"Interpreting Translators of the Qur’an came in three waves at times of confrontation between the East and the West.  The understanding of it seemed to be colored by that confrontation.  The first translation of the Qur’an was done at the instance of Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Clunny.  It was rendered into Latin by the English scholar Robertus Retenensis and was completed in 1143 A.D.  It enjoyed considerable circulation in manuscript until it was published exactly four centuries later under the editorship of a bookman, Theodor Bibliander Buchmann of Zurich.  Professor Arthur J. Arberry, who published his translation of the Qur’an into English in 1948, described the translation of Retenensis as “abounding in inaccuracies and misunderstandings” and  “inspired by hostile intentions”.  This is not surprising since the translation came at the high time of the Crusades when Christian Europe was pitched in battle against Islam."
I found that the modern western translators of the Qur’an did not do much better than their ancestors because they could not break with the same old prejudices in spite of all the new learning and secular freedoms that they have been afforded.

Ibrahim Abunab As I compared translations of the Qur’an, I came to remember the old American poet with his “Let your eyes not the skies to scan, the proper study of man is man.”  It became: “Let your eyes not other books to scan.  The proper reading of the Qur’an is in the Qur’an.”  To be sure, not all of the translators of the Qur’an and its exegetes were ill-intentioned or negatively prejudiced.   Some had all the good intentions in the world and some were, as in the case of the Indians and Pakistanis, positively prejudiced towards it. But they all seemed, in one way or another, reductionists.  The Qur’anic word was stripped of its light, colors and music and was reduced to a linear meaning in another language.  The word of God lost its many dimensions and became linear flat like the word of man.  One would therefore read some nonsense like the following in Arberry’s translation :
“As for those who disbelieve in God’s signs, for them awaits a terrible chastisement: God is All-Mighty, Vengeful”!

The Key
Many have described my rendition as being “inspired” and that “it sparkles with insight”.  They said that it had “preserved the beauty of the original Arabic and its music.”  If so, I must admit that I have had no will in it of my own.  It came from God according to His Will.  From that remarkable day of 21 March 1978, when I was awakened to do it, I have grown in consciousness and humility to believe in the Qur’an whole, it being from God who is the Consciousness of the Universe.  I have since reflected on all the questions that I had and found their convincing answers in the Qur’an.  Scientific Islam became for me more scientific and encompassing than the so-called scientific Marxism, Freudian psychology or Darwinian evolutionism.
As you read this rendition of the Qur’an, my only prayer is that it provides you with a sparkle that inflames your love for Him.  My prayer is that you find your own key that unlocks the jewels of compassion and understanding of this universe.  I pray that this work maybe the beginning of a new renaissance in interpreting the Qur’an and translating it into our daily lives.  The only reward I seek is forgiveness from God and His gardens of bliss, after serving my time on this earth.

As I was contemplating the first Ayah of the Qur’an, God came through as the Limitless Consciousness of the limitless Universe.  I could not in any way conceive of God as being separate from the Universe or the Universe as being dead without consciousness.  For death, as we know it, is not absolute, but is a created experience in relativity:
“We have instituted death amongst You where none had done it before.  It was to replace your kind and Recreate you in other forms which ye do not know.”

  By the use of the “Most”, God the Absolute is reduced to relativity.  It is as if there were many gods, and this one is the most merciful among them.  And by the use of the word “All”, God is rendered absolute only without His exercise of creation.  The rendition is deprived of that delicate balance between the absolute and the relative, the visible and the invisible and their indivisibility in Him.  Though my rendition is far from perfect, it may be said that it is the most painstaking human attempt yet to come close to conveying the spirit of the Qur’an in English.
Ibrahim AbuNab (1931-1991)

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