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The Meaning of The Illustrious Qur'an

The Meaning of The Illustrious Qur'an
Item Code: NAI412
Author: Abdullah Yusuf Ali
Publisher: Kitab Bhavan
Language: English
Edition: 2000
ISBN: 8171510256
Pages: 464
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
weight of the book: 495 gms
From The Preface To First Edition



... 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 2: 74 or 2: 102, or 2: 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 Qur'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 Qur'an-indeed every religious book-has to be read, not only with tile 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 Qur'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 Khatmceremony 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 him 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 Qur'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 above that of mortal man. For me the embodiment of that voice has been in the noble words of the Arabic Qur'an, which I have tried to translate for myself and apply to my experience again and again. The service of the Qur'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 Qur'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 beaks 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 about, 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 Sipara 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 sub-division 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 Qur'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 Qur'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.2: 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 Qur'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 Qur'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.


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