10 August, 2012

English Translations of The Noble Qur'an

Translations of the Noble Qur'an
For Muslims, no other book is as finely and as masterfully written as The Noble Qur'an, which is the Sacred Word of God. No other Book is as highly regarded and revered as this Book. It is the main foundation, reference and code of life for all Muslims. Revealed over fourteen centuries ago, it is still to this day in its exact original form. Written in classical Arabic, it is in the Noble Qur'an where halal and haram; and right and wrong, are defined. For any one wanting to appreciate the majesty and the power of the Noble Qur'an, it is best read in Arabic. No other language can do justice to the meaning of the Book and the poetic beauty in it, like as it is in its original form of Arabic. But, for millions of Muslims around the World, who pray using Arabic, and yet do not understand the language; and for the many non-Muslims who do not understand Arabic, they would need translations of the Book to understand its wonderful, sacred contents. English translations of the Book are many.

"When the Quran is read, listen to it with attention, and hold your peace: that ye may receive Mercy."
Surat Al-'A`rāf ~ 7:204
"By (the Token of) Time (through the ages), Verily Man is in loss, Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy." Surat Al-`Aşr translated in to English by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. This same Sura (chapter), read in its original Arabic form, has such an extensive meaning and is so wonderful, so finely and masterfully written, that translating it in to any other language is not truly possible. In any other language, the Sura looses its wonder and greatness.

From the multiple of English translations of the Noble Qur'an that I have read, my favorite translation, still remains Abdullah Yusuf Ali's. I find Yusuf Ali's as the most precise, most literal, while still being skillfully eloquent. It has an extensive commentary - which you don't have to agree with; like - Yusuf Ali believes that the Cave of the Seven Sleepers is in Turkey; while I believe the Cave of Ahl Al Kahf is in the Kingdom of Jordan. Yusuf Ali's translation has many such comments and notes that the reader might not agree with. It is best to read the direct translations; and ignore the commentaries if you don't find them necessary.

Of all the many translations in to English that I have read, one of my least favorite is Muhammad Mahmoud Ghali's: Towards Understanding the Ever-Glorious Qur’an. Ghali's translation differs from other translations I have read in being extremely source-language oriented; although Ghali tried best to translate the Noble Qur'an 'exactly' as it is, his translation is difficult to comprehend, especially for the non Mulsim; and it fails to capture the majesty of the Book. The translation by Dr Ghali shows clearly that its translator has gone to the trouble of consulting the well-known Arabic commentaries. The result is therefore a translation which has all the appearance of accuracy but is marred by infelicities in English which suggest that the translator's knowledge of the language has been derived too predominantly from books. His translation is often obscure or contains phrases that take one by surprise so that one is forced to refer to the original Arabic to fathom the meaning. More in Al Ahram.

Another good translation of the Book, is by Muhammad Muhsin Khan. This translation has may commentaries and notes which you don't have to agree with, too; it has many parenthetical comments within the texts, put in brackets, which I find - spoil the beauty of the translation and I find unnecessary. This translation, might offend non-Muslims by its comments and notes which may seemingly look against non-Muslims.

For non-Muslims, especially those who do not understand Arabic, I would very highly recommend Muhammad Asad's translation: The Message of the Qur'an. I have already mentioned this in an earlier post: although many Muslims - traditionalist scholars in particular - have pointed out mistakes in the translation, many people have considered Asad's translation of the Noble Qur'an, as the best and finest translation of The Book, into English, for non-Muslims and non-Arabic readers or speakers.

Many non-Muslims have tried to translate the Noble Qur'an; many, with very sinister motives. In Europe many of the first translations were carried out not for the benefit of Muslims without a knowledge of Arabic but with the object of excoriating Islam and showing to Christians the dangers of the "new" religion with which they were being threatened, both spiritually and militarily. It's not only enemies of Islam and those who hate it, who have been taking portions or sections of the Noble Qur'an and twisting and translating it to suit their own purposes or agendas. There are Muslim preachers, imams, ulamas and scholars who do that too, to suit their own objectives.

Revealed gradually over a period of approximately twenty-three years to its complete form; each (Aya) Verse or (Sura) Chapter of the Noble Qur'an was revealed for a certain reason. Each verse or section was revealed in context to a certain happening or event during The Messenger's life time. For you to understand the verses in the Holly Book, it's best to know why that particular Verse or Chapter was revealed. In reference or in relation to what - was that Verse or Chapter revealed. Even for those who understand Arabic, for most, they can only understand the basic meanings of its 114 chapters and over 6,000 verses. For the best translation in Arabic for the meanings of the verses and chapters in the Book, it is always best and most preferable to refer to the old, great translators like Ibn Kathir (Tafsir ibn Kathir) and Jalalayn (Tafsir al-Jalalayn). Note: for the best translations of the Noble Qur'an, it is always most advisable to get them in hard, book form from an approved source; and avoid what is online, which can easily be tempered with, unless you are very sure of the origin.

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