The Qur’an: Lost in Translation?

Ha Mim.

By the Book which makes things clear.

Qur’an 43:1 & 2

Frustratingly, I’ve often found English translations of the Qu’ran less than clear.

However, I recently bought a translation by Abdal-Haqq and ‘Aisha Bewley (many will be familiar with Ustadha ‘Aisha’s prolific translations of major classical Islamic works such as Ash-Shifa, Imam Malik’s Muwatta and the tafsir al Qurtubi) which is refreshingly lucid.

The Translator’s preface reads:

When we read the existing translations, although the meanings came across, the language always seemed to get in its way. So instead of coming straight through as it does in the original, the meaning always came ‘through a glass darkly’. This is in no way intended to denigrate the work of our predecessors, most of whom did a meticulous and admirable job, it is rather a comment on the constantly evolving nature of the English language.

By way of an example, here are 2 different translations of Chapter 4, Verse 1:

O mankind! Have tawqa of your Lord who created you from a single self and created its mate from it and then disseminated many men and women from the two of them. Have taqwa of Allah in whose name you make demands on one another and also in respect of your families. Allah watches over you continually. (Bewley)

O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single Person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; – reverance Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you); for Allah ever watches over you. (Yusuf Ali)

And here are 2 translations of Chapter 2, Verse 186:

If My slaves ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me. They should therefore respond to Me and believe in Me so that they will be rightly guided. (Bewley)

When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every supplicant when he calls on Me: let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me: that they may walk in the right way. (Yusuf Ali)

Which translation connected with you more?


P.s. check out ‘Aisha Bewley’s website (don’t be put off by the old-skool visuals – great content)

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