All Praise is to Allah. We Praise Him and
we ask Him for help and guidance. We seek refuge in Allah from the
evil within ourselves and our wrong doings. Whomever Allah guides
shall never be misguided and whomever Allah misguides shall never
be brought aright. Therefore I bear witness that there is no deity
worthy of worship except Allah, and He is Alone and I bear witness
that Muhammad (SAW) was His ‘abd and His last Messenger.
Insha’allah ta’ala this essay is an attempt
to inform the reader of what the importance is of learning the Quran
in our religion of Islam. It is to make a proposal to those who
wish to learn about this marvelous book. The proposal is, that the
learner open his/her mind and the writer provide the evidence for
the truth, wish should Insha’allah, without doubt, be accepted.
This book called Al-Quran, comes from the word ‘qara which lexically
means to recite. Therefore we know it is a book from Allah (SWT)
for us to read, recite, learn and understand. Now the question lies
at, how does an English person understand the Quran, which is written
and recited in Arabic? The answer is simple. Firstly the learner
must learn how to read Arabic, because the Quran does not remain
the Quran once the Arabic is removed. Secondly while they are in
the process of learning the lexical Arabic language on the whole,
they can start off my translation of the meanings of the Quran in
English. Many different writers over the past decade, have been
attempting to write various translations of the Quran in the English
language. They are even available in French, Spanish, Italian, Urdu,
Malay etc. These translations are readily available for people to
read and learn from in every Islamic bookstore, Internet web-site,
libraries etc. Even though there are so many various translations
of the meanings in the Noble Quran, still one is quite a bit of
a danger. Surely one will ask themselves, "what danger could a translation
of the Quran be of?" In reality, there are many dangers regarding
this issue. Namely it is because of people who have not had enough
learning or experience in the area of exegesis (tafseer), but they
decide to write a tafseer anyway. Sometimes it is due to lack of
understanding of the lexical Arabic language and sometimes it is
due to one not using the proper sources.
When a person is going to write a tafseer
of the Quran, they have to be extremely careful about what they
write because theses are the words of Allah, which are being expounded
on and clarified. Being careful encompasses having the correct methodology
of writing tafseers and having knowledgeable "scholars" supervising
the work. To continue, this essay will provide some clear evidence
on what the correct methodology of tafseer is and what the danger
is in attributing something to Allah’s book that does not belong.
Also, some concentration will be diverted towards and comparison
study of various tafseers in the English language. By the end of
this essay the reader should have a clear idea in what to search
for when trying to gain knowledge and what to avoid regarding matters
of doubt and error.
What is Tafseer?
When it comes to defining a Arabic term such
as this word, one must go to the root of the word to see what it
means. The word tafseer, comes from the root fasar which means to
uncover or display. Now, when one is going to uncover or display
something, which was previously somewhat covered and hard to comprehend,
then it will be like clarifying or expounding that thing. So this
leads to explaining what the thing is by laying it out in the open.
In the Quran the word tafseer is used as further explanation for
Allah (SWT) says (what may be translated into);
" For any parable they bring, I will bring you the truth
and a better explanation (tafseerun)" 
So here the term means to explain. In the
area of Ulum al-Quran, this term is defined as a branch of knowledge
by which the Quran is understood, its meanings explained, and its
points of law and wisdom derived. 
Now that the definition of tafseer has been
clarified, one must go on to understand why tafseer is so important
and how is it done.
Importance and Methodology of Tafseer
There are many reasons why it is so important
for knowledgeable people to provide us with tafseers of the Quran.
