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Quraan (mis) Translations

There are about 21 Translations of Quraan available in English today, of which two
are messy translations; one by the monastery of Abbey (1142) and the other one by a
Muslim (1922), both had political motivations to mistranslate.

The first one wanted European Christians to hate the invading kings from the Middle
East by painting them as evil cult so they can protect their own kingdom. The second
one was done by Hilali Khan, a Muslim in 1922, perhaps to egg on Muslims to regain
the lost Ottoman Empire and has inserted his own versions of hate towards Jews and
Christians. There are others as well who have done and misquoted the truth is, it is
not in Quraan. Quraan in Arabic, thank God, has remained intact.

A collections of articles at:

Thank you.
Mike Ghouse
The Role Played by Quran Translations
in Steering Public Opinion against
Islam in Non-Muslim Communities
Counteracting Antipathy against Islam
Insights Ironically Inspired by Two Non-
Muslims and More ..


Mike Ghouse
The Qur'n
Translated with
a Critical
of the Surahs

Richard Bell
In the aftermath of the events of 9/11, there was a boom in
the sales of Qur'an translations.
About 6 000 000 translations were sold in Germany
In Israel, bookstores ran out of their Qur'an translation

In this era, Qur'an translations have become far more crucial than any time
before. Apart from their importance to non-Arabic speaking Muslims, they
represent the primary source of information and the major recourse for the
non-Muslims who are curious to pursue familiarity with Islam through first-hand
The role of such translations is gravely serious in formulating recipients'
opinion about the Muslims religion. Thomas Cleary, one of the modern Quran
translators, states:
For non-Muslims, one special advantage in reading the Qur'an
is that it provides an authentic point of reference from
which to examine the biased stereotypes of Islam to which
Westerners are habitually exposed. Primary information is
essential to distinguish between opinion and fact in a
reasonable manner. This exercise may also enable the thinking
individual to understand the inherently defective nature of
prejudice itself (1993, p. VIII).
However, to present "an authentic point of reference ", Quran translations
have to be an authentic representation of what the original says. Has this been
the case?
Problem Statement

Islamophobia has been on the rise in recent years even

though it is deeply rooted in the past. There are a lot of
misconceptions about Islam and Muslims propagated
by the media. In trying to analyze the reasons for such
phenomenon, it was found out that translating the
meanings of the holy Qur'an offered an opportunity to
distort and misinterpret its meanings. This played a
crucial role in framing a negative and an inaccurate
image of Islam. The problem can be ascribed mostly to
translations by non-Muslims, however, also partially to
translations by Muslims. Besides, the problem has also
to do with western education and some other factors.
Major Factors
Contributing to
the Negative
Image of Islam

Deliberate Defamation
Tailor-made/Deviant Non-deliberate Insufficiency
& Propagation Other Problems
of Misconceptions Interpretations Linguistic Problems of translations

Roots of Islamophobia Sectarian translations
Twisted Translations
poor translations/
in the early Orientalist Decontextualization by Muslims by the Non-Muslim
translations literalism/
Qadyani Groups

Latin Translations Shiite translations

English and
Translations affected
other language by the rationalist trend

A. Roots of Islamophobia in the early Orientalist Translations

The first Qur'an translation was into Latin by Robert of Ketton in 1143. It was
made at the request of the Abbot of the monastery of Cluny. (abounds in

Another Latin translation by Ludovicus Marracci was published in 1698. It was

supplemented with quotes from Qur'an commentaries "carefully juxtaposed and
sufficiently garbled so as to portray Islam in the worst possible light" (Colin Turner,1997 p.
xii). The title of the introductory volume of such translation was A Refutation of the Qur'an.

Such translations formed the foundation for a number of subsequent translations into
English, French, Italian, German, etc.
The first English translation was that of Alexander Ross published in 1649. In his
introduction, Ross says "I thought good to bring it to their colours, that so viewing thine
enemies in their full body, thou must the better prepare to encounter his Alcoran" (p.
Similarly, H. Reckendorf (1857) says in his Hebrew translation of the Qur'an, "I can now
stop writing and ask God's pardon for the sin I committed when I profaned our sacred
language and transferred to it the talk of lies and falsehood" (as cited in Abdul Aal,
January 29, 2006, p. 78).

