What English translation of the Qur'an and introduction do you recommend?

What English translation of the Qur'an and introduction do you recommend?

John asked about a good English translation of the Qur'an and a helpful introduction or commentary: 

Can you recommend a good translation of the Qur'an and introduction?

Dear Mahabba,

“What English language translation of the Qur’an would Muslims considered the most reliable? Would that be the best version for a novice like me to read? What English language introduction to Islam and the Qur’an would you recommend? I would like to understand how to bridge from the Qur’an to the Bible. And an introduction that is not too simple.”


The easiest to come by is most probably Yusuf Ali which also contains the Arabic script but the translation is archaic.
AJ Arberry tries to give a sense of the rhyme and rhythm in English and is a sensitive translation (available on subscription to Oxford Islamic Studies online).
There is a Qur’an website on the Internet that contains several translations with which to compare whenever available
Neal Robinson’s Discovering the Qur`an (2004) is a sympathetic introduction to the Qur’an by a non-Muslim while Muhammad Abdel Haleem’s Understanding the Qur`an: Themes and Style (2001) is a Muslim’s introduction to the Qur’an.
It will be difficult to find one source that both introduces Islam as well as bridging Qur’an to Bible.
I’ve always found P.K. Hitti’s History of the Arabs (10th repr. 1991) a comprehensive overview of Islamic history that has a scholarly take on Islam before relations were so extremely polarised as now.
Kenneth Cragg’s The Weight in the Word – Prophethood: Biblical and Quranic (1999) compares and contrasts Muhammad with biblical prophets and, broadly stated, shows how the Qur’an applies biblical ideas for its own purposes.
See how you get on with these for the moment – there is so much out there to choose from!
Do let me know how you get on and whether you can get hold of resources.


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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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