About Abdullah Yusuf Ali

Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali

Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali is best known to English-speaking Muslims as the man who produced a translation and commentary of the noble Qur-an. He was a distinguished literary figure as well as top ICS (Indian Civil Service) man, but his magnum opus is without doubt his translation-cum-commentary of ‘The Holy Qur-an (1934-37). His father, Yusuf Ali Allahbuksh, a Bohra from Surat in Gujrat, had abandoned the traditional occupation of the Bohras — business — and gone instead into the police force. On retirement, he was given the title of Khan Bahadur. Yusuf Ali used the name ‘Abdullah ibn Khan Bahadur Yusuf ‘Ali while applying to register at Cambridge university, the Lincoln Inn in London as well as when applying for the Indian Civil Service. ‘The Indian Office administrator responsible for processing ICS applications deemed the double-barrelled surname in order and ‘Abdullah ibn Khan Bahadur Yusuf ‘Ali came about.’


Among numerous English translations, Marmaduke Pickthall’s and Yusuf ‘Ali’s are the most widely-known and used in the world. Yusuf ‘Ali started work on his translation in 1934 and completed it some four years later.
Today, tens of publishers have reprinted his translation, some even taking the liberty of changing it without acknowledging that changes have been made. Why these changes were necessary has not been explained either. Such lack of honesty even with so noble a book as the Qur-an is reflective of the pathetic state of those who have imposed themselves on the Ummah.


He married an English woman in England. They had four children.
He was contemporary of several eminent personalties that loomed so large on the Indian scene later: Muhammad ‘Ali Jinnah, Amir ‘Ali, Muhammad Iqbal, Muhammad ‘Ali Jauhar, Fazl-e-Husain, Sikandar Hayat Khan etc.
Yusuf ‘Ali was also much inspired by Sayyid Ahmed Khan. He tried to emulate him, at least in sofar as loyalty to the empire was concerned, to the fullest.
He got along well with Muhammad Iqbal (in fact, it was Muhammad Iqbal who offered him the post of principal of Islamia College Lahore at the exorbitant salary of Rs 1300 per month at the time).
His education at the best British institutions, admission to the bar as well as selection in the ICS.
He officially opened the first mosque in Canada in Edmonton in December 1938. It was Yusuf Ali who named it Al-Rashid Mosque, perhaps after his son. He left a very favorable impression with all that he came in contact with yet he was a loner in private life.
He died in London on December 10,1953,  he was found by the police lying outside the steps of a house.  He was buried in Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey. His grave has a plain tombstone is in the shape of an arch, about three feet high, and reads: ‘Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali, C.B.E., M.A., LL.M., F.R.S.L., I.C.S., Born Surat, India, April 4th 1872, Died London December, 10th 1953. Brookwood is a few miles West of Woking, which is about an hours drive West of London.