This is a general statement for all Muslims whether they be English-speaking
or Arabic-speaking. Everyone needs to understand the Quran and without
expounding and clarifying the meanings of it, it is impossible to
understand all of it. The Arabic-speaking individual might think
that they need no explanation of the Quran, but they will be in
grave error to think so. Firstly, because the language of the Quran
is a special Arabic that was spoken at the time it was revealed,
by the people who witnessed the revelations. This language is not
spoken anymore, it is almost non-existent in the world except for
what is in the Quran. Also certain Arabic words can have multiple
meanings, so if one does not research the meaning behind a certain
word in a certain verse, then they might very wrongly interpret
it. It has to be understood that many portions of the Quran are
pretty clear and self-explanatory and need not be explained, but
other parts may lead to some major confusion if the person does
not know, who the verse is referring to, what the story is, in what
time period did this take place? This is called Azbaab un-Nuzul.
To know all of this, implies that one must seek knowledge of the
Quran from the proper sources of tafseer.
Further studying leads to the concern of how
one must judge if a tafseer is written properly or not. This is
not an easy task to do, but after knowing how a tafseer is initially
supposed to be written it should make it somewhat more apparent
to the reader when they see something wrong in it. It has to first
be understood that the Quran is one Book and it has one meaning
or message. It cannot be one Book with many different implications.
So if there are many tafseer books and they are all different, it
should be understood that all of them cannot be correct. A tafseer
cannot be written on someone’s mere knowledge of the deen. They
cannot pick up Allah’s book and start to interpret its meanings
however they understand it. The reason is that is someone misinterprets
the Quran then they are attributing something to Allah’s speech
which Allah (SWT) never said. This is indeed a grave sin, for Allah
(SWT) has stated in the Quran (what may be translated to mean),
"Who can be more wicked then one who invents a lie against
"And yet among men are such as dispute about Allah without
knowledge and flow every Satan obstinate in rebellion"
"While they have no knowledge thereof. They follow but
a conjecture and verily conjecture avails nothing against Truth."
So here we can see Allah warning us over and
over again not to speak of the religion or about Him without knowledge.
We must understand that there was only one human being who ever
lived and had the compete understanding of the Quran. That was Abul
Qaasim Muhammad bin Abdullah (SAW), and he was the last Messenger
of Allah. He was sent to us in order to expound and clarify the
Quran so the people living in his time could learn it, implement
it, and then pass it on to the following generations. We have to
understand though, that he did not explain the Quran, word for word.
The reason for this is that the Quran was sent down in the language
of the Quresh, which were the first tribe to witness the early revelations.
Secondly, because they witnessed the events pertaining to the revelations
they did not need clarification for why and when a certain surah
was revealed. This does not mean that the Prophet (SAW) did not
explain any of the Quran because he did, there were many surahs
and ayat that confused certain sahabah and therefore they had to
be explained to them. Also different sahabah moved in from different
parts of the world and they might not have witnessed the early revelations
and therefore needed to know the history. It should be understood
also, that the Prophet (SAW) did not really need to "explain" every
aspect of the Quran, because the sahabah used to watch him really
closely in everything he did. So like the hadeeth of Ayesha (ra)
states that, "He (SAW) was a living Quran". This means that his
way of teaching the others was to act and live according to the
Quran and then others would watch him and do the same.
This leads to the discussion of when tafseers
were actually needed. After the death of the Prophet (SAW) when
the sahabah moved around the world to teach Muslims about their
religion, they started to do tafseer of the Quran. This was an attempt
to make the people understand their religion better. The sahabah
though, did not have many differences in the interpretations of
the meanings in the Quran. Surely they had different methods of
performing tafseer, some chose certain examples over others, others
had a different set of words to describe something, but these things
never contradicted the real direct meaning of an ayat or surah.
The sahabah had a certain methodology that they followed and this
was the same methodology they passed on to the next generation to
come. This methodology was of three "major" categories:
Firstly, they would try and understand the Quran in
light of other verses of the Quran
Secondly, they would understand the Quran in light of
the Prophetic traditions that they had preserved with them.
Thirdly, they would understand the Quran in light of
the Arabic language.