In 1734, George Sales translation came out based on Marraccis earlier notorious

In 1861, J. M. Rodwells work provided a further example of a writer "gunning for

Islam" (Turner, 1997, p. xii).
Samples of Early Translations
Maurice Bucaille (1981), an eminent French surgeon, stresses the
existence of mainstream inaccurate ideas that brainwash non-Muslims
As most people in the West have been brought up on
misconceptions concerning Islam and the Qur'an; for a large
part of my life, I myself was one such person As I grew up, I
was always taught that 'Mahomet was the author of the Qur'an.

Besides, at the International Seminar on Islam in Paris, held under the

auspices of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Bucaille (1985)

When I started my in-depth research on the reality of Islam, for

the first time, I started to study its scripture, the Qur'an and I
was obliged to use translations done by various Islamologues or
orientalists. Alas, I remember having found in several
translations of the same paragraph such differences that it was
evident that these interpretations were due to translators and
their commentaries, often added to the text. Later on, having
acquired the knowledge of the Arabic language, enabling me to
read the Qur'an in the original text, I discerned the evident
desire to camouflage or to willfully change the meaning,
evidently in order to adapt the text to a personal point of view.
(p. 10)
Testifying to the deliberate mistranslation of the Qur'an by some orientalists to
confirm the misconceptions about Islam taught to students at schools, Hussain
Rofe, a British convert to Islam states:
Reading Rodwell's translation of the Qur'an Al-Karim had specially fixed
these negative preconceptions into my subconscious. Rodwell had
mistranslated some parts of the Qur'an Al-Karim and distorted its
meanings, thus turning the holy book into a mass of unintelligible
words altogether different from the original version. It was not till after
having contacted the 'Islamic Society' in London and having read a true
translation of the Qur'an Al-Karim that I knew the truth. (as cited in Why
did they become Muslims? 1995)

Unfortunately, as Sir Edward Denson Ross (1940) asserts in his introduction to

George Sales' translation:
[for] many centuries the acquaintance which the majority of Europeans
possessed of Mohammedanism was based almost entirely on distorted
reports of fanatics which led to dissemination of a multitude of gross
calumnies. What was good in Mohammedanism was entirely ignored,
and what was not good, in the eyes of Europe, was exaggerated or
misinterpreted. (as cited in Sales, 1940, p. 7)
B. Decontextualization
A major trend that helped in spreading the misconception that Islam is a religion of terrorism
is that the western media decontextualize ayat of Qur'an translations dealing with war and use
them to criticize Islam.
Along the same lines, in their book The Dark Side of Islam, Abdul Saleeb and R. C. Sproul
(2003) decontextualize some ayat to prove that Islam is a religion that instigates violence. One of
the examples they mention is ayat 190-193 of sura 2. This is how they cite them:

Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, and slay them
wherever you catch them, ... and fight them on until there is no more
tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah" (p. 87)
However, the full ayat read:
"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not attack them
first. God does not love the aggressors, and slay them wherever you catch
them [those who fight against you]; drive them out of the places from
which they drove you, for persecution is worse than killing. But do not
fight them at the Sacred Mosque until they first attack you there, but if
they attack you [there], then kill them. Such is the retribution of the
disbelievers. But if they desist, then [know that] God is Forgiving,
Compassionate, and fight them on until there is no more tumult or
oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah. But if they desist,
then let there be no hostility except against the transgressors."
It is sad too that many Quran translations by Muslims reflect ideas that
drift away from the mainstream Muslim beliefs.
A. Sectarian Translations
Some translations, even though good in many respects, are influenced by
scientific rationalism like those of Ahmad and Dina Zidan (1979),
Muhammad Asad (1980), and Ahmad Ali (1984). They intend to interpret
any references to miracles in the Qur'an on rational or figurative basis as
they reject the idea of miracles. For example, Asad (1980), whose
translation is praised by many, believes that Jesus Christ's miraculous
talk in his cradle is "a metaphorical allusion to the prophetic wisdom
which was to inspire Jesus from a very early age" (p. 73).
Unfortunately, these views reflect obvious refutation of basic mainstream
beliefs of the majority of Muslims who fully acknowledge these miracles.
Shi'ite translations differ in some respects from the mainstream
understanding of certain ayat (verses) to reflect their own doctrinal biases
rather than give an accurate presentation of the Muslims Scripture.

