Marmaduke Pickthall: A Servant of Islam

Abu Ali Hadhrami

(This is a summary of the article developed by Dr. A. Zahoor.)

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He was born William Pickthall in 1875 in London, to an Anglican clergyman, and spent his formative years in rural Suffolk. He was contemporary of Winston Churchill at Harrow, the famous private school. During intervals from living a sedentary life in Suffolk, Pickthall traveled extensively in the Arab world and Turkey. In 1917, Pickthall reverted to Islam and soon became a leader among the emerging group of British Muslims.

In 1919, Pickthall worked for the London-based Islamic Information Bureau that among other things published the weekly Muslim Outlook. After completing his last novel the Early Hours in 1920, he departed for his new assignment in India to serve as the editor of the Bombay Chronicle. Pickthall devoted considerable interest in the independent Islamic empire of India that was gradually eroded through a string of British conspiracies. In 1927, Pickthall took over as the editor of Islamic Culture, a new quarterly journal published under the patronage of the Nizam of Hydrabad. He gave eight lectures on several aspects of Islamic civilization at the invitation of The Committee of "Madras Lectures on Islam" in Madras, India. His lectures were published under the title "The Cultural Side of Islam" in 1961 by S.M. Ashraf Publishers, Lahore. For an abridged version of his fifth lecture, point your browser to Tolerance in Islam.

The mission of 'translating' the Qur'an had preoccupied Pickthall's mind since he reverted to Islam. He saw that there was an obligation for all Muslims to know the Qur'an intimately. In 1930, Pickthall published The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (A. A. Knopf, New York). Pickthall maintained that the Qur'an being the word of Allah (SWT) could not be translated.

Pickthall returned to England in early 1935, and died a year later on May 19 at St. Ives. He is buried in the Muslim cemetery at Brookwood, Surrey, near Woking. Sixteen years later another distinguished translator Abdullah Yusuf Ali joined him in this earthly domain.

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Allah: Allah is the proper name in Arabic for The One and Only God, The Creator and Sustainer of the universe. It is used by the Arab Christians and Jews for the God ('Eloh-im' in Hebrew; 'Allaha' in Aramaic, the mother tongue of Jesus, pbuh). The word Allah does not have a plural or gender. Allah does not have any associate or partner, and He does not beget nor was He begotten.
pbuh: Peace Be Upon Him. This expression is used for all Prophets of Allah.   Jesus, The Son of Mary (pbut), in the Holy Qur'an.


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