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October 19, 1997

About This Translation

It simply is not possible to convey in full the meaning of the verses of the Holy Quran through translation. All the translations of the Holy Quran have fallen far behind the linguistic beauty of the original as well as its ideas.

Many people have translated the Holy Quran in to English. Only in this century about 30 translations 21 By Muslims 9 by non-Muslims (according to the quarterly journal of Hamdard Islamicus, of Karachi, Pakistan, Vol. 11 # 4 of winter 1986) have been published in English language alone. When this much translation of the same book is available one would naturally think of it as more then enough. A long time ago a friend wanted to publish an English translation of the holy Quran and he needed an opinion as to which one of the two translations that he had in mind would be more proper to publish.

I started to read the particular translations but, in many cases, could not form out of those translations an understandable idea of what the translation of a certain passage of the holy Quran was all about. I asked some high school students to read certain passages of those translations. They also were facing the same difficulty as I did.

1. One reason for such unclarity of these translations is the paragraphing.

In the Arabic text of the Holy Quran in many cases several verses may deal with the same or very closely related ideas.

For clarity all of such ideas should be stated in one paragraph but most English translations have written each verse as a separate paragraph. Thus, one idea or very closely related ideas are scattered and it has become very difficult to form an understandable idea of what a certain passage is all about.

2. It is not proper to translate the holy Quran by the help of a dictionary alone.

3. In order to form an understandable idea of what a certain passage of the holy Quran means one needs to be aware of the usage of the terms and the language by the holy Quran itself, the context of such passages, such as historical and theological environments etc.

For the same reason one must also be aware of the extensive scholarly works being conducted and the progress achieved today in the Islamic Seminaries, the theological and learning centers of the principles of jurisprudence and Shari'a.

As having been a student of the Islamic Seminary of Najaf, Iraq and Qum, Iran it would not be difficult for one to consult best works of commentaries of the holy Quran to reach the goals stated in (3).

It was possible, instead of spending all the time for a new translation, to publish explanatory notes with any of the existing translations by the permission of the translator. But with existing translations there were the problems of obvious mistakes, the out-come of translations where help of commentaries is needed, unclarity of the ideas and inaccuracies or the archaic type of translations.

In this translation:

(a) Commentary Works consulted for clarification were Al-mizan By Allama Taba Taba'i and Mujma'ul Bayan by Allama Tabasi which is famous in quoting the usage of Arabic language by the poets and orators pre and contemporary to the emergence of the Holy Quran.

(b) Translation of all verses dealing with one idea or very closely related ones is arranged in paragraphs but such arrangements do not in any way or form adversely affect the order of the original text.

Once the reader has an understandable idea of a passage of the holy Quran then by reading very often finds out the holy Quran very successful in conveying the principles of Divine message to people.

It, however, should be noted that the need for explanatory notes about certain passages of the holy Quran does not deprive one of benefiting from a simple translation. With the intention to follow the Truth and some degree of general knowledge, reading a translation of the Holy Quran very often and sincerely, there is no doubt, one can benefit a great deal from a translation of the holy Quran; it is the text of Divine guidance for mankind.

The favorable response of the readers of the first edition of this translation indicates clearly that the efforts of achieving clarity of the translation has been successful, by the grace of God. The following quotation is from Hamdard Islamicus, mentioned above:

"Sarwar, Sheikh Muhammad, The Holy Qura'n Arabic Text and English Translation (Elmhurst, 1981,1 edn. Without any notes this explanatory translation paraphrases the contents of the Qur'an in a lucid style."

Reading the Holy Quran, reflecting upon the meaning of its verses and practicing what the Holy Quran preaches all are virtuous deeds.


Muhammad Sarwar



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