An Annotated Bibliography
Before the fairly recent publication of the massive World
Bibliography of The Translations of The Meanings of The
Holy Qur'an (Istanbul, OIC Research Center, 1986),
it was hard to even track down the material on the translations
of the Holy Qur'an in various languages. Nonetheless, since
the Bibliography is not annotated, the reader gets no idea
about the translations make-up, his dogmatic presuppositions
and his approach to the Qur'an, as well as the quality of
the translation. The present annotated bibliography, taking
into account only complete English translations to date,
attempts to answer some of the above questions. In preparing
the bibliography I received all possible help from the Islamic
Foundation, Leicester (UK), which is thankfully acknowledged.
BY MUSLIMS, 1905-59
Khan, Mohammad Abul Hakim, The
Holy Qur'an, (Patiala, 1905), 2 edns. Subtitle:
'With short notes based on the Holy Qur'an or the authentic
traditions of the Prophet (pbuh), or/and New Testaments
or scientific truth. All fictitious romance, questionable
history, and disputed theories have been carefully avoided.
A physician by profession, Abul Hakim Khan was not thoroughly
versed in Islam. Initially he had Qadyani leanings which
he later recanted. His translation is more of a rejoinder
to the anti-Islam missionary propaganda rife in the day
than a piece of sound Qur'anic scholarship. Contains scant
notes. His translation is badly marred by literalism.
Dehlawi Mirza Hairat (ed.), The
Koran: Prepared by Various Oriental Learned Scholars and
Edited by Mirza Hairat (Delhi, 1912). 2
edns. Though intended as 'a complete and exhaustive reply
to the manifold criticisms of the Koran by various Christian
authors such as Drs. Sale, Rodwell, Palmer and Sir W. Muir',
it contains little material to justify this claim. Verses
numbered part-wise instead of Sura-wise. The language used
in the translation is quite weak.
Abu'l Fadl, Mirza, The Qur'an
Translated into English from the Original Arabic (Allahabad,
1912). 3 edns. Dedicated to Sultan Jahan Begum,
[Lady] ruler of Bhopal [India]. References to the Bible
with a view to bringing out the superiority of the Qur'an.
Refutation of the missionary views in a casual manner. Includes
Pickthall, Muhammad Marmaduke William,
The Meaning of the Glorious Qur'an (London, 1930).
At least 27 edns. One of the most widely used translations
done by an English man of letters who accepted Islam. Faithfully
represents the sense of the original. His use of the Biblical
English, however, tends to be a stumbling block for an average
reader. Too brief notes on the circumstantial setting of
the Suras and the Qur'anic allusions hence not very helpful
for an uninitiated reader of the Qur'an.
Ali Abdullah Yusuf, The Holy
Qur'an: Translation and Commentary (Lahore, 1934-37).
At least 35 edns. Another extremely popular translation.
Written in style and couched in chaste English, it stands
out above other translations as a highly readable rendering
of the Qur'an into English. Copious notes are reflective
of Yusuf Ali's vast learning. Nonetheless, some of his notes,
particularly, on the Qur'anic eschatology and angelology
smack of apologia and pseudo-rationalism. Sufistic bias
is also quite marked in his notes. (For a detailed discussion
on Yusuf Ali's unorthodox views, please see Kidwai, A.R.,
'Abdullah Yusuf Ali's Views on the Qur'anic Eschatology',
Muslim World League Journal 12 (5) February 1985, pp. 14-17).
Daryabadi, Abdul Majid, The
Holy Qur'an with English Translation and Commentary
(Lahore, 1941-57). At least 4 edns. A faithful,
though largely unacknowledged, translation.
BY MUSLIMS, 1960-86
Jullundri, Ali Ahmad Khan, Translation
of the Glorious Holy Qur'an with Commentary (Lahore,
1962). 3 edns. The translator boastfully entitles
his work as 'After few centuries a True and Easy translation
of the Glorious Holy Qur'an'. Marred by numerous mistakes
of translation. Appended to the translation is a lengthy
appendix dealing with diverse topics in a bizarre way, heaps
abuses in the Saudi rulers and slights the role of Sunna.
A simply unreadable work.
