Heritage Times

Exploring lesser known History

Book ReviewsReviewUrdu

Sir William Muir, Maulvi Deputy Nazir Ahmad and his Urdu translation of the Holy Quran

Deputy Nazir Ahmad was a talented Urdu novelist, journalist and activist. After finishing his primary education in Madarsa he moved to Delhi College. He was one of the famous pupils of the college. After completing his degree he took up the government job and worked at various positions and levels. His title ‘deputy’ came from his role as a deputy collector.

He was one of the most successful Urdu novelist and writer; mostly promoted ‘Talim-e-Nisawan’ (women’s education) and other social issues like remarriage of widows. Which gave him both fame and money. The British promoted education among Muslim women, so Deputy Nazir Ahmad was one of the prominent figures to implement it.

The most influential women in the history of medicine

Nazir Ahmad's Urdu translation of the Holy Quran

At the later stage of his life when he retired, speeches on different issues replaced his writing. He traveled all over the country to promote education amongst Muslims. His speeches easily attracted huge crowds which further encouraged them for instant donations. The most famous emotional plea he delivered in front of a Muslim crowd was in Lahore. Which generated a huge sum (donated by attendees) for Sir Syed’s mission at Aligarh. The Muslim women listening to his speech instantly took off their jewelleries and donated it for the cause of education.

A covered copy of Nazir Ahmad's Qur'an


However he didn’t abandon writing completely. He undertook the monumental task to translate the Holy Quran in to Urdu.

He was the first who interpreted the Arabic verse (4:59) of Holy Quran ‘Wa Ooli ‘I-Amri Minkum’ [obey those in authority among you-حُکم مانو اور جوتُم میں سے صاحِبِ حُکو مت ہیں] to ‘English ruler’. The real meaning of اُولی اِلاَمࣿرِ explained by the Scholars is ‘a Muslim leader who deals with collective issues of the community’.

Deputy Nazir Ahmad was very close to Sir William Muir-Lieutenant Governer of North Western Province. He worked with him when he translated the Indian penal code to Urdu. The interpretation including his previous literary works pleased Sir Muir. Sir William Muir returned to Scotland and became Principal of the University of Edinburgh in 1885. Sir Muir awarded Deputy Nazir Ahmad before. However the most controversial was his translation of the Holy Quran which pleased the English ruler and Sir Muir so much that in the year 1902, Nazir Ahmad was awarded on honorary D.Litt by the University of Edinburgh, of which Sir William Muir was then the Principal.

Jam-e-Jahan Numa: The Urdu cradle and its Brahmin caretaker

A vintage copy of his translation of the Holy Quran published in 1921, acquired from Germany is shown below; in my personal collection.

Share this Post on :

M S Siddiqui

Dr. Mohammad Siddiqui is a UK based Medical doctor. Apart from Medicine he is interested in history, culture, art and architecture. He is an avid collector of rare photographs, postcards, maps, artefacts, rare books and magazines on different themes like ‘Hajj pilgrimage’, ‘Delhi’, ‘Islam in Britain’ and ‘The role of Indian soldiers in WWI.’