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The Koran Interpreted: A Translation Paperback – December 11, 1996

3.9 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Arthur John Arberry, as Head of the Department of Classics at Cairo University, acquired a firsthand knowledge of literary and social conditions in the Islamic Middle East. Between 1947 and 1969 he served as Sir Thomas Adams Professor of Arabic at Cambridge University. He published some twenty books in Islamic studies during his lifetime, many dealing with mysticism and poetry. Professor Arberry died in England in 1969.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 708 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 1 edition (December 11, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684825074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684825076
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If someone wants to read a version of the Koran in English, s/he ought to read one that has some literary qualities, and reads like a book ought to, rather than some kind of reference text full of odd punctuation, awkward and unusual expressions, brackets etc. To be sure, no one can give us a translation into English that will capture every nuance or connotation of the original Arabic, and no amount of bracketed dictionary entries inserted next to words will really help. These kinds of things detract more from the reading than add to it. I am very dismayed by the awkwardness of many of the other translations available for us, including that of Yusuf Ali, whose popular work, while praised for it accuracy, leaves a lot to be desired in the realm of style, enjoyment and ease of understanding.
Arberry's work, however, is simple, direct, formal and hits a mid-point between poetry and prose; in other words, tries as much as possible to present the Koran for English speakers the way the Koran would have functioned for listeners of Arabic.
To enhance the clarity of the translation, Arberry distinguishes between the second person plural and second person singular by making use of the word 'thou' and its accompanying grammar for the singular. This distinction is critical for determining when God is speaking about others and when He is speaking to the Prophet directly. This is surely the only sensible way to render the distinction, in a translation that wishes itself to be readable. Arberry does not use any other archaic words, such as 'ye' or archaic grammar such as 'he hath', but uses fully modern English throughout.
It should be noted that people who are bilingual and have actually taken the time to read through Arberry's translation have found it to be very accurate.
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Format: Paperback
A.J. Arberry's translation of the Koran has taken pre-eminence among religious and world literature scholars. Although Abdullah Yusuf Ali's translation of the Koran has pride of place in many English-speaking Islamic households, Arberry's work above all others renders the Koranic language in suitably appropriate, easily-comprehended, English.

Unlike any other translation before or since, Arberry's work adheres closely to the original Arabic syntax, meaning that this translation can easily be used in tandem with a recitation in Arabic of the Koran. Arberry's language is striking and beautiful, comparable to more recent offerings from N.J. Dawood and Thomas Cleary. Note, for example, the striking immediacy and rhythmic flow of this passage:

"He is God;

the Creator, the Maker, the Shaper.

To Him belong the Names Most Beautiful.

All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies Him;

He is the All-mighty, the All-wise."

(Surah 59 'Hashr' v. 24)

Arberry eschews the Elizabethan intricacies of Abdullah Y. Ali and the reader will not find themselves fighting a river of parenthetical entries, as are found in Muhammad Asad and the infamous "Wahhabi Koran" of Muhammad Muhsin Khan.

All that being said, there are problems with the presentation of the translation. The verses are not numbered individually, although the paragraphing on each page helps in determining where verse divisions are. Arberry opts to adjust the layout of the text in accordance with the action or commands in the words themselves. This is a unique approach, but does tend to make difficulties for the reader hunting down a particular verse.
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Format: Paperback
Arberry's interpretation is both elegant in its expression and quite literal with respect to the original Arabic. The only other translation I would recommend is that of Pickthall, also excellent, but much less readable; in fact, most people I know who started Pickthall gave up on it because the language was so dry and tedious. Arberry's is a work of art by comparison.
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By A Customer on January 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
If you want to pick up a copy of the Qur'an to learn about Islam, this is not the book to get. It is the only interpretation (Muslims do not accept that the Qur'an can be translated) that tries to keep the poetic, grand, glittering, rhythmical and rhetorical flavor of the Qur'an, but the text is not terribly accessible and there are no footnotes to explain anything.
If you want to just get a flavor for what the Qur'an reads like, this is good, and the preface is enlightening. ...For sheer poetry, Arberry's text gets five stars, but I gave it four because of the total lack of explanation.
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Format: Paperback
Arberry's translation has long been regarded as the standard for Quran translations. It is rendered in eloquent English that employs techniques of early modern English, but avoids being excessively ornate. The language is at times striking, succinct, and beautiful, much like the original Arabic. Note for example 92:1-11:

By the night enshrouding and the day in splendour
and That which created the male and the female,
surely your striving is to diverse ends.
As for him who gives and is godfearing
and confirms the reward most fair,
We shall surely ease him to the Easing.
But as for him who is a miser, and self-sufficient,
and cries lies to the reward most fair,
We shall surely ease him to the Hardship;
his wealth shall not avail him when he perishes.

Also consider 57:1-3

All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies God; He is the
All-mighty, the All-wise. To Him belongs the Kingdom of the heavens
and the earth; He gives life, and He makes to die, and He is powerful
over everything.

He is the First and the Last, the Outward and the Inward; He has
knowledge of everything. It is He that created the heavens and the
earth in six days then seated Himself upon the Throne.

In addition to eloquent passages that capture the vaunted immediacy of the original Arabic, Arberry is for the most part consistent when rendering central theological concepts and repeated Quranic phrases. In rendering recurring phrases, he allows for slight variations that reflect the varying contexts while maintaining the same basic rendition.
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