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The Quran => General Discussions => : Shahmatt August 12, 2012, 04:21:08 PM

: On translations of the Quran
: Shahmatt August 12, 2012, 04:21:08 PM
Dear Joseph Islam,

I have been looking at the website: www.islamawakened.com which shows the various translations of the Quran.

I notice that the translations can be widely divergent. For example consider the end of the verse of:
http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/2/183/default.htm (http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/2/183/default.htm)

The possibilities are:

1. "...so that you might remain conscious of God"
2. "...that ye may ward off (evil)"
3. "...that ye may (learn) self-restraint"
4. "... so that you may do your duty"
5. "...so that you might become righteous"
6. "...that you may increase awareness"

Each translation seems quite different from next.

I understand that the Quranic Arabic can be rich with meaning, but do you recommend any translators, in your opinion, that capture the meaning better than others?

Also what would be the best interpretation of the end of verse 183?
: Re: On translations of the Quran
: Joseph Islam August 12, 2012, 04:56:24 PM
Salamun Alaikum Shahmatt,

Yes indeed, Arabic words can often carry nuances and good commentators give their best interpretation given the context.

However, even at face value, if one were to peruse the various shades of meanings provided in the translations you have shared, it should become clear to the 'casual reader' that the word 'tattaqun' admits shades of meanings which would be difficult to acknowledge if one only used one translation. Hence multiple translations for the uninitiated with Arabic are an immense resource.

However, it should also be clear to the causal reader that all the renditions of the word seem to be invariably linked and are not necessarily mutually exclusive making the gist of the message incomprehensible.

'Taqwa' carries the nuance of self-restraint, warding of evil, righteousness, observing Divine ordinances and God consciousness in all its multifaceted ways and should be considered in its widest remit. Therefore, none of the renditions you have provided are 'inherently' wrong.

As to which translation I prefer, it is a difficult question as I am not reliant on translations other than to ascertain how a particular commentator may have rendered a particular verse in their opinion. However, I do like Pickhtall’s rendition purely because of the somewhat archaic English which generally sits well with me. Also, it is a very good translation although I have at times differed with it on some isolated interpretations as in the article [1] and [2] below. I like its 'style'.

My children who are English speakers seem to favour the translation by ‘Abdel Haleem’ which they have for bedside reading.



: Re: On translations of the Quran
: Shahmatt August 13, 2012, 04:44:25 AM
Ha! Your assessment of the Pharoah's "tent pegs" is brilliant.

Presumably you also disagree with Pikthal's translation of the word "layl" to "nightfall" as opposed to "night". See here:
http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/2/187/default.htm (http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/2/187/default.htm)

You have said that you do not rely completely on translations. May I gather from this that you are a native Arabic speaker?

What little research I have done I have so far relied on the Yusuf Ali translation as a primary source - in combination with Pikthal and Shakir as secondary references. I usually refer to this website:
http://www.cmje.org/religious-texts/quran/ (http://www.cmje.org/religious-texts/quran/)

I suppose Yusuf Ali's language is more modern, direct, self assured, and even business like, allowing me (and I'm sure many others) to understand the Quran more readily. Although presumably this also leads to disadvantages such as that false sense of assurance that the translated words are very exact in meaning. Aside from this, and assuming that you've had the opportunity to read the translation, do you have any opinions or reservations regarding his work?
: Re: On translations of the Quran
: Joseph Islam August 13, 2012, 05:05:14 AM
Salamun Alaikum Shahmatt,

Thank you for your comments.

I think Pickhtall’s rendition to the word 'nightfall' is interesting. He has not defined it, but also does not necessarily imply it to mean sunset. From his rendition one is left with a question as to how to define 'nightfall'. So it is an encompassing rendition I think.
I have a very interesting background / journey Alhumdolillah but one I have agreed with my loved ones not to share in any public forum for very good reasons. This was something agreed before my work was formally published. Also I believe the cogency of the arguments presented should prevail over who made them as I am sure you will agree.

What I have shared is here:


With regards Yusuf Ali's rendition, it is very good. It’s the one my wife likes a lot ;-)

: Re: On translations of the Quran
: Shahmatt August 13, 2012, 05:24:38 PM
Ah! Thanks for your opinion on the translation, and also on the link about this site and yourself.

: Re: On translations of the Quran
: Wakas August 13, 2012, 09:14:36 PM

All translations are imperfect. The key is to use a sound method (e.g. here (http://www.quran434.com/study-method.html)) when studying translations and use the quality tools/resources out there, e.g. see www.StudyQuran.org

Having said that, my personal favourite is Muhammad Asad's, mainly because he strives to remain true to the spirit of Quran and applies logic throughout. In my view, it does have many errors however.

With regard to taqwa, this (http://quranicteachings.org/what-is-taqwa/) is a decent article.
: Re: On translations of the Quran
: Joseph Islam August 13, 2012, 09:50:36 PM
Ah yes! I would be inclined to concur with brother Wakas's sentiment on the aforementioned commentator.

Our late brother Muhammad Asad's rendition of the Quran in English is indeed a fantastic piece of work! :)  Reminds me of an incident many many moons ago! In those days, I used to use a very crude and extremely limited method to check to see immediately if a particular English translation was being influenced by traditions as I studied the Arabic.

I used to see if the term 'mutawafeeka' (3:55) with regards to Prophet Jesus's death was being translated more faithfully as 'cause you to die / take you in death etc' or rendered in a way to pander to the traditional perspective based on extraneous sources, that Prophet Jesus was raised alive! (raise you, ascend to me etc).

I remember Muhammad Asad distinctly passing my crude test of yore!

PS: Don't use the method, it is just something I share out of interest :)

However as already mentioned quite rightly, no translation can ever be perfect and great commentators make this absolutely clear.




13th March 2013

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