A Pakistani who learned Maori while living in Nigeria will launch his te reo translation of the Koran this weekend.

Shakil Monir, a 78-year-old whose first language is Urdu, taught himself Maori over 20 years, starting with an English-to-Maori dictionary, Maori Bible and a grammar book.

A Maori form of the traditional Muslim greeting "assalamu alaikum", peace be upon you, is "kia tau te rangimarie". But at the beginning of his work, it wasn't serenity Mr Monir said he felt, but frustration.

"It was hard work. I did not know grammar, that was a difficulty. I didn't have a talent for it but in one of those elementary books [the author wrote] 'everybody can learn Maori provided he does not give up'. And I did not give up."

Living in Nigeria, where he was teaching in a missionary college, and in Pakistan - and having no one to speak Maori to - meant much of his work happened through sending emails to a group of Maori academics.

They didn't understand Arabic so his advisers had to rely on English translations. That meant both sides had to make sure the linguistic jumps maintained the integrity of the original Arabic, as well as making sure the ideas were expressed with the "spirit" of te reo intact, Mr Monir said.

"The difficulty is losing something in translation. That was a big challenge."

Mr Monir is a Muslim from the Ahmadiyya branch of the faith.

Its its religious leader proposed in 1989 - the centenary of that particular belief - that the Koran should be translated into 100 languages.

Mr Monir decided he'd take responsibility for the te reo or Kuranu Tapu version and hoped it would spread Islam's message of unity and peace, something that was difficult against a backdrop of fundamentalism and terrorism.

It was recently presented to King Tuheitia at a marae outside Hamilton, which gave Mr Monir a chance to speak te reo to a large group of Maori, he said. "It was so nice, the people cheered after I'd finished."

The national president of the Ahmadiyya community Dr Mohammad Shorab said it was simply a gift.

"The Holy Koran is the most precious thing to Muslims, and its translation into te reo not only shows our respect and regard for the Maori community, but is also a way to share with New Zealand something special and meaningful to us," he said.

The launch begins with a powhiri at 10am on Saturday at Alexandra Park.

KORAN VERSES
2:257
* There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong.
* Kaore kau tetahi pehanga i te Whakapono o te tangata; e marama ana hoki te tika it e he

49:11
* Surely all believers are brothers. So make peace between brothers, and fear Allah that mercy may be shown to you.
* Tuturu, he tuakana, teina nga tangata whakapono ki a ratou ano; no reira me hohou i te rongo ki waenganui o o koutou tuakana, teina, me te wehi ki a Allah, kia tohungia koutou.