Abdullah Yusuf Ali, lived from 14 April 1872 to 10 December 1953 (81 years).
He was a British-Indian barrister and scholar who wrote a number of books about Islam and whose translation of the Qur’an into English is one of the most widely known and used in the English-speaking world. A supporter of the British war effort during World War I, he received the CBE in 1917 for his services to that cause.
Ali was born in Bombay, British India , the son of Yusuf Ali Allahbuksh (died 1891), also known as Khan Bahadur Yusuf Ali, a Shi’i in the Dawoodi Bohra tradition, who turned his back on the traditional business-based occupation of his community and instead became a Government Inspector of Police. On his retirement he gained the title Khan Bahadur for public service. As a child Abdullah Yusuf Ali attended the Anjuman Himayat-ul-Islam school and later studied at the missionary school Wilson College , both in Bombay. He also received a religious education and eventually could recite the entire Qur’an from memory . He spoke both Arabic and English fluently. He concentrated his efforts on the Qur’an and studied the Qur’anic commentaries beginning with those written in the early days of Islamic history. Ali took a first class Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature at the University of Bombay in January 1891 aged 19 and was awarded a Presidency of Bombay Scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge in England.
Ali first went to Britain in 1891 to study Law at St John’s College, Cambridge and after graduating BA and LL.B in 1895 he returned to India in the same year with a post in the Indian Civil Service (ICS), later being called to the Bar in Lincoln’s Inn in 1896 in absentia. He received his MA and LL.M in 1901. He married Teresa Mary Shalders (1873–1956) at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth in 1900, and with her he had three sons and a daughter: Edris Yusuf Ali (1901–1992), Asghar Bloy Yusuf Ali (1902–1971), Alban Hyder Yusuf Ali (1904–), and Leila Teresa Ali (1906–). His wife and children settled variously in Tunbridge Wells , St Albans and Norwich while Ali returned to his post in India. He returned to Britain in 1905 on a two-year leave from the ICS and during this period he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the Royal Society of Literature . Ali first came to public attention in Britain after he gave a lecture at the Royal Society of Arts in London in 1906, organised by his mentor Sir George Birdwood . Another mentor was Lord James Meston , formerly Lieutenant Governor of the
United Provinces , who, when he was made Finance Member of the Government of India appointed Ali to positions in various districts in India which also involved two short periods as acting Under Secretary (1907) and then Deputy Secretary (1911–12) in the Finance Department of the Government of India.