In the Name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate
Praise be to God there are numerous versions of the holy Qur'an in English nowadays. The
question arises as to the accuracy and beauty of the translations. The pristine Arabic text of course
stands as the linguistic arbiter and the touchstone par excellence. This however does not preclude
the person who is not versed in Qur'anic Arabic from fully partaking in the glorious banquet.
Similarly an intimate knowledge of Arabic does not imply that a non-believer, or indeed a pedant or
bigot, is an automatic guest. The reason for this is, that whilst precise linguistic meaning has its
importance, and especially for instance in regard to legal statute, it is in the implication of the text
that we find the glory of the Qur'an. The implication can be sought either in a single letter, word,
phrase or in an entire Sura, or indeed in the whole book ' the whole of it is from my Lord'.
Despite the words in the final sermon of our beloved Prophet (pbuh) about the equality of Arabs and
non-Arabs, prejudice of course exists concerning the superiority of the Arabic knowing person in
accessing the holy scripture. Whilst acknowledging that such a knowledge can be an asset of
significance and greatly desirable, and in scholars indispensable, as a general rule it is as absurd
as the hypothesis that a non-Arab cannot be a Muslim a view rarely admitted to but more often
held. Abu Lahab no doubt understood the Arabic of the holy Qur'an better than many a modern
linguist but it helped him not one whit.
These pages intend to re-produce some short passages from the holy book. Beneath these will be
found a number of translations. Though I have found it more useful to decide on a particular
translation and use that alone, it can be helpful at times, in reading the Qur'an in English, to
compare the various translations as part of one's reflection and meditation on the scripture. As one
descends from the literal meaning of the text towards its more sublime inner sense, its power to
illumine the context specific to our individual need becomes more a more and more evident miracle.
As in the famous story recorded in the Masnevi of Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi once the light of the
Qur'an enters we realise that the elephant (reality) consists of more than the one leg, or trunk, or
tusk, that we have hold of.
At the other end of the spectrum the recitation of the holy book in Arabic, with or without its meaning
being understood or reflected upon, has great power. Thus to incorporate this recitation even when
the purpose is reflection or meditation is desirable, to say the least. Below I have therefore included
a transliteration to enable non Arabic-knowing people to make recitation.
For the opening verses I have quoted a limited number of translations and subsequently have
selected those where there is a degree of variance. I have not made selections on the basis of my
view of their quality. The intention is not so much to highlight the limitation of translation but, so to
speak, to allow the reader to slip between the literal meanings towards the essence. You may find
that, ironically, a relatively bad translations, of which I am no judge, may also serve this purpose in
their own way by goading one to search for a more satisfactory one.
In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most
Praise be to God,
The Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds;
Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
Master of the Day of Judgement
Thee do we worship
And Thine aid we seek,
Show us the straight way.
The way of those on whom,
Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace
Those whose (portion)
Is not wrath,
And who go not astray.
The Opening Chapter
'al-Hamdu Lillaahi Rabbil-'Aalamiin.
wa 'iyyaaka nasta-'iin
Siraatal-laziina 'an-'amta 'alay-him -
Ghayril-maghzuubi 'alay-him wa laz-zaaalliin.
Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1930)
N.J Dawood (1956)
In the Name of Allah the Compassionate the
Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Creation,
The Compassionate, the Merciful
King of the Last Judgement!
You alone we worship, and to you alone we
pray for help.
Guide us to the straight path,
The path of those who you have favoured,
Not of those who have incurred Your wrath,
Nor of those who have gone astray.
Arthur J. Arberry (1955)
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the
Praise belongs to God, the Lord of all Being,
the all-Merciful, the all-Compassionate,
The master of the Day of Doom.
Thee only we serve; to Thee alone we pray for
Guide us in the straight path
the path of those on whom Thou hast blessed,
not of those against whom Thou are wrathful,
nor of those who are astray.
M.H. Shakir (1985)
In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the
The Beneficent, the Merciful.
Master of the Day of Judgement.
Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech
Keep is on the right path.
The path of those upon whom Thou hast
bestowed favours. Not (the path) of those
upon whom Thy wrath is brought down, nor of
those who go astray.
Dr Ahmed Zidan 1991
IN THE NAME OF GOD, MOST GRACIOUS,
Praise be to GOD, The Lord of the Worlds;
The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful;
Master of the Day of Judgement.
You alone do we worship and you alone we
beseech for help.
Guide us to the Straight Way;
The way of those on Whom you have bestowed
Your Grace not the way of those who earn Your
wrath, nor of those who go astray.
Maulana Shah Ahmed Raza Khan (urdu) translated into
English by Professor Shah Faridul Haque (1981).
(Allah in the name of The Most Affectionate,
All praise unto Allah, Lord of all the worlds.
The most Affectionate, the Merciful,
Master of the Day of Requittal.
We worship You alone, and beg You alone for
Guide us in the straight path.
The path of those whom You have favoured.
Not of those who have earned Your anger and
nor of those who have gone astray.
Ahmed Ali (1984)
In the name of Allah, most benevolent,
All praise be to Allah,
Lord of all the worlds,
Most beneficent, ever merciful,
King of the Day of Judgement.
You alone we worship, and to you alone turn for
Guide us (O Lord) to the path that is straight,
The path of those you have blessed,
Not of those who have earned Your anger,
nor those who have gone astray.