Inner Space

The Qur’an: A New Translation

Best modern translation

Despite what has been said, the United States is not at war with terrorism in general, but with militant fundamental Islam; a clash of civilizations. At the heart of Islam is the Quran, and at the heart of the Quran is very difficult to translate oral poetry. Indeed Muslims often declare that the sheer beauty of the original Arabic verses is evidence of its divine origins. Translations of any sort are thus suspect, and so the English world is without great Quranic texts. Among the older, stiffer, and formal English translations, I have been unable to find a version with extensive annotations, a concordance, or even a decent modern paraphrase. For a book influencing current events to such an extant, this vacancy is a deep loss.

Your best bet to encounter the Quran — an effort I believe is essential these days — is via a recent translation by Thomas Cleary. Straightforward, unadorned, yet vibrant, this is the best modern English translation of the Quran to date.

— KK

The Qur’an: A New Translation
By Thomas Cleary

Sample excerpt:

81: The Rolling Up

In the name of God, the Benevolent, the Merciful
1. When the sun is rolled up
2. and when the stars fall lusterless
3. and when the mountains are blown away
4. and when the pregnant camels are neglected
5. and when the wild beasts are herded
6. and when the oceans are flooded
7. and when the souls are matched
8. and when the infant girl who was buried is asked
9. for what offense she was killed;
10. And when the pages are opened,
11. and when the sky is stripped
12. and when the blaze is fired up
13. and when the garden is drawn near
14. each soul will know what it has brought about.
15. Yes, I swear by the planets that recede,
16. run, and disappear,
17. and the night as it darkens
18. and the dawn as it breaks
19. that this is the word of a noble messenger,
20. endowed with power, his rank established in the presence of the Lord of the Throne
21. obeyed and faithful there.
22. So your companion is not insane —
23. he saw him on the clear horizon.
24. And he isn’t grudging with the unseen;
25. and this isn’t the word of an accursed devil.
26. So where are you going?
27. This is a message to all peoples,
28. for any of you who want to be upright.
29. But you won’t want to unless it is the will of God, Lord of the universe.


© 2022