View Full Version : Safe translation?

05-28-2010, 10:11 AM
I know there have been countless debates over which translation of the Qur'an is the most accurate, but I was wondering what the most commonly accepted English translation is. I'm working on a report and I don't want people to immediately invalidate everything I say because I'm using the Yusufali translation (I used that just as an example, I don't know how accurate that one is or isn't.) What would be the most widely accepted translation?
Yusufali's? Pickthal's? Shakir's? Rodwell's?
Which one would noone argue with if I quote it

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06-02-2010, 09:37 PM
Hi Mattqatsi,

I too had to track down a translation of the Qur'an for study. The traditional translations all have their pros and cons, but the 'new' translation from Tarif Khalidi is supposed to be a sound translation. It is praised by Muslim scholars as a step forward from the orientalist tradition. Penguin publishes a copy, so it shouldn't be hard to find at any large local bookstores, and it may not be as cheap as some other translations, but it is really a beautiful read. : )

06-06-2010, 04:36 PM

For a good review of various translations, you might find it helpful to read the relevant chapter in Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi's book, An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan.

Regarding some of the translations you mentioned, here is what some sources have said about them (the parts in black have been inserted by myself):

J. M. Rodwell
...Dissatisfied with Sale's work, J.M. Rodwell, Rector of St. Ethelberga, London, produced his translation entitled The Koran (London, 1861). Apart from hurling all sorts of wild and nasty allegations against the Prophet and the Qur'an in the Preface, Rodwell is guilty of having invented the so-called chronological Sura order of the Qur'an. Nor is his translation free from grave mistakes of translation and his own fanciful interpretations in the notes.

Translating the Untranslatable: A Survey of English Translations of the Quran, A.R. Kidwai

The next translation that had a major impact in the English language was that of Reverand J. M. Rodwell, in 1861. More sympathetic than his predecessor, he claimed that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) '...had worked himself up into a belief that he had received a divine call...' . He also gives 'useful advice' to missionaries so that they can carry out their proselytism among Muslims.

In his translation, Rodwell was probably the first to even attempt to imitate the style of the Arabic. Unfortunately, he rearranged the soorahs to, what he thought was, a chronological order. For this, he relied primarily on Noeldeke's monumental work, Geschichte Des Qorans [the author discusses this later]. This meant that, if one wanted to look up a particular verse, he would first have to go to the table of contents, and see where Rodwell had placed the translated verse. Rodwell's unfamiliarity with the Arabic language, and his ignorance of Islaam in general, is seen thoughout his translation.

An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan, Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi

M. H. Shakir
M. M.[M. H. ?] Shakir came out with 'his' translation, The Holy Qur'an, in 1982. Actually, it is based almost completely on Muhammad Ali's [a Qadiani] translation, except for minor changes. A simple comparison between the two translations shows that Shakir merely revised Ali's translation. Kidwai calls it, 'an example of blatant plagiarism.' Also, Shakir is of the Shee'ite faith, and the index clearly indicates this, as he lists 'verses' that refer to Imaamat, the martyrdom of Hussayn, the caliphate of 'Alee, and so on.

An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan, Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi

Abdullah Yusuf Ali:
Abdullah Yusuf Ali's The Holy Qur'an: Translation and Commentary (Lahore, 1934 37), perhaps the most popular translation, stands as another major achievement in this field. A civil servant by vocation, Yusuf Ali was not a scholar in the classical Muslim tradition. Small wonder, then, that some of his copious notes, particularly on hell and heaven, angels, jinn and polygamy, etc. are informed with the pseudo-rationalist spirit of his times, as for instance in the works of S. Ahmad and S. Ameer Ali.

His overemphasis on things spiritual also distorts the Qur'anic worldview. Against this is the fact that Yusuf Ali doubtless was one of the few Muslims who enjoyed an excellent command over the English language. It is fully reflected in his translation. Though his is more of a paraphrase than a literal translation, yet it faithfully represents the sense of the original.

Translating the Untranslatable: A Survey of English Translations of the Quran, A.R. Kidwai

Perhaps the most widely read English translation is that of ‘Abdullaah Yusuf ‘Ali, first published in Lahore in 1934. This is a rather free translation, in which the author, who received an education in the English classics, attempted to make a literary masterpiece capturing the beauty of the original. He provided summaries and profuse footnotes which, in a number of instances, included very unorthodox, if not heretical, opinions. A committee was formed in Saudi Arabia in 1980 to produce a reliable English translation of the Qur’aan. They chose ‘Abdullaah Yusuf ‘Ali’s as the best available, noting its “highly elegant style, a choice of words close to the meaning of the original text, accompanied by scholarly notes and commentaries.”(18) They recognized, however, that it had serious flaws, so they revised his translation here and there and made substantial revisions of his notes to remove his most glaring errors. This revised edition was published by the King Fahd Qur’aanic Printing Press in Madeenah in 1985.

