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Is It OK to Read the Quran in English?

Question and answer details
Moyo Ali Sanni
2013/01/27
The Arabic language confuses me and I lost interest in Islam. Now I found a translated form of the Quran in English and I love it. My question is: is it okay for me to continue reading it in English because I can't do so in Arabic?
Idris Tawfiq
Answer
Salam Moyo,

 

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

 

At different times in our lives, some people can be more or less interested in Islam, and this can be caused by different reasons. It seems to you that you have lost interest in Islam because you find the Arabic language confusing, but it might be other things which are contributing to this.

 

It might help to look at possible reasons and also address the question you ask about the Quran in English or Arabic. It may be that your confusion about Arabic is just one way that you are feeling your loss of interest.

 

Almighty Allah has spoken to men and women throughout history by means of different Prophets and Messengers. The first of these was Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) and the last in a long line was Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In between there were such figures as the Prophets Abraham, David, Moses, Solomon, and Jesus (peace be upon them all), to name just a few.

 

Through these people, Almighty Allah spoke His words to a particular people at a particular time in history. So with Prophet Moses, for example, He spoke to the Jews at a particular time in their history. To Jesus, He spoke at a different time in history to a particular people, and so on.

 

In the Quran, He spoke to all people for all time. In doing this, it was important that the original message be preserved in its correct form. You see, we believe that all the previous messages were distorted over time through translation, or by being lost in part, or even by deliberate alteration by later generations.

 

Many of the translations of these earlier scriptures differ greatly in content because of the way different words have been translated. In the Quran, though, we find that the original has been preserved through time exactly how it was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel.

 

Because Allah Almighty intended that this revelation was for all time, He preserved it in its original form. One of the main ways in which this has happened is that the original Arabic is always used as the version to be quoted from. Translations give a guide to the meaning of the Arabic, but they are not the original Quran.

 

Allah revealed His words in Arabic because the people He revealed them to were Arabs. What other language would He have used? It is not that Arabic is better or worse than any other language. It is simply because this was the language that the people spoke.

 

In order to preserve the original revelation, though, we keep the Arabic text as the one we refer to. It is the very one that Allah revealed to Prophet Muhammad.

 

We need to be very clear about something here. Being Arab doesn't make anyone a better Muslim. Muslims throughout the world are neither called to be Arabs, nor to copy the behavior and manner of Arabs. Islam is for all people and for all time. The Quran, though, is in Arabic.

 

In order to pray the five daily Prayers, a Muslim needs to know just two verses of the Quran in Arabic. Just two! This is not such a massive burden, is it?

 

In order to better understand our religion, though, it is most definitely best to be able to understand the Quran in its Arabic form. Translations are fine, but they can only ever give an approximation of what the original author intended.

 

I heard a very lovely idea the other day. Being a writer myself, it appealed to me. Someone said that any writer likes to hear his work being read. Imagine, then, how pleased Almighty Allah must be when He hears us reciting His Book.

 

He gave us this Quran as a mercy to the whole of mankind. How pleased He must be with His creatures when He hears them reading and reciting out loud the verses He revealed for their good.

 

This is why we try to read the Quran in Arabic. If, however, the Arabic language is quite beyond us and we cannot master it, there is no blame attached to us. We can recite verses in Arabic by learning the sounds, and then find out what they mean by resorting to translations.

 

We must never be led to think, though, that these translations are an exact version of the Arabic in another language. They are only an approximation of the meaning of what was revealed.

 

With this in mind, you are free to read translations of the meaning of the Quran, if it will help you to be a better Muslim, always remembering that the words of Allah were revealed in Arabic. You should not feel downcast or guilty that you don't know Arabic. Try as best you can, but don't allow Satan to weaken your faith as a result of this.

 

As for the first point, there can be many reasons that distract us from Islam. It could be that we are missing Prayers on a regular basis, or that we are not saying them at the right time in the day.

 

It could be that we are mixing with people whose lifestyles are not in accord with the lofty ideals of Islamic behavior.

 

It could be that our Prayers are rushed, or that we are not paying any attention to what we say.

 

It is important from time to time to read about Islam, to attend courses and lectures, if they are available, so that we can learn more. Even if we think we know about Islam, there is always more to learn.

 

A child of age ten might speak some French, but when he gets to sixteen he will speak better French. Our own knowledge of Islam will increase the more we study it.

 

So keep trying. Use translations of the meaning of Allah's Book to help you understand, but try to learn verses that you can recite out loud and please Him even more.

 

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.

 

Salam.

 

Useful Links:


Lost in Translation: The Meaning of "Servitude" to Allah


One Quran, Many Translations


Recommended Translations of Quran


Arabic Quran & English Bible


  

Must Muslims Pray in Arabic?


Praying in Arabic: Not a Sixth Pillar, But…


A Different Quran?


The Original Quran and the Discovery of Makkah

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