Review: The Majestic Quran: A Plain English Translation
Published January 8, 2019
I have, over the decades, read countless English translations of the Qur’an by many notable scholars, all of whom endeavoured to bring forth the meaning of the Qur’an in comprehensible English. The Majestic Qur’an: A Plain English Translation is translated by Dr Musharraf Hussain, a British Pakistani scholar with over 40 years expertise in Urdu translation of the Qur’an.
An innovative way of understanding the Qur’an
Dr Musharraf Hussain graduated in science and decided to forgo his research career to study Arabic and Islamic studies in a madrasah in Pakistan. He completed his further studies at Al-Azhar University, Egypt’s oldest university and one of the world’s most prestigious Islamic universities.
Reading this translation (which was approved by Al-Azhar and Dar Al-Iftaa) results in a more nuanced and clearer idea about the meaning and context of the surahs (chapters) and the significance of many of the ayahs (verses) contained therein.
To the credit of Dr Hussain, author of the popular Let’s Learn Islam school textbook series, has been able to render the meaning of the Qur’an in plain and contemporary English suitable for the modern world.
“I have used plain English, simple words and avoided archaic words. Instead of translating Arabic idioms I have used English idioms.” The younger readers will find it very accessible and will benefit from many of the features which Dr Hussain has introduced to make it more understandable.
The topical headings highlight the major themes and content of the text. They help in better understanding of what one is reading, especially when sometimes the topic flits from one ayah to another. According to Dr Hussain, the headings are not there to “dictate the interpretation” but to assist in contextualising the passages, allowing “the Qur’an to speak for itself. I believe this is a very powerful way that allows the reader to have a true taste of the Qur’an, to see and to read Allah’s message.”
Over the decades I found this confusing and at times was unable to fully grasp the context in the first reading, but thanks to Dr Hussain’s innovative introduction of topical headings one is now much more able to not only understand and read through the text, but also to understand the context and smoothly surf through the flow of the narrative, or as Dr Hussain explains, “produce a translation that is reader-friendly, free-flowing, eloquent and accurate”.
The introduction to each surah contextualises the time of its revelation and the major themes contained in it. This helps to better explain what one is reading and the footnotes shed “light on the socio-economic, political, historical and cultural environment of seventh century Makkah/Medina in particular and the Arabian peninsula in general at the time of revelation.”
There is also a unique “thought for the day” exhortation and reflective question for the serious reader to ponder upon for one’s day to day living in the margin of the Arabic text page.
It indeed does make one think through the verses and the contents of the translated page opposite. This is an interesting feature which no doubt will make many readers pause and ponder.
This reviewer feels that all these new and innovative features will better explain the meaning of the Qur’an to a new generation of English readers. And I strongly recommend Muslim parents and elders gift this edition of The Majestic Qur’an to their children and loved ones. Also, this would be an ideal gift to make to non-Muslims as they too would be able to read and understand this well-crafted translation easily.
The Majestic Qur’an will also help the more reverent readers of the Qur’an to incrementally increase their awareness of their duties and obligations both as Muslims and citizens in relation to their fellow citizens and to other living species in our planet.
Reading the Qur’an regularly, if possible on a daily basis, will enable one to develop her/his worldview. And this will thus facilitate to understand the world we are living in and frame our own moral and ethical responses to the critical issues of the day.
Without understanding the meaning of the Qur’an we cannot develop our own Islamic epistemology to make sense of the world both spiritually and materially. We need the Qur’an as our existential compass in our daily lives.
Many people read the Qur’an for solace and comfort and that is, at an individual level, redeeming. But as Muslims are also part of the ummah (community); we also need to meaningfully understand our collective duties and responsibilities.
The Qur’an will be both our guide and our light to navigate this treacherous world of shifting fads and fashions and understand our own role and purpose in this world. The present world and our stay here is literally a moment in time compared to what is to come which is an eternity.
It is indeed difficult to understand that even if we live to the ripe old age of 100 years, it is nothing compared to the never-ending Hereafter of billions, trillions and zillions of years. Yet, we do get caught up in the here and now and forget how best we can prepare for the Hereafter.
Allah time and again in the Qur’an reminds us of this in many surahs and ayahs. Regular reading of the Qur’an will constantly focus our mind and energise our efforts to prepare ourselves for the real day – the Day of Judgement. Let us all re-dedicate ourselves in trying to understand our role and purpose in this temporary journey on planet Earth and strive harder and prepare more diligently for the final journey beyond.
Hopefully, careful reading and understanding Dr Hussain’s competently done translation will assist us in this process. And may Allah reward the translator for all his hard work and enable and reward the readers in their strivings too.
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