There were some other ways they included in
their tafseers, such as certain stories from the People of the Book
which were backed up in the Quran and Sunnah, or they would sometimes
use personal ijtehad (this was very limited) little to none. They
feared saying anything about the Quran with opinion because they
knew what a big sin it would be upon them. As Abu Bakr (ra) used
to say, when asked a question about a verse from the Quran, "What
earth would carry me and what sky would shade me if I should speak
about the Quran with my opinion or by something I do not know".
And Umar (ra) was known to say, "Beware of using your opinions
in religious matters". 
As for the three main sources of tafseer,
they all agreed upon and they all used this methodology to make
sure they stuck tot he truth. For us on the other hand, we must
add something to this methodology. Since the sahabah are no longer
living here to teach us, we have to use their teachings in our tafseers
too. We know that there are not people more knowledgeable like the
sahabah such as Ibn Abbas, Ibn Mas’ud, Ali ibn Abu Talib, Abu Bakr,
Umar, Uthman, Ubay ibn Kaab and many more. There are many authentic
hadeeth, where the Prophet (SAW) explained the knowledge and characters
of these men and he ordered us to follow them after him. So we have
to use the Quran, the Sunnah, the explanations of the Sahabah and
their students, and then we can use the Arabic language, insha’allah.
This is the same methodology every writer of tafseer is supposed
to be using but as we look at some major translations of the Quran,
we will come to know how many of them are lacking in this area.
Comparison of English Translations/Tafseer
One of the major signs of a translation or
tafseer that has not followed the methodology of the sahabah is
that it will have mistakes in the area of Aqeedah. This is what
the focus of this comparison will be on. Major mistakes in the area
of Allah’s Attributes or His Being. As the followers of the Prophet
(SAW), as the Ahlus-Sunnah we believe what he has told us about
Allah and what his companions have explained to us on this issue.
That is, that when it comes to the Quran we are supposed to understand
the literal text of the meanings, UNLESS it has to do with Allah’s
attributes. What is meant by Allah’s attributes is His hands, face,
shin, His Arsh, His Kursi, His Istawa (ascension) etc. Whenever
the Quran says anything about these attributes we take their apparent
meaning and become silent about them. We do not make ta’weel and
expound and clarify these things. The reason is that how can we
expound and clarify something which we never seen and have no knowledge
about? Therefore if we see that it says Allah has hands, we say
"Allah has hands", the same goes for other attributes. We do not
say, "hands like ours", because the Quran tells us "There is nothing
like unto Him". In the same way, we do not negate these attributes
and say, "there is no such thing". This is usually the way of the
Mu’tazillites and also some A’sharites. This is not the way of the
As we take a closer look at the following
comparison of tafseers and translations, the reader may judge for
themselves what is correct and what is incorrect.
Let us begin with the most popular of English
tafseers in describing the few ayat from Surah al-Baqarah, known
as Ayat ul-Kursi. The ayat are as follows,
"Allah! None has the right to be worshipped
but He, the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that
exists. Neither slumber nor sleep overtake Him…….until it ends with….
His "kursi" extends over the heavens and the earth,
and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them. And He
is the Most High, the Most Gracious" 
As we will see, the main focus here will be
on how the word "kursi" has been described in the following translations.
The Holy Quran by:
Syed Abu Ala Maududi
(summarized version of Tafheem al-Quran).
He interprets the end of ayat-al-kursi in
the following way;
"His Kingdom extends over the Heavens and
Explanation: The word used in the text
is kursi (chair), which is generally used as a symbol for Kingdom
and Authority metaphorically.
Now as we discussed earlier, if Allah called
it "kursi" then we cannot make it a metaphor. What evidence does
one have to make this statement? Lets move on to the next popular
The Holy Quran: translation
and commentary by: Abdullah Yusuf Ali
"His Throne doth extend over the Heavens
and the Earth"
Explanation: Throne means seat, power,
knowledge and a symbol of authority.
