Qur'ani Tukufu - History - European Languages - English

English

This is a sub-article to English translations of the Quran.

The earliest known translation of the Qur'an in any European language was the Latin works by Robert of Ketton at the behest of the Abbot of Cluny in c. 1143. As Latin was the language of the church it never sought to question what would now be regarded as blatant inaccuracies in this translation which remained the only one until 1649 when the first English language translation was done by Alexander Ross, chaplain to King Charles I, who translated from a French work L'Alcoran de Mahomet by du Ryer. In 1734, George Sale produced the first translation of the Qur'an direct from Arabic into English but reflecting his missionary stance. Since then, there have been English translation by the clergyman John Rodwell in 1861, E.H. Palmer in 1880, both show in their works a number of mistakes of mistranslation and misinterpretation, which brings into question their primary aim. Followed by Richard Bell in 1937 and Arthur John Arberry in the 1950s.

The Qur'an (1910) by Dr. Mirza Abul Fazl Arabic Text and English Translation Arranged Chronologically. Mirza Abul Fazl (1865–1956) was a native of East Bengal (now Bangladesh), later moved to Allahabad, India. He was the first Muslim to present a translation of the Qur'an in to English along with the original Arabic text. Among the contemporary Muslim scholars Dr. Mirza Abul Fazl was a pioneer who took interest in the study of the chronological order of the Qur'an and invited the attention of Muslim scholars towards its importance.

With the increasing population of English-speaking Muslims around the start of the 20th century, three Muslim translations of the Qur'an into English made their first appearance. The first was the Ahmadi Maulana Muhammad Ali's 1917 translation but is from an Ahmadiya perspective, with some small parts being rejected as unorthodox interpretation by vast majority of Muslims. This was followed in 1930 by the English convert to Islam Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall's translation, which is literal and therefore regarded as the most accurate. Soon thereafter in 1934, Abdullah Yusuf Ali (from Bohra community) published his translation, featuring copious explanatory annotation - over 6000 notes, generally being around 95% of the text on a given page, to supplement the main text of the translation. This translation has gone through over 30 printings by several different publishing houses, and is one of the most popular amongst English-speaking Muslims, along the Pickthall and Saudi-sponsored Hilali-Khan translations.

With few new English translations over the 1950–1980 period, these three Muslim translations were to flourish and cement reputations that were to ensure their survival into the 21st century, finding favour among readers often in newly revised updated editions. Orientalist Arthur Arberry's translation c. 1955 and native Iraqi Jew N.J. Dawood's unorthodox translation c. 1956 were to be the only major works to appear in the post-war period. AJ Arberry's The Koran Interpreted remains the scholarly standard for English translations, and is widely used by academics.

Dr. Syed Abdul Latif's translation published in 1967, regarded highly by some (he was a professor of English at Osmania University, Hyderabad), was nevertheless short-lived due to criticism of foregoing accuracy for the price of fluency.

The Message of the Qur'an: Presented in Perspective (1974) was published by Dr. Hashim Amir Ali. He translated the Qur'an into English and arranged it according to chronological order. Dr. Hashim Amir-Ali (1903-c. 1987) was a native of Salar Jung, Hyderabad, Deccan. In 1938 he came under the influence of Dr. Mirza Abul Fazl Allahabadi, and took a deep interest in the study of the Qur'an and was aware of the significance of the chronological order of the Qur'an.

A Jewish convert to Islam, Muhammad Asad's monumental work The Message of the Qur'an made its appearance for the first time in 1980.

Professor Ahmed Ali's: Al-Qur'an: A Contemporary Translation (Akrash Publishing, Karachi, 1984, Reprinted by Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1987; Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1988, with 9th reprinting 2001), brought new light to the translations of the Qur'an with Dr. Fazlur Rehman of the University of Chicago saying: "It brings out the original rhythms of the Qur'anic language and the cadences. It also departs from traditional translations in that it gives more refined and differentiated shades of important concepts". According to Dr. F. E. Peters of the New York University: "Ahmed Ali's work is clear, direct, and elegant – a combination of stylistic virtues almost never found in translations of the Qur'an. His is the best I have read".

At the cusp of the 1980s, the 1974 Oil Embargo, the Iranian Revolution, the Nation of Islam and a new wave of cold-war generated Muslim immigrants to Europe and North America brought Islam squarely into the public limelight for the first time in Western Europe and North America. This resulted in a wave of translations as Western publishers tried to capitalize on the new demand for English translations of the Qur'an. Oxford University Press and Penguin Books were all to release editions at this time, as did indeed the Saudi Government, which came out with its own re-tooled version of the original Yusuf Ali translation. Canadian Muslim Professor T.B. Irving's 'modern English' translation (1985) was a major Muslim effort during that time.

The arrival of the 1990s ushered in the phenomenon of an extensive English-speaking Muslim population well-settled in Western Europe and North America. As a result, several major Muslim translations emerged to meet the ensuing demand. In 1991 appeared an English translation under the title: The Clarion Call Of The Eternal Qur-aan, by Muhammad Khalilur Rahman (b.1906-1988), Dhaka, Bangladesh. He was the eldest son of Shamsul Ulama Moulana Muhammad Ishaque of Burwan, former lecturer of Dhaka University.

In 1996 the Saudi government financed a new translation "the Hilali-Khan Qur'an" which was distributed free world wide by the Saudi's government's as it was in line with their particular interpretation .

In 2007 appeared the English translation of Laleh Bakhtiar under the title of The Sublime Quran. Her translation of the Qur'an was the first ever by an American woman.

A rhymed verse edition of the entire Qur'an rendered in English by Thomas McElwain in 2010 includes rhymed commentary under the hardback title The Beloved and I, Volume Five, and the paperback title The Beloved and I: Contemplations on the Qur'an.

Read more about this topic:  Qur'ani Tukufu, History, European Languages

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