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The Holy Quran
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The Holy Quran
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Preface

 

... It may be asked: Is there any need for a fresh English translation? To those who ask this question I commend a careful consideration of the facts which I have set out in my Note on Translation. After they have read it, I would invite them to take any particular passage, say ii. 74 or ii. 102, or ii. 164 and compare it with any previous version they choose. If they find that I have helped them even the least bit further in understanding its meanings, or appreciating its beauty or catching something of the grandeur of the original, I would claim that my humble attempt is justified.

 

It is the duty of every Muslim, man, woman, or child, to read the Our-an and understand it according to his own capacity. If anyone of us attains to some knowledge or understanding of it by study, contemplation, and the test of life, both outward and inward, it is his duty, according to his capacity, to instruct others, and share with them the joy and peace which result from contact with the spiritual world. The Our-an-indeed every religious book-has to be read, not only with the tongue and voice and eyes, but with the best light that our intellect can supply, and even more, with the truest and purest light which our heart and conscience can give us. It is in this spirit that I would have my readers approach the Our-an.

 

It was between the age of four and five that I first learned to read its Arabic words, to revel in its rhythm and music and wonder at its meaning. I have a dim recollection of the Khatm ceremony which closed that stage. It was called “completion”: it really just began a spiritual awakening that has gone on ever since. My revered father taught me Arabic, but I must have imbibed from into my innermost being something more,-something which told me that all the world’s thoughts, all the world’s most beautiful languages and literatures, are but vehicles for that ineffable message which comes to the heart in rare moments of ecstasy. The soul of mysticism and ecstasy is in the Our-an, as well as that plain guidance for the plain man which a world in a hurry affects to consider as sufficient. It is good to make this personal confession, to an age in which it is in the highest degree unfashionable to speak of religion or spiritual peace or consolation, an age in which words like these draw forth only derision, pity, or contempt.

 

I have explored Western lands, Western manners, and the depths of Western thought and Western learning to an extent which has rarely fallen to the lot of an Eastern mortal. But I have never lost touch with my Eastern heritage. Through all my successes and failures I have learned to rely more and more upon the one true thing in all life-the voice that speaks in a tongue Abuve that of mortal man. For me the embodiment of that voice has been in the noble words of the Arabic Our-an, which I have tried to translate for myself and apply to my experience again and again. The service of the Our-an has been the pride and the privilege of many Muslims. I felt that with such life-experience as has fallen to my lot, my service to the Our-an should be to present it in a fitting garb in English. That ambition I have cherished in my mind for more than forty years. I have collected books and materials for it. I have visited places, undertaken journeys, taken notes, sought the society of men, and tried to explore their thoughts and hearts in order to equip myself for the. task. Sometimes I have considered it too stupendous for me,-the double task of understanding the original, and reproducing its nobility, its beauty, its poetry, its grandeur, and its sweet, practical, reasonable application to everyday experience. Then ‘I have blamed myself for lack of courage,-the spiritual courage of men who dared all in the Cause which was so dear to them.

 

Two sets of apparently accidental circumstances at last decided me A man’s life is subject to inner storms far more devastating than those in the physical world around him. In such a storm, in the bitter anguish of a personal sorrow which nearly unseated my reason and made life seem meaningless, a new hope was born out of a systematic pursuit of my long-cherished project. Watered by tears, my manuscript began to grow in depth and earnestness if not in bulk. I guarded it like a secret treasure. Wanderer that I am, I carried it Abuut, thousands of miles, to all sorts of countries and among all sorts of people. At length, in the city of Lahore, I happened to mention the matter to some young people who held me in respect and affection. They showed an enthusiasm and an eagerness which surprised me. They almost took the matter out of my hands. They asked for immediate publication. I had various bits ready, but not even one complete Sipara. They made me promise to complete at least one Si para before I left Lahore. As if by magic, a publisher, a katib (calligraphist, to write the Arabic Text), an engraver of blocks for such text, and a printer were found, all equally anxious to push forward the scheme. Blessed be youth, for its energy and determination! “Where others flinch, rash youth will dare!”

 

Gentle and discerning reader! what I wish to present to you is an English Interpretation, side by side with the Arabic Text. The English shall be, not a mere substitution of one word for another, but the best expression I can give to the fullest meaning which I can understand from the Arabic Text. The rhythm, music, and exalted tone of the original should be reflected in the English Interpretation. It may be but a faint reflection, but such beauty and power as my pen commands shall be brought to its service. I want to make English itself an Islamic language, if such a person as I can do it. And I must give you all the necessary aid which I can ....

 

The Text in English is printed ... in parallel columns with the Arabic Text. Each Sura and the verse of each Sura is separately numbered, and the numbers are shown page by page. The system of numbering the verses has not been uniform in previous translations. European editors and translators have allowed their numbering to diverge considerably from that accepted in the East. This causes confusion in giving and verifying references. The different Qiraats sometimes differ as to the punctuation stops and the numbering of the verses. This is not a vital matter, but it causes confusion in references. It is important that at least in Islamic countries one system of numbering should be adopted. I have adopted mainly that of the Egyptian edition published under the authority of the King of Egypt. This will probably be accepted in Egypt and in Arabic-speaking countries, as those countries generally look up to Egypt in matters of literature. I am glad to see that the text ... published by the Anjuman-i-Himayat-i-Islam of Lahore is following the same system of numbering. I recommend to other publishers ... the same good example. If once this is done, we shall have a uniform system of numbering. I have retained the numbering of Sections as it is universally used in the Arabic copies, and marks a logical division of the Suras. I have supplied a further aid to the reader in indicating subdivision of the Sections into paragraphs. They are not numbered, but are distinguished by the use of a flowery initial letter ....

 

......Every earnest and reverent student of the Our-an, as he proceeds with his study, will find, with an inward joy difficult to describe, how this general meaning also enlarges as his own capacity for understanding increases. It is like a traveller climbing a mountain; the higher he goes, the farther he sees. From a literary point of view the poet Keats has described his feeling when he discovered Chapman’s Homer:

 

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken,

Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes.

He stared at the Pacific,-and all his men

Looked at each other with a wild surmise—

Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

 

How much greater is the joy and sense of wonder and miracle when the Our-an opens our spiritual eyes! The meaning which we thought we had grasped expands. New words are opened out. As we progress, still newer, and again newer worlds “swim into our ken”. The miracle deepens and deepens, and almost completely absorbs us. And yet we know that the “face of God”-our final goal-has not yet been reached. We are in the mulk of Sulaiman (Q. ii. 102), which the evil ones denied, belied, and even turned into blasphemy. But we can ignore blasphemy, ridicule and contempt, for we are in the threshold of Realities and a little perfume from the garden of the Holy One has already gladdened our nostrils ...

 

The Arabic Text I have had printed from photographic blocks, made for me by Master Muhammad Sharif. The calligraphy is from the pen of Pir ‘Abdul Hamid, with whom I have been in touch and who has complied with my desire for a bold round hand, with the words clearly separated, the vowel points accurately placed over or under the letter to which they relate, and the verses duly numbered and placed in juxtaposition with their English equivalents. Calligraphy occupies an important place in Muslim Art, and it is my desire that my version should not in any way be deficient in this respect.

 

I have been fortunate in securing the co-operation of Professor Zafar Iqbal in looking over the proofs of the Arabic Text. In connection with the Anjuman’s edition of the Arabic Our-an he has devoted much time and thought to the correct punctuation of the Text, and he has also investigated its history and problems. I hope he will some day publish these valuable notes. I have been privileged to see the Anjuman’s Text before its formal publication. I consider it the most carefully prepared Text of any produced in India and I have generally followed it in punctuation and the numbering of verses,-the only points on which my difficulties are likely to arise on the Our’anic Text....

