Qur’an is the word of God, directly revealed to the last Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) during 23 years of his Apostolic mission [610-632 C.E]. It was instantly preserved by putting in to writing and memorization by his companions. God says:
“Surely this is a Glorious Qur’an, inscribed on an Imperishable Tablet.”(Qur’an;85:21-22).
God has taken responsibility to guard it against corruption:
“Surely We have revealed the reminder (Qur’an) and We will most certainly guard it (from corruption).”(Qur’an;15:9).
During all ages, millions of Muslim of all age groups memorize Qur’an comprising over 6000 verses; a unique distinction which makes Qur’an, the only book in human history to have been continuously preserved through this method along with the written form. No other scripture or book can rival this claim. Hence, since its revelation the Qur’an is being transferred in its original revealed form, continuously (twatar) from generation to generation.
Revealed in Arabic Language and Translations:
The Qur’an was revealed in Arabic, the language of Prophet, peace be upon him (and his clan Quraish of Makka). The translation (Tarjama) of the Qur’an means the expression of the meaning of its text in a language different from the language of the Qur’an, for understanding by those not familiar with Qur’anic Arabic. It is customary to quote the original Arabic Qur’anic text (ayah, verses) along with the translation, however this require special handling due to reverence of the sacred text, hence in this book for the convenience of handling by all categories of the readers, only the translation is given, which should also be handled with due respect. It is more appropriate for the reader to also consult the original Arabic Qur’an. The English translations by Abdullah Yousaf Ali, M.Pickthall, Muhammad Asad and F.Malik are popular. There is agreement among Muslim scholars that it is humanly impossible to transfer the meanings of original Qur’an word by word in an identical mode into another language. This is due to several reasons: firstly the Qur’an itself is a miracle and cannot be imitated by man. As a consequence of this, the translation of Qur’an is not considered as Qur’an. The translations of the Qur’an; e.g. into English, French, German and Urdu, etc, in principle are regarded as paraphrases. These translations can not be used in place of original Arabic Qur’an for ritual purposes. Secondly the words of different languages do not express all the shades of meanings of their original Arabic word, though they may express specific concepts. Hence narrowing down the meaning of the Qur’an to specific concepts in a foreign language would mean missing out other important dimensions. While reading the translations of Qur’an these aspects must always be kept in view.
The example of verse: “wa- huwa ‘alladhe khalaqa as- samaawaat wa- al- ‘ard. fe sittah ayyaam..” (Qur’an;11:7) is considered here.
The word ayyaamin Arabic means; ‘days’ or ‘long periods’ or ‘eons’ or ‘epoch’. The four translations being given here differ in their understanding:
“And it is He who has created the heavens and the earth in six eons” (M.Asad); “He is the One Who created the heavens and the earth in six periods” (F.Malik)
“And He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days” (Pickthall); “He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days” (Yousaf Ali).
The translation of ayyaamas ‘eons’ appears more scientific and accurate. Hence if some contradictions appear, it is due to the limitations of translation, not of Qur’an.
The Qur’an comprises 114 chapters, called Surahs, of very unequal length and each Surah comprises number of verses. The translation of references from Qur’an are mostly given within brackets “xyz” followed by reference of Surah and Ayah in bracketi.e: “Praise be to Allah the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds.”(Qura’n;1:2). It implies that the translation is from Surah (chapter) Number 1 and verse number 2 of the same Surah.
Names of Chapters:
The names of Chapters (Surahs) can be found from the index. In this case the name of Surah Number 1 as given in Surah Index is Al-Fatiha meaning ‘The Opening’. The names of Chapters (Surahs) in Qur’an, in most of the cases have no special relation to the subject of the Surah but has been used merely as a symbol to distinguish it from other Surahs. The name comprise of a word used some where in the Surah. Taking example of 2ndSurahAL-BAQARAH (the Cow), which has been so named from the story of the Cow occurring in this Surah (verse number 67-73). Although this Surah is an invitation to the Divine Guidance and all the stories, incidents etc. revolve round this central theme. As this Surah has particularly been addressed to the Jews, many historical events have been cited from their own traditions to admonish and advise them that their own good lies in accepting the Guidance revealed to the Holy Prophet. It has not, however, been used as a title to indicate the subject of the Surah. It will, therefore, be as wrong to translate the name Al-Baqarah into “The Cow” or “The Heifer” as to translate any English name, say Baker, Rice, Wolf etc., into their equivalents in other languages or vice versa, because this would imply that the Surah dealt with the subject of “The Cow”. Many more chapters (Surahs) of the Qur’an have been named in the same way because no comprehensive words exist in Arabic (in spite of its richness) to denote the wide scope of the subject discussed in them. As a matter of fact all human languages suffer from the same limitation. However in some cases the name of Chapters (Surahs) indicate the subject matter i.e. the first SurahAl-Fatihah, which means ‘that which opens a subject or a book or any other thing’ or in other words, Al-Fatihah is a sort of ‘Preface’. Similarly Surah ‘Al Yousaf’ (Joseph) Surah number 12, is related with the story of Prophet Joseph (PBHH).
This is an endeavour to assist the reader in learning and understanding of the message of Quran.