Reynold A. Nicholson

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Reynold Alleyne Nicholson, FBA (18 August 1868 – 27 August 1945), or R. A. Nicholson, was an eminent English orientalist, scholar of both Islamic literature and Islamic mysticism and widely regarded as one of the greatest Rumi (Mevlana or Mawlana) scholars and translators in the English language.


Son of palaeontologist Henry Alleyne Nicholson, Nicholson was born at Keighley, West Riding of Yorkshire, England and died at Chester, Cheshire. Educated at Aberdeen University and Trinity College, Cambridge,[1] where he won the Porson Prize twice,[2] Nicholson was professor of Persian at University College London from 1901 to June 1902,[3] then lecturer in Persian at the University of Cambridge from 1902 to 1926, and Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge from 1926 to 1933.[4] He is considered a leading scholar in Islamic literature and Islamic mysticism who exercised a lasting influence on Islamic studies.[5][6] He was able to study and translate major Sufi texts in Arabic, Persian, Punjabi and Ottoman Turkish to English. Nicholson wrote two very influential books: Literary History of The Arabs (1907) and The Mystics of Islam (1914).[6]

Works on Rumi[edit]

Nicholson's magnum opus was his work on Rumi's Masnavi, published in eight volumes between 1925 and 1940. He produced the first critical Persian edition of the Masnavi, the first full translation of it into English, and the first commentary on the entire work in English. This work has been highly influential in the field of Rumi studies worldwide.[6]

Work on Ali Hujwari Daata Ganj Bakhsh[edit]

Nicholson translated the famous Persian book on sufism Kashf ul Mahjoob in English written by famous saint of Subcontinent Ali Hujwiri Daata Ganj Bakhsh [7]

Works on Iqbal[edit]

Being a teacher of the then Indian scholar and poet Muhammad Iqbal, Nicholson translated Iqbal's first philosophical Persian poetry book Asrar-i-Khudi into English as The Secrets of the Self.

Other significant translations[edit]


Among Nicholson's students was A. J. Arberry, a translator of Rumi and the Quran. Another student, Muhammad Iqbal was the famous Indian poet and has been called the "Spiritual Father of Pakistan".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Nicholson, Reynold Alleyne (NCL887RA)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ "Obituary: Professor R. A. Nicholson", The Guardian, 31 August 1945, p. 8. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  3. ^ "University College London". The Times (36788). London. 7 June 1902. p. 12.
  4. ^ H. A. R. Gibb, ‘Nicholson, Reynold Alleyne (1868–1945)’, rev. Christine Woodhead, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 24 Oct 2016 Reynold Alleyne Nicholson (1868–1945): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/35230
  5. ^ Reynold Alleyne Nicholson, entry
  6. ^ a b c Gibb, H. A. R. (2004), "Nicholson, Reynold Alleyne", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press
  7. ^ Nicholson, Reynold (2000). Kashf al-Mahjub of al-Hajvari. E. J. W. Gibb Memorial.

External links[edit]