When was the Quran translated into English?

The history of Quran translation into English goes back to 1153 when a Latin translation of the Quran was produced in the Vatican. The first printed edition was produced in Basle (Switerzland) in 1543 with a preface written by Martin Luther, the man who split Christendom into two major factions, the protestants and the Catholics.

The first English translation of the Quran was by Alexander Ross in 1649, a grammar school teacher. He did not know Arabic so used the French translation by Andre du Ryer. He described it as “Alcoran of Mahomet translated … into English, for the satisfaction of all that desire to look into the Turkish vanities”. This is enough to show the lack of scholarship of Alexander and his prejudices.

George sales then translated the Quran in 1734 with italicised commentaries, which he embedded in the text this made the Quran more readable. In 1861 Rev James Rodwell translated the Quran and he rearranged the order of the Surahs according to their chronological order. Prof Halim thinks that “he had a linguistic talent that enabled him to come up with innovative solutions to previously intractable problems… and it is easy to perceive the influence of Rodwell’s work on many subsequent translators.”

In 1880 Rev EH Palmer produced an English translation, his translation is characterised by respect for the text and the Prophet of Islam. Then, in 1930 Marmaduke Pickthall a British Muslim translated the Quran with the help of a professor from Al-Azhar University in Egypt. This remarkable translation survives to this day. However, it was in Shakespearean English and full of archaic words and quite literal. So it is not easy for modern readers.

Since then there have been many translations of the Quran, today we have nearly a hundred translations in English. The MajesticQuran was published in 2018 and is hailed as a “paradigm shift in the genre of Qoran translation” (Prof. Ibrahim Negm adviser to the mufti of Egypt). What makes it unique is the sectioning narrative and giving them titles so the reader recognises the beginning and end of a section or a story or a particular narrative. Its focus is on delivering the message and the meaning of the Divine words. Furthermore, it is in plain, simple English, easy to understand and presented in a reader-friendly manner.

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