Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall
Marmaduke Pickthall, the son of an Anglican clergyman, was drawn to Islam in the course of extensive travels and contacts with Muslims in Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Turkey. A distinguished novelist and respected member of a brilliant literary circle that included Olivia Manning, his work was published in leading journals such as the Athenaeum.
He declared his Islam in dramatic fashion after delivering a talk on'Islam and Progress' on 29 November 1917 to the Muslim Literary Society in Notting Hill, West London. From that point onwards he identified himself with Muslim causes.
Throughout the Great War (1914-1918, and even prior to declaring his faith as a Muslim, he wrote extensively in support of the Ottomans. When a vicious propaganda campaign was launched in 1915 over the massacres of Armenians, Pickthall rose to the challenge and argued that all the blame could not be placed on the Turkish government.
At a time when many Indian Muslims in London, including Abdullah Yusuf Ali,had been coopted by the Foreign Office to provide propaganda services in support of Britain's war against Turkey, Pickthall's stand was a most courageous one and of great integrity. When British Muslims were asked to decide whether they were loyal to the Allies (Britain and France) or the Central Powers (Germany and Turkey), Pickthall said he was ready to be a combatant for his country so long as he did not have to fight the Turks. He was conscripted in the last months of the war and became corporal in charge of an influenza isolation hospital. The Foreign Office would have dearly liked to have used his talents as a linguist, but instead decided to regard him as a security risk.
Pickthall and his wife left for their first visit to India in 1920, where he worked for a while as a journalist at the Bombay Chronicle. In January 1925 the Nizam of Hyderabad invited him to the Principality, that had become an oasis of scholarship for the Muslim World. Pickthall was first appointed Principal of Chadarghat High School for Boys, and later made responsible for training civil servants for the Hyderabad Civil Service. He contributed fully in the active intellectual milleau, editing 'Islamic Culture' and working on a translation of the Qur'an. He was also by now fluent in Urdu. He visited Egypt in 1929 to seek the approval of scholars of Al-Azhar for the translation that was published the following year. It has been in print ever since.
On retirement from the Nizam's service in 1935, Pickthall and his wife returned to England. Like that other great Qur'anic scholar, Yusuf Ali, he lies buried in Brookwood Cemetery.
Source: Marmaduke Pickthall: British Muslim
by Peter Clark, Quartet Books, 1986
Compiled by:M A Sherif