The Qur’an famously has a recited/compiled order which differs from the order of its revelation/proclamation. Some non-Muslims translators have ‘restored’ chronology. But how about Muslims?
#qurantranslationoftheweek 🌏🇮🇳
Muslim scholars have always treated revelatory order as significant, as observed in tafsīr and subgenres of naskh and asbāb al-nuzūl. However, the challenge of constructing a detailed account has met with limited attempts in traditional scholarship.
Peter G. Riddell notes in ‘Reading the Qur’an Chronologically’ the influence of Theodor Nöldeke’s list published in 1860, which built on the work of his German orientalist predecessor Gustav Weil. Both made use of Muslim works on the subject.…
The idea of rearranging the surahs for tafsir study has not been popular, but was applied by M. ‘Izzat Darwaza 🇵🇸 in ‘Al-Tafsir al-Hadith’ (1962); and to Meccan suras by ‘Abd al-Rahman Hasan al-Maydani 🇸🇾 in ‘Ma’arij al-Tafakkur’ (2000).
In terms of translations, J.M. Rodwell’s (1861) was arranged in a surah order mostly agreeing with Nöldeke’s. This was undone by Alan Jones in a 2001 edition (see images)! Richard Bell (1937) and N.J. Dawood (1956) also presented their translations chronologically.
It’s less known that at least 2 Muslims produced chronological translations. Bruce Lawrence shares this brief mention on Mirza Abul Fazl and later classes him among “zealous laymen innocent of scholarly background”.
However, the chronology feature of his 1910 work goes unmentioned. Hailing from East Bengal (now Bangladesh), Abul Fazl was versed in Arabic but more specialised in Sanskrit, in which he earned a PhD from Berlin.
In the late 1930s, he settled in Hyderabad, India, where Hashim Amir-Ali, who was later to publish ‘The Message of the Qur’an: Presented in Perspective’ (described calligraphy here as “tafsir nuzuli”), came under his tutelage for many years.
Hashim Amir-Ali (1903-1987) studied in Hyderabad and Bombay, then Chicago and Cornell, where he took a PhD in Rural Sociology. He wrote ‘The Student’s Qur’an’ before his translation ‘The Message of the Qur’an’, which he intended to follow with a more detailed volume.
Even if Lawrence’s description of Abul Fazl as unscholarly is overstated, here is Amir-Ali’s fascinating self-description as a traumatised layman who relied heavily on previous English translations:
Amir-Ali’s publication has some special aesthetic features. This charming short review notes the “feel” of this edition of the Holy Book, something that can only be appreciated partially from the digital scan!…
The Qur’an has been divided here into 5 chronological “Books”: each is heralded by a red page adorned with a calligraphic door from the Taj Mahal!
There are other aesthetic touches as well as occasional footnoted reflections, and reproductions of earlier translations.
Apart from the main text, Amir-Ali has placed pedagogical material (putting the scripture into “Perspective” as the title promises) in the “postscripts/interludes” between the 5 “Books”. All this adds to the reader’s experience with the volume.
#qurantranslationoftheweek 🌏

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More from @GloQur

25 Sep
Ever wondered how it would look if a great exegete wrote his own Qur’an translation? There are attempts to construct these hypothetically alongside translations of tafsir, such as this work which contains ‘A Baydawian Rendering’ in English.
#qurantranslationoftheweek 🌏🇧🇳
It’s easy to show that translation is a form of tafsir (focused on words). What’s less acknowledged is that it can be a very convenient tool for an exegete (or their translator on their behalf) to capture the meaning they have understood. See:
Scott Lucas (himself translator of parts of Tabari’s exegesis) argued that “the Anglophone world would benefit far more from the partial or complete translation of Qur’anic commentaries than it would from yet another translation of the Qur’an itself.”…
Read 12 tweets
18 Sep
Slovakia’s Muslim community is the smallest in Europe with around 5000 members. It has been noted as the only EU country without a mosque. Nevertheless, this community benefits from the Qur’an translation of Abdulwahab al-Sbenaty (2007).
#qurantranslationoftheweek 🌍🇸🇰 Image
A Muslim activist of Syrian origin, al-Sbenaty graduated from the Faculty of Law of Comenius University (Bratislava). He is one of the founders of the Muslim Community in Slovakia (Komunita muslimov na Slovensku).
Al-Sbenaty is also known for Islamic books such as “Marriage in Islam” (Manželstvo v islame, 1998). Recently, the author published a short but inspiring booklet on his own experience translating the Qur’an (Ako sme prekladali Korán do slovenského jazyka, 2019).
Read 14 tweets
11 Sep
This is not a translation, it is a counter-translation. Muhammad Thalib’s
“exegetical translation”, first published in 2011, is a direct attack on the Indonesian government. #qurantranslationoftheweek 🌏🇮🇩 Image
The Indonesian government publishes its own Qur’an translation, which
dominates the Indonesian market (see…).
Consequently, criticizing the government translation implies an attack on the authority of the state, as Munirul Ikhwan has shown in his JQS paper on Muhammad Thalib’s translation
Read 19 tweets
4 Sep
Since the days when they debated the validity of translating the Qur’an, scholars of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University have contributed some translations of their own. One is M.M. Ghali’s “Towards Understanding the Ever-Glorious Qur’an” (1st edn. 1997).
#qurantranslationoftheweek 🌍🇪🇬 Image
Muhammad Mahmud Ghali (1920-2016) was Professor of Linguistics & Islamic Studies, and founder of Al-Azhar’s Faculty of Languages & Translation. Pictured above is the 3rd edition which was revised by two fellow Arab professors (men) and a native English speaking editor (woman).
Ghali authored at least 16 books, one of which has a direct relationship with his Qur’an translation: “Synonyms in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an” (Al-Mutarādifāt fī al-Qur’ān al-Majīd). Its basic premise is that nuances between Arabic words should be reflected in the target language. Image
Read 8 tweets
28 Aug
It is widely known that the first translation of the Qur’an in Europe was produced in Latin in a Christian context, but what about the first Muslim translation? #qurantranslationoftheweek 🌍🇵🇱
That honour goes to the 16th–17th century interpretation into the Old Polish language (with extensive usage of other Slavic vocabularies like Old Belarusian), made by Tatars of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Usually known as ketabs (meaning “religious books”) and written in Arabic script with additional letters, these texts were in broad usage until the 20th century.
Read 17 tweets
21 Aug
Our latest #qurantranslationoftheweek 🌍🇸🇪 is a guest contribution by Nora S. Eggen, University of Oslo.

Mohammed Knut Bernström, Koranens budskap - with comments by Muhammad Asad, Stockholm: Proprius förlag, 1998). Image
The translation of the Qur’an in Europe is a history of retranslation: even if the translator is working directly with the Arabic text, s/he also refers to other translations into the same or a different language.
The Swedish translator & diplomat Mohammed Knut Bernström (1919-2009) positioned his new translation critically to the Swedish translation by Karl W. Zetterstéen (Koranen, 1917, reprinted with comments by C. Toll 1979), and positively to M. Asad’s Message of the Qur'an (1980).
Read 16 tweets

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