Can you recommend a good book to understand the Qur'an?

Image: Ersan Urganci,  Flickr    

Image: Ersan Urganci, Flickr



A friend of mine is trying to read the Qur’an and has asked for a good and short book to help her understand what the Qur’an is saying; does anyone have any good recommendations for this?

This is a common question, and do see the existing entry below: ‘Recommended English translation of the Qur’an and introduction’.


Find a translation first 

We suggest that you first start with a translation and then move onto commentaries and secondary books.

  • Find a translation of the Qur’an first (see below), which allows it speak for itself and its nature to become apparent
  • Read from back to front (surah 114 back to surah 2) is helpful for giving a sense of how ideas develop. The ‘back section’ is mostly older ‘revelations’ from Mecca while the front section is mostly newer ‘revelation.’ (The heading of each chapter should tell you whether it’s a Meccan or Medinan surah.)

Use a commentary to help you understand

Once you have had a chance to engage with the text itself through a translation (if you need it), have a look at the following:

  • Neal Robinson’s Discovering the Qur’an (see below), although it is quite academic
  • James White’s What Every Christian Needs To Know About The Qur’an (2013)
  • An archived online course by the Qur’an scholar (non-Muslim), Gabriel Said Reynolds of Notre Dame in the USA, which discusses themes of the Qur’an, its role within Islam, meaning to Muslims, and relationship with the Bible
  • Chapter two in Malise Ruthven ‘Islam: A very short introduction’ gives a good an readable overview. It’s an excellent small book, that is readily available, accurate content, and a good starting place
  • A six-page chapter from John Azumah’s book ‘My Neighbour’s Faith’ which is on the qur’an and hadith

Other resources

Qur'an course by Jeremy Hinds from Word of Life

  • Excellent introduction for the Christian who wants to seriously study the Qur'an itself
  • A little archaic now, but still an accurate self-study course
  • Designed for use with 'Meaning of the Glorious Qur'an' by M Pickthall, but can be used with any English translation of the Qur'an

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