A website for the Islamic Center in Gulfport

7- Islam

Question on Quran translations. The answer lists important points to be aware of while reading any translation.

Website visitors questions

I’m looking for guidance on a good English translation on the Quran …

Question from Michael on our website:

When looking for a good translation of Quran to English, or any other language, please consider the following points:

  • Translation is often done word for word. more solid translations try to capture the meaning of the sentence or verse to provided a more accurate translation. Either way, it is not perfect, and should be taken for what it is—a translation, not an interpretation.
  • Quran was delivered in a such a sophisticated utilization of the Arabic language that even the most eloquent masters of the language at the time had never heard before. To try and understand, Arabs sometimes needed to turn to their linguistic authority figures to decide the exact meaning of the words used within context. Nowadays, educated Muslims turn to the well known books of interpretation of Quran to understand the accurate meanings. Misinterpretation is not uncommon among Muslims who understand Arabic, let alone those who rely entirely on translations.
  • Quran was revealed to profit Mohammad (saaws) over a period of 20 years. Many verses were delivered to the Profit as a direct response to certain incidents or events. To properly understand, one needs to know the historic background and the reasons certain verses came about.
  • One has to understand the extremely harsh desert environment Arabs lived in those days, what life was like before Islam, and the level of oppression and torture Muslims were exposed to in the early years of the religion. A universal rule of thumb is to take word and sentences within context. This is particularly important with certain verses like the one that address wars and battle rules. Further specific guidance was provided by the Profit and his nation-leading followers. The Profit’s words and actions (referred to as “Sunna”) came to explain and further teach Muslims how to practice and properly follow the guidelines of their religion. Sunna is not included in Quran. It has been collected in books that were translated into many languages
  • Even with best efforts, the exact meaning of certain verses of Quran remain mysterious. However, advances in science and technology have been enabling Muslims to understand some of the verses that had been mysterious for many years.
  • Islam is a timeless religion that was sent to humanity. While certain topics were extensively covered, and mathematic formulas were used were God decided it was necessary, some other aspect of life were left intensionally less constrained to accommodate for changing times, including the changes in people’s cultures, perceptions and behaviors, and the scientific and technological advancements.

Now–understanding the Quran background, and the caveats of any translation, to recommend the best translation, one has to have proper linguistic and religious knowledge, and proof-read all available translations. This is certainly beyond our capacity; therefore, we asked Google for help ad we found others did the leg work and thought we should share.

On this page (click here to open in a new tab), Timothy provided a detailed answer. Notice how he explains how many translations come with inherit biases. He ends his answer by “Always remember that no matter how good a translation is, it will never truly be the Quran; that is only the original, pure Arabic text, revealed by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).” We can’t agree more! no translation will ever be perfect.

On the same website, Riadh suggests visiting this website (click here) to read many translations of each verse on one page. Not an aesthetically pleasing website but quite a bit of effort has been put into it.

While we couldn’t recommending any specific translation with a high level of confidence, we tried to present some options, and point out some of the caveats.

Category: 7- Islam

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