Quran Translation Reviews: THE QUR’AN AS IT EXPLAINS ITSELF by Shabbir Ahmed

There have been many translations of the Qur'an in English. From my personal survey so far (April 2020), I have found the translation of Shabbir Ahmed's The Qur'an As It Explains Itself to be the most well translated.

This Ramadan, this will the #1 Recommendation from me. If you read any translation of the Qur'an, read this one.

Let us remind ourselves that Ramadan has been honored because this very month was the month when Qur'an was revealed (2:185). The blessedness of this month comes from the glorious Qur'an and hence the best practice of honor this month is to give the Qur'an its proper due. And if we look at the Qur'an why it was revealed, we will find the following that it is sent as a guide, to give glad tidings to believers and warn the oppressors, to reveal Divine Principles, to judge between right and wrong - and all of these are only possible when the Book is read with understanding. Without comprehension, no reading can be called 'reading'. This is where a good and proper translation is important.

Shabbir Ahmed's The Qur'an As It Explains Itself to me is one of the most well-done Translation in the English language. Don't take my word for it. You can check for yourself.

Where to Download From

The Translation is available in PDF, HTML Mobi, Epub versions from Our Beacon website. Click here to get/ download a copy for free.

Before diving into more details of the finer details and examples as to why I think this translation, The Qur'an As It Explains Itself (aka QXP) is much better than many classically accepted versions, here are the highlights of Shabbir Ahmed's translation and its uniqueness. The English words he has chosen are by far the most meaningful and also the smaller explanation offered in some of the verses can help readers whether they are eastern or western - with a very broad appreciation of the Quranic message.

Here are some highlights of this translation:

1. This Translation is done using Tasreef

One of the unique characteristics of Qur'an is that God has repeated His Signs again and again. The full meaning is best uncovered or understood when seen as a System of meaning or holistically. That holistic approach is called Tasreef.

Tasreef is the Qur’anic process where verses in one part of the Qur’an explain or provide a deeper understanding of the verses in other parts of the Book. Concisely, it means looking at the Qur’an in its Big Picture. The Qur’an, thus, lets us look at its terms and concepts from very diverse vantage points. This is how special care has been taken to explain every verse from within the Qur’an itself.

A diligent study of the Qur'an using Tasreef helps us look at the Qur’an in its Big Picture, and this method gives us a phenomenal advantage toward its understanding.

2. Rendered from More Accurate Dialect 

The translator has rendered the terms and linguistics of the Qur’an using the Quraish (Quresh) dialect of Makkah since it is the Arabic dialect in which the Qur’an was revealed to the exalted Muhammad bin Abdullah, the final prophet, messenger and apostle of God [570-632 CE].

The translator had the good fortune to learn the dialect from the Bedouins under the auspice of King Faisal and other royal members during the translator's posting to Saudi Arabia. Learning the dialect, by no means, amounts to absorbing the Saudi theology. Rather, it’s quite the opposite as we see how non-sectarian the Quran is and how blessed and compassionate its Message is for the entire humanity, and not for Muslims only.

3. Free from Persian Language and Other Influences

The first-ever commentaries of the Qur’an were written in the third and fourth centuries after the exalted messenger during the Abbasid Dynasty when Zoroastrian influence held sway in Islamic politics, society, and even in the Arabic literature. The commentators of the Qur’an, historians,
Muhadditheen (the Hadith/Tradition collectors) and Fuqaha (‘Islamic’ Jurists) overwhelmingly originated from among the non-Arab Persians.

While the language of the Qur’an remained untouched, its words and terms were made to lose the splendor they so beautifully conveyed in the original, revealed Arabic. So much so, that the Qur’anic terms were dressed up with the erroneous philosophies prevalent in the once Zoroastrian culture of Persia, and they became widely accepted even among the Arabs! In the introductory text, the translator has given some very clear and concise example of this problem.

4. Free from Age Old Sectarian Bias

God condemns sectarianism and division when it comes to Deen. And yet madhabs and sects are brought into the Deen. Sectarianism is a very old problem in Islamic history. And it has significantly tainted everything that is labeled as Islamic including the study of the book of God. Sect based biased even corrupted the meanings of the Quran in many translations and the primary source of it is through extraneous sources such as hearsay so-called Hadith.

The translator has purposely refrained from explaining the Qur’an through any such extrinsic sources such as Hadith and a very questionable history (for example Shaan-e-Nuzool). Here the words and terms of the Qur'an were given tailor-made meanings to fit the supposed story, with total disregard for their original vibrant meanings, concepts, and messages. This deplorable practice only serves to bind the verses of the TimelessQur’an to some supposed incidents and chain the Word of God in another set of shackles!

Hadith meaning the supposed sayings of the exalted prophet collected through hearsay centuries after him. Using these two ‘sources’ for translating or explaining the Qur’an in the distant and recent past has only served to confound the Word of God with manmade traditions and it takes away the profound glory of the Divine message. In QXP, relevant historical accounts have been given only sparingly for the interested reader and they have no bearing on the Pristine Divine message.

5. Cross Referencing

The cross-referencing of similar subject matter / guidance / theme from one verse to other verses in the Qur'an is very unique and helpful in this translation. For any student of Qur'an who wishes to follow the Quranic instruction to contemplate and deeply think on the Signs of God, can do so with such cross-referencing. This also helps broaden one's own understanding of the timeless and alive Revelations. 

The respected reader should expect to find “The Qur’an As It ExplainsItself” different from the prevalent translations and explanations because of the above features.

