Most English-speaking Muslims are familiar with the translations by Yusuf Ali, Muhsin Khan, MH Shakir, and Pickthall, as they are usually condered the “classics” in English Qur’anic translations.
But which is the best one? I’m sure everyone has their own favourites. For me, I find the “classics” a safe choice choice, though the detailed translation may be regarded by some as being wordy, and not easily comprehensible to younger Muslims or even non-Muslims. Another thing to note is the time when which the “classics” was written, of which is evident in the writing style.
Personally I crave for translations which doesn’t restrict the flow of its original Arabic texts, yet manage to capture the as much of the meaning as possible. For those who understand Arabic, the Qu’ran is a very poetic and sublime piece of literature. And translating the masterwork – or Master’s words – in English is no easy feat. The translator may focus on elaboration at the expense its fluidity and artistry.
Before you choosing a translation, make sure you do your homework. – you wouldn’t want to grab a bad translation or one which may carry the biased undertone of orientalists or Shiites, for instance.
Below are comparison of some popular translations based on surah al-Fatihah. When in doubt, always stick to established authors and publishers.
My personal preference is the first one listed: “The Majestic Quran, a New English Translation”. Like its meanings, I find that even the poetic beauty of the Qur’an is not lost in translation.
The Majestic Quran, a New English Translation (Ibn Khaldun Foundation)
Trans. Abdal Hakim Murad, Mustafa Badawi, et al
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
Praise be to God, the Lord of the Worlds,
the Compassionate, the Merciful
King of Judgment Day!
You alone we worship, and to You alone do we turn for help.
Guide us to the straight path;
the path of those whom You have favored; not of those with whom You are angered, nor of those who go astray.
The Qur’an (Oxford World’s Classics)
Trans. M. A. S. Abdel Haleem
In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy
Praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds
the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy
Master of the Day of Judgment
It is You we worship; it is You we ask for help
Guide us to the straight path:
the path of those You have blessed, those who incur no anger and who have not gone astray.
The Quran: A New Interpretation: In English with Arabic Text
Trans. M. B. Behbudi
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Praise belongs to God, Nurturer and Sustainer of all worlds
God Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
Lord and Master of the Day of Judgment
King of all creation! It is You Whom we worship; it is You to Whom we turn for help
Guide us to the Straight Path –
The Path of those upon whome You have bestowed the bounty of true guidance; not the path of those who have turned away from You knowingly and thus incurred Your wrath, or those who have unwittingly gone astray.
The Noble Qur’an: A New Rendering of its Meaning in English
Trans. Abdalhaqq and Aisha Bewley
[Note that the translation below is obtained from here. As such I cannot ascertain whether it’s the same one in the book.]
(1) In the name of Allah, All-Merciful, Most Merciful
(2) Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds,
(3) the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful,
(4) the King of the Day of Judgement.
(5) You alone we worship. You alone we ask for help.
(6) Guide us on the Straight Path,
(7) the Path of those You have blessed, not of those with anger on them, nor of the misguided.
The Noble Qur’an
Trans. Muhammad Muhsin Khan
1. In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
2. All the praises and thanks be to Allâh, the Lord of the ‘Alamîn (mankind, jinns and All that exists).
3. the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
4. the Only Owner (and the Only Ruling Judge) of the Day of Recompense (i.e. the Day of Resurrection)
5. You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything).
6. Guide us to the Straight Way
7. the Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).
The Holy Qur’an: Text, Translation and Commentary
Trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali
1. In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
2. Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;
3. Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
4. Master of the Day of Judgment.
5. Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.
6. Show us the straight way,
7. the way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.
The Holy Qur’an (Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an)
Trans. Muhammad Habib Shakir
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
[1.1] All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
[1.2] The Beneficent, the Merciful.
[1.3] Master of the Day of Judgment.
[1.4] Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help.
[1.5] Keep us on the right path.
[1.6] The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors. Not (the path) of those upon whom Thy wrath is brought down, nor of those who go astray.
The English Translation of the Qur’an
Trans. Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds,
The Beneficent, the Merciful.
Master of the Day of Judgment,
Thee (alone) we worship; Thee (alone) we ask for help.
Show us the straight path,
The path of those whom Thou hast favoured; Not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.
For online translation, the best one is the one that came up most recently, which is quran.com. Very readable, tremendously accessible, and even linking particular verses (especially to verify on what you read elsewhere) is made easy. For instance if you want to link surah 5, verse 82, just type it as quran.com/5/82.
Its translation is by default from Sahih/Saheeh International, a pseudonym for an Umm Muhammad which I am unfortunately unfamiliar with. The only information I have is:
The Translator is Umm Muhammad known under the pseudonym of Saheeh International, Umm Muhammad accepted Islam [in] 1974 while in Syria following an intensive study of Arabic. In 1981 she moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where she continues to teach tafseer and fiqh and translating and editing English books for Saudi publishers. (Source)
Nevertheless it has received positive reviews on Islamic forums over the internet. Of course, there are also other translations to choose from.
Aside from translation, each verse comes with concise explanation from Tafsir al-Jalalayn, the established mini-tafsir.
Assessing English Translations of the Qur’an by Khaleel Mohammed, Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2005, pp. 58-71
Translating the Untranslatable: A Survey of English Translations of the Quran by A.R. Kidwai, The Muslim World Book Review, Vol. 7, No. 4 Summer 1987