Reviews of “The Study Qur’an”

An interesting Facebook post by Shibli Zaman about the newly published Study Qur’an 

I’ve avoided posting directly about this but I guess since everyone else is screaming about this with wanton abandon, there’s no point in refraining. I know there are numerous and significant mistakes in the translation and commentary found in the newly released “The Study Qur’an”. There has never been a translation and/or commentary of the Qur’an in the English language that was any different. It is an extremely difficult (if not next to impossible) task to take the very word of God that has linguistic dynamisms such as Ikhtilaf Tanawwu` that literally makes words multi-dimensional and somehow attempt to render that to a language of such relatively limited dimension as English. Yusuf `Ali was a Seven Imam Isma`ili Shi`i and his Qur’anic commentary had very serious theological problems that have been discussed in scholarly circles for nearly 100 years. In spite of that, it was the de facto “go to” English translation even endorsed by Saudi Arabia for decades. Similarly, Muhammad Asad, an unabashed Mu`tazili had anomalies in his commentary such as insisting that the Jinn mentioned in the Qur’an were microorganisms. When was the last time you saw a social media campaign against him? Yeah. Me neither.

Nonetheless, to critique this new work, absolutely regardless of the authors’ and editors’ pristine intentions, and bring those criticisms to the authors and editors is no short of mandatory. It is, without question, Wajib. But Wajib upon whom? Scholarship.

However, what I find most disappointing is the immaturity and childishness with which that is being handled by many laymen and some scholars alike. To not even bother contacting the authors and editors (who are very easily accessible) with one’s concerns but to, instead, blast their mistakes on social media as the likes on your Facebook page and your retweets on Twitter go up is grossly disingenuous. Put your egos, jealousies and vanities in check. If you really care about the welfare of the community you are SUPPOSED to be mentoring then your goal should be to correct the mistakes, make the work a more doctrinally sound one so that it can be as much of benefit as was intended by the authors and editors, and to shield the community from any misguidance that might result from it. You are supposed to be working WITH the editors and authors. Not against them.

But, in closing, I will not let the authors and the editors of “The Study Qur’an” off the hook either. All of this critique and review should have happened well before the book was published. They should have circulated drafts to Islamic scholars of all theological perspectives and not just to the proverbial choir. So, to an extent, they reaped their own whirlwind.

Let this be a learning experience for everyone.

quran



Categories: Quran

9 replies

  1. Funny how this guy has no problems with Salafi or Deobandi translations and commentaries right? And where did Asad say he is an unabashed Mu’tazzilite?

    BTW, most commentaries on Quran are by Mu’tazzila and Shia anyway. So according to this guy, we should ignore Zamakhshiri. And also Bukhari for narrating from Khawarij.

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    • The guy is surely right to describe Asad as a Mu`tazili. Asad’s commentary is well known for adopting rationalistic exegesis eg Jinn mentioned in the Qur’an were microorganisms. There are other examples.

      But his basic point is his exasperation at the

      ‘immaturity and childishness with which that [criticism of the new Study Quran] is being handled by many laymen and some scholars alike. To not even bother contacting the authors and editors (who are very easily accessible) with one’s concerns but to, instead, blast their mistakes on social media as the likes on your Facebook page and your retweets on Twitter go up is grossly disingenuous.’

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  2. Saying that Jinn are microorganisms is not rationalist. Many people try to find things in the Qur’an that are ‘scientific’.

    Muhammad Assad was very deviant because of other things. Why do we need a translation of the Qur’an? I learned to read the Qur’an in Arabic when I was a child and nobody ever said read the translation. You don’t have to understand the Qur’an.
    But if you want to understand the Qur’an you have to learn Arabic and then read Tafsir like Tafsir of Tabari, Ebusuud Efendi, Samarqandi, Nasafi, Baghawi. But you don’t need translation from Assad or Nasr.
    And think about one thing: Muhammad Assad and Bashar Assad have the same second name!!! This is maybe not only coincidence!!!!!!!

    P.S. The last was only a joke.

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  3. Check out Zaki Hammad’s translation, the Gracious Qur’an, so far so good. But sadly the cheapest is around £16 I believe, however it has a leather case!

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  4. Yusuf Ali’s commentary with serious theological problems?

    Say what?!?

    I read a rumor that he was of Ismaili background.

    Whatever that is worth, Ismaili theology does not show up in his commentary and I have read a lot of his commentary over the years.

    Yusuf Ali’s commentary is fantastic.

    Muhammad Asad’s commentary is fantastic.

    And we won’t be asked to write an essay on the nature of the Jinn.

    Asad’s commentary hits the point where it is needed.

    Thank God his commentary was rationalistic.

    Allah commands us in …oh about too many numbers of verses to count….to use reason.

    I am not saying that Yusuf Ali and Asad’s commentaries are without any issues or that they cannot be improved.

    But I think this Facebook post is way off.

    I did not read this new commentary but I am very happy it has been done.

    The authors were not just doing this…they were busy with other writings…yes, the drafts should have been circulated to scholars of different theological perspectives….although how we do know for sure…maybe they were…but probably not as many as should have been for a big project like this.

    Anyhow, if there are any shortcomings, they can be improved in a later edition.

    The author of the Facebook post is spot on about many people with ego problems not working with the Editors but instead working against them and this attitude needs to stop pronto. Very good of him to point this out.

    The Editors deserve much praise for their great efforts.

    However, I am sure that with some issues, I would agree with Asad more than this very scholarly new translation and commentary.

    Allah knows best.

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  5. Br. Paul, since I understand that you read in French do you check out the French translation? Is there any, do you think, good scholarly translations and commentaries of the Qur’an in French?

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  6. Dear Paul,

    Thank you very much for the thoughtful comments on The Study Quran. I agree that this is a very important work.

    You were spot-on when it comes to the entire question of fairness and having a good opinion or husn al-zann. I know some of the editors of the book and they are among some of the most sincere and pious Muslims I have ever met.

    One major sign of their sincerity is precisely that they DID pass along drafts of The Study Quran to scholars of various intellectual and spiritual persuasions within the Muslim community, and this over a very long period (the book has taken, I guess, 9 years to complete). Combined, the editors are in close contact with every major segment of the English-speaking Muslim community, not to mention their other links with Muslim scholars from France to Java and everywhere in between. So I think it is rather unfair to speak of a “proverbial choir” here (look at the endorsements of the project on amazon.com–even in academia they have a very wide selection of scholars of varying stripes, which is for sure not the norm in academia).

    One of the editors even told me that they had reached out to one of the Muslim “scholars” well before the book was made public, offering to show it to him and to offer a possible endorsement. That case was particularly bad since this offer, actually made twice, was met with no response. All that was seen was what the “scholar” posted on social media.

    I appreciate your forthrightness in this matter, and wish the Muslim community had more such reasonable voices.

    May God continue to give you tawfiq to post your useful thoughts and reflections about all manner of things that concern us here down below, and, of course, our true home up Above.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree with the Paul’s opinion. in my humble opinion, endorsements from scholars of different school of thoughts could have played a vital role. By the way, this is not the first translation of Quran in English language. There are other translations available as well such as one done by Dr. Tahir ul Qadri. I haven’t had the opportunity of reading this new translation but given the fact that majority of the authors are from a particular sect raises my eyebrows. Now, i am in no way implying here any sort of discrimination but it just creates the same scenario as of Saudi brand.

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