The famous translator of the Quran into English (who co-translated it along with the erudite Dr. Muḥammad Taqī al-Dīn al-Hilālī), and the first person to translate the Ṣaḥīh of Imām al-Bukhārī into English, Dr. Muḥammad Muḥsin Khan, passed away today morning at the ripe age of 97, in the Blessed City of Madinah. His funeral prayer will be in the Ḥaram al-Madanī, followed by burial in the most blessed cemetery of Baqī.
He was born in 1927 in Afghanistan. During a time when hardly anyone studied in the West, he completed his medical training in England in the 1950’s and was offered a prestigious job in the newly-formed Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, during the time of King Abd al-Azīz, as the director of the new military hospital in Taif. He was not at all religious (as he himself told me) and only accepted the job because it was a lucrative offer.
When the Islamic University of Madinah opened in 1961, he was transferred there because he was one of only a handful of doctors qualified in the country who was a Muslim (and only Muslims can live in Madinah!).
In Madinah, he saw the Prophet ﷺ in a very vivid dream; he asked Sh. Bin Bāz, who was the Rector of the University, the interpretation of that dream, and the Shaykh replied that his dream meant he would somehow benefit the Sunnah. Dr. Muḥsin remarked, “I was shocked – I was no scholar and my training was in medicine. I didn’t know how I could benefit the Sunnah until I realized that I was fluent in English and the most important works had not yet been translated into the English language.” He, therefore, decided to dedicate his life to translate what he could.
He understood that he needed some scholarly help, so Sh. Ibn Bāz assigned him Dr. Taqī al-Dīn al-Hilālī (d. 1986), another very important and interesting figure (he was of the first batches of scholars who studied Islamic Studies in the West, having completed his Ph.D. in Germany under Nazi rule!). Although Dr. Hilālī was more fluent in French and German than English, he knew enough English to help Dr. Muḥsin, and together they embarked on the translation of the Quran, after which Dr. Muḥsin continued onwards to translate the Ṣaḥīḥ on his own.
May Allah forgive Dr. Muḥammad Muḥsin Khan his sins, exalt his ranks, accept his works and deeds, and admit him to Jannat al-Firdaws!