In devastating news this morning the family of Shaikh Dr Wajih Abderrahman passed on the sad news that he had passed away. Dr Wajih Abderrahman was a world renowned scholar and expert on linguistics, and was one of the forces behind the translation of the meanings of the Quran by Shaikh Dr Muhammad Taqi ud Din Hilali and Shaikh Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said “Allah will not take away knowledge by snatching it away from the people, rather He will take away knowledge by taking away the scholars until, when there is no scholar left, people will turn to ignorant leaders who will be asked questions and will issue fatwas without knowledge. They will go astray and lead others astray.”Narrated by Bukhari (100) and Muslim (2673)
A Life Full of Learning and Teaching
While Shaikh Wajih lived in Jordan at the time of his passing, his initial education was in the department English Language and Literature in Kuwait University where he was awarded a distinction. He then completed his PhD in the United Kingdom at London University in the department of Phonetics and Linguistics, where his thesis was on the role of derivation in the process of neologization in Arabic and English. His passion for languages meant that he spoke Arabic, English, French, and Latin.
After teaching in Kuwait for many years, Dr Wajih became a Professor of Linguistics at King AbdulAziz University for 24 years until he became the Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the Imam Muhammad bin Saud University. He was well known and recognised as the teacher to many of the current scholars in Madinah University.
Outside of his role in academia Dr Wajih worked as a translator in the Ministry of Communications and was a Producer and Interpreter for the BBC Arabic Service since 1981. His contributions in the BBC spanned popular programmes such as The World at One, The World at Six, Current Affairs Talk, News Bulletins, and Arab Affairs in the British Press.
The Noble Quran, translated by Shaikh Dr Muhammad Taqi ud Din Hilali and Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan, is one of the most popular translations of the Quran in English and endorsed by the scholars of Saudi Arabia.
While not popular on social media or amongst the people, he was well known in the circles of academia and knowledge, and no stranger to the major scholars of the past. While many may have not heard of him, anyone who benefitted from the Noble Quran translation has benefitted from the works of Dr Wajih.
Passion for Translating the Meanings of the Words of Allah
I was introduced to Dr Wajih Abderrahman when I studied a course under him organised by Shaikh Zulfiker Ibrahim Memon. In this course Dr Wajih showed his passion for getting the meaning correct when translating the words of Allah.
After this course we became close while talking about the history of the translation of the Quran, where he encouraged me to write and produce more work. He shared research with me on many topics to help my learning, research, and writing. On the topics of Islam in the West and the translation of the Quran we spoke regularly until recently when he fell ill.
He showed how George Sale had mistranslated certain words in the translation of the Quran, in some instances to make the revelation of the Quran seem as if it were for Arabs only, not all of mankind. We discussed errors in translations of many other translation and the Shaikh was able to discuss the shortcomings of his own work.
Earlier this year the Shaikh appeared on itibaTV’s youtube channel with a talk on a subject he found fascinating “Is Islam a Biblical Prophecy Fulfilled?” alongside my older brother Dr Aqib Hussain.
As such before his passing he had been working on a new, understandable and accurate translation of the Quran. He had planned to come to the UK where we were discussing creating a documentary on the translations of the Quran.
In Just a few days before he passed he had been partaking in a forum under the patronage of the former Crown Prince of Jordan HRH Prince Hasan. In this forum Shaikh Dr Wajih discussed “How to translate dialogue from words to deeds”.
The Fleeting Nature of this Life
In July when his colleague, the scholar Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan, passed away I asked him for a photograph to update Muslim World Journal, which he provided. Shaikh Dr Wajih told me that Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan had a dream in which the Messenger of Allah ﷺ had ordered Dr Khan to bathe in his sweat.
From discussing the death of one scholar with Dr Wajih, to writing about his death today only months later, I feel the fleeting nature of this life as I write this. The vast number of scholars passing today does not go unnoticed in light of the hadeeth at the beginning of the article.
Allah protect us from the end times, a time when in the absense of scholars the “Ruwaybidah” speak up. It is imperative we reflect on the warnings from the Prophet ﷺ regarding times like these.
The Prophet ﷺ said: “There shall come deceptive years. The truthful shall be deemed liars, while the liars shall be believed. The honest shall be deemed dishonest, while the dishonest shall be deemed honest. (And) the Ruwaybidah will speak in these times.”[Ahmad and Ibn Maajah].
“What is Ruwaybidah O Messenger of Allah?”
He replied: “It is an insignificant man who shall speak on behalf of the general masses.”
We ask Allah to have Mercy on Dr Wajih, to grant him Jannatul Firdaws, and to give his family patience. We also ask Allah to have Mercy upon the Ummah in this time when many scholars have passed away.