Martyr-witnesses (to Truth). And Allah loveth not those that do wrong.

Commentary footnote 457

Original

Amana

IFTA

In this instance, the Amana edition failed to indicate that a revision had taken place with an "(R)" at the end of the passage.
 

 

Chapter 4, Verse 69

All who obey Allah and the messenger are in the company of those on whom is the Grace of Allah,- of the prophets (who teach), the sincere (lovers of Truth), the witnesses (who testify), and the Righteous (who do good): Ah! what a beautiful fellowship!

Commentary footnote 586

Original

Amana

IFTA

 

Chapter 37, Verse 107

And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice.

Commentary footnote 4103

Original

Amana

IFTA

Abdullah Yusuf Ali was clearly very touched, like any good Muslim of any school of thought would be, by the history and significance of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn [a].  In the passage above he mentions a separate pamphlet by him that discussed this in detail.  Although the revised editions have taken out references to it, the pamphlet does exist in many libraries and has been made available on the web.  It is called:

It should be read by all those who wish to know what Abdullah Yusuf Ali wished the readers of his Qur'an translation and commentary to know about Imam Husayn, but which the publishers of the revised editions were not keen for them to discover!

In this instance, the revised Amana edition itself seems to have been edited further and the last sentence "In this sense..." is also deleted by the IFTA edition.

To find out more about Imams Hasan and Husayn [a], their martyrdom, and their rank and importance in Islam, please see:

 

 

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