Some Examples where Other Conventional Translations Fails 

Taqwa is usually translated as: Righteousness, goodness, avoiding evil, God-consciousness, warding off evil, piety, fearing God, doing good etc.

Now a non-Muslim, or even a bright Muslim youngster may ask, “Well, the Qur’an in the very beginning claims that it is a guidance for the righteous, the God-conscious, he who wards off evil, the pious, he who fears God, one who does good works. But, why should such people need any guidance?”

The answer lies in the Quraish dialect that describes Taqwa as walking in security, like someone who strolls through a garden but watches his garment against getting entangled in bushes and thorns. All of a sudden the verse now makes beautiful sense, that the Qur’an is a Guide to those who wish to journey through life in honor and security.

Manyyasha is almost invariably translated as ‘whatever God wills.’ Since this term appears in the Qur’an very frequently, its wrong translation lays down the foundation of ‘Fatalism’ in Islam. Such erroneous translations can only convey abject messages and result like this: ‘God honors whomever He wills and humiliates whomever He wills.’ Or, ‘God sends astray whomever He wills and guides whomever He wills.’ An intelligent reader has every right to ask, "Why then did God reveal His message in the first place?"

The original Qur’anic meaning of Manyyasha is, ‘according to His laws.’ God has appointed laws for success vs failure, and for guidance vs straying. [And these laws are given in the Qur’an. See 4:88].

Such terms as Sayyeh, Ithm, Zanb, Fisq, ‘Udwaan, and the like are all blanketed together as the vague term ‘SIN’. I have let the Qur’an explain the true meanings of each term repeatedly in the text, at times in parentheses.

Zulm has almost always been given a very vague meaning, ‘wrongdoing’. But the Qur’anic concept of  Zulm is extremely clear and appealing: To displace something from its rightful place – to harm one’s own self – violation of human rights – oppression – relegating the truth –to hurt anyone. These meanings become crystal clear in their context in every single related verse.

Hasanah, Khair, Saalehat, ‘Amal-e-Saaleh, Birr, etc are all blanketed together as the vague 'good deeds'. The correct Qur’anic meanings have been incorporated in the text at the relevant places.
Salaat = To follow closely, like a runner-up (Musalli) follows the winning horse (Saabiq) = To follow Divine Commands closely.
Aqimussallat  = Establish the System that facilitates the following of divine Commands.

Zakaat = The Just Economic Order where everyone works according to one's capacity and is compensated according to the needs. People spend on others or give to the Central authority (Islamic government)whatever is surplus (2:219). And they do so whenever they earn any income (6:141). The System of Zakaat is managed by the Central Authority that ensures the development of individuals and society. The 2.5 percent annual mandatory charity is a non-Qur’anicconcept that trivializes the comprehensive Qur’anic System of Zakaat.

Tilawah = Reciting and studying with reflection.

Jinn = Something hidden, rarely seen. So, after using Tasreef, Al-Jinn =The nomads. Jannah from the same root means a garden hidden in the foliage. When the Jinns or nomads move to dwell in towns and become civilized, they are referred to as Ins.

More Reviews from Amazon

It is my opinion that this is one of the masterpieces of Qur'anic Literature. This book contains what may probably be considered the best translation of the Qur'an from Classical Arabic, the language of which it was written. Dr. Ahmed adds explanations to the verses by using other verses within the Qur'an when there exists the possibility of misunderstanding or misinterpreting the verses by the reader. This in fact creates the title for the book as the "Qur'an" will "Explain Itself" without any need for secondary sources. A must for scholars and non scholars to own and study! - Louis

I like this translation since it doesn't have any sectarian influence and uses the old Arabic language to understand the wording and how they would be rendered into English.

The author spent time learning the language with Arab Bedouins who have preserved the Qurayshi dialect of the 7th century. Most of the modern translators are bias and influenced by culture and partisan beliefs which are contrary to the Quran itself.

I'd recommend this to those who care for the purity of the language and understanding of the Quran in its original form. - Fraz Naseem

This is by far the greatest interpretation of the Qur'an I have ever read. While most interpretations of the Qur'an tends to lean toward dogma or traditional idealism to explain it's verses. Dr. Shabbir has totally done away with using all extrinsic sources allowing the Book to explain itself through the process of Tasreef (The Qur'an is a non-linear Book so some parts of the Book explains other parts of the Book in further detail) thus allowing the reader to focus on the 'big picture' of the Qur'anic message. Any rational being that has knowledge of the history of extrinsic sources used to explain the Qur'an by traditionalists such as hadith would easily acknowledge the dubiousness of such sources and the troubles such sources can be when it comes to diverting the seeker from the correct path of enlightenment. - Deandre Rush

Download The Qur'an As It Explains Itself by Shabbir Ahmed

The Translation is available in PDF, HTML Mobi, Epub versions from Our Beacon website. Click here to get/ download a copy for free.

# Related Posts:

* Why Qur'an is Revealed? What Allah Says in the Qur'an? Part 1

* Why Qur'an is Revealed? What Allah Says in the Qur'an? Part 2

* For Every Spiritual Practice: In the Beginning and at the End is Taqwa | Divine Consciousness



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Technology of the Heart: Quran Translation Reviews: THE QUR’AN AS IT EXPLAINS ITSELF by Shabbir Ahmed
Quran Translation Reviews: THE QUR’AN AS IT EXPLAINS ITSELF by Shabbir Ahmed
Review of Shabbir Ahmed's THE QUR’AN AS IT EXPLAINS ITSELF - Translation of the Qur'an.
Technology of the Heart
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