Kanz al-Īmān fī Tarjamah al-Qur’ān
The Treasure of Faith: An Explanatory Translation of the Qur’ān

Arguably, the finest explanatory translation of the Holy Qur’ān in Urdu. The major highlight of which is the meticulous use of appropriate language, when referring to Allāh táālā and His messengers; and utmost care in the translation of abstruse verses. This is also unique because explanations are woven in the translation itself, and as far as possible, remain close to the literal word. Arabic idioms are dexterously translated with similar or equivalent Urdu idioms. Another highlight of the translation is sahl mumtaniý – impossibly simple expressions – which Ghālib has extolled as “the apex of beauty in poetry and the apogee of eloquence”.[1]

Shaykh Amjad Álī al-Aáżamī,[2] who initiated the translation project and was also its scribe, says that he would recite the Qur’ānic verse and Alahazrat would dictate its translation extempore; they kept doing this regularly after áşr prayer and the translation of the entire Qur’ān was thus completed. Critics of his translation accuse him of creating fancy interpretations; whereas, his translation can be easily and satisfactorily explained by classical commentaries and other books on Qur’ānic sciences. Many researchers have written books explaining the exquisiteness of his work in comparison to other Urdu translations. Taskīn al-Janān fī Maĥāsini Kanz al-Īmān by Shaykh Ábdu’r Razzāq Bathrālwī is noteworthy, in which he analyses and compares translations of about 170 verses and demonstrates the superiority of Kanz. Two other important monographs on this topic are that of Shaykh Madanī Miyāñ al-Kichauchawī[3] and Shaykh Akhtar Razā Khān al-Baraylawī.[4]

[1] Urdu e Muállā, Letter to Ghulām Ghaus.

[2] Author of Bahār e Sharīát, a comprehensive reference manual of Ĥanafī Fiqh in Urdu.

[3] Imām Aĥmad Razā Aur Urdu Tarājim e Qur’ān Kā Taqābulī Mutālaáh [A comparative reading of Urdu translations of the Qur’ān by Imām Aĥmad Riđā and by other translators]. Mawlānā Sayyid Muĥammad Madanī al-Ashrafī al-Kichauchawi, Al-Mīzān: Alahazrat Number, 1976.

[4] Imām Aĥmad Razā Kā Tarjamah e Qur’ān: Ĥaqāyiq ki Rawshnī Meiñ [The translation of the Qur’ān by Imām Aĥmad Riđā in the light of facts] by Mawlānā Akhtar Riđā Khān al-Baraylawī, Al-Mīzān: Alahazrat Number, 1976; he is a great-grandson of Alahazrat.

The Story of Kanz al-Iyman in the words of Sadrush Shariah

In those turbulent days, the situation was changing for the worse, as the means to mislead Sunnis were multiplying. I thought that one of the major means to misguide people was through the translations of the Glorious Qur’ān. In some places, they would peddle their heresies by distorting the meanings by choosing words in favour of their position; and where they could not take advantage of possible ambiguity, they would add notes or marginalia, ‘explaining’ the verse according to their world view and adducing proof for their heresies.

Among the Urdu translations available at that time, the one by Shāh Ábdu’l Qādir Dihlawī[1] could be termed as a good one.

Except his translation all other translations have mistakes and have many flaws. However, the translation of Shāh Ábdu’l Qādir is in old Urdu which is outdated; people have stopped using these words and idioms for a long time and hence, this was not of much use to common people. This gap gave an opportunity to heretics to push their own translations.

There was a pressing need for an accurate translation, free from mistakes and errors that plagued existing ones. Also, the language should be contemporary and such that common people could read and benefit from it. Therefore, I presented this request to Alahazrat Imām Aĥmad Riđā Khān. He had his reservations. He was apprehensive because of the enormous responsibility of the task.

He said, “Of course, a translation is certainly necessary; but who will have it printed? How will it be printed? The scribe should be in the state of ablution (wuđū), and so also those who proof it. Immense care needs to be taken to ensure that not a single diacritic or dot is missed or misplaced. Pressmen and scribes/engravers[2] should be in the state of wuđū all the time and should be careful while engraving on the stone. The discarded prints (due to imperfections, mistakes in inking etc.) should be handled carefully (and disposed appropriately).[3] It is very difficult to observe all these conditions and precations. When its printing appears so remotely possible, what is the point in doing a translation? Because, the purpose of the translation is for the benefit of common folk – not to just adorn the bookshelves.”

I told him: ‘Allāh-willing, I will fulfill all these conditions and take care of having it printed with all the precautions you have outlined. I will ensure that the Qur’ān and translation will be printed in a manner that will not be in breach of sharīáh. Suppose, we are not able to do this, it is still possible for someone in the future to carry out the printing (according to your conditions) in an attempt to benefit commonfolk. If you do not undertake this task, we will rue it in the future, and at that time our lament will be futile’.

(He accepted in principle) but the actual process of translation was postponed for the time being.

Alahazrat then asked us to obtain available translations, so that their errors could be identified and warned against. This was also an important task. Alahazrat was against ordering the Qur’ān by post as it would not be handled with due respect.[4] Therefore these translations had to be obtained by going to the place where it was available. I was extremely busy and I did not get time for months to obtain the translations in this fashion. Anyway, I somehow managed to obtain all the available and published translations according to the conditions prescribed by Alahazrat. By the Grace of Allāh táālā, the process of translation had now begun.

