Part of a series on the Qur'an Quran cover


Sura · Ayah

Qur'an reading

Tajwid · Hizb · Tarteel · Qur'anic guardian · Manzil · Qari' · Juz' · Rasm · Ruku' · Sujud ·



Origin and development

Meccan revelations · Medinan revelations


Persons related to verses · Justice · Asbab al-nuzul · Naskh · Biblical narratives · Tahrif · Bakkah · Muqatta'at · Esoteric interpretation

Qur'an and Sunnah

Literalism · Miracles · Science · Women

Views on the Qur'an

Shi'a · Criticism · Desecration · Surah of Wilaya and Nurayn · Tanazzulat · Qisas Al-Anbiya · Beit Al Qur'an

Translations of the Qur'an are interpretations of the holy book of Islam in languages other than Arabic. Even though translating the Qur'an has been a difficult concept, both theologically and linguistically, Islam's scriptures have been translated into most African, Asian and European languages.[1]

Islamic theology

Translation of the Quran has always been a problematic and difficult issue in Islamic theology. Since Muslims revere the Qur'an as miraculous and inimitable (i'jaz al-Qur'an), they argue that the Qur'anic text can not be reproduced in another language or form. Furthermore, an Arabic word may have a range of meanings depending on the context, making an accurate translation even more difficult.[1]

According to modern Islamic theology, the Qur'an is a revelation very specifically in Arabic, and so it should only be recited in the Arabic language. Translations into other languages are necessarily the work of humans and so, according to Muslims, no longer possess the uniquely sacred character of the Arabic original. Since these translations necessarily subtly change the meaning, they are often called "interpretations." For instance, Pickthall called his translation The Meaning of the Glorious Koran rather than simply The Koran.

The task of translation is not an easy one; some native Arab-speakers will confirm that some Qur'anic passages are difficult to understand even in the original Arabic. A part of this is the innate difficulty of any translation; in Arabic, as in other languages, a single word can have a variety of meanings. There is always an element of human judgment involved in understanding and translating a text. This factor is made more complex by the fact that the usage of words has changed a great deal between classical and modern Arabic. As a result, even Qur'anic verses which seem perfectly clear to native speakers accustomed to modern vocabulary and usage may not represent the original meaning of the verse.

The original meaning of a Qur'anic passage will also be dependent on the historical circumstances of the prophet Muhammad's life and early community in which it originated. Investigating that context usually requires a detailed knowledge of Hadith and Sirah, which are themselves vast and complex texts. This introduces an additional element of uncertainty which can not be eliminated by any linguistic rules of translation.


The first translator of the Qur'an was Salman the Persian, who translated Fatihah in Persian during the 7th century.[2] Other early translations were made for Emperor Negus of Abyssinia and Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, as both received letters by Muhammad containing verses from the Qur'an.[1]

The idea that the Qur'an and prayers must always be in Arabic was not firmly established in early Islamic theology. After the initial Muslim conquests, converts in some non-Arabic speaking areas established their own translations of the suras to use for salat. This was especially true in Persia. However, this idea later fell from favor in the inter-Muslim political struggles, and by the 1400s, the idea that only the original Arabic was truly the Qur'an was strongly agreed upon.

First ever complete translation of the Qur'an was in Persian in [India] by famous scholar Shah Waliullah. His sons Shah Rafiuddin and Shah Abdul Qadir translated the Qur'an in Urdu.

In 1936, translations in 102 languages were known.[1]

European languages


Robertus Ketenensis produced the first Latin translation of the Qur'an in 1143.[1] His version was entitled Lex Mahumet pseudoprophete ("The law of Mahomet the pseudo-prophet"). The translation was made at the behest of Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny, and currently exists in the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal in Paris. According to modern scholars, the translation tended to "exaggerate harmless text to give it a nasty or licentious sting" and preferred improbable and unpleasant meanings over likely and decent ones. Ketenensis' work was republished in 1543 in three editions by Theodor Bibliander at Basel along with Cluni corpus and other Christian propaganda. All editions contained a preface by Martin Luther. Many later European "translations" of the Qur'an merely translated Ketenensis' Latin version in their own language, as opposed to translating the Qur'an directly from Arabic. As a result, early European translations of the Qur'an were erroneous and distorted.[1]

A second Latin translation was issued in 1698 by Ludovico Marracci,[3] a confessor to Pope Innocent XI. The introductory volume contained an essay titled "Refutation of the Qur'an". This version selectively quoted commentaries to the Qur'an to give the most negative image possible. Marraci's self-stated goal was to discredit Islam. Marraci's translation too was the source of other European translation (one in France by Savory, and one in German by Nerreter). These later translations were quite unauthentic, and one even claimed to be published in Mecca in 1165 AH.[1]


Modern languages

The first translation in a modern European language was in Italian, 1547 by Andrea Arrivabene, derived from Ketenensis'. The Italian translation was used to derive the first German translation Solomon Schweigger in 1616 in Nuremberg, which in turn was used to derive the first Dutch translation in 1641.[1]

The first French translation came out in 1647, and again in 1775, issued by André du Ryer. The Ryer translation also fathered many retranslations, most notably an English version by Alexander Ross in 1649. Ross' version was used to derive several others: a Dutch version by Glazemaker, a German version by Lange and two Russian versions by Postnikov and Veryovkin.[1]


There are four complete translations of the Holy Qur'an in Spanish that are commonly available.