One should keep in mind that Throne is the
definition of Arsh not Kursi.
The Holy Quran by Muhammed
"The heavens and the Earth are under His
Explanation: none given
Al-Quran al-Karim: The
Quran Translations by M.H.Shakir
"His Knowledge extends over the Heavens
and the Earth"
Explanation: none given
Keep in mind, here, the word kursi has been
defined as the word Ilm should be defined. Knowledge means Ilm.
Now lets look at some decent translations
of this ayah.
The Quran: First American
Version by T.B. Irving
"His seat extends far over the Heavens
and the earth"
Explanation: Kursi means chair or seat.
The Holy Quran: English
Translation and Editing by Saheeh International
"His Kursi extends over the Heavens and
Explanation: Kursi- chair or footstool. It
is not to be confused as Al-Arsh (The Throne) which is infinitely
higher and greater than Al-Kursi.
Interpretations of the Meanings of The
Noble Quran: by Muhammed Muhsin Khan and Muhammed
A Summarized version of at-Tabari, al-Qurtubi
and Ibn Katheer. Commentary from Saheeh al-Bukhari.
"His Kursi extends over the Heaven and Earth"
Explanation: Kursi: literally a footstool
or chair, and sometimes wrongly translated as throne. The Kursi
mentioned here in this verse should be distinguished from the Arsh
mentioned elsewhere in the Quran. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:
"The Kursi compared to the Arsh is nothing but like a ring thrown
out upon open space of the desert." If the Kursi extends over the
entire universe, then how much greater is the Arsh. Indeed Allah
the Creator of both the Kursi and the Arsh, is Most Great [Fatawa
Ibn Taymiyah, Vol.5, pg 54-55.] Ibn Taymiyah said:
a) To believe in the Kursi
b) To believe in the Arsh (Throne). It is
narrated by Muhammed ibn Abdullah and by other religious scholars
that the Kursi is in front of the Arsh and it is at the level of
After reading the various interpretations
of the word Kursi in Surah al-Baqarah it has become quiet apparent
as to what is the right translation. This is not the only mistake
these people have made. In other parts of the Quran they have misinterpreted
the word Arsh itself and also have misinterpreted Allah’s ascending
(Istawaa). This time we will start with the correct interpretation
from the Noble Quran and Saheeh International, then work are way
up to the others. Lets look at two verses one describing Arsh, the
other describing Istawa.
Noble Quran by Muhammed
Muhsin Khan and Taqi-u-Deen al-Hilaali
"And His Throne (Arsh) was on the water…"
 (describing Arsh)
Explanation: Hadeeth from Saheeh al-Bukhari
" Do you see what He has spent since He created the Heavens and
the Earth? Yet all that has not decreased what is in His Right Hand.
His Throne is over the water and in His other Hand is the bounty
or power to bring about death, and He raises some people and brings
others down." (Vol, 9. #515)
"Then He rose over (Istawa) the Throne
(really in a matter befitting His Majesty)"  (describing
"His Throne had been upon water"
"He established Himself above the Throne"
The Quran: T.B. Irving
"His Throne rises over water"
"Then He mounted on the Throne"
"His Dominion is over the Water"
"He established His Dominion over the Throne"
"And His Dominion extends on the water"
"He mounted on the Throne (of authority)"
"And His Throne was over the waters"
Explanation: It is scientifically correct
to say that all life was evolved out of water, and thus the statement
also occurs in the Quran. The Throne of God’s authority is metaphorically
expressed as over the waters i.e.. As regulating life
Some such mystic meaning, I think also attaches
to Gen i, 2.
"And He is firmly established on the Throne
Explanation: God’s attributes may be summed
up with reference to Knowledge, Power and Mercy.
"Owner of the Mighty Throne"
"He sat upon the Throne"
Explanation: (In my own summarized words)
The aspect of "He sat upon the Throne" is
very difficult from human comprehension. It might be that Allah
has created from Himself a limitless Kingdom, which is called Al-Arsh,
or in the Arabic language it might be a figurative speech implying
power or kingdom.
