English Translations of the Holy Quran and the Contribution of Muslims of Sub-Continent

English Translations of the Holy Quran and the Contribution of Muslims of Sub-Continent


The noble Qur’an has served, since its revelation, as the main source of guidance in every aspect of human life. It’s teachings have inspired innumerable people. It is a Book that differentiates between right (Haq) and wrong (Batil). To spread its Divine message, there have been continuous efforts throughout the world to translate the noble Qur’an in different languages of the World. Among these languages, English is spoken, written, read and taught on wider area of the world. For those and many other reasons, of course more than 70 complete English translations of the Qur’an are available. In his recently published book, Professor Abdur Raheem Kidwai (“God’s Word Man’s Interpretations: A Critical Study of the 21st Century English Translations of the Quran) asserts that there are 40 new English translations of the Qur’an produced after 2000 C.E. In fact, there has been a substantial contribution to this genre by the scholars of Sub-Continent as well. In this direction, this article is an attempt to introduce few of these translations, chronologically, with the view to highlight the contribution of these scholars towards Qur’anic Studies. Some of important translations of the Qur’an produced by the scholars of sub-continent are:
The Quran: Arabic text and English translation (1911) by Mirza Abul Fadl: This is the first attempt by a Muslim scholar to translate Holy Qur’an into English. This was published for the first time in 1911-1912, in two volumes from Allahabad. Although the translator has committed some serious mistakes but its only significance, according to Professor Kidawi, is that it is one of the earliest attempts by Muslims to bring out an English translation of the Qur’an.
The Quran (1916) by Mirza Hairat Dehlwi: This was for the first time published from Delhi in 1916. It was another great effort by a Muslim scholar to alert the Indo-Pak Muslims against the missionaries and Orientalists for their charges and attacks, which they were levelling against the Divine message of the Holy Quran. It was this work which guided the later Muslim scholars to stand against those scholars.
The Holy Quran (1920) by Ghulam Sarwar: This translation is regarded as one the greatest critique of those translations of the Qur’an which were done by Orientalists and Qadiyanis. The first edition of this translation was published from Singapore and was also reprinted from UK in 1930. It got also published from Pakistan in 1973, but is presently out of print and is found only in a few libraries. Sarwar writes about his English translation in these words:“I have attempted to be as clear as I can, and for this purpose I have divided my sentences into short phrases… a translator should attempt to make his style clear and vigorous … my endeavour [has been] to make my translation both simple and exact”.
The Holy Quran (1934-1937) by Abdullah Yusuf Ali: Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali may be the most renowned translator of the Qur’an. Yusuf Ali wished to present the English translation of the Qur’an as he was not satisfied with the then available translations of because of their weak English and they also they did not have necessary notes and further explanations, which can been seen in his translation. Furthermore, he wished to make English as an Islamic language. Before he went for his work of translating the Holy Qur’an, he had gone through various books, met many persons and visited many places. Finally , he started his work in 1934 and finished it in 1937;thus it took him three years to complete his task. In the Preface of first edition, he explains the modus operandi of translating the verses of the Qur’an in these words: “In translating the text I have aired no views of my own, but followed the received commentators. Where they differ among themselves, I had to choose what appeared to me to be the most reasonable opinion from all points of view”. The main feature of this translation is that the Arabic text and English translation are arranged in parallel columns and it also contains some necessary footnotes and further explanations of verses in order to understand the true message of the Qur’an. This translation provides a background of Suras and also of verses before its translation. This translation got more popularity and became more famous than other translations of the Quran produced before or after this.
Tafsir-ul -Quran, Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (1957) by Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi: This translation/commentary of the Qur’an in English is famous for its strong refutation against the allegations and charges of the Orientalists and missionaries, which they levelled against Islam and Qur’an. Maulana Daryabadi completed his English translation in 1940 but was published for the first time in 1957. Its revised editions were published in 1981-85 and also an abridged version of this translation got published from Islamic Foundation, Leicester, U.K. This commentary of the Quran contains good material on comparative religion which Maulana had taken from basic and original sources. It also contains necessary notes relating to the background and further explanation of the Qur’anic verses. It is because of its excellent features this commentary of the Qur’an got also a great popularity throughout the sub-continent especially among those Muslims who are interested in the comparative and scientific studies of the Qur’an.
The Quran: Translation and Commentary (2009) by Wahidduin Khan, Edited by Farida Khanam: This is the English version of his Urdu tafsir, Tadhkir al-Quran. It has been rendered in simple English as “The Quran” (edited by his daughter, Farida Khanam). This translation attempts at presenting the meaning and message of the Qur’an in simple, clear, and easy to understand language. Khan’s work is more of a transliteration than a literal translation which makes it extremely readable. Simple and direct, the book reaches out to a large audience, Muslims as well as non Muslims. Unlike bulky translations difficult to reach out for, this is one you can carry with you even while travelling. Another feature is a chronological table detailing all the important events in the Prophet’s life.
The Glorious Quran (2011) by Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri: This is the English rendering of his Tafsir, Irfan al-Quran. In English as “The Glorious Quran” the 4th interpretation of the Quran in English representing the Barelvi`s understanding of the Quran. This translation also starts with a preface highlighting the profile of Qadri. The author has not mentioned the distinct features of his English translation in the presence of other English translations of the Quran and also missed to mention his methodology of translation. A good number of Hadith are found in his translation, which reveals his grounding in the primary Islamic sources.
What is in the Quran? Message of the Quran in simple English (2013) by Abdur Raheem Kidwai: This translation is written by a well-known author of many works on the Qur’an and Islam and an authority on English Translations of the Qur’an. “What is in the Qur’an”, being without the original Arabic Text, is written in an easy and simple language. It is written keeping in view all the previous English translations which, for Prof. Kidwai (as in the “Preface”), offer a literal translation and thus does not provide a “coherent, fluent account of things Quranic”.
In sum, the above assessment reveals that the Muslims of the Sub-Continent have contributed a lot to the area of English translations of the Qur’an, and thus have enriched Quranic studies immensely

—The Author can be reached at: [email protected]

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