Photo by Eli Hodapp
My wife and I along with some relatives attend a weekly Tafsir Halaqa (Explanation of Quran) and we go through verses from different chapters of the Quran.
The Imam usually gets the class to read from their Quran and it becomes quite apparent how different some of these translations can be.
If you are lucky enough to understand classical Arabic and can read the Quran and grasp it fully, this article is not for you. For most of us, we have to go to an English translation of the Quran to understand the Surahs or Chapters. You can easily get many translations at a bookstore or online with popular translators like Pickthall or Yusuf Ali or M.H. Shakir.
If you are considering a copy of the translation of the Quran, or want to add more to your collection, here are some things you need to consider:
Book size of the Quran Translation
Some translations go into a lot of detail and have additional commentaries on top of the translation which can add up to the weight and size of the Book. Muhammad Asad’s translation is a good example of this.
You will need to consider the size if you have to travel far and bring your Quran with you. Smaller Qurans like Ahmed Ali’s translation and M.H. Shakir’s are easy to fit in your bag with plenty of room to spare. The chart below has a dimensions column that show how big each Quran Translation is in inches.
The Quran Translator
Marmaduke Pickthall, Muhammad Asad, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, M.H. Shakir and Ahmed Ali are some translators you will find when you pick up a translation at a Mosque’s library or bookstore. Which one to choose is a matter of personal preference. Many of these translators have their works available online so you should look them up first before picking up a copy.
Here are three different translations from Surah Baqara, verse 45:
“Seek help in patience and prayer; and truly it is hard save for the humble-minded,” (translator:Marmaduke Pickthall) 2:45
“Nay, seek (Allah’s) help with patient perseverance and prayer: It is indeed hard, except to those who bring a lowly spirit,” (translator: Yusuf Ali) 2:45
“And seek aid in steadfast patience and prayer: and this, indeed, is a hard thing for all but the humble in spirit,” (translator: Muhammad Asad) 2:45
Type of English used
When I was starting to read translations of the Quran, I found some were using old English like “Thou” and “Thy”. My brother had introduced me to Ahmed Ali’s translation after he saw it on a shelf at a local mosque. Ahmed Ali uses modern English (“You” and “Your”).
I prefer modern English than old, and I think many people do. Take a look at two translations below to see which you prefer.
“The path of those whom Thou hast favored;…” (translator: Marmaduke Pickthall)1:7
“The path of those You have blessed…” (translator: Ahmed Ali) 1:7
Arabic or no Arabic
Not all Quran translations have the accompanying original Arabic text next to it. These Qurans are good to give to people you know who are not Muslim as they will not be in a state of wudhu when they read it.
However, many of us like to have the Arabic next to the English as it actually helps in our comprehension of the Ayah or verse that we are currently reading. Obviously, the smaller Qurans with Arabic are harder to read than the bigger translations with Arabic.
M.H. Shakir’s translation has a good balance between the size of the Quran and the legibility of the Arabic in it (this is the Quran my wife uses the most).
What kind of English Translation of Quran is right for me?
I have created a list below of the most popular and common translations of the Quran. Remember some of the points I have mentioned about size and type of English used to help in your decision to buy.
My wife and I have 4 of the Qurans in the list below (Ahmed Ali, Shakir, Pickthall and M. A. S. Abdel Haleem). They are all great but we use the first two the most. My cousin has the Muhammad Asad translation below. Even though it is more pricey and large and heavy, it is worth it if you are looking for a comprehensive and beautifully produced translation.
Check out the list and let me know in the comments which is your favorite.
Posted in Spirituality on March 22, 2009