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The Koran (Penguin Classics) Revised Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 136 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140449204
ISBN-10: 0140449205
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Editorial Reviews


Across the language barrier Dawood captures the thunder and poetry of the original The Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Language Notes

Text: English, Arabic (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (September 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449204
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I had no real interest in Islam until 9/11, after which I picked up and read Islam: The Straigh Path by John Esposito. I then did an independent study of Sufism, which is what sparked my interest in Islam enough to read The Koran, its central text.
Although I cannot comment on the other reviewers' differing views on the accuracy of this translation, I can write that this translation does convey something of the thunderous power that Muhammad's earliest listeners must have heard and experienced when these suras (speeches - the Koran is a collection of 114 speeches given by Muhammad, which Muslims believe were revelations given to him by God) were first delivered.
There are a number of things that one could mention content-wise, as each sura deals with something slightly different. God, women, human relationships, one's relationship to the non-believing world, Judaism, Christianity, and Arabic paganism are all touched upon in the Koran (along with other topics). It reads much like the Bible at points, and many of the more familiar Biblical stories are here, along with extra-Biblical legends. The Koran really isn't a bizarre religious text, but very much belongs to the genealogy of monotheistic, prophetic writings.
One of the things that I really liked about this particular translation was the way that Dawood cross-referenced relevant Biblical texts from both the Tanak/Old Testament and the New Testament. The footnotes detailing Arabic pagan practice were also helpful, as were the footnotes giving basic historical information. One certainly gets a feel for where the Koran was coming from and who it was going to when it was first delivered.
In reading this, it is worth reflecting on how a passage can lend itself to multiple interpretations.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
N.J. Dawood's translation has been held in high regard throughout the English speaking world (though not by English speaking MUSLIMS). It certainly achieves the translator's stated goal: to render the Koran in contemporary English. In comparison to Abdullah Y. Ali and especially Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, Dawood's translation flows easily and naturally, while retaining in some part the forcefulness of the original Arabic.

However, a key point missed by some who run across this book in the store is this: Dawood has heavily edited and OMITTED portions of the Koran that he felt were repetitious or unnecessarily lengthy. While that's fine for a general audience, completists and orthodox Muslims will be irked by the omission of parts of the text. In short, this is NOT a complete Koran.

That being said, the language and diction of this translation is certainly to be admired. Dawood's offering is clear and eminently readable. Although this book is inappropriate for any serious study of the Koran, it is more than adequate as a first Koran for the non-Muslim taking an interest in Islam.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Reviewers complaining of inaccuracies here are off base. For example, Dawood never translated 7:31 ("children of Adam") as "children of Allah." This is impossible, as one of Dawood's nice touches is that he has always translated Allah (correctly) as "God." (By the way, Yusuf Ali made this same wise choice in his translation, but the holier-than-thou revisers of his work who continue to publish it under his name have mucked up this & a whole lot else.)
Dawood's knowledge of Qur'anic Arabic is deep and subtle. As another reviewer has noted, a remarkable feature of his translation is how much it has improved over time (over the successive reeditions put out by Penguin). For this reason, definitely buy this book new. Usually, when translators go back and fiddle with their work, they make it worse. But Dawood's labor of love is evident in the gradual progress he has made towards the clearest and most accurate phrases and rhythms to capture the original.
Dawood does not put on a show by dressing his text with long, technical, or argumentative footnotes (as do many editions of the Qur'an). But his knowledge of traditional comment on the sacred text (and of philology) is the equal of any other translator's. Add to this, the fact that Dawood's English is graceful and limpid (moreso than the work of Arberry, Pickthall, et al.).
Why only four stars? I await the day that a philologically astute translation appears with proper annotations. Look at the study edition of the New Jerusalem Bible, or at the New Oxford Annotated Bible, and you will see what readers of the Qur'an (in English) are sorely lacking.
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Format: Paperback
When I decided to read the Koran, I studied the various translations available, trying to find the most readable, reliable version available. I downloaded all available public domain translations from gutenberg.org and carefully compared them against the translations currently available in print. I bought several, but not all, the translations, and settled upon this translation to read. I chose this translation because it was one of the most readable and because of my long experience of the reliability of Penguin translations.

As one who knows next to nothing about Islam, I was struck by three things: The moral teachings; the martial teachings; and the figure of Jesus.

First the moral teachings: They are quite similar to the moral teachings of the Christian Bible. Indeed, the Koran explicitly recognizes the scriptural nature of the "Torah" and the "Gospel." The moral teachings don't seem to be as plentiful in the Koran as in the New Testament, but I think there's a very good explanation. Mohammed was at war most of his prophetic career, therefore quite a lot of the Koran deals with warfare.

Second, the martial teachings: They are quite prevalent, and one could easily read the martial teachings to the exclusion of all else in the Koran. Something that struck me about the martial teachings was that they stressed non-aggression. The good believer is to fight only in self defense, and only enough to accomplish the defense. After defeating the enemy, then the good believer must be forgiving and merciful.

Martial teachings prevail in number over moral teachings in the Koran because Mohammed was persecuted in his lifetime, driven out of Mecca, attacked in Medina, and forced to defend himself in a bloody war.
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