Book Review: PENGUIN CLASSICS: The Koran

Figure 1A: The 2014 edition of N.J. Dawood's translation: The Koran

Figure 1A: The 2014 edition of N.J. Dawood’s translation: The Koran

I first came across this translation in the year AD 1993 while I was in the University and friends kept asking me what would be a good translation for them to read if they were interested. One in particular, a Jewish friend named Mark Reed, asked if there was a place I could direct to to obtain a good Qur’an translation. In Oregon at the time, Bordens Books was the only option. Linda, the friendly barrista/bookselleress was happy to help and she said the book would be at the bookstore in one week.

Once I paid in advance and she gave a confident smile, I knew that it would be good. N.J. Dawood’s The Koran arrived and Mark was excited to pick it up. He read through it hungrily and questioned me about it to the same degree. The edition I had ordered was from AD 1993 and was still heavily reliant on the original AD 1956, which used the Arabic words for crucial Islamic theology rather than anglicising them.

I was recently shown a new edition, this time AD 2014. At the onset, I was unhappy, as it had been anglicised. No! But it was too late. In AD 1993, outside of N.J. Dawood, the only other translation I preferred and still prefer was the Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, but the revised translation was still new and not in wide enough circulation. I also did not want to offer a King James translation of the Qur’an with Elizabethan English as is present in `Abdullah Yusuf Ali and I was weary of the theological and historical errors in his translation as well.

Someone reading the Dawood translation will find the words readable, with few footnotes, a concise but adequate index and also an introduction that gives the reader a good window into the noted historical events relevant at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an.

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One response to “Book Review: PENGUIN CLASSICS: The Koran

  1. Salamun ‘alaykum brother,

    Perhaps you could give us more insight to key differences between Qur’an translations. Especially a breakdown of the errors contained within the ‘Abdullah Yusuf. I remember you once saying he has Mu’tazilah theology and held fringe views in regards to the Angel’s of Allah. Personally, I am not looking for the perfect translation anytime soon, but it helps to know these matters. Jazakullah khayr, wasallam

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