Ali, S.V. Ahmad, The Holy Qur'an
with English Translation and Commentary according to the
version of the Holy Ahlul Bait. With special notes from
Ayatullah Agha Haji Mirza Mahdi Pooya Yazdi (Karachi,
1964). 3 edns. Vindicates on the authority of
the Qur'an itself such sectarian doctrines of Shias as Imamat,
Muta'a (temporary marriage), the nomination of
Ali as the Prophet's successor, Taqqiyya (hiding
the faith), Tabarra (cursing), and mourning in
the month of Muharram. Invectives used against both the
Umayyad and Abbasid rulers. Strongly refutes the view that
the Shias believe in the alteration (Tahreef) of the Qur'an.
Tariq, Abdur Rahman and Gilani,
Ziauddin, The Holy Qur'an: Rendered into English
(Lahore, 1966). l edn. An explanatory translation
supplemented by brief notes, without the Arabic text. Though
this translation is in consonance with the orthodox Muslim
viewpoint, its language and presentation leave a lot to
Latif, Syed Abdul, al-Qur'an:
Rendered into English (Hyderabad, 1969).1
edn. Apart from the translation of the Qur'an, Syed Abdul
Latif also rendered Abul Kalam Azad's incomplete Urdu
tafsir The Tarjuman al-Allah into English. Devoid of
notes and the text, this translation does not advance much
one's understanding of the Qur'an. At best, it represents
the author's pious enthusiasm to undertake a noble enterprise.
Ali, Hashim Amir, The Message
of the Qur'an Presented in Perspective (Tokyo, 1974).
1 edn. In his zeal to bring out the thematic unity of the
Qur'an, the translator has devised a new Sura order, re-arranging
the Suras under the following five sections which he calls
as the five 'books' of the Qur'an: Book I - The Portal,
al-Fatihah; Book II - The Enlightenment, ar-Ruh, 18 earliest
Meccan Suras; Book III - The Guidance, al-Huda, 36 early
Meccan Suras; Book IV -The Book, al-Kitab, 36 late Meccan
Suras; and Book V - The Balance, al-Mizan, 24 Medinite Suras.
Going a step further, he has made up 600 sections of the
Text, in place of the standard 558 sections, for, what he
calls, perspective purposes. In making a mess of the Sura
and ruku order of the Qur'an, it does not occur to Hashim
Amir Ali that the thematic unity of the Qur'an has been
quite remarkably demonstrated by some exegetes without disturbing
the traditional arrangements of the Qur'an. The level of
translation is, however, fairly good.
al-Hilalai, Taquiuddin and Khan,
Muhammad Muhsin, Explanatory English Translation of
the Meaning of the Holy Qur'an (Chicago, 1977).
2 edns. It is, in fact, a summarized English version of
Ibn Kathir's exegesis, supplemented by al-Tabri's, with
comments from Sahih al-Bukhari. Both the translators have
been introduced as Salafi (traditional followers of the
way of the prophet). The translation is intended to 'present
the meanings of the Qur'an which the early Muslims had known'.
Ahmad, Muhammad Mofassir, The
Koran: The First Tafsir in English (London, 1979).
1 edn. Explanatory notes have been interpolated into the
translated text. It marks a serious deviation from the norms
of the Qur'anic exegesis in that it would open the floodgate
for presenting any material as the translation of the Text
itself. Grossly misinterprets several Qur'anic terms. For
example, al-Ghayb (the Unseen) is rendered as the 'consequence
of one's action'.
Muhammad Asad, The Message
of The Qur'an (Gibraltar, 1980). l edn.
Translated in chaste, idiomatic English by a convert from
Judaism to Islam. However, it contains some serious departures
from the orthodox viewpoint on a number of Qur'anic statements.
Asad appears to be reluctant to accept the literal meaning
of some Qur'anic verses. For example, he doubts the throwing
of Ibrahim into fire, Jesus speaking in the cradle; refers
to Khidr and Dhulqarnain as mythical figures and expresses
unconventional views on abrogation (Naskh) theory. (For
details please see Arfaque Malik's review in the Muslim
World Book Review, Vol. 1, No. 1 (1980), pp. 5-7
Zayid, Mahmud Y. (checked and revised)
in collaboration with a committee of Muslim scholars, The
Qur'an: An English Translation of the Meaning of the Qur'an
(Beirut, 1980). Based mainly on a Jew, N.J. Daud's
English translation of the Qur'an hence repeats the mistakes
of mistranslation that mar Daud's translations. In the supplement
on Muslim religious practices and law both the Sunni and
Shia doctrines have been presented.
