What’s in a Word?

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Tasneem Vali

Writer at Learn to Laugh
Tasneem Vali is an architect, independent writer/editor and volunteer with ICNA and Guider, Girl Guides, Canada.

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Vol 6 - Issue 4 What's in a Word

Allah (swt) says: “This is the Book (the Quran), whereof there is no doubt, guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqun [the pious and righteous persons who fear Allah much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden)]…” (Al-Baqarah, 2:2)

Therefore, it is only logical to assume that we MUST read the Quran with understanding. By merely reading the Arabic text, we do get reward; however, we miss out on the real reason why the Quran is central to Islam. Most people have a ‘logical’ excuse for not reading the Quran using a translation – they claim that a translation is merely someone’s (namely the translator’s) point of view and, therefore, not what Allah (swt) wants us to truly comprehend. Agreed! That is why the first preference of any Muslim should be to learn at least that much Arabic, so that they can directly understand what Allah (swt) is asking of us. There is absolutely no justification for reading a translation, when we can directly read and grasp the true essence of what is being related to us. No matter how precise or accurate a translation is, it can never be compared with the original. If our excuse is time, then we should consider: “If we can spend more than thirteen years accruing education, so that we have social acceptability and status in this world, why not spend a couple of months trying to gain acceptability in the Hereafter?”

Having made that point, not everyone has an aptitude for languages or the opportunity to learn Arabic; hence, the next best option is reading a translation in the language one understands. The complete Quran has been translated into approximately fifty languages, and selected verses – into 114 languages. With such a mountain of available choices, it is hard to choose a translation that suits one’s needs, especially if one is reading a translation for the first time.

Below is a guide to help you navigate through the multitude of the available English translations. Some are freeware and are easily downloadable from the Internet at imanstar.com or other sites. All you have to do is to type in your search engine ‘Quran translation downloadable’ and you will get a limitless list. A note of caution: the following is a list of translations and not summaries (Tafseer) of the Quran. Summaries are different kinds of explanations altogether. The translations in this list will give you a basic and literal translation of the verses, including short explanatory notes, historical significance and geographical locations on subjects that might be a source of confusion or disorientation to a novice reader.

Translator Name of translation Comments
Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall “The Meaning of the Glorious Quran” (London, 1930). It keeps close to the original in archaic English. It is one of the most widely used English translations.
Abdullah Yusuf Ali “The Holy Quran: Translation and Commentary” (Lahore, 1934 37) Excellent English translation, though since he was not a scholar in the traditional sense, some of his excellent notes and commentary are more spiritual. A revised version, published by King Fahad press, is available. His is more a paraphrase than a literal translation, and his command over the English language reads beautifully in the translation.
Abdul Majid Daryabadi “The Holy Quran: with English Translation and Commentary” (Lahore, 1941-57) It contains the traditional Muslim viewpoint and is a faithful rendering, supplemented with useful notes on historical and geographical issues, particularly the illuminating discussions on comparative religion. These notes help to dispel the doubts in the minds of readers.
Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi “The Meaning of the Quran”(Lahore, 1967) A translation by Muhammad Akbar of the fabulous original in Urdu, “Tafhim Al-Quran.”
Muhammad Asad “The Message of the Quran”(Gibraltar, 1980) This highly readable translation contains useful background information about the Quranic Surahs and even provides exhaustive notes on various Quranic themes.
T.B. Irving “The Quran: The First American Version”(Vermont, 1985) The work has almost no explanatory notes. Using his own arbitrary judgment, Irving has assigned themes to each Quranic Ruku (Juz).
Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan “The Noble Quran”(Chicago, 1977) Explanatory English translation of the Holy Quran: A summarized version of Ibn Kathir, supplemented by At-Tabari with comments from Sahih Al-Bukhari. Hiba Magazine also consults “The Noble Quran” for the translation of various Ayahs referred to throughout the publication.

May Allah (swt) inspire everyone to read the Quran with understanding and help to implement it in their daily lives. Ameen.

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