November 5, 2011 in Featured Question of the Week, Question of the Week, Which translation of the Bible do you use and why? by Yasir Qadhi
Which translation of the Bible do you use and why? Why King James? Why not King James? How do you decide which translation/version of the Bible or other holy scriptures to use?
Special note to our non-Christian panelists: Tell us about the role that translation and/or transliteration of holy scriptures plays in your faith.
For Muslims, the Quran is always in Arabic. There is no concept of the Quran being in any other language. Since Muslims believe the Quran to be the Divine Speech of God, spoken to the Prophet, they have historically (and theologically) restricted its recitation to the language that it was revealed in. Therefore, all Muslims the world over, Arab and non-Arab, learn how to recite and memorize the Quran in
its original Arabic. There is an entire science dedicated to teaching non-Arabs (and these days, even many Arabs!) how to read and properly enunciate the Quran.
I myself, coming from a non-Arab family, was taught the Arabic alphabet before any other, and learned to read the Quran in its original even before I could read English. As I grew older, I began memorizing portions, and eventually successfully memorized the Quran in its entirety (a feat that is not uncommon amongst religious families), in a language that I could not speak or understand. It was only later, during my studies at the University of Madinah, where I studied the classical language and began to appreciate the power and language of the original Arabic. (I would suggest to the reader to listen to recitations of the Quran that are available online to get a sense of the rhythm and melody of the recitation).
Of course, people have written translations and commentaries of the Quran since the earliest eras of Islam. However, these translations are never accorded any sacred status – they are only used, outside of
prayer, to understand the text, and not as a substitution of the text. For Muslims, the Quran cannot be translated. Any translation is merely a human’s attempt to translate the meanings into another language, and hence is never equated with the Quran itself.
There are many translations of the Quran into Western languages. The first translation into Latin was done in 1143, during the height of the Crusades, and in order to ‘expose the heresies’ of the Muslims.
Three and a half centuries later, Martin Luther himself read this translation and had it re-printed in Basle, Switzerland. In English, the first complete translation was completed in 1649, but it was a
rather poor translation as it was done, not from the Arabic original, but from a French translation. Eventually, George Sale completed a translation in 1734, and this was to remain the standard translation
for the next two centuries, despite its many flaws.
To date, there are over forty translations in the English language – which one is the ‘best’ is a matter of personal preference. The two that I would recommend are: The Quran (translated by Saheeh
International), and The Quran (translated by M. A. Abdul Haleem). Both can be found online.