For many of you who have read the Quran but are not speakers of Arabic language, reliance on translations of the Quran to amplify your understanding of the holy scripture is essential. As Malay is my first language, understanding the Quran will be near impossible task if not for a reliable translation to tell me the sentences I am reading aloud are not just foreign sounding, complex chain of phonetics but meaningful, spiritual lessons from the highest sky for the benefit of mankind.
My first encounter with an English translation of the Quran happened when I was studying in UIA where every student is required to subscribe to Abdullah Yusuf Ali's Holy Quran. For four years I relied on the leather-ish, black-covered book for obligatory Quran and Hadith, Islamic Jurisprudence and Da'wah classes, but I never wondered who was the man behind the beautiful English rendition of the Quran.
Who is he? Where does he come from? Is he still alive?
Even the lecturers then, despite being persistent that only Abdullah Yusuf Ali's translation is acceptable in the curriculum, had never told me about him.
Despite holding on the book after university, the author's background has never crosses my mind.
when I accidentally crossed path with an invitation to a lecture conducted by Islamic Book Trust for his death anniversary this Saturday. It suddenly hit me that I never bothered to know about the person behind the Holy Quran translation that I hugged to sleep at times of wary, the translation that strengthen my beliefs, increase my knowledge of the religion and provided me with relief through its deep and honest translation of various Surahs.
Such as s al-Isyirah which has a profound effect on me ever since I read its translation four years ago; the Quran's 94th chapter brought about the feeling of having Allah as a company and hearing him say, "Surely there is ease after harship" and repeating that in the verse, so anyone seeking solace will find comfort in god's words.
This Saturday, I'm inviting friends (all readers are considered friends) (well all of you!) to Abdullah Yusuf Ali Memorial Lecture on February 16 2013, 3:00 pm at International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies Conference Hall, Petaling Jaya.
The lecture will be delivered by British Muslim scholar Dr Louay Fatoohi with the topic, "Is the Mushaf a complete record of the Quran? The controversy of abrogation (Naskh)".
To attend the lecture, please register at the organiser's website http://www.ibtbooks.com/lecture
An article on Harakah Daily by Islamic Book Trust Editor, Abdar Rahman Koya on the tragic death of Abdullah Yusuf Ali fueled my curiosity to know more about one of the most subscribed translator of the Holy Quran in history.
Sixty years ago, on Dec 10, 1953, few in the Muslim world noticed a minor tragedy unfolding in London. The previous day, a sick man was found sitting on the steps of a house in London in a bitterly cold British winter day, and was taken to hospital by police.
On this day, a man whose name was already known around the Muslim world, died a pauper's death, without even a companion by his side. British authorities contacted the Pakistani High Commission in London to arrange his funeral and burial.
Like many Muslims of the last couple of centuries, Yusuf Ali's life was defined by the impact of western power on Muslim societies. Like much of India's Muslim elite, Yusuf Ali served the British rulers of India, as an Anglophile member of the Indian civil service, much as his forebears had served earlier Muslim regimes.
Brought up to be more British than the British, he placed trust in British values of justice, fair play and benevolent empire, going as far as to marry an English woman. Throughout his life, he put his skills at the service of the Empire, always under the illusion that this was in the best interest of his community.
But the incompatibilities of life as a 'native' Muslim in India, and a loyal British gentleman, were soon to be laid bare, not by any issues of conscience that arose in his work as an official of the empire, but in his personal life.
His marriage ended with divorce, when he discovered that his wife had been unfaithful – something normal and tolerated in English high society at the time, but obviously unacceptable to him as a Muslim. One result was his alienation from his children, brought up as English.