Understanding the Quran

English Translations of the Quran

The first complete translation of the Quran was completed in 884 CE in Alwar (Sindh-India now Pakistan) by the orders of Abdullah bin Umar bin Abdul Aziz on the request of the Hindu Raja Mehruk, writes Kaleem Ullah Khan

The Quran being the word of Allah and revealed in Arabic is least translatable. Any translation of the Quran can only be considered an approximation of the meaning of the Quran.

Translation of certain parts of the Quran started in the life of the Prophet (SAW). It has been reported that when Jaafar ibn Abu Talib (cousin of the Prophet) recited the first forty verses of chapter Mary (Maryam) in the court of emperor Najashi (of Abysinnia), these verses were translated there and then into Amharic (local language). Another companion of the blessed Prophet, Salman- the Persian is said to have translated the opening chapter Al-Fatiha into Persian language. Although Musa ibn Sayyar Al-Aswari is credited with the oral translation of the entire Quran into Persian, the first complete translation of the Quran was completed in 884 CE in Alwar (Sindh-India now Pakistan) by the orders of Abdullah bin Umar bin Abdul Aziz on the request of the Hindu Raja Mehruk. It is not fully known whether this translation was in Hindi, Sanskrit or local Sindhi language. Latin translation of the holy Quran by English clergyman Robert of Ketton was done in 1143 (Six hundred and fifty years before the first complete translation in Urdu by Shah Abdul Qadir was published in 1790) and its printed edition appeared in 1543. Another Latin translation by Ludonic Marraccio appeared about hundred and fifty years later. First German translation appeared in 1616 and the first French rendition by Andre Du Ryer was published in 1647. Since then the Quran has been translated into more than two hundred and fifty local, regional, national and international languages including English- a language spoken, read and understood in most countries world over especially the west.

It is strange rather shocking that while as the process of translating Quran into western languages like Latin started in 12th century and English in 17th century, by non Muslim scholars, Muslims awoke to this need only in 20th century. This is perhaps one of the main reason that the image of Islam (which was dubbed as Mohammadanism) and Muslims got tarnished in the west because most of the western translators of the Quran deliberately distorted its meanings and in the absence of an authentic translation by a person of faith (Muslim) there was no source to put the record straight and remove and eradicate such misconceptions and present the meanings of the Quran in its pristine purity.
Some of the famous English translations of the Quran are:

1.    The Al-coran of Mohamet (1649) by Alexandor Ross. This translation based on Andre Du Ryer’s French rendition contains many distortions and misinterpretations.

2.    The Koran: commonly called the AlKoran of Mohammad (1734) by George Sale. Most widely circulated translation with more than 125 editions published so far.

3.    The Koran (1861) by John Meadows Rodwell adopted rearrangement of the Quran in so called chronological order and tries his best to establish that the basic sources of the Quran are Jewish and Christian scriptures.

4.    The Koran (1880) by Edward Henry Palmer.

5.    The Koran translated (1937) by Richard Bell.

6.    The Koran interpreted (1955) by Arthur John Arberry. It is a better translation compared to the previously published ones.

7.    The Koran (1956) by Niseem J. Dawood. The first translation by an Iraq born Jew.

8.    The Noble Quran (1979) by Aharon Ben Shemesh: this translation by another Jew was published by Massada Press (Tel Aviv).

9.    The Quran: A new translation (2004) by Thomas cleary and published by Starlatch Press USA).

10.    The Holy Quran (1905) by Muhammad Abdul Hakim Khan (a Physician by Profession) published from Patiala (India) is the first complete translation of the Quran by a Muslim.