B. Translations to Suite ones personal needs

Qadiyani and Ahmadiyya Translations

To serve their own needs, they marred their translations with

modifications to certain ayat (verses), thus disseminating ideas that
contradict with basic Muslim beliefs.
A. Mistranslations or Inadequate Translations
The mistranslation of certain words or the poor translation of certain ayat lead to
misunderstandings.One issue is related to the translation of the Arabic words
"" , Islam, and "", Muslimun in Qur'anic ayat. For many non-
Muslims who do not understand the original meaning of these words, describing
the disciples or Prophets who came long before Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as
Muslims is an anachronism.
Examples of these ayat are:
"Or where you present when death came to Jacob? When he said to his
sons: 'what will you worship when I am gone?' They answered: 'We shall
worship your God and the God of your fathers: Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, the
One God, and to Him we are Muslims' " [2: 133)
"When Jesus found Unbelief on their part He said: "Who will be my helpers to
God?" The disciples said, 'we are God's helpers: We believe
in God, and do thou bear witness that we are Muslims' " [3: 52]
An example of a poor translation giving a wrong meaning is the first translation
below. The second translation is a better one:
And in retaliation there is life for you, O men endowed with intellect, that
possibly you would be pious (2: 179).
Fair retribution saves life for you, people of understanding, so that you may
guard off [against what is wrong/further murders].
Non-inclusion of the occasions of revelation of the ayat
Many Qur'an translations do not include any footnotes explaining
allusions and ambiguous pronominal references or giving the cultural
background and brief explanation of the occasions of revelation - at least
of the ayat that may be controversial or misunderstood. One problematic
example is aya 216 of sura 2 which reads:
"Fighting is prescribed upon you, and ye dislike it. But is possible
that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing
which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth and ye know not" (p. 87)
It is very important to understand the occasion of revelation of this ayah
and its background, which is never given in translations, and to indicate
the first ayat giving permission to fight are those below. These ayat
clearly specified the reasons for fighting.
"Permission to fight is given to those who have been fought against because
they have been done injustice, and God is well able to help them .. those who
have been unjustly driven from their homes only for saying, 'our Lord is God'.
If God did not drive back some people by means of others, monasteries,
churches, synagogues and mosques, where God's name is mentioned much,
would be surely be demolished " [22: 39-40].
It should be noted that the Quran was not revealed to the Prophet at
one shot but rather piecemeal over the 23 years of his Prophetic mission.

The Partial Coverage of the Media

The following ayah is among those often cited in the media:
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth,
from among the People of the Book [Jews and Christians]"
However, the following ones are often ignored:
"God does not forbid you to be benevolent and equitable to those who have neither made war
on your religion or driven you from your homes. God loves the equitable. God only forbids you
to make friends with those who have fought against you on account of your religion and driven
you from your homes, or abetted others to do so. Those who make friends with them are
unjust." [60:8-9]
"The believers, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabians any who believes in God and the
Last Day and does good will have their reward with their Lord. There is nothing for them to
fear nor will they grieve" [2: 62].
Wrong Information by Schools and Family Members in the Non-Muslim Communities:
Mumin Abd-Ur Razaq Selliah, a Sri Lankan convert to Islam, explains:
Formerly, I was an arch enemy of Islam. For, all the members of my family and all my
friends were telling me that Islam was an absurd and concocted religion that would lead man to
Hell, and they were even preventing me from talking with Muslims. As soon as I saw a Muslim I
would turn and walk away, and I would curse them behind their back (as cited in Why did they
become Muslims?, 1995).
Muslims Negativity
Muslims are so passive towards what is going on. They do not seriously attempt to counteract
the campaigns discrediting Islam through explaining its true principles. Husain Rofe testifies
to this:

