English Translations of the Qur'an

The Transitional Era (1905-1960)

Description:  This 55 year period produced 15 English Translations.

During this period of fifty five years there were approximately fifteen English translations created.  These translations can be grouped in three categories as those by:  Westerners, Muslims and sectarians.  The previous period can be simply characterized as Christians translating the Qur’an solely for Christians.  The sequence of Christian only translation is broken in this period with the first English Qur’an translation by a Muslim.  The 1905 translation of Mohammad Khan is the first translation by a Muslim in English and the first to include both English and Arabic text (Binark 88).  During this period Muslim translators produced eight translations, Westerners produced four and three were created by the sectarian Ahmadiyya group.  Each of these three groups will be assessed using key translations that represent the group and period.

 The first English Qur’an by a Muslim was a reaction to intense Christian missionary activity which reached its height of activity in the early twentieth century (Mohammed 61).  The continent of India was subject to a high level of missionary interest and evangelism since it was a British colony.  It was this continent that produced the first three English translations by Muslims which are Mohammad Khan (1905), Abdul Fadl (1911) and Harirat Dihlawi (1916).  These three translations are not highly regarded by Westerners or Muslims.  Since none of these translators were well known religious scholars, their translations have been relegated to mere historical interest (Kidwai 67).  Of the five remaining Muslim translations, the translations of Ghulam Sarwar (1920), S.N.A. Jafri (1935) and Abdul Majid Daryabadi (1935) are regarded as obsolete and are seldom if ever used.  However, the remaining two translations by Mohammad Marmaduke Pickthall (1930) and Yusuf Ali (1934) are highly regarded translations by the Muslim community and each remains in print.

Publication Year Translator Title
1905 Mohammad Abdul Hakim Khan The Holy Qur'an
1911 Abd'l Fadl The Qur'an
1916 Hairat Dihlawi The Koran
1916 Mirza Abu'd-Fazl (have the 4th revised. Unclear if 1916 Ed. Was English) The Koran
1917 Muhammad Ali The Holy Qur'an
1920 Sarwar Ghulam (have 1929 edition) The Holy Qur'an
1930 Mohammad Pickthall The Meaning of the Glorious Qur'an
1933 J.M. Bodwell The Koran
1934 Abdullah, Yusuf Ali (have the 1938 edition) The Meaning of the Glorious Qur'an
1934 S.N.A Jafri Al-Quran
1937 Richard Bell The Qur'an
1955 Arthur Arberry The Koran Interpreted
1955 Sher Ali The Holy Qur'an
1956 N.J. Dawood The Koran
1957 Adbul Majid Daryabadi (have the 2002 edition) The Holy Qur'an

Works Cited:

Binark, Ismet and Halit Eren.  World Bibliography Translations of the Meanings of the Holy Qur’an Printed Translations 1515-1980.  Istanbul:  Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture,  1986.

Kidwai, A.R. “Translating the Untranslatable: A survey of English Translations of the Quran.”  The Muslim World Book Review.  7.4 (1987) :  66-71.

Mohammed, Khaleel.  “Assessing English Translations of the Qur’an.”  Middle East Quarterly  12.2  (2005):  59-71