Thomas Ballantyne Irving

It was Muslim "stubborness" which eventually led the Canadian Quran translator and writer Dr. Thomas Ballantyne (T.B.) Irving to Islam. "I remember especially a missionary returned from India stating how the 'Mohometans' (Muslims) were so obdurate in adhering to their religion; that was my first encounter with Islam, and it roused an unconscious admiration in me for their steadfastness to their faith and a desire to know more about these 'wicked' people," he recounted in the book "Islam: Our Choice", a collection of interviews with Muslims who have converted to the faith. T.B. Irving later became one of these "obdurate" people, choosing the name Al Hajj Ta'lim Ali Abu Nasr. Born in Preston, Ontario in 1914, this professor, writer, translator and activist is best known for his translation of the Quran entitled, The Quran: First American Version (1985).The work is an attempt to make the English translation of the Quran more readable to an audience not used to the old style of English common in most translations. Irving was particularly concerned about making the Quran accessible to Muslim youth in North America. "A new generation of English-speaking Muslims has grown up in North America which must use our scripture differently than their fathers would have done. Their thinking roots have become distinct on a new continent without the familiar use of our holy tongue, and a great difference has developed between their customs and their ancestral faith," he writes in the introduction of his translation. The cover of the 1993 edition of the Quran translation features a photograph of the dome of the Great Umayyad Mosque of Cordoba, Spain. This provided a hint at another passion of his: Muslim Spain. Irving was considered a leading expert on the Arab-Islamic period in Spanish history, especially with his book Falcon of Spain. This was a study of Spain under Muslim rule, with a special emphasis on the Umayyad ruler AbdurRahman I whom Irving considered a "great statesman". Irving's other books include: Growing Up In Islam, The Quran: Basic Teachings, which he co-authored with Dr. Khurshid Ahmad and Muhammad Manazir Ahsan, Had You Been Born a Muslim, Religion and Social Responsibility and Tide of Islam. His academic and teaching career features a diverse list of universities that span the continent, including McGill University in Montreal, Canada, Princeton University in New Jersey, University of San Carlos in Guatemala, University of Minneapolis and the University of Tennesse, from which he retired as a professor of Spanish and Arabic in 1980. Following retirement, he served as the dean of the American Islamic College in Chicago between 1981-1986. It was during his time there that he published his translation of the Quran. His service to Islam as a writer was noticed by the Pakistani government, who rewarded him the Star Imtiaz award for service to Islam in 1983.

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