One thing I would regret to say at this point is that Muslims are doing very little to
advertise this lovely religion of theirs to the world. If they try to spread the true
essence of Islam over the entire world with due attention and knowledge, I am sure
that they will achieve very positive results. In the near East, people are still reserved
towards foreigners.

Instead of coming into contact with them and illuminating them, they prefer to
keep as far away as possible from them. This is an exceedingly wrong attitude. I am
the most concrete example. For I was somehow hindered from being interested in
the Islamic religion. Fortunately, one day I met a very respectable and highly
cultured Muslim. He was very friendly with me. He listened to me with attention.
He presented me an English version of the Qur'an al-Karim translated by a Muslim.
He gave beautiful and logical answers to all my questions. (as cited in Why did they
become Muslims?, 1995)
A reliable translation of the Qur'an, encompassing comprehensive information, should be
prepared as a team work with both language specialists and specialists in religion, who have a good
command of the target foreign language, to be involved.
Muslims should attempt to make people acquainted with their religion and to clear the
misconceptions related to issues like the status of women in Islam, polygamy, Jihad etc. This can
be done on two different levels:
* More explanatory programs in the media should be devoted to addressing such issues in a rational
scientific documented way.
*On another level, lay Muslims can engage in such tasks making use of the Internet technology
and chat talks, that are used only for nonsensical activities, through the notion of "popular
diplomacy ". The following are comments of some students who were involved in the Connect
Project at the American University in Cairo. Such program involves students from so many Arab
and American Universities in videoconferencing where they discuss several crucial issues to bridge
the communication gap and clear misconceptions
"I learned that the American media is the main reason why there are many stereotypes
and false ideas on Islam and the Arab World." (Female, Qatari, University of Qatar).
I was happy to see how my American partners in this program could express themselves freely
and were brave to tell us about the stereotypes they have. I enjoyed answering all their
questions about Islam and the Arab world" (Female, Qatari, University of Qatar).
An American student said, "The actual real-time discussions were amazing in that we were
actually able to speak and ask anything to people we knew so little about. I think it was the
best way to learn about the Middle East and Islam that a student could experience"
(female, Virginia Commonwealth University).
The media should give more weight to explaining sides of Islam that that are ignored by Non-
Muslims. Indeed, some of these issues captured western scholars and converts to Islam. Among these
issues are:
1.Islams Rationality
It is based on rational thinking. It does not ask Muslims to act against reason nor to accept things they
do not understand but to work their minds and seek knowledge. Thomas Cleary argues that Islam
"does not demand unreasoned belief. Rather it invites intelligent faith, growing from observation,
reflection, and contemplation" (p. vii).
Many of those who converted to Islam state in the book entitled Why did they become Muslims? that
this is one of the major issues that attracted them to this religion.
2. Acknowledgment of all the previous Books and Messengers.
3. The conformity between science and religion in Islam
Thomas Cleary (1993) states that Islam finds a solution to the dilemma of the
"Post-Christian West". He explains that the Qur'an:
offers a way to explore an attitude that fully embraces the quest for knowledge
and understanding that is the essence of science, while at the same time, and
indeed for the same reasons, fully embraces the awe humility, reverence, and
conscience'. (p.viii)
Besides, in his book The Bible, Quran and Science: The Holy Scriptures Examined
in the Light of Modern Knowledge, Maurice Bucaille acknowledges the total
conformity between the facts mentioned in the Qur'an and modern science.
Examples of the Scientific Facts in the Quran
: )
"Did not We make the earth an expanse
and the mountains as pegs?" (78: 6-7)
Mountains have deep roots under the surface of the
ground. (Earth, Press and Siever, p. 413.)

