In 1980, the Saudi religious establishment felt the need for a reliable English translation and exegesis of the Qur'an to be made available for the increasing English language readership across the globe. After researching the various translations in print at the time, four high-level committees under the General Presidency of the Department of Islamic Research chose Yusuf Ali's translation and commentary as the best available for publication. After significant revisions, a large Hardback edition was printed in 1985 by the King Fahd Holy Qur'an Printing Complex of Saudi Arabia, according to Royal Decree No. 12412. This edition served as the officially sanctioned English translation of the Saudi religious establishment, until it was replaced by the Noble Qur'an Translation upon the later's arrival in the marketplace.
Ali began his translation in the 1920s, after he had retired from the Civil Service and settled in the United Kingdom.
The translation was first published in 1934 by Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers of Lahore, India (later Pakistan), one of the major Islamic publishing houses still in business today. The original translation was in its third edition at the time of Ali's death.
Ali, Abdullah Yusuf (1934). The Holy Qur-ān: English Translation & Commentary (With Arabic Text) (1st ed.). Kashmiri Bazar, Lahore: Shaik Muhammad Ashraf.
Ali, Abdullah Yusuf (1938). The Holy Qur-an: Text, Translation & Commentary (3rd ed.). Kashmiri Bazar, Lahore: Shaik Muhammad Ashraf.