 

One final word to my readers. Read, study and digest the Holy Book. Read slowly, and let it sink into your heart and soul. Such study will, like virtue, be its own reward. If you find anything in this volume to criticise, please let it not spoil your enjoyment of the rest. If you write to me, quoting chapter and verse, I shall be glad to consider your criticism, but let it not vex you if I exercise my own judgment in deciding for myself. Any corrections accepted will be gratefully acknowledged. On the other hand, if there is something that specially pleases you or helps you, please do not hesitate to write to me. I have given up other interests to help you. It will be a pleasure to know that my labour has not been in vain. If you address me care of my Publisher at his Lahore address, he will always forward the letters to me.

Introduction

 

The Prophet’s Birth and His Marriage: MUHAMMAD, son of Abdullah, son of Abdul Muttalib, of the tribe of Qureysh, was born at Makkah fifty-three years before the Hijrah. His father died before he was born, and he was protected first by his grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, and, after his grandfather’s death, by his uncle, Abu Talib. As a young boy he travelled with his uncle in the merchants’ caravan to Syria, and some years afterwards made the same journey in the service of a wealthy widow named Khadijah. So faithfully did he transact the widow’s business, and so excellent was the report of his behaviour which she received from her old servant who had accompanied him, that she soon afterwards married her young agent; and the marriage proved a very happy one, though she was fifteen years older than he was. Throughout the twenty-six years of their life together he remained devoted to her; and after her death, when he took other wives, he always mentioned her with the greatest love and reverence. This marriage gave him rank among the notables of Makkah, while his conduct earned for him the surname At-Amin, the “trustworthy.”

 

The Hunata and The First revelation: The Makkans claimed descent from Abraham through Ishmael, and tradition stated that their temple, the Ka’bah, had been built by Abraham for the worship of the One God. It was still called the House of Allah, but the chief objects of worship there were a number of idols which were called daughters of Allah and intercessors. The few who felt disgust at this idolatry, which had prevailed for centuries, longed for the religion of Abraham and tried to find out what had been its teaching. Such seekers of the truth were known as Hunafa (sing. Hanif), a word originally meaning “those who turn away” (from the existing idol-worship), but coming in the end to have the sense of “upright” or “by nature upright,” because such persons held the way of truth to be right conduct. These Hunafa did not form a community. They were the agnostics of their day, each seeking truth by the light of his own inner consciousness. Muhammad son of Abdullah became one of these. It was his practice to retire with his family for a month of every year to a cave in the desert for meditation. His place of retreat was Hira, a desert hill not far from Makkah, and his chosen month was Ramadan, the month of heat. It was there one night toward the end of his quiet month that the first revelation came to him when he was forty years old. He was asleep or in a trance when he heard a voice say: “Read!” He said: “I cannot Read.” The voice again said: “Read!” He said: “I cannot read.” A third time the voice, more terrible, commanded: “Read!” He said: ‘What can I read?” The voice said:

 

“Read: In the name of thy Lord Who createth.

“Createth man from a clot.

“Read: And it is thy Lord the Most Bountiful

“Who teacheth by the pen,

“Teacheth man that which he knew not.”

 

The Vision of Mount Hira: When he awoke the words remained “as if inscribed upon his heart.” He went out of the cave on to the hillside and heard the same awe-inspiring voice say: “O Muhammad! Thou art Allah’s messenger, and I am Gabriel.” Then he raised his eyes and saw the angel, in the likeness of a man, standing in the sky Abuve the horizon. And again the dreadful voice said:, “O Muhammad! Thou art Allah’s messenger, and I am Gabriel.” Muhammad (God bless and keep him!) stood quite still, turning away his face from the brightness of the vision, but whithersoever he might turn his face, there always stood the angel confronting him. He remained thus a long while till at length the angel vanished, when he returned in great distress of mind to his wife Khadijah. She did her best to reassure him, saying that his conduct had been such that Allah would not let a harmful spirit come to him and that it was her hope that he was to become the Prophet of his people. On their return to Makkah, she took him to her cousin Waraqa ibn Naufal, a very old man, ‘‘who knew the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians,” who declared his belief that the heavenly messenger who came to Moses of old had come to Muhammad, and that he was chosen as the Prophet of his people.

 

His Distress of Mind: To understand the reason of the Prophet’s diffidence and his extreme distress of mind after the vision of Mt. Hira, it must be remembered that the Hunafa, of whom he had been one, sought true religion in the natural and regarded with distrust the intercourse with spirits of which men “avid of the Unseen,” sorcerers and sooth-sayers and even poets, boasted in those days. Moreover, he was a man of humble and devout intelligence, a lover of quiet and solitude, and the very thought of being chosen out of all mankind to face mankind, alone, with such a Message, appalled him at the first. Recognition of the Divine nature of the call he had received involved a change in his whole mental outlook sufficiently disturbing to a sensitive and honest mind, and also the forsaking of his quiet, honoured way of life. The early biographers tell how his wife Khadijah ‘‘tried the spirit” which came to him and proved it to be good, and how, with the continuance of the revelations and the conviction that they brought, he at length accepted the tremendous task imposed on him, becoming filled with an enthusiasm. of obedience Which justifies his proudest title of “The Slave of Allah.”

 

The Qur’an or “Reading”: The words which came to him when in a state of trance are held sacred by the Muslims and are never confounded with those which he uttered when no physical change was apparent in him. The former are the Sacred Book; the latter the I:Iadith or Sunnah of the Prophet. And because the angel on Mt. Hira bade him “Read!”—insisted on his “Reading” though he was illiterate-the Sacred Book is known as AI-Qur’an, “The Reading,” the Reading of the man who knew not how to read.

 

First Converts: For the first three years, or rather less, of his Mission, the Prophet preached only to his family and his intimate friends, while the people of Makkah as a whole regarded him as one who had become a little mad. The first of all his converts was his wife Khadijah, the second his first cousin Ali, whom he had adopted, the third his servant Zeyd, a former slave. His old friend Abu Bakr also was among those early converts with some of his slaves and dependents.

 

Beginning of Persecution: At the end of third year the Prophet received the command to “arise and warn,” 4 whereupon he began to preach in public, pointing out the wretched folly of idolatry in face of the tremendous laws of day and night, of life and death, of growth and decay, which manifest the power of Allah and attest His Sovereignty. It was then, when he began to speak against their gods, that Qureysh became actively hostile, persecuting his poorer disciples, mocking and insulting him. The one consideration which prevented them from killing him was fear of the blood-vengeance of the clan to which his family belonged. Strong in his inspiration, the Prophet went on warning, pleading, threatening, while Qureysh did all they could to ridicule his teaching, and deject his followers.