The mountains, like pegs, have deep roots embedded

in the ground. (Anatomy of the Earth, Cailleux, p.


Another illustration shows how the mountains

are peg-like in shape, due to their deep roots.
(Earth Science, Tarbuck and Lutgens, p. 158.)
He has loosed the two seas meeting together without overflowing a barrier
between them (55: 19-20)

Modern Science has discovered that in the places where two different seas meet, there is a barrier between
them. This barrier divides the two seas so that each sea has its own temperature, salinity, and
density.1 For example, Mediterranean sea water is warmer, more saline, and less dense, compared to
Atlantic ocean water. When Mediterranean sea water enters the Atlantic over the Gibraltar sill, it moves
several hundred kilometers into the Atlantic at a depth of about 1000 meters with its own warm, saline,
and less dense characteristics. The Mediterranean water stabilizes at this depth2 Although there are
large waves, strong currents, and tides in these seas, they do not mix or transgress this barrier.
(1) Principles of Oceanography, Davis, pp. 92-93.
(2) Principles of Oceanography, Davis, p. 93.
In support of Bucaille's and Cleary's argument, Captain Jacques Cousteau, a French famous undersea
explorer, explains that what made him believe that the Qur'an is the true word of God, was the discovery that
the water of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean do not mix. Following is what he says:
In 1962 German scientists said that the waters of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean did not mix with
each other in the Strait of Bab-ul-Mandab where the Aden Bay and the Red Sea join. So we began to
examine this. First we analyzed the water in the Mediterranean to find out its natural salinity and
density, and the life it contained. We repeated the same procedure in the Atlantic Ocean. We found
that, even at places where the two seas were closest to each other, each mass of water preserved its
properties. In other words, at the point where the two seas met, a curtain of water prevented the
waters belonging to the two seas from mixing. When I told Professor Maurice Bucaille about this
phenomenon, he said that it was no surprise and that it was written clearly in Islam's Holy Book, the
Qur'an al-Karim. When I knew this, I believed in the fact that the Qur'an al-Karim was the 'Word
of Allah'.
Dr. T. V. N. Persaud, a Professor of Anatomy, Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health, and
Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the University of Manitoba,
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Chairman of the Department of Anatomy states:
The way it was explained to me is that Muhammad was a very ordinary man. He could not read,
didnt know [how] to write. In fact, he was an illiterate. And were talking about twelve [actually
about14 00] years ago. You have someone illiterate making profound pronouncements and
statements and that are amazingly accurate about scientific nature. And I personally cant see how
this could be a mere chance. There are too many accuracies and, like Dr. Moore, I have no difficulty
in my mind that this is a divine inspiration or revelation which led him to these statements.
Other scientists testify to the same issue. Please click the link below:
This page is added by Mike Ghouse, to the previous pages prepared
by Ibrahim Saleh & Dahlia Sabry from Egypt.
How do I know that the Quraan translation I am reading is the right one or
the wrong one?

The test is simple It is the word of God, or simply stated wisdom for a
world of equilibrium. Neither Injustice nor imbalance is included in
Gods Plan. God simply will not be un-just. If a verse offends the
reader, then the issue is not the Verse, but it is the understanding of
the verse in its right context. Even if an expert translates it for you, it
still should mean justice. Finding the truth is ones own responsibility.

Mistakes are made intentionally and innocently.

That is life, we come and Go, the creator is always around.

It is not the word of God, nor the religion that is the problem, it is our
intent and our interpretation.

Lets hope all of us genuinely seek the truth and work for a better world.

Please visit : and check out APOLOGY.

Karen Armstrong adds; if a verse troubles
you, go back and read it again and
again, until you get the idea that the
book is about creating a world of
balance to the individual as well as
what surrounds that individual.
Any verse that is troublesome to you, go
back and read at least five passages before
and five after to comprehend the context.

Best wishes to you.

Mike Ghouse