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Are the English translated versions of the Qur'an "safe" practical to read and understand the true lessons within? I'm confident that there are things in Arabic that can only be expressed in that language. English is not different in this regard - I'm sure that there are things that cannot be translated with the same emphasis to Arabic.

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Of course, best way to understand Qur'an is to understand Qur'an Arabic. Nouman Ali Khan argues in his speech titled Brilliance Of The Book that there are 3 types of Arabic;

  1. Spoken Arabic: Dialectical Arabic. People from different Arabic speaking nations have their own version of spoken