The Muslim World Book Review (UK)


(39:2), 2019

by Prof Abu Sulaim

One recent welcome trend in the field of English translations of the Qur’an is the appearance of reader-friendly renderings which, apart from using simple English, seek also to relate the meaning and message of the Qur’an to our times. Ahmad Zaki Hammad’s and Mustafa Khattab’s translations typify this valuable approach. Musharraf Hussain’s venture is the latest addition to this new category. His extensive experience of teaching the Qur’an in the UK appears to have prompted him to provide the Qur’anic guidance in a reader-friendly format. As a result, far from delving into the finer points of tafsir, circumstantial setting, history and geography and jurisprudence, etc. he is concerned more with ‘the Qur’anic lessons’ which he deduces from the contents of the Surahs.

His Introduction to the Surahs, section headings, brief footnotes and Index are geared towards making the Qur’an more accessible and comprehensible to general readers. Moreover, his use of simple English also facilitates a better understanding for lay readers. Hussain’s concern to relate the Qur’anic guidance to our times and everyday life situations is laudable. Through his side headings and footnotes, he has been successful in highlighting the relevance of several Qur’anic statements in today’s context. Here are some instances in point:

i. ‘Fighting can be authorized by legitimately elected governments, not self-proclaimed leaders’ (p. 54).

ii. ‘Some extremist Muslims also use this Sword verse (al-Tawbah 9: 5) as a general licence to kill anybody whom they considered not to be a Muslim, young or old, whether a combatant or not. This indiscriminate approach clearly goes against the Sunnah of the Messenger’ (p. 358).

iii. ‘Jizyah is a poll-tax that non-Muslim citizens living in an Islamic state pay in return for the protection of their lives, property, civic rights and religious freedom’ (p. 366).

iv. Hussain does well to interpret verses 46–47 of al-[Ankabut and 15 of al-Shura in terms of the advice and norms for Interfaith dialogue. Drawing upon and highlighting such timely Qur’anic guidance on his part is commendable (pp. 792 and 968).

v. The same applies to his side-heading, “Corruption of Earth: the environmental crisis” related to verse 41 of al-Rum. It is however, a pity that he does not elaborate on this point in an explanatory note (p. 806).

vi. Discerningly he clarifies the misogynist streak of the pagan Arabs in verse 18 of al-Zukhruf: ‘These are the attitudes of the Arab idolaters about women and not the Divine Teaching’ (p. 982).

vii. His sectional heading “Importance of caring for parents” (p. 1014) with reference to verse 15 of al-Ahqaf brings out well the relevance of the Qur’anic message in our everyday life. Once again, however, he fails to provide an explanatory note on this valuable Qur’anic guidance.

viii. The same holds true for his observation that verse 13 of al-Hujurat posits the life-enriching idea of a ‘common humanity’ (p. 1048). He should have, however, developed this idea.

ix. His observation regarding verses 7–9 of al-Mumtahanah in the sense that ‘Friendship with non-Muslims isn’t (sic) forbidden’ (p. 1142) is both valid and welcome. However, he rests content with dropping only this hint and makes no attempt to enlighten readers further.

His making allowance for ‘the believing poets’ (p. 740) underscores his discernment. Notwithstanding some lapses, Hussain’s book stands out as a valuable, fresh venture, with a contemporary touch, which is most likely to draw readers towards the life-giving message of the Qur’an and guide them to orient their life accordingly.

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