  • Julio Cortes translation 'El Coran' is widely available in North America, being published by New York-based Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an publishing house.
  • Ahmed Abboud and Rafael Castellanos, two converts to Islam of Argentine origin, published 'El Sagrado Coran' (El Nilo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1953).
  • Kamal Mustafa Hallak fine deluxe Hardback print 'El Coran Sagrado' is printed by Maryland-based Amana Publications.
  • Abdel Ghani Melara Navio a Spaniard who converted to Islam in 1979, his 'Traduccion-Comentario Del Noble Coran' was originally published by Darussalam Publications, Riyadh, in December 1997. The King Fahd Printing Complex has their own version of this translation, with editing by Omar Kaddoura and Isa Amer Quevedo.


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

In 1734, George Sale produced the first scholarly translation of the Qur'an direct from Arabic into English. Since then, there have been important English translations by John Rodwell in 1861, E.H. Palmer in 1880, and Richard Bell in 1937.

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 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 at the turn of the 20th century, three Muslim translations of the Qur'an into English made their first appearance. Maulana Muhammad Ali's 1917 translation was followed in 1930 by English convert to Islam, Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall's effort. Soon thereafter in 1934, Abdullah Yusuf Ali published his much more expansive translation, featuring extensive explanatory footnotes to supplement the main text of the translation.

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 favor among readers often in newly revised updated editions. Orientalist Arthur Arberry's translation circa 1955 and native Iraqi N.J. Dawood's unorthodox translation circa 1956 were to be the only major works to appear in the post war period.

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

Famous Muslim convert Muhammad Asad's monumental work, The Message of the Qur'an was to make its appearance for the first time in 1980.

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 Holy Qur'an. Princeton, Oxford, Penguin 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) being the only major Muslim effort during this time.

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 (Dhaka, Bangladesh). The Saudi-based new translation Noble Qur'an (1996) by al-Hilali and Khan is an improvement upon Yusuf Ali's 'The Holy Qur'an.'

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 spate of new translations between 1998 - 2008 owe their roots to two new emerging trends, 1) a need for Muslims to defend and explain the Qur'an to non-Muslims following the September 11 events and 2) various sectarian movements among Muslims vying for approval of English-speaking Muslims in the West via publishing of their own translations of the Qur'an. As such over a dozen new translations from various Sufi schools of thought, Progressive Muslim movements, various political movements in the Muslim world, and various mainstream American-Muslim identity groups have all emerged during this time period.

Asian languages

The first translation into Japanese was done by Sakamoto Ken-ichi in 1920. Sakamoto worked from Rodwell's English translation. Takahashi Goro, Bunpachiro (Ahmad) Ariga and Mizuho Yamaguchi produced Japan's second translation in 1938. The first translation from the Arabic was done by Izutsu Toshihiko in 1945.[4] In 1950, another translation appeared by Okawa Shumei (1886-1957), who had been charged with war-crimes after the World War II on account of his anti-Western sympathies.[5] Other translations have appeared more recently by Ban Yasunari and Osamu Ikeda in 1970 and by Umar Ryoichi Mita in 1972.

It is claimed that Yusuf Ma Dexin (1794-1874) is the first translator of the Koran into Chinese. However, the first complete translation into Chinese did not appear until 1927, although Islam had been present in China since the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The translation was by Lǐ Tiězhēng, a non-Muslim, who did not translate from the Arabic, but from Rodwell's English via Sakamoto Ken-ichi's Japanese. A second non-Muslim translation appeared in 1931, edited by edited by Jī Juémí. Wáng Jìngzhāi was the first Chinese Muslim to translate the Koran. His translation, the Gǔlánjīng yìjiě, appeared in 1932, with new revised versions being issued in 1943 and 1946. Other translations appeared in 1943, by Liú Jǐnbiāo, and 1947, by Yáng Zhòngmíng. The most popular version today is the Gǔlánjīng, translated by Mǎ Jiān, parts of which appeared between 1949-1951, with the full edition being published posthumously only in 1981.

Tóng Dàozhāng, a Muslim Chinese American, produced a modern translation, entitled Gǔlánjīng, in 1989. The most recent translation appeared in Taibei in 1996, the Qīngzhēn xīliú - Gǔlánjīng xīnyì, translated by translated by Shěn Xiázhǔn, but it has not found favour with Muslims.[6]

Girish Chandra Sen (1835/36-1910), a Brahmo Samaj missionary, was the first person to translate the Qur’an into Bangla language in 1886. It was his finest contribution to Bangla literature. Abbas Ali of Candipur West Bengal was the first Muslim who translated the entire Qur’an into Bangla.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Fatani, Afnan (2006), "Translation and the Qur'an", in Leaman, Oliver, The Qur'an: an encyclopedia, Great Britain: Routeledge, pp. 657–669 
  2. An-Nawawi, Al-Majmu', (Cairo, Matbacat at-'Tadamun n.d.), 380.
  3. S. M. Zwemer: Translations of the Koran, The Moslem World, 1915
  4. "The Qu'ran and its translators"
  5. Democracy and Social Justice in Asia and the Arab World, Unesco, 2006
  6. "Chinese Translations of the Qur'ān: a Close Reading of Selected Passages", by Ivo Spira, MA thesis, Oslo University, 2005

See also

External links

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