 

The Flight to Abyssinia, Conversion of Umar and The Sahifah or Deed of Ostracism: The converts of the first four years were mostly humble folk unable to defend themselves against oppression. So cruel was the persecution they endured that the Prophet advised all who could possibly contrive to do so to emigrate to a Christian country, Abyssinia.” And still in spite of persecution and emigration the little company of Muslims grew in number. Qureysh were seriously alarmed. The idol-worship at the Ka’bah, the holy place to which all Arabia made pilgrimage, ranked for them, as guardians of the Ka’bah, as first among their vested interests. At the season of the pilgrimage they posted men on all the roads to warn the tribes against the madman who was preaching in their midst. They tried to bring the Prophet to a compromise, offering to accept his religion if he would so modify it as to make room for their gods as intercessors with Allah, offering to make him their king if he would give up attacking idolatry; and, when their efforts at negotiation failed, they went to his uncle Abu Talib, offering to give him the best of their young men in place of Muhammad, to give him all that he desired, if only he would let them kill Muhammad and have done with him. Abu Talib refused. The exasperation of the idolaters was increased by the conversion of Umar,” one of their stalwarts. They grew more and more embittered, till things came to such a pass that they decided to ostracise the Prophet’s whole clan, idolaters who protected him as well as Muslims who believed in him. Their chief men caused a document to be drawn up to the effect that none of them or those belonging to them would hold any intercourse with that clan or sell to them or buy from them. This they all signed, and it was deposited in the Ka’bah. Then, for three years, the Prophet was shut up with all his kinsfolk in their stronghold which was situated in one of the gorges which run down to Makkah. Only at the time of pilgrimage could he go out and preach, or did any of his kinsfolk dare to go into the city.

 

Destruction of the Sahifah and the Men from Yathrib: At length some kinder hearts among Qureysh grew weary of the boycott of old friends and neighbours. They managed to have the document which had been placed in the Ka’bah brought out for reconsideration; when it was found that all the writing had been destroyed by white ants, except the words Bismika Allahumma (“In Thy name, O Allah”). When the elders saw that marvel the ban was removed, and the Prophet was again free to go Abuut the city. But meanwhile the opposition to his preaching had grown rigid. He had little success among the Makkans, and any attempt which he made to preach ·in the city of Taif was a failure. His Mission was a failure, judged by worldly standards, when, at the season of the yearly pilgrimage, he came upon a little group of men who heard him gladly.

 

First Pact of Al-Aqabah: They came from Yathrib, a city more than two hundred miles away, which has since become world-famous as Al-Madinah, “the City” par excellence. At Yathrib there were Jewish tribes with learned rabbis, who had often spoken to the pagans of a Prophet soon to come among the Arabs, with whom, when he came, the Jews would destroy the pagans as the tribes of A’ad and Thamud had been destroyed of old for their idolatry. When the men from Yathrib saw Muhammad they recognised him as the Prophet whom the Jewish rabbis had described to them. On their return to Yathrib they told what they had seen and heard, with the result that at the next season of pilgrimage a deputation came from Yathrib purposely to meet the Prophet. These swore allegiance to him in the first pact of Al’Aqabah, the oath they took being that which was afterwards exacted from women converts, with no mention of fighting. They then returned to Yathrib with a Muslim teacher in their company, and soon “there was not a house in Yathrib wherein there was not mention of the messenger of Allah.”

 

Second Pact of Al-Aqabah: In the following year, at the time of pilgrimage, seventy-three Muslims from Yathrib came to Makkah to vow allegiance to .the Prophet and invite him to their city. At Al-’Aqabah, by night, they swore to defend him as they would defend their own wives and children. It was then that the Hijrah, the Flight to Yathrib, was decided.

 

Plot to Murder the Prophet: Soon the Muslims who were in a position to do so began to sell their property and to leave Makkah unobtrusively. Qureysh had wind of what was going on. They hated Muhammad in their midst, but dreaded what he might become if he escaped from them. It would be better, they considered, to destroy him now. The death of Abu Talib had removed his chief protector; but still they had to reckon with tha vengeance of his clan upon the clan of the murderer. They cast lots and chose a slayer out of every clan. All those were to attack the Prophet simultaneously and strike together, as one man. Thus his blood would be on all Qureysh. It was at this time (Ibn Khaidun asserts, and it is the only satisfactoryexplanation of what happened afterwards) that the Prophet received the first revelation ordering him to make war upon his persecutors “until persecution is no more and religion is for Allah only.”

 

The Hijrah (June 20th 622 A.D.): The last of the able Muslims to remain in Makkah were Abu Bakr, Ali and the Prophet himself. Abu Bakr, a man of wealth, had bought two ridingcamels and retained a guide in readiness for the Flight. The Prophet only waited God’s command. It came at length. It was the night appointed for his murder. The slayers were before his house. He gave his cloak to Ali, bidding him lie down on the bed so that anyone looking in might think Muhammad lay there. The slayers were to strike him as he came out of the house, whether in the night or early morning. He knew they would not injure Ali. Then he left the house and, it is said, a blindness fell upon the would-be murderers so that he put dust on their heads as he passed by-without their knowing it. He went to Abu Bakr’s house and called to him, and they two went together to a cavern in the desert hills and hid there till the hue and cry was past, Abu Bakr’s son and daughter and his herdsman bringing them food and tidings after nightfall. Once a search-party came quite near them in their hiding-place, and Abu Bakr was afraid; but the Prophet said: “Fear not! Allah is with us.” B Then, when the coast was clear. Abu Bakr had the riding-camels and the guide brought to the cave one night, and they set out on the long ride to Yathrib.

 

After travelling for many days by unfrequented paths, the fugitives reached a suburb of Yathrib, whither, for weeks past, the people of the city had been going every morning, watching for the Prophet till the heat drove them to shelter. The travellers arrived in the heat of the day, after the watchers had retired. It was a Jew who called out to the Muslims in derisive tones that he whom they expected had at last arrived.

 

Such was the Hijrah, the Flight from Makkah to Yathrib, which counts as the beginning of the Muslim era. The thirteen years of humiliation, of persecution, of’ seeming failure, of prophecy still unfulfilled, were over. The ten years of success, the fullest that has ever crowned one man’s endeavour, had begun. The Hijrah makes a clear division in the story of the Prophet’s Mission, which is evident in the Qur’an. Till then he had been a preacher only. Thenceforth he was the ruler of a State, at first a very small one, which grew in ten years to the empire of Arabia. The kind of guidance which he and his people needed after the Hijrah was not the same as that which they had before needed. The Madinah surahs differ, therefore, from the Makkan surahs. The latter give guidance to the individual soul and to the Prophet as warner; the former give guidance to a growing social and political community and to the Prophet as example, lawgiver and reformer.

 

Classification of Makkan surahs: For classification the Makkan surahs are here subdivided into four groups: Very Early, Early, Middle and Late. Though the historical data and traditions are insufficient for a strict chronological grouping, the very early surahs are, roughly speaking, those revealed before the beginning of the persecution; the early surahs those revealed between the beginning of the persecution and the conversion of Umar; the middle surahs those revealed between the conversion of Umar and the destruction of the deed of ostracism; and the late surahs those revealed between the raising of the ban of ostracism and the Hijrah.

 

Preface

 

... It may be asked: Is there any need for a fresh English translation? To those who ask this question I commend a careful consideration of the facts which I have set out in my Note on Translation. After they have read it, I would invite them to take any particular passage, say ii. 74 or ii. 102, or ii. 164 and compare it with any previous version they choose. If they find that I have helped them even the least bit further in understanding its meanings, or appreciating its beauty or catching something of the grandeur of the original, I would claim that my humble attempt is justified.

 

It is the duty of every Muslim, man, woman, or child, to read the Our-an and understand it according to his own capacity. If anyone of us attains to some knowledge or understanding of it by study, contemplation, and the test of life, both outward and inward, it is his duty, according to his capacity, to instruct others, and share with them the joy and peace which result from contact with the spiritual world. The Our-an-indeed every religious book-has to be read, not only with the tongue and voice and eyes, but with the best light that our intellect can supply, and even more, with the truest and purest light which our heart and conscience can give us. It is in this spirit that I would have my readers approach the Our-an.