Initially, the manner of translation was thus: One verse of the Qur’ān would be recited and Alahazrat would dictate the translation. Thereafter, we would examine the translations of Shaykh Saádī, Shāh Waliyullāh, Shāh Ábdu’l Qadir, Shāh Rafīýuddīn, Deputy Nazir Aĥmad, Mirza Hayrat Dihlawī, Maulavi Ashraf Álī Thānawī and others. If any of these translations contained errors or inaccuracies, Alahazrat would point them out (explaining why they were wrong). After a few days, we realised that it would take a very long time if we continued in this manner and the task of identifying mistakes in translations of others was a separate project in itself. So it was decided that we drop this now, and after the (new) translation was complete, we would revisit this project of critical appraisal of other translations, if we could take out time to do so. Hence, we stopped reading out the translations.

However, Shaykh Saádī’s translation in Persian and the Urdu translation of Shāh Ábdu’l Qadir would be examined – and this continued until the last. The former translation is accurate and  immaculate, except for one reservation. The author (Shaykh Saádī) is a Shāfiýī and there are certain verses of the Qur’ān, which the Shāfiýīs interpret differently than the Ĥanafīs. In such places, this translation was against our madh’hab; barring this, there is nothing to fault in his translation. As for the Urdu translation of Shāh Ábdu’l Qadir, there are some superficial defects.

The work of translation continued thus for sometime and then I had to come back home,[5] and the project was interrupted. After my return , we wanted to start it, but we could not due to other obligations. Come winter, we restarted the project. It would be raining outside and the lantern[6] would have to be kept very close, and the moths were teeming – they would be on my hand, in my sleeves, on my trousers.

Many a time, they would settle on the paper and pen[7] making it difficult to write. Yet, I would write for hours in this state – until we finally completed the translation.

The Manner of Translation

The manner of dictation (by Alahazrat) and my writing it down was thus: I would recite the complete āyah (verse), even if it were a lengthy one. Alahazrat would dictate the translation. Sometimes, he would dictate two or three lines without a pause. Yet, I would write it down without missing a single word. Translation that was completed on a day would be marked with the date. The manuscript of the translation in my handwriting is in the possession of Mawlānā Naýīmuddīn (Murādābādī) until this day, who had it taken out from Alahazrat’s bookshelves, with the permission of Mawlānā Muşţafā Raza Khān for the purpose of having it printed.

Even though, the manuscript is in my handwriting, I never intended to make it my property nor did I ever claim ownership. However, looking at the manuscript, one can gauge the speed with which the translation progressed. You will also notice that in spite of the various impediments, the manuscript is free from mistakes. I hope that this service of having the Qur’ān translated and writing down the translation will be a very big means for my salvation in the Hereafter. I do not think anyone else would have put up with such difficulties and obstacles that I faced in the course of the translation; others would have probably given up and the project would have been an idea that never materialized and remained at the conceptual stage.

The translation was completed and I wanted Alahazrat to review it once and add helpful annotations where required. After repeated requests and much insistence, this task was started and I wrote down a number of annotation in a two or three days. Going by what was written, we were staring at a voluminous tafsīr spanning 10-12 volumes. It was then decided that such an extensive commentary was not required and some annotations on each page would suffice. Thus, we discontinued the first approach – and we never got around to work on the second approach. Alas! If we had simply continued with the extensive commentary that Alahazrat had started – even if it were incomplete and reached only a few parts, even then it would have been a wonderful gift for seekers of knowledge. Unfortunately, we deprived ourselves and others of such a wonderful gift.”

[As told to Mufti Abdul Mannan Aazami; Ĥayāt e Şadrush Sharīáh,  pp. 40-44]


[1] He is the son of the famous imām Shāh Walīyullāh Dihlawī and brother of the ĥadīth scholar and imām, Shāh Ábd al-Ázīz Dihlawī.

[2] Kilkash; this was the era of lithography and print terminology is in that context.
Wikipedia: Lithography (from Ancient Greek λίθος, lithos, meaning ‘stone’, and γράφειν, graphein, meaning ‘to write’) is a method of printing originally based on the immiscibility of oil and water. The printing is from a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a smooth surface. It was invented in 1796 by German author and actor Alois Senefelder as a cheap method of publishing theatrical works. Lithography can be used to print text or artwork onto paper or other suitable material. For a video demonstration of the process see Khan Academy: Introduction to Lithography, in addition to other instructional videos on YouTube.

[3] In the past, the fiqhi ruling to dispose of unusable scraps or books with Qur’ānic verses or religious writings with hallowed names of Allāh and His messengers would be buried or the paper burned after erasing the names.

[4] Post office would be manned by non-Muslims; or even Muslims did, they would not be able to avoid throwing packages on the floor etc.

[5] Alahazrat was in Bareilly and the hometown of Mawlānā Amjad is Ghosi in Azamgarh, which is approximately 550-570 km from Bareilly (depending on the route) and a 12-hour journey by road on the National Highway, NH30 in our time. A hundred years ago, it would have been longer and more arduous.

[6] Kanz al-Īymān was completed in 1912; this was an age of lanterns, lamps and candles.

[7] In that age, people would write with reed pens, dipping in an inkpot.

Sample pages from the original Kanz Manuscript in the hand of Sadru’sh Shariah, Mufti Amjad Ali Aazami. The entire MSS can be downloaded from the Manuscripts section.