Bibliography of the Translations of the Meanings of the Glorious Quran into English: 1641-2002: A Critical Study

Article excerpt

Abdur Raheem Kidwai. Bibliography of the Translations of the Meanings of the Glorious Quran into English: 1641-2002: A Critical Study. Al- Madinah al-Munawwarah: King Fahd Quran Printing Complex, 2007. Pp. xxiix+474. Hardbound. ISBN 9960-9669-1-7. No price given.

The work is a valuable survey of all complete English translations of the Qur'an made during the last 350 years. Both the author and the King Fahd Qur'an Printing Complex are to be complimented having kept the highest standards of scholarship and production in this work.

The author, Abdur Raheem Kidwai, is Professor of English and Director, UGC Academic Staff College at the Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. For decades he has been teaching English language and literature and is thoroughly familiar with the Western academic tradition. Besides, for the grater part of his life Kidwai has been involved in serving the cause of the Qur'an. One of the areas of his special interest is the critical study of the Qur'an scholarship in English. The work under review presents a comprehensive and critical assessment of various English translations in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.

In his Introduction the author has delved deep into the history of English translations of the Qur'an. He has rightly pointed out the pitfalls in the field, bringing to forelight the inadequacy and incompetence of a number of Qur'an translators whose flawed versions have put readers off from the study of the Qur'an. For instance, Muhammad Ashfaq Husain (b. 1931), an English translator of the urdu translation of the Qur'an by Mahmud al-Hasan (1851- 1920) and Shabbir Ahmad 'Uthmani (1887-1949) gives his comments on Pakistani politics in 1990 although the original work goes back to the 1930s (see, p. 198). Another deplorable aspect of this field is plagiarism. Some translators have audaciously lifted material, without any acknowledgement from the earlier works of 'Abdullah Y-suf 'Ali (1872-1953) and Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall (1875-1936). As to the English version of some outstanding Urdu taf*s*r works, the author laments the poor quality of their presentation in English. He has forcefully pleaded for the production of a new English translation of the Qur'an in the current idiom which caters to the intellectual needs of a wide universal readership, one that is not too literal and conveys the message of the Qur'an, is free from sectarianism and is not overlaid with far fetched allusions to mysticism and science. In sum, the new English translation should meet the multifarious needs of the English speaking readers of the Qur'an (see, pp. xvii-xix).

The author has introduced and critically analyzed as many as 47 complete English translations of the Qur'an. Each translation has been scrutinized under the following heads: (1) Biography of the translator, in which the author traces and comments upon the main features of the translator's formative years. In some instances, however, the biographical information is not quite complete. (2) Publication History which is aimed at providing a brief account of the number of editions and their reception. This, in turn, helps readers realise the importantce and impact of the translator's work. For example, it has been pointed out regarding the Qadiyani translator Sher Ali's The Holy Quran (first published in 1947) that in 1982 alone it was reprinted as many as 13 times and 160,000 copies of the translation were circulated in Pakistan, Ghana and Hong Kong (p. 106). (3) Features of the translation, which forms the most valuable part of the work in which the strengths and weaknesses of each translation have been discussed at length. The contents under this head enable the reader to learn not only about the numerous non- Muslim translators, but also their motives, their underlying assumptions about the Qur'an, and the main contours of the Western scholarship on Islam as such. Under this head the author also highlights that some Muslim translators, under the spell of non-Muslim translators of the Qur'an, have adopted an apologetic approach to the Qur'an's interpretation. …