 

It was between the age of four and five that I first learned to read its Arabic words, to revel in its rhythm and music and wonder at its meaning. I have a dim recollection of the Khatm ceremony which closed that stage. It was called “completion”: it really just began a spiritual awakening that has gone on ever since. My revered father taught me Arabic, but I must have imbibed from into my innermost being something more,-something which told me that all the world’s thoughts, all the world’s most beautiful languages and literatures, are but vehicles for that ineffable message which comes to the heart in rare moments of ecstasy. The soul of mysticism and ecstasy is in the Our-an, as well as that plain guidance for the plain man which a world in a hurry affects to consider as sufficient. It is good to make this personal confession, to an age in which it is in the highest degree unfashionable to speak of religion or spiritual peace or consolation, an age in which words like these draw forth only derision, pity, or contempt.

 

I have explored Western lands, Western manners, and the depths of Western thought and Western learning to an extent which has rarely fallen to the lot of an Eastern mortal. But I have never lost touch with my Eastern heritage. Through all my successes and failures I have learned to rely more and more upon the one true thing in all life-the voice that speaks in a tongue Abuve that of mortal man. For me the embodiment of that voice has been in the noble words of the Arabic Our-an, which I have tried to translate for myself and apply to my experience again and again. The service of the Our-an has been the pride and the privilege of many Muslims. I felt that with such life-experience as has fallen to my lot, my service to the Our-an should be to present it in a fitting garb in English. That ambition I have cherished in my mind for more than forty years. I have collected books and materials for it. I have visited places, undertaken journeys, taken notes, sought the society of men, and tried to explore their thoughts and hearts in order to equip myself for the. task. Sometimes I have considered it too stupendous for me,-the double task of understanding the original, and reproducing its nobility, its beauty, its poetry, its grandeur, and its sweet, practical, reasonable application to everyday experience. Then ‘I have blamed myself for lack of courage,-the spiritual courage of men who dared all in the Cause which was so dear to them.

 

Two sets of apparently accidental circumstances at last decided me A man’s life is subject to inner storms far more devastating than those in the physical world around him. In such a storm, in the bitter anguish of a personal sorrow which nearly unseated my reason and made life seem meaningless, a new hope was born out of a systematic pursuit of my long-cherished project. Watered by tears, my manuscript began to grow in depth and earnestness if not in bulk. I guarded it like a secret treasure. Wanderer that I am, I carried it Abuut, thousands of miles, to all sorts of countries and among all sorts of people. At length, in the city of Lahore, I happened to mention the matter to some young people who held me in respect and affection. They showed an enthusiasm and an eagerness which surprised me. They almost took the matter out of my hands. They asked for immediate publication. I had various bits ready, but not even one complete Sipara. They made me promise to complete at least one Si para before I left Lahore. As if by magic, a publisher, a katib (calligraphist, to write the Arabic Text), an engraver of blocks for such text, and a printer were found, all equally anxious to push forward the scheme. Blessed be youth, for its energy and determination! “Where others flinch, rash youth will dare!”

 

Gentle and discerning reader! what I wish to present to you is an English Interpretation, side by side with the Arabic Text. The English shall be, not a mere substitution of one word for another, but the best expression I can give to the fullest meaning which I can understand from the Arabic Text. The rhythm, music, and exalted tone of the original should be reflected in the English Interpretation. It may be but a faint reflection, but such beauty and power as my pen commands shall be brought to its service. I want to make English itself an Islamic language, if such a person as I can do it. And I must give you all the necessary aid which I can ....

 

The Text in English is printed ... in parallel columns with the Arabic Text. Each Sura and the verse of each Sura is separately numbered, and the numbers are shown page by page. The system of numbering the verses has not been uniform in previous translations. European editors and translators have allowed their numbering to diverge considerably from that accepted in the East. This causes confusion in giving and verifying references. The different Qiraats sometimes differ as to the punctuation stops and the numbering of the verses. This is not a vital matter, but it causes confusion in references. It is important that at least in Islamic countries one system of numbering should be adopted. I have adopted mainly that of the Egyptian edition published under the authority of the King of Egypt. This will probably be accepted in Egypt and in Arabic-speaking countries, as those countries generally look up to Egypt in matters of literature. I am glad to see that the text ... published by the Anjuman-i-Himayat-i-Islam of Lahore is following the same system of numbering. I recommend to other publishers ... the same good example. If once this is done, we shall have a uniform system of numbering. I have retained the numbering of Sections as it is universally used in the Arabic copies, and marks a logical division of the Suras. I have supplied a further aid to the reader in indicating subdivision of the Sections into paragraphs. They are not numbered, but are distinguished by the use of a flowery initial letter ....

 

......Every earnest and reverent student of the Our-an, as he proceeds with his study, will find, with an inward joy difficult to describe, how this general meaning also enlarges as his own capacity for understanding increases. It is like a traveller climbing a mountain; the higher he goes, the farther he sees. From a literary point of view the poet Keats has described his feeling when he discovered Chapman’s Homer:

 

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken,

Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes.

He stared at the Pacific,-and all his men

Looked at each other with a wild surmise—

Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

 

How much greater is the joy and sense of wonder and miracle when the Our-an opens our spiritual eyes! The meaning which we thought we had grasped expands. New words are opened out. As we progress, still newer, and again newer worlds “swim into our ken”. The miracle deepens and deepens, and almost completely absorbs us. And yet we know that the “face of God”-our final goal-has not yet been reached. We are in the mulk of Sulaiman (Q. ii. 102), which the evil ones denied, belied, and even turned into blasphemy. But we can ignore blasphemy, ridicule and contempt, for we are in the threshold of Realities and a little perfume from the garden of the Holy One has already gladdened our nostrils ...

 

The Arabic Text I have had printed from photographic blocks, made for me by Master Muhammad Sharif. The calligraphy is from the pen of Pir ‘Abdul Hamid, with whom I have been in touch and who has complied with my desire for a bold round hand, with the words clearly separated, the vowel points accurately placed over or under the letter to which they relate, and the verses duly numbered and placed in juxtaposition with their English equivalents. Calligraphy occupies an important place in Muslim Art, and it is my desire that my version should not in any way be deficient in this respect.

 

I have been fortunate in securing the co-operation of Professor Zafar Iqbal in looking over the proofs of the Arabic Text. In connection with the Anjuman’s edition of the Arabic Our-an he has devoted much time and thought to the correct punctuation of the Text, and he has also investigated its history and problems. I hope he will some day publish these valuable notes. I have been privileged to see the Anjuman’s Text before its formal publication. I consider it the most carefully prepared Text of any produced in India and I have generally followed it in punctuation and the numbering of verses,-the only points on which my difficulties are likely to arise on the Our’anic Text....

 

One final word to my readers. Read, study and digest the Holy Book. Read slowly, and let it sink into your heart and soul. Such study will, like virtue, be its own reward. If you find anything in this volume to criticise, please let it not spoil your enjoyment of the rest. If you write to me, quoting chapter and verse, I shall be glad to consider your criticism, but let it not vex you if I exercise my own judgment in deciding for myself. Any corrections accepted will be gratefully acknowledged. On the other hand, if there is something that specially pleases you or helps you, please do not hesitate to write to me. I have given up other interests to help you. It will be a pleasure to know that my labour has not been in vain. If you address me care of my Publisher at his Lahore address, he will always forward the letters to me.

 

Contents

 

1.

Introduction

v-xvii

2.

Preface

xviii-xx

3.

List of 114 Suras (Chapters)

xxi-xxii

4.

Key to Transliteration

xxiv-xxvi

5.

114 Suras (Chapters) Pages

1-603

6.

