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A review of different English translations of the meaning of the Qur’an

Updated: Jun 26, 2021

By South African Muslimah

The first time I ever desired to know what the Qur’an meant was when I was about fourteen years old. Sheikh Shuraim was reading an ayah from Surah Aal Imraan in salaah in Masjidul Haram, sobbing as he did so. In those days it was much more difficult to locate the meaning of an ayah but I finally managed to find it in the almost Shakespearan English of my mum’s Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation. It had me hooked! I went on to read Surah Yusuf in one sitting, largely because the beauty of Yusuf Alayhis Salaam captured my teenage-girl imagination. Fast forward many years later, and this topic sits even closer to my heart- too many of us today simply read the Qur’an as a devotional practise without making any effort to understand this Love Letter from our Allah. Today in South Africa we are fortunate to have access to so many excellent translations in modern English. This article serves as a review of some of my favourites. I have divided it into three categories to make it easier for you to choose one based on your current preference: English-only translations, translations that contain both the Arabic and English text, and word-for-word translations of the Qur’an. Lastly, I have included a directory of stockists of some or all of these translations in each of the major cities of South Africa.

English-only Translations

1. “The Qur’an, a translation for the 21st Century” by Adil Salahi (2019)

This translation is simple and straightforward. It reads beautifully, manages to capture some of the rhythm of the Qur’an, and has a richness of expression that I found closest to the original Arabic. The introduction to each Surah is comprehensive and I love that it illustrates how a story or historical event is still relevant to us today, reinforcing the fact that the message of the Quran is everlasting.

2. “The Qur’an, a new translation” by M.A.S Abdel Haleem (2004)

This translation has a modern, easy style. Each Surah has a short introduction that details the context of revelation and main themes it contains. The translation stays close to the original Arabic root letter definitions without sacrificing beauty of expression. I love the way paragraphs and punctuation are used to facilitate understanding and that the footnotes explain how different parts of the Qur’an relate to each other. It makes the translation a pleasure to read.

3. “The Qur’an, English meanings revised and edited” by Saheeh International (1997)

This translation has been widely-acclaimed by numerous scholars. It is written in simple, clear English that makes it an excellent translation to start with or to distribute for Da’wah purposes. I love that the words are translated so closely to their root letters in the Arabic-English dictionary- it is the translation I use for all my Arabic studies. There is also a version of this translation which contains both the Arabic and English text and may be more readily available from bookstores.

Translations that contain the Arabic and English Text

1. “Holy Qur’an, English Translation, Colour Coded Tajweed Rules” by the Hafiz Academy & Quran Literacy Trust (2020)

I love that this translation colour codes the various Tajweed rules in the Qur’an to facilitate proper recitation and that the bold Arabic script is the one we are familiar with reading in South Africa. The translation is set underneath in easy to read, clear, blocked phrases and stays very close to the literal meaning of the Arabic words. The format remains the same as the 13 -line mus’haf, so it is significantly longer size-wise. This makes it perfect to tag with my Quran Tagging Kit.

2. “The Majestic Quran, a plain English translation” by Dr Musharraf Hussain (2018)

This translation reads easily, in plain and simple English. Each Surah is preceded by a comprehensive introduction that helps you understand its central theme and subject matter. It is distinctive in that the Qur’an is divided into 1500 sections, with headings to understand each topic you are reading within the Surah. I love the layout- the South Asian Arabic text is easy to read and lies solely on the right-hand pages of the book. Another thing that sets it apart are the brief notes in the margins. These notes made me pause in my recitation and reflect on how an ayah from each page applies to my life. They assist greatly in internalising the message of the Qur’an and urging you to implement its teachings and improve yourself. They are also perfect as inspiration should you have purchased the “Me and My Quran” Journaling Kit launched recently or would just generally like to try Qur’an Journaling.

3. “Quraan made Easy” co-ordinated by Mufti AH Elias (2002)

This translation is in simple, clear language. The beginning has a lovely introduction to the Qur’an as well as glossary of names and terms used. In the version I have, each Arabic ayah is followed by its English translation underneath, however newer editions may have the Arabic on the right and the translation on the left. I love that explanatory notes for each verse are included within brackets in the text rather than in footnotes underneath, which makes it easy to read, and that each Surah is preceded by a note on how it links to the previous one. I would highly recommend this translation if this is your first reading of a translation.

4. “Al Qur’an, the guidance for mankind” by Muhammad Farooq-i-Azam Malik (1997)

This translation flows beautifully, in clear, modern-day prose. I love the format- verses are broken up into sections and paragraphs based on their subject. I end up reading huge chunks of Quran without even realising it! All the Arabic is on the right side of the page, and English on the left, with sufficient blank space around the page to make small notes. The synopsis of each Surah at the beginning and subject matter index at the end is the most comprehensive I have encountered. This translation is perfect for everyone, from new Muslims, to those looking to study specific subjects in the Qur’an in more detail, alike.

Word-for-Word Translations of the Qur’an

1. “Study the Noble Qur’an, Word-for-Word” compiled by Darussalam (2012) (3 volumes)

2. “The Glorious Qur’an, word-for-word translation” by Dr Shehnaz Shaikh and Ms Kausar Khatri (2021)

I haven’t completed reading either of these translations in their entirety, but they are both excellent resources for those studying Arabic and/or the Qur’an. They both include the word-for-word translation below the ayah and ayah-by-ayah translation at the bottom of the page or in the margin. I love that the former differentiates the names of Allah, nouns and pronouns, verbs, prepositions and connecting words, and compound words through the use of different colours. I love that the latter is in a single book. Both will be a great help in linking Arabic words to their meanings.

Stockists of these Translations

(I have listed them by area, but most courier nation-wide)

Cape Town

Sawants 021 6991200


Baitul Hikmah 031 2073871


MI Nana Bookshop 011 834 2449

Suhayla 011 4831766

Port Elizabeth

Taj Islamic Centre 041 4518786


Iqra Agencies 012 3742987

All errors are due to Shaytaan and my human shortcomings, and all good is from our Allah. May this be a source of benefit and inspiration to us all, and may Allah make us all

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