In conclusion of this essay it is obvious
that even though these people at times will reject the whole aspect
of Arsh, at other times they will have no other way of explaining
it except as Arsh. In this they contradict themselves. They cannot
define Arsh as Dominion because the Arabic word of Dominion is Mulk.
They cannot describe Arsh as being Knowledge because the Arabic
word for that is Ilm. So they should be left with nothing accept
the explanation that was given to us by the scholars of the early
generations, who affirmed All of Allah’s sifaat. Similar mistakes
will be found in translations like Pickthall and others. In Pickthall
in fact, he along with many others have translated the word Burooj,
as Zodiacal signs. This is of course forbidden in Islam, so why
would Allah swear by zodiacal signs? It all returns back to the
root of the problem. Not relying on authentic sources in matters
as important as this and delving into errors that might fall into
Shirk. Allah’s Istawa has been explained in many places in the Quran
and it is even used when Allah speaks about raising E’sa (as) back
to the heavens. This is also a refutation to those who believe in
the aspect of Allah being "everywhere". They are in total contradiction
to the Quran and the Sunnah. It has been a sincere effort to try
and explain to the reader and the seekers of knowledge to be very
careful when taking material on the deen from just anyone. We must
go back to the works of the earliest Muslims who followed the Ahlus-Sunnah
and we must come down the line up until the scholars of today who
are from Ahlus-Sunnah and go by the same teachings and beliefs.
May Allah save us Allah from deviating from the right path, may
He keep us on Siraatul-Mustaqeem, may He forgive those who fallen
into grave error and may He grant us all the highest rank in Jannah
in accompanying our beloved Prophet Muhammed (SAW).
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon
Muhammed, his family, his companions and all his followers until
the Last Day.
Abdullah Yusuf Ali. The Holy Quran, translation and
commentary. Brentwood, Maryland: Amana Corp., 1983.
Abu Ameenah Bilal Phillips. Usool at-Tafseer. Sharjah,
U.A.E.: Dar al-Fatah Co., 1997.
Ahmed Von Denffer. Ulum al-Quran. Leicester, UK: The
Islamic Foundation., 1994.
Habib Badr. Tafseer ibn Katheer (summarized in english).
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Maktabah Dar-us-Salam., 1997.
Khurram Murad. The Way To the Quran. Birmingham, UK:
Islamic Propagation Centre Internationa., 1985
M.H. Shakir. The Quran Translation, Al-Quran al-Kareem.
Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsal Quran, Inc., 1993
Muhammad Muhsin Khan. The translation of the meanings
of Saheeh al-Bukhari. Lahore, Pakistan: Kazi Publications.,
Muhammad Muhsin Khan and Taqi-ud-Deen al-Hilaali. The
translations of the Meanings of the Noble Quran. Riyadh, Saudi
Arabia: Maktabah Dar-us-Salam., 1993.
Muhammed Sarwar. The Noble Quran. Elmhurst, NY: Islamic
Seminary., (no date)
Safi ur-Rehman al-Mubarakfuri and Salaahudeen Yusuf.
Ahsan al-Bayan. Lahore, Pakistan: Maktabah Dar-us-Salam., 1990.
T.B. Irving: The Quran: first American version. Brattltboro,
Vermont: Amana books.,1985.
The Quran: In English. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Abul Qaasim
1 Surah al-Furqan 33
2 Al-Itqaan fee Ulum al-Quran, (2/174).
3 Surah al-Anam 93
4 Surah al-Hajj 3-4
5 Surah al-Najm 28
6 Many such statement in Jami Bayan al-Ilm wa Fadhlihi,
Abu Amr ibn Abdul Barr.
7 Surah al-Baqarah 255
8 Surah at-Tauba 129
9 Surah al-Araf 4