Usool at-Tafseer, Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips

Maramduke Pickthall
Muhammad Marmaduke William Pickthall, an English man of letters who embraced Islam, holds the distinction of bringing out a first-rate rendering of the Qur'an in English, The Meaning of the Glorious Qur'an (London, 1930).

It keeps scrupulously close to the original in elegant, though now somewhat archaic, English. However, although it is one of the most widely used English translations, it provides scant explanatory notes and background information. This obviously restricts its usefulness for an uninitiated reader of the Qur'an.
Note: Yasir Qadhi mentions that Abdullah Yusuf Ali's and Marmaduke Pickthall's translations were both greatly influenced by Muhammad Ali's translation, who was a Qadiani.

Professor Muhammad Taqi-ud Din Al-Hilali and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, both of the Islaamic University of Madeenah, published theirInterpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Qur'an in 1985. It is an attempt to summarize the commentaries of at-Tabaree, al-Qurtubee and Ibn Katheer by inserting additional material in parentheses into the translated text. Many Arabic terms, such as faasiqoon, abraar, haneef, are transliterated, with explanations of their meanings inserted after them in parentheses. Most of the footnotes consist of hadeeths from Saheeh al-Bukhaaree relevant to the verses they annotate. There is much that is useful in this work, but it is marred by repetitive insertions that disrupt sentence flow, making it linguistically clumsy. Also, because commentary is inserted into the flow of the sentences, readers unable to read Arabic may understand the added commentary to be an integral part of the original text.
Usool at-Tafseer, Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips

Taqiuddin Hilali's and Muhammad Muhsin Khan's Interpretation of the Meanings of the Holy Qur'aan was first released in 1977, and has seen a number of editions since. It was initially a multi-volume work, and has lately been re-released in one summarised volume.

Both of the translators are from the Islaamic University of Madeenah, and perhaps better qualified than all the previous translators mentioned to undertake such a task. The translation relies on classical Islaamic tafseers, such as Ibn Katheer's, al-Qurtubee's and at-Tabaree's works. Therefore, this translation is undoubtedly the finest in terms of being free of inaccurate interpretations. It has copious notes, taken mainly from Saheeh al-Bukhaaree, and also many interpolated meanings in brackets in the text. It perhaps might have been more prudent to place these phrases as footnotes, to avoid confusion between the actual text and explanatory notes. It also has very useful appendi.

The English, however, is not as smooth as other translations. The absence of a translator whose mother tongue is English is noticeable in the translation. Also, the translation leaves many phrases in Arabic, and then gives and explanation of the phrase in English. Although this is occasionally useful, at times it makes for tedious reading.

An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan, Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi

Saheeh International
These lines were written based upon the translations that the author had access to at the time of writing. However, slightly before the final editing of this work, Saheeh International released its The Qur'aan: Arabic Text with Corresponding English Meanings. Although I have not exhaustively reviewed the work, it is an impressive translation, distinctly superior to all others that have been reviewed. The English is surprisingly smooth, and accurately reflects the Arabic meanings. The footnotes are short and to the point, and greatly aid in the understanding of the verse. This translation clearly shines above the rest with its accuracy and simplicity. Perhaps the primary criticism that must be made against it is the fact that the translator(s) remans shrouded in anonymity! The names and credentials of the translators must be known, so that due credit (and criticism) can be given. It has never been the practice of the scholars of Islaam to write under pseudonyms and hide behind unknown names! Despite this obvious criticism, however, the work is indeed a commendable effort in the field of English translations, and will probably remain unique in its class for some time to come.

An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan, Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi

Also, for anyone interested, the following is a series of videos presenting a detailed history and comparison of translations of the Qur'an:

1 Qur'an Translations - History & Comparison - Abu Rumaysah

2 Qur'an Translations - History & Comparison - Abu Rumaysah

3 Qur'an Translations - History & Comparison - Abu Rumaysah

4 Qur'an Translations - History & Comparison - Abu Rumaysah

5 Qur'an Translations - History & Comparison - Abu Rumaysah

6 Qur'an Translations - History & Comparison - Abu Rumaysah

7 Qur'an Translations - History & Comparison - Abu Rumaysah

There are other translations not mentioned in the list above, which may also be good, but they weren't reviewed in the books I referred to. They may be mentioned in the videos.

And Allaah (swt) knows best.

06-11-2010, 01:33 PM

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kite runner
06-21-2010, 09:31 PM
Saheeh international is a good translation many people have recommended it to me insha'allah it will help

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