Sarwar, Sheikh Muhammad, The
Holy Qur'an: Arabic Text and English Translation (Elmhurst,
1981). l edn. Without any notes this explanatory
translation paraphrases the contents of the Qur'an in a
Shakir, M.M., Holy Qur'an
(New York 1982). An example of blatant plagiarism
in that about 90% of this English translation has been verbatim
copied from Muhammad Ali Lahori's English translation of
the Qur'an. Though it does not contain any notes, the Shia
doctrines have been indicated in the Subject index of the
Qur'an with pointed reference to the Qur'anic verses in
order to give the impression that such Shia doctrines as
Imamat, Ali as the chosen one, martyrdom of Hussain,
khums, Masoom (the infallible ones) and
Vali occur in the Qur'an itself.
Ali Ahmad, al-Qur'an: A Contemporary
Translation (Karachi, 1984), 2 edns. Devoid
of explanatory notes or background information about Suras,
this translation rendered in fluent idiomatic English is
vitiated by several instances of mistranslation. Contains
unorthodox, apologetic and pseudo-rationalistic views on
the hell, stoning of Abraha's army, the Tree, the Verses
II:73, 248 and 282, III:49 and IV:01.
Irving, T.B., The Qur'an: the
First American Version (Vermont, 1985).
1 edn. Apart from the obnoxious title this translation is
not al-together free from mistakes of translation and loose
expressions, such as in al-Baqarah II:37 and 157. Assigns
theme(s) to each Qur'anic ruku (section). Contains neither
the Text nor explanatory notes. Uses American English expressions.
Khatib, M.M., The bounteous
Koran: A Translation of Meaning and Commentary (London,
1986). 1 edn. An authentic and faithful translation
of the Qur'an in readable, fluent English. Free from irksome
use of archaic Biblical English as in Pickthall, Yusuf Ali
and Daryabadi. Contains a historically based 'Introduction'
discussing Islam, the Qur'an and Sirah, and brief yet insightful
notes on the circumstantial setting and the meaning of certain
Qura'nic allusions and expressions. Suffers from a few inaccuracies
in translation. For example al-Furqan XXV:16, 29, 46 and
62, al-Maidah V:67 and Maryam X1X:26 and 34, etc. (For details
see A.R. Kidwai's review on it in Muslim World Book Review
(Spring 1988), Vol. 8, No.3, pp. 11-13.
BY NON-MUSLIMS, QADIYANIS, 1917-70
Ali, Muhammad, The Holy Qur'an:
English Translation (Lahore 1917). At least
10 edns. The translation supplemented by exhaustive notes
betrays the translator's Qadiyani beliefs. Grossly twists
and misinterprets the Qur'anic verses related to the Promised
Messiah and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the seal of prophethood.
Swayed by pseudo-rationalism, Muhammad Ali denies the
occurrence of some miracles such as the gushing forth of
twelve springs as a result of the Prophet Moses' striking
his staff (al-Baqarah II:60), angelhood of Harut and Marut
(al-Baqarah II:102), Jinns listening to the Qur'an (al-Jinn
LXXII:01) and the stoning of Abraha's army to death by the
birds (al-Fil CV:3). The language used in his translation
is not also up to the mark.
Sarwar, Ghulam, Translations
of the Holy Qur'an (Singapore, 1920). 8
edns. The introduction constitutes a brilliant critique
of the English translations of the Qur'an by Sale, Rodwell,
Palmer and Muhammad Ali. Devoid of the Text and notes. Lavishes
a gushing eulogy on both the translation and approach of
Muhammad Ali. The only deflect Sarwar discovers in Muhammad
Ali's translation is the 'very poor construction of a great
many passages in the body of the translation' hence his
Ali, Sher, The Holy Qur'an
(Lahore, 1955). 13 edns. The official Qadyani
translation of the Qur'an. Apart from retaining the unpardonable
faults of misinterpretation and mistranslation found in
Muhammad Ali's translation, Sher Ali interpolated more blatantly
the Qadyani doctrines into his translation.