Index

604-623

 



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The Holy Quran

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Arabic Text with English Translation
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Preface

 

... It may be asked: Is there any need for a fresh English translation? To those who ask this question I commend a careful consideration of the facts which I have set out in my Note on Translation. After they have read it, I would invite them to take any particular passage, say ii. 74 or ii. 102, or ii. 164 and compare it with any previous version they choose. If they find that I have helped them even the least bit further in understanding its meanings, or appreciating its beauty or catching something of the grandeur of the original, I would claim that my humble attempt is justified.

 

It is the duty of every Muslim, man, woman, or child, to read the Our-an and understand it according to his own capacity. If anyone of us attains to some knowledge or understanding of it by study, contemplation, and the test of life, both outward and inward, it is his duty, according to his capacity, to instruct others, and share with them the joy and peace which result from contact with the spiritual world. The Our-an-indeed every religious book-has to be read, not only with the tongue and voice and eyes, but with the best light that our intellect can supply, and even more, with the truest and purest light which our heart and conscience can give us. It is in this spirit that I would have my readers approach the Our-an.

 

It was between the age of four and five that I first learned to read its Arabic words, to revel in its rhythm and music and wonder at its meaning. I have a dim recollection of the Khatm ceremony which closed that stage. It was called “completion”: it really just began a spiritual awakening that has gone on ever since. My revered father taught me Arabic, but I must have imbibed from into my innermost being something more,-something which told me that all the world’s thoughts, all the world’s most beautiful languages and literatures, are but vehicles for that ineffable message which comes to the heart in rare moments of ecstasy. The soul of mysticism and ecstasy is in the Our-an, as well as that plain guidance for the plain man which a world in a hurry affects to consider as sufficient. It is good to make this personal confession, to an age in which it is in the highest degree unfashionable to speak of religion or spiritual peace or consolation, an age in which words like these draw forth only derision, pity, or contempt.

 

I have explored Western lands, Western manners, and the depths of Western thought and Western learning to an extent which has rarely fallen to the lot of an Eastern mortal. But I have never lost touch with my Eastern heritage. Through all my successes and failures I have learned to rely more and more upon the one true thing in all life-the voice that speaks in a tongue Abuve that of mortal man. For me the embodiment of that voice has been in the noble words of the Arabic Our-an, which I have tried to translate for myself and apply to my experience again and again. The service of the Our-an has been the pride and the privilege of many Muslims. I felt that with such life-experience as has fallen to my lot, my service to the Our-an should be to present it in a fitting garb in English. That ambition I have cherished in my mind for more than forty years. I have collected books and materials for it. I have visited places, undertaken journeys, taken notes, sought the society of men, and tried to explore their thoughts and hearts in order to equip myself for the. task. Sometimes I have considered it too stupendous for me,-the double task of understanding the original, and reproducing its nobility, its beauty, its poetry, its grandeur, and its sweet, practical, reasonable application to everyday experience. Then ‘I have blamed myself for lack of courage,-the spiritual courage of men who dared all in the Cause which was so dear to them.

 

Two sets of apparently accidental circumstances at last decided me A man’s life is subject to inner storms far more devastating than those in the physical world around him. In such a storm, in the bitter anguish of a personal sorrow which nearly unseated my reason and made life seem meaningless, a new hope was born out of a systematic pursuit of my long-cherished project. Watered by tears, my manuscript began to grow in depth and earnestness if not in bulk. I guarded it like a secret treasure. Wanderer that I am, I carried it Abuut, thousands of miles, to all sorts of countries and among all sorts of people. At length, in the city of Lahore, I happened to mention the matter to some young people who held me in respect and affection. They showed an enthusiasm and an eagerness which surprised me. They almost took the matter out of my hands. They asked for immediate publication. I had various bits ready, but not even one complete Sipara. They made me promise to complete at least one Si para before I left Lahore. As if by magic, a publisher, a katib (calligraphist, to write the Arabic Text), an engraver of blocks for such text, and a printer were found, all equally anxious to push forward the scheme. Blessed be youth, for its energy and determination! “Where others flinch, rash youth will dare!”

 

Gentle and discerning reader! what I wish to present to you is an English Interpretation, side by side with the Arabic Text. The English shall be, not a mere substitution of one word for another, but the best expression I can give to the fullest meaning which I can understand from the Arabic Text. The rhythm, music, and exalted tone of the original should be reflected in the English Interpretation. It may be but a faint reflection, but such beauty and power as my pen commands shall be brought to its service. I want to make English itself an Islamic language, if such a person as I can do it. And I must give you all the necessary aid which I can ....

 

The Text in English is printed ... in parallel columns with the Arabic Text. Each Sura and the verse of each Sura is separately numbered, and the numbers are shown page by page. The system of numbering the verses has not been uniform in previous translations. European editors and translators have allowed their numbering to diverge considerably from that accepted in the East. This causes confusion in giving and verifying references. The different Qiraats sometimes differ as to the punctuation stops and the numbering of the verses. This is not a vital matter, but it causes confusion in references. It is important that at least in Islamic countries one system of numbering should be adopted. I have adopted mainly that of the Egyptian edition published under the authority of the King of Egypt. This will probably be accepted in Egypt and in Arabic-speaking countries, as those countries generally look up to Egypt in matters of literature. I am glad to see that the text ... published by the Anjuman-i-Himayat-i-Islam of Lahore is following the same system of numbering. I recommend to other publishers ... the same good example. If once this is done, we shall have a uniform system of numbering. I have retained the numbering of Sections as it is universally used in the Arabic copies, and marks a logical division of the Suras. I have supplied a further aid to the reader in indicating subdivision of the Sections into paragraphs. They are not numbered, but are distinguished by the use of a flowery initial letter ....

 

......Every earnest and reverent student of the Our-an, as he proceeds with his study, will find, with an inward joy difficult to describe, how this general meaning also enlarges as his own capacity for understanding increases. It is like a traveller climbing a mountain; the higher he goes, the farther he sees. From a literary point of view the poet Keats has described his feeling when he discovered Chapman’s Homer:

 

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken,

Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes.

He stared at the Pacific,-and all his men

Looked at each other with a wild surmise—

Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

 

How much greater is the joy and sense of wonder and miracle when the Our-an opens our spiritual eyes! The meaning which we thought we had grasped expands. New words are opened out. As we progress, still newer, and again newer worlds “swim into our ken”. The miracle deepens and deepens, and almost completely absorbs us. And yet we know that the “face of God”-our final goal-has not yet been reached. We are in the mulk of Sulaiman (Q. ii. 102), which the evil ones denied, belied, and even turned into blasphemy. But we can ignore blasphemy, ridicule and contempt, for we are in the threshold of Realities and a little perfume from the garden of the Holy One has already gladdened our nostrils ...

 

The Arabic Text I have had printed from photographic blocks, made for me by Master Muhammad Sharif. The calligraphy is from the pen of Pir ‘Abdul Hamid, with whom I have been in touch and who has complied with my desire for a bold round hand, with the words clearly separated, the vowel points accurately placed over or under the letter to which they relate, and the verses duly numbered and placed in juxtaposition with their English equivalents. Calligraphy occupies an important place in Muslim Art, and it is my desire that my version should not in any way be deficient in this respect.

 

I have been fortunate in securing the co-operation of Professor Zafar Iqbal in looking over the proofs of the Arabic Text. In connection with the Anjuman’s edition of the Arabic Our-an he has devoted much time and thought to the correct punctuation of the Text, and he has also investigated its history and problems. I hope he will some day publish these valuable notes. I have been privileged to see the Anjuman’s Text before its formal publication. I consider it the most carefully prepared Text of any produced in India and I have generally followed it in punctuation and the numbering of verses,-the only points on which my difficulties are likely to arise on the Our’anic Text....