11.    The Quran translated into English (Allahabad (India) 1912) by Mirza Abul Fadl.

12.    The Koran: prepared by various oriental learned scholars and edited by Mirza Hairat Dehlvi (1912).

13.    The Holy Quran: translation by Muhammad Ali Lahori (Ahmadi) published from Lahore (Now Pakistan) in 1917.

14.    Translation of the Holy Quran (1920) by Ghulam Sarwar.

15.    The Meaning of the Glorious Quran (London 1930) by Muhammad Marmaduke William Pickthall. This is the first translation which was received with full acceptance by Muslims and non Muslims.

16.    The Holy Quran: translation and commentary (1934) by Abdullah Yousuf Ali. This translation though by a person born in a Bohra family of Mumbai (India) has remained the most widely published and circulated translation since its first publication.

17.    The Glorious Quran, text, translation and commentary by Moulana Abdul Majid Daryaabadi (1941). This translation is more true to the text of the Quran and the footnotes inspiring and convincing.

18.    The message of the Quran presented in perspective (1974) by Hashim Amir Ali.

19.    The Noble Quran (Chicago 1977) by Taquidin Al Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan.

20. The Message of the Quran by Muhammad Asad (formerly Leopoled Weis) published in 1980 from Gijbraltor took the English translation of the Quran to new heights.

21.    Holy Quran: translation by M.H. Shakir (New York 1982).

22.    The Quran: translation by T.B. Iruing (Now Talim Ali) Published from Vermont in 1985.

23.    The Quran: The Conclusive word of God by Q. Arafat (Leicester 1991)

24.    The Quran (1990) English translation by Egypt born, husband wife team Ahmad and Dina Zidan now residents of England.

25.    The Quran: interpretation in context (1996) Quran Literary Institute Illinois USA by one of greatest scholars of Arabic and English in the present times Ahmad Zaki Hammad of Egypt. The author has adopted a unique and modern scientific method of explaining the Quran. His works about Quran include:
I.    The opening to the Quran: Commentary and Vocabulary reference of Al-Fatiha.
II.    One God: The Everlasting Refuge- Commentary and Vocabulary reference of Surat Al-Ikhlas.
III.    Father of the Flame: Commentary and Vocabulary reference of Surat al Masad (Al-Lahab).
IV.    The Fairest of the Stories: An interlinear Commentary on Surat Yousuf.
V.    Marry: the Chosen Women: An interlinear commentary on Surat Maryam.
VI.    The Great Tiding: An interlinear Commentary on Surat Al-Naba.

26.    The Quran: Arabic Text with corresponding English meaning by Um Muhammad- an American Women, who accepted Islam- Published by Saheeh International Jeddah KSA (1997). The translation is primarily based on Al-Hilali and Muhsin Khan’s Commentary.

27.    Meaning of the Noble Quran- world famous English translation published by Islamic Book Service New Delhi is a good attempt to make understanding of the Quran easy to the (non Arabic knowing) English speaking people.

28. Quran: the living truth by Bashir Ahmad Mohyidin (2003).

29.    The Quran- phrase by phrase English translation by Ali Quli Qarai (London 2003).

30. The meaning of the Noble Quran with explanatory notes by Justice Muhammad Taqi Usmani (Karachi 2007).

31.    The Gracious Quran: A Modern phrased interpretation in English by Ahmad Zaki Hammad (Quran Literary Institute, Illinois USA 2007).

In addition to the above mentioned translations and commentaries many Arabic and Urdu commentaries of the Quran have been rendered into English. Noteworthy among those are, Tafsir Ibn Kathir, English translation published by Darussalam Publisher and Distributors (Riyad 2000); A.A. Moudoodi’s Tafheemul Quran translated by Zafar Ishaq Ansari (Islamic Foundation UK), Syed Qutub’s Fizilal Al Quran translated into English as ‘In the Sahde of the Quran’ by Adil Salahi and Ashur Shamis; Mufti Muhammad Shafi’s Maariful Quran translated by Prof. M. Askar and M. Wali Razi and Muhammad Al Gazali’s ‘A Thematic Commentary on the Quran’ Published by International Institute of Islamic though Herndon USA in 2000 AC.