Peer, Salahuddin, The Wonderful
Koran (Aminabad, 1960). 2 edns. Another
Qadyani translation of the Qur'an.
Nuri, Khadim Rahman, The Running
Commentary of the Holy Qur'an with under- bracket comments
(Shillong 1964) 1 edn. Sufistic leanings of the
translator characterize this Qadyani translation of the
Farid, Malik Gulam (ed.), The
Holy Qur'an: English Translation and Commentary (Rabwah,
1969). 2 edns. The commentary is based on Mirza
Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad's Urdu Translation of the Qur'an.
Published under the auspices of Hadrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad,
Third Successor of the Promised Messiah and Head of the
Ahmadiyyah Movement in Islam'.
Khan, Zafrullah, The Qur'an:
Arabic Text and English Translation (London, 1970).
4 edns. A notable Qadyani translation. Marred by unaccountable
liberties in that Zafrullah Khan, following the footsteps
of other Qadyanis, does not recognize the Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh) as the last Prophet.
BY OTHER NON-MUSLIMS, 1649-1956
Ross, Alexander, The Alcoran
of Mahomet translated out of Arabique into French, by the
Sieur Du Ryer...And newly Englished, for the satisfaction
of all that desire to look into the Turkish vanities
(London, 1649). 8 edns. The latest edition came
out in 1856. A very crude specimen of the Orientalist-missionary
approach to the Qur'an. In his 'Introductory Note to the
Christian Reader' Ross specifies his purpose: 'I thought
good to bring it to their colours, that so viewing thine
enemies in their full body thou must the better prepare
to encounter...his Alcoran'. In the same rabidly anti-Islamic
vein is the Appendix to the work entitled as 'A needful
caveat or Admonition, for them who desire to know what use
may be made of or if there be danger in reading the al-Coran'.
As to the quality of the translation itself, Zwemer's remark
is quite illuminating: 'He (Ross) was utterly unacquainted
with Arabic, and not a thorough French scholar; therefore
his translation is faulty in the extreme'. Zwemer, S.M.,
Muslim World, V, (1915), p.250.
Sale, G., The Koran: Commonly
called the Alkoran of Mohammed (London, 1734).
At least 123 edns. The latest edition appeared in 1975.
Contains an exhaustive Preliminary discourse on Sira and
the Qur'an. In translating the Qur'an Sale's missionary
intent is quite marked. For in the note to the reader he
suggests the rules to be observed for 'the conversion of
Mohammedans' (p. v); evaluates the Prophet thus: 'For how
criminal soever Mohammed may have been in imposing a fake
religion on mankind, the praises due to his real virtues
ought not to be denied him' (p. vii), talks of different
editions of the Qur'an which, for him, vary in contents
(p. 45), points out the borrowings in the Qur'an, (pp. 49
and 50) and refers to the piecemeal revelation of the Qur'an
as a 'contrivance' (p.50). Full of instances of omission
and mistranslation. For example, Ar-Rahman nir Raheem,
is simply rendered as 'Most Merciful'. The recurrent Qur'anic
address, Ya aayuhan nas is translated as 'O people
of Mecca'. Renders as 'Substitute' and as 'Secret History'.
Parts of some verses have been altogether omitted, as for
example, in Ale-Imran III:98 is not translated.
Rodwell, J.M., The Koran
(London, 1861). 32 edns. Question the authenticity
of the traditional Sura order and invents a new so called
chronological Sura order. In the Introduction he refers
to the prophet as the crafty author of the Qur'an; indicates
the Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian and other sources of
the Qur'an; advises missionary activists how to carry out
their work and hold the prophet a victim of self-deception,
a cataleptic subject from his early youth...liable to morbid
and fantastic hallucinations (p.14). Suffers from a number
of mistakes of mistranslation and misinterpretation. For
example, (al-Mudathir LXXIV:39) is translated as 'they of
God's right hand', (al-Kauthar CVIII:2) as 'Pray therefore
to the Lord and slay the victims'. Explains the use of the
word abd (al-Alaq XCVI:10) in the Qur'an thus: 'Since it
was the slaves who had embraced Islam, the Qur'an uses this
Palmer, E.H., The Koran
(London 1880). 15 edns. A Cambridge scholar entrusted
with the preparation of a new translation of the Qur'an
for Max Muller 'Sacred Books of the East Series'. Nykl notes
no less than 70 instances of omissions and mistranslation
in his translation. Nykl, A.R., 'Notes on E.M. Palmer's
The Qur'an in the Journal of the American Oriental Society
56 (1936), pp. 77-84.