 

One final word to my readers. Read, study and digest the Holy Book. Read slowly, and let it sink into your heart and soul. Such study will, like virtue, be its own reward. If you find anything in this volume to criticise, please let it not spoil your enjoyment of the rest. If you write to me, quoting chapter and verse, I shall be glad to consider your criticism, but let it not vex you if I exercise my own judgment in deciding for myself. Any corrections accepted will be gratefully acknowledged. On the other hand, if there is something that specially pleases you or helps you, please do not hesitate to write to me. I have given up other interests to help you. It will be a pleasure to know that my labour has not been in vain. If you address me care of my Publisher at his Lahore address, he will always forward the letters to me.

Introduction

 

The Prophet’s Birth and His Marriage: MUHAMMAD, son of Abdullah, son of Abdul Muttalib, of the tribe of Qureysh, was born at Makkah fifty-three years before the Hijrah. His father died before he was born, and he was protected first by his grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, and, after his grandfather’s death, by his uncle, Abu Talib. As a young boy he travelled with his uncle in the merchants’ caravan to Syria, and some years afterwards made the same journey in the service of a wealthy widow named Khadijah. So faithfully did he transact the widow’s business, and so excellent was the report of his behaviour which she received from her old servant who had accompanied him, that she soon afterwards married her young agent; and the marriage proved a very happy one, though she was fifteen years older than he was. Throughout the twenty-six years of their life together he remained devoted to her; and after her death, when he took other wives, he always mentioned her with the greatest love and reverence. This marriage gave him rank among the notables of Makkah, while his conduct earned for him the surname At-Amin, the “trustworthy.”

 

The Hunata and The First revelation: The Makkans claimed descent from Abraham through Ishmael, and tradition stated that their temple, the Ka’bah, had been built by Abraham for the worship of the One God. It was still called the House of Allah, but the chief objects of worship there were a number of idols which were called daughters of Allah and intercessors. The few who felt disgust at this idolatry, which had prevailed for centuries, longed for the religion of Abraham and tried to find out what had been its teaching. Such seekers of the truth were known as Hunafa (sing. Hanif), a word originally meaning “those who turn away” (from the existing idol-worship), but coming in the end to have the sense of “upright” or “by nature upright,” because such persons held the way of truth to be right conduct. These Hunafa did not form a community. They were the agnostics of their day, each seeking truth by the light of his own inner consciousness. Muhammad son of Abdullah became one of these. It was his practice to retire with his family for a month of every year to a cave in the desert for meditation. His place of retreat was Hira, a desert hill not far from Makkah, and his chosen month was Ramadan, the month of heat. It was there one night toward the end of his quiet month that the first revelation came to him when he was forty years old. He was asleep or in a trance when he heard a voice say: “Read!” He said: “I cannot Read.” The voice again said: “Read!” He said: “I cannot read.” A third time the voice, more terrible, commanded: “Read!” He said: ‘What can I read?” The voice said:

 

“Read: In the name of thy Lord Who createth.

“Createth man from a clot.

“Read: And it is thy Lord the Most Bountiful

“Who teacheth by the pen,

“Teacheth man that which he knew not.”

 

The Vision of Mount Hira: When he awoke the words remained “as if inscribed upon his heart.” He went out of the cave on to the hillside and heard the same awe-inspiring voice say: “O Muhammad! Thou art Allah’s messenger, and I am Gabriel.” Then he raised his eyes and saw the angel, in the likeness of a man, standing in the sky Abuve the horizon. And again the dreadful voice said:, “O Muhammad! Thou art Allah’s messenger, and I am Gabriel.” Muhammad (God bless and keep him!) stood quite still, turning away his face from the brightness of the vision, but whithersoever he might turn his face, there always stood the angel confronting him. He remained thus a long while till at length the angel vanished, when he returned in great distress of mind to his wife Khadijah. She did her best to reassure him, saying that his conduct had been such that Allah would not let a harmful spirit come to him and that it was her hope that he was to become the Prophet of his people. On their return to Makkah, she took him to her cousin Waraqa ibn Naufal, a very old man, ‘‘who knew the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians,” who declared his belief that the heavenly messenger who came to Moses of old had come to Muhammad, and that he was chosen as the Prophet of his people.

 

His Distress of Mind: To understand the reason of the Prophet’s diffidence and his extreme distress of mind after the vision of Mt. Hira, it must be remembered that the Hunafa, of whom he had been one, sought true religion in the natural and regarded with distrust the intercourse with spirits of which men “avid of the Unseen,” sorcerers and sooth-sayers and even poets, boasted in those days. Moreover, he was a man of humble and devout intelligence, a lover of quiet and solitude, and the very thought of being chosen out of all mankind to face mankind, alone, with such a Message, appalled him at the first. Recognition of the Divine nature of the call he had received involved a change in his whole mental outlook sufficiently disturbing to a sensitive and honest mind, and also the forsaking of his quiet, honoured way of life. The early biographers tell how his wife Khadijah ‘‘tried the spirit” which came to him and proved it to be good, and how, with the continuance of the revelations and the conviction that they brought, he at length accepted the tremendous task imposed on him, becoming filled with an enthusiasm. of obedience Which justifies his proudest title of “The Slave of Allah.”

 

The Qur’an or “Reading”: The words which came to him when in a state of trance are held sacred by the Muslims and are never confounded with those which he uttered when no physical change was apparent in him. The former are the Sacred Book; the latter the I:Iadith or Sunnah of the Prophet. And because the angel on Mt. Hira bade him “Read!”—insisted on his “Reading” though he was illiterate-the Sacred Book is known as AI-Qur’an, “The Reading,” the Reading of the man who knew not how to read.

 

First Converts: For the first three years, or rather less, of his Mission, the Prophet preached only to his family and his intimate friends, while the people of Makkah as a whole regarded him as one who had become a little mad. The first of all his converts was his wife Khadijah, the second his first cousin Ali, whom he had adopted, the third his servant Zeyd, a former slave. His old friend Abu Bakr also was among those early converts with some of his slaves and dependents.

 

Beginning of Persecution: At the end of third year the Prophet received the command to “arise and warn,” 4 whereupon he began to preach in public, pointing out the wretched folly of idolatry in face of the tremendous laws of day and night, of life and death, of growth and decay, which manifest the power of Allah and attest His Sovereignty. It was then, when he began to speak against their gods, that Qureysh became actively hostile, persecuting his poorer disciples, mocking and insulting him. The one consideration which prevented them from killing him was fear of the blood-vengeance of the clan to which his family belonged. Strong in his inspiration, the Prophet went on warning, pleading, threatening, while Qureysh did all they could to ridicule his teaching, and deject his followers.

