Quran Translation - Difficulties of Qur'an Translation

Difficulties of Translation

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Copies of the Quran in translation at a shop in Cairo, Egypt. David Silverman/Getty Images

While the text of the original Arabic Qur'an is identical and unchanged since its revelation, you will find various translations and interpretations. Anytime a translation is done into another language, the translator (who is only human) has to interpret the meaning and render it in the new language. It is, by nature, an approximation of the meaning, since words and ideas cannot be expressed identically in different languages.

Arabic is a very rich language, and words have many shades of meaning. Thus in many languages it often requires more wordiness to get the meaning across, which detracts from the beautiful simplicity of the Qur'anic message. Arabic idioms, and the weight of the words, are difficult to understand and translate. While Arabic is a living language, the classical Arabic of the Quran requires more study in order to fully appreciate and understand the depths of meaning.

Another concern is the translator's familiarity with the target language. Some translations are done by individuals who are very knowledgeable in Arabic, but they are not able to render the intended meaning because they are not familiar with the nuances of the other language.

In the end, the dilemma is to find a translation that is linguistically and spiritually as accurate as possible, yet is readable and flowing. In English, such a translation is difficult to find, though many have tried.

Many of the early translations of the Quran into English were done by Christian missionaries. Not surprisingly, they are not known for their accuracy or faithfulness to the intended message.

Currently, English translations are available from Hilali and Khan, Ali, Shakir, Pickthall, and others. Read below for a review of the various translations currently on the market.

Review of translations:

 

Please note: As I don't speak all of these languages, I cannot personally verify the accuracy or usefulness of these translations. However, the links have been compiled from other responsible Islamic sites. If you are a native speaker of these languages and find any irregularities in these translations or know of other links available, please notify me.