Bell, Richard, The Qur'an translated
with a crucial rearrangement of Surahs (London 1937).
4 edns. His aim in translating the Qur'an is to 'understand
the deliverances of Muhammad afresh' (p. v). Apart from
describing the Prophet as the author of the Qur'an, Bell
believes that the Qur'an in its written form was 'actually
written by Muhammad himself' (p vi). Illustrates 'alteration,
substitutions and derangements in the text'. For example,
II:209 is a later addition, 206-208 are unconnected scraps
and 210 is the original continuation of the verse No. 205.
On each page he indicates his peculiar arrangement of verses.
Arberry, A.J., The Koran Interpreted
(London, 1955). 12 edns. Contains no explanatory
notes or background information about Suras. Not altogether
free from omissions and mistranslations. For example al-Anfal
VIII:59 is rendered as: 'And thou are not supposed that
they who disbelieve have outstripped Me' whereas the correct
translation would be: 'Let not those who disbelieve deem
that they have escaped Me'. An-nabi-ul Ummi is mistranslated
as 'the Prophet of the common folk'. Other instances of
mistranslation are: Ale-Imran III:43; Nisaa IV:72, 147 and
157; Maida V:55; Araf VII:157; al-Sajdah XXXII:23; al-Anfal
VIII:59 and Yunus X:88, etc.
Dawood, N.J., The Koran
(London, 1956). 11 edns. An Iraqi Jew. Speaks
of the influence of Jewish and Christian teachings on the
Prophet and condemning the traditional Sura order follows
the chronological Sura order. Marred by serious mistakes
of translation 'bani Adam" (al-Araf VII:31) is rendered
as children of Allah [correct translation is 'children of
Adam'], in Al-Baqarah II:191 'al fitnatu asyaddu minal qatl(i)'
is mistranslated as 'idolatry is worse than carnage' [correct
translation is 'oppression is worse than slaughter'].
Those who wish to understand the specific and broader meaning
of the verses of the Qur'an, it is recommended that they
should also read commentary on the subjects and verses
of the Qur'an. The English readers will find either Yusuf
Ali's or Maududi's commentaries a good source. Allama Yususf
Ali presents the meaning Ayah (verse) by Ayah with detailed
footnotes for relevant words in each verse and includes
a detailed index of the topics mentioned in the Qur'an.
Maulana Maududi's work covers commentary for each Surah
(chapter) of the Holy Qur'an.
Pickthall writes in his foreward of 1930: "... The
Qur'an cannot be translated. ...The book is here
rendered almost literally and every effort has been made
to choose befitting language. But the result is not the
Glorious Qur'an, that inimitable symphony, the very sounds
of which move men to tears and ecstasy. It is only an attempt
to present the meaning of the Qur'an-and peradventure something
of the charm in English. It can never take the place of
the Qur'an in Arabic, nor is it meant to do so..."
"The Holy Qur'an," Text, Translation and
Commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, 1934. (Latest Publisher:
Amana Publications, Beltsville, MD, USA; Title: "The
Meaning of the Holy Qur'an," 1992). A pocket edition
of Yusuf Ali's translation is also available in contemporary
"The Meaning of the Glorious Koran," An
Explanatory Translation by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall,
a Mentor Book Publication. (Also available as: "The
Meaning of the Glorious Koran," by Marmaduke Pickthall,
Dorset Press, N.Y. and several Islamic book publishers;
Published by several publishers since 1930). Note:
The Mentor publication (451 MJ1529 195) contains a few errors/omissions,
e.g., in Surah 72: the last part of Verse 2 should read
"we ascribe no partner unto our Lord", and Surah
68: Verse 22 should read "straight" road instead
of "beaten" road. In case of any doubt, the reader
is advised to check with a copy from an Islamic publisher
and also check with an Islamic scholar for the meaning directly
from the Arabic original.
1998 notes in [...] and the web version by Dr. A. Zahoor.
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