 

The Flight to Abyssinia, Conversion of Umar and The Sahifah or Deed of Ostracism: The converts of the first four years were mostly humble folk unable to defend themselves against oppression. So cruel was the persecution they endured that the Prophet advised all who could possibly contrive to do so to emigrate to a Christian country, Abyssinia.” And still in spite of persecution and emigration the little company of Muslims grew in number. Qureysh were seriously alarmed. The idol-worship at the Ka’bah, the holy place to which all Arabia made pilgrimage, ranked for them, as guardians of the Ka’bah, as first among their vested interests. At the season of the pilgrimage they posted men on all the roads to warn the tribes against the madman who was preaching in their midst. They tried to bring the Prophet to a compromise, offering to accept his religion if he would so modify it as to make room for their gods as intercessors with Allah, offering to make him their king if he would give up attacking idolatry; and, when their efforts at negotiation failed, they went to his uncle Abu Talib, offering to give him the best of their young men in place of Muhammad, to give him all that he desired, if only he would let them kill Muhammad and have done with him. Abu Talib refused. The exasperation of the idolaters was increased by the conversion of Umar,” one of their stalwarts. They grew more and more embittered, till things came to such a pass that they decided to ostracise the Prophet’s whole clan, idolaters who protected him as well as Muslims who believed in him. Their chief men caused a document to be drawn up to the effect that none of them or those belonging to them would hold any intercourse with that clan or sell to them or buy from them. This they all signed, and it was deposited in the Ka’bah. Then, for three years, the Prophet was shut up with all his kinsfolk in their stronghold which was situated in one of the gorges which run down to Makkah. Only at the time of pilgrimage could he go out and preach, or did any of his kinsfolk dare to go into the city.

 

Destruction of the Sahifah and the Men from Yathrib: At length some kinder hearts among Qureysh grew weary of the boycott of old friends and neighbours. They managed to have the document which had been placed in the Ka’bah brought out for reconsideration; when it was found that all the writing had been destroyed by white ants, except the words Bismika Allahumma (“In Thy name, O Allah”). When the elders saw that marvel the ban was removed, and the Prophet was again free to go Abuut the city. But meanwhile the opposition to his preaching had grown rigid. He had little success among the Makkans, and any attempt which he made to preach ·in the city of Taif was a failure. His Mission was a failure, judged by worldly standards, when, at the season of the yearly pilgrimage, he came upon a little group of men who heard him gladly.

 

First Pact of Al-Aqabah: They came from Yathrib, a city more than two hundred miles away, which has since become world-famous as Al-Madinah, “the City” par excellence. At Yathrib there were Jewish tribes with learned rabbis, who had often spoken to the pagans of a Prophet soon to come among the Arabs, with whom, when he came, the Jews would destroy the pagans as the tribes of A’ad and Thamud had been destroyed of old for their idolatry. When the men from Yathrib saw Muhammad they recognised him as the Prophet whom the Jewish rabbis had described to them. On their return to Yathrib they told what they had seen and heard, with the result that at the next season of pilgrimage a deputation came from Yathrib purposely to meet the Prophet. These swore allegiance to him in the first pact of Al’Aqabah, the oath they took being that which was afterwards exacted from women converts, with no mention of fighting. They then returned to Yathrib with a Muslim teacher in their company, and soon “there was not a house in Yathrib wherein there was not mention of the messenger of Allah.”

 

Second Pact of Al-Aqabah: In the following year, at the time of pilgrimage, seventy-three Muslims from Yathrib came to Makkah to vow allegiance to .the Prophet and invite him to their city. At Al-’Aqabah, by night, they swore to defend him as they would defend their own wives and children. It was then that the Hijrah, the Flight to Yathrib, was decided.

 

Plot to Murder the Prophet: Soon the Muslims who were in a position to do so began to sell their property and to leave Makkah unobtrusively. Qureysh had wind of what was going on. They hated Muhammad in their midst, but dreaded what he might become if he escaped from them. It would be better, they considered, to destroy him now. The death of Abu Talib had removed his chief protector; but still they had to reckon with tha vengeance of his clan upon the clan of the murderer. They cast lots and chose a slayer out of every clan. All those were to attack the Prophet simultaneously and strike together, as one man. Thus his blood would be on all Qureysh. It was at this time (Ibn Khaidun asserts, and it is the only satisfactoryexplanation of what happened afterwards) that the Prophet received the first revelation ordering him to make war upon his persecutors “until persecution is no more and religion is for Allah only.”

 

The Hijrah (June 20th 622 A.D.): The last of the able Muslims to remain in Makkah were Abu Bakr, Ali and the Prophet himself. Abu Bakr, a man of wealth, had bought two ridingcamels and retained a guide in readiness for the Flight. The Prophet only waited God’s command. It came at length. It was the night appointed for his murder. The slayers were before his house. He gave his cloak to Ali, bidding him lie down on the bed so that anyone looking in might think Muhammad lay there. The slayers were to strike him as he came out of the house, whether in the night or early morning. He knew they would not injure Ali. Then he left the house and, it is said, a blindness fell upon the would-be murderers so that he put dust on their heads as he passed by-without their knowing it. He went to Abu Bakr’s house and called to him, and they two went together to a cavern in the desert hills and hid there till the hue and cry was past, Abu Bakr’s son and daughter and his herdsman bringing them food and tidings after nightfall. Once a search-party came quite near them in their hiding-place, and Abu Bakr was afraid; but the Prophet said: “Fear not! Allah is with us.” B Then, when the coast was clear. Abu Bakr had the riding-camels and the guide brought to the cave one night, and they set out on the long ride to Yathrib.

 

After travelling for many days by unfrequented paths, the fugitives reached a suburb of Yathrib, whither, for weeks past, the people of the city had been going every morning, watching for the Prophet till the heat drove them to shelter. The travellers arrived in the heat of the day, after the watchers had retired. It was a Jew who called out to the Muslims in derisive tones that he whom they expected had at last arrived.

 

Such was the Hijrah, the Flight from Makkah to Yathrib, which counts as the beginning of the Muslim era. The thirteen years of humiliation, of persecution, of’ seeming failure, of prophecy still unfulfilled, were over. The ten years of success, the fullest that has ever crowned one man’s endeavour, had begun. The Hijrah makes a clear division in the story of the Prophet’s Mission, which is evident in the Qur’an. Till then he had been a preacher only. Thenceforth he was the ruler of a State, at first a very small one, which grew in ten years to the empire of Arabia. The kind of guidance which he and his people needed after the Hijrah was not the same as that which they had before needed. The Madinah surahs differ, therefore, from the Makkan surahs. The latter give guidance to the individual soul and to the Prophet as warner; the former give guidance to a growing social and political community and to the Prophet as example, lawgiver and reformer.

 

Classification of Makkan surahs: For classification the Makkan surahs are here subdivided into four groups: Very Early, Early, Middle and Late. Though the historical data and traditions are insufficient for a strict chronological grouping, the very early surahs are, roughly speaking, those revealed before the beginning of the persecution; the early surahs those revealed between the beginning of the persecution and the conversion of Umar; the middle surahs those revealed between the conversion of Umar and the destruction of the deed of ostracism; and the late surahs those revealed between the raising of the ban of ostracism and the Hijrah.

 

Preface

 

... It may be asked: Is there any need for a fresh English translation? To those who ask this question I commend a careful consideration of the facts which I have set out in my Note on Translation. After they have read it, I would invite them to take any particular passage, say ii. 74 or ii. 102, or ii. 164 and compare it with any previous version they choose. If they find that I have helped them even the least bit further in understanding its meanings, or appreciating its beauty or catching something of the grandeur of the original, I would claim that my humble attempt is justified.

 

It is the duty of every Muslim, man, woman, or child, to read the Our-an and understand it according to his own capacity. If anyone of us attains to some knowledge or understanding of it by study, contemplation, and the test of life, both outward and inward, it is his duty, according to his capacity, to instruct others, and share with them the joy and peace which result from contact with the spiritual world. The Our-an-indeed every religious book-has to be read, not only with the tongue and voice and eyes, but with the best light that our intellect can supply, and even more, with the truest and purest light which our heart and conscience can give us. It is in this spirit that I would have my readers approach the Our-an.

 

It was between the age of four and five that I first learned to read its Arabic words, to revel in its rhythm and music and wonder at its meaning. I have a dim recollection of the Khatm ceremony which closed that stage. It was called “completion”: it really just began a spiritual awakening that has gone on ever since. My revered father taught me Arabic, but I must have imbibed from into my innermost being something more,-something which told me that all the world’s thoughts, all the world’s most beautiful languages and literatures, are but vehicles for that ineffable message which comes to the heart in rare moments of ecstasy. The soul of mysticism and ecstasy is in the Our-an, as well as that plain guidance for the plain man which a world in a hurry affects to consider as sufficient. It is good to make this personal confession, to an age in which it is in the highest degree unfashionable to speak of religion or spiritual peace or consolation, an age in which words like these draw forth only derision, pity, or contempt.

 

I have explored Western lands, Western manners, and the depths of Western thought and Western learning to an extent which has rarely fallen to the lot of an Eastern mortal. But I have never lost touch with my Eastern heritage. Through all my successes and failures I have learned to rely more and more upon the one true thing in all life-the voice that speaks in a tongue Abuve that of mortal man. For me the embodiment of that voice has been in the noble words of the Arabic Our-an, which I have tried to translate for myself and apply to my experience again and again. The service of the Our-an has been the pride and the privilege of many Muslims. I felt that with such life-experience as has fallen to my lot, my service to the Our-an should be to present it in a fitting garb in English. That ambition I have cherished in my mind for more than forty years. I have collected books and materials for it. I have visited places, undertaken journeys, taken notes, sought the society of men, and tried to explore their thoughts and hearts in order to equip myself for the. task. Sometimes I have considered it too stupendous for me,-the double task of understanding the original, and reproducing its nobility, its beauty, its poetry, its grandeur, and its sweet, practical, reasonable application to everyday experience. Then ‘I have blamed myself for lack of courage,-the spiritual courage of men who dared all in the Cause which was so dear to them.

 

Two sets of apparently accidental circumstances at last decided me A man’s life is subject to inner storms far more devastating than those in the physical world around him. In such a storm, in the bitter anguish of a personal sorrow which nearly unseated my reason and made life seem meaningless, a new hope was born out of a systematic pursuit of my long-cherished project. Watered by tears, my manuscript began to grow in depth and earnestness if not in bulk. I guarded it like a secret treasure. Wanderer that I am, I carried it Abuut, thousands of miles, to all sorts of countries and among all sorts of people. At length, in the city of Lahore, I happened to mention the matter to some young people who held me in respect and affection. They showed an enthusiasm and an eagerness which surprised me. They almost took the matter out of my hands. They asked for immediate publication. I had various bits ready, but not even one complete Sipara. They made me promise to complete at least one Si para before I left Lahore. As if by magic, a publisher, a katib (calligraphist, to write the Arabic Text), an engraver of blocks for such text, and a printer were found, all equally anxious to push forward the scheme. Blessed be youth, for its energy and determination! “Where others flinch, rash youth will dare!”

 

Gentle and discerning reader! what I wish to present to you is an English Interpretation, side by side with the Arabic Text. The English shall be, not a mere substitution of one word for another, but the best expression I can give to the fullest meaning which I can understand from the Arabic Text. The rhythm, music, and exalted tone of the original should be reflected in the English Interpretation. It may be but a faint reflection, but such beauty and power as my pen commands shall be brought to its service. I want to make English itself an Islamic language, if such a person as I can do it. And I must give you all the necessary aid which I can ....

 

The Text in English is printed ... in parallel columns with the Arabic Text. Each Sura and the verse of each Sura is separately numbered, and the numbers are shown page by page. The system of numbering the verses has not been uniform in previous translations. European editors and translators have allowed their numbering to diverge considerably from that accepted in the East. This causes confusion in giving and verifying references. The different Qiraats sometimes differ as to the punctuation stops and the numbering of the verses. This is not a vital matter, but it causes confusion in references. It is important that at least in Islamic countries one system of numbering should be adopted. I have adopted mainly that of the Egyptian edition published under the authority of the King of Egypt. This will probably be accepted in Egypt and in Arabic-speaking countries, as those countries generally look up to Egypt in matters of literature. I am glad to see that the text ... published by the Anjuman-i-Himayat-i-Islam of Lahore is following the same system of numbering. I recommend to other publishers ... the same good example. If once this is done, we shall have a uniform system of numbering. I have retained the numbering of Sections as it is universally used in the Arabic copies, and marks a logical division of the Suras. I have supplied a further aid to the reader in indicating subdivision of the Sections into paragraphs. They are not numbered, but are distinguished by the use of a flowery initial letter ....

 

......Every earnest and reverent student of the Our-an, as he proceeds with his study, will find, with an inward joy difficult to describe, how this general meaning also enlarges as his own capacity for understanding increases. It is like a traveller climbing a mountain; the higher he goes, the farther he sees. From a literary point of view the poet Keats has described his feeling when he discovered Chapman’s Homer:

 

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken,

Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes.

He stared at the Pacific,-and all his men

Looked at each other with a wild surmise—

Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

 

How much greater is the joy and sense of wonder and miracle when the Our-an opens our spiritual eyes! The meaning which we thought we had grasped expands. New words are opened out. As we progress, still newer, and again newer worlds “swim into our ken”. The miracle deepens and deepens, and almost completely absorbs us. And yet we know that the “face of God”-our final goal-has not yet been reached. We are in the mulk of Sulaiman (Q. ii. 102), which the evil ones denied, belied, and even turned into blasphemy. But we can ignore blasphemy, ridicule and contempt, for we are in the threshold of Realities and a little perfume from the garden of the Holy One has already gladdened our nostrils ...

 

The Arabic Text I have had printed from photographic blocks, made for me by Master Muhammad Sharif. The calligraphy is from the pen of Pir ‘Abdul Hamid, with whom I have been in touch and who has complied with my desire for a bold round hand, with the words clearly separated, the vowel points accurately placed over or under the letter to which they relate, and the verses duly numbered and placed in juxtaposition with their English equivalents. Calligraphy occupies an important place in Muslim Art, and it is my desire that my version should not in any way be deficient in this respect.

 

I have been fortunate in securing the co-operation of Professor Zafar Iqbal in looking over the proofs of the Arabic Text. In connection with the Anjuman’s edition of the Arabic Our-an he has devoted much time and thought to the correct punctuation of the Text, and he has also investigated its history and problems. I hope he will some day publish these valuable notes. I have been privileged to see the Anjuman’s Text before its formal publication. I consider it the most carefully prepared Text of any produced in India and I have generally followed it in punctuation and the numbering of verses,-the only points on which my difficulties are likely to arise on the Our’anic Text....

 

One final word to my readers. Read, study and digest the Holy Book. Read slowly, and let it sink into your heart and soul. Such study will, like virtue, be its own reward. If you find anything in this volume to criticise, please let it not spoil your enjoyment of the rest. If you write to me, quoting chapter and verse, I shall be glad to consider your criticism, but let it not vex you if I exercise my own judgment in deciding for myself. Any corrections accepted will be gratefully acknowledged. On the other hand, if there is something that specially pleases you or helps you, please do not hesitate to write to me. I have given up other interests to help you. It will be a pleasure to know that my labour has not been in vain. If you address me care of my Publisher at his Lahore address, he will always forward the letters to me.

 

Contents

 

1.

Introduction

v-xvii

2.

Preface

xviii-xx

3.

List of 114 Suras (Chapters)

xxi-xxii

4.

Key to Transliteration

xxiv-xxvi

5.

114 Suras (Chapters) Pages

1-603

6.

Index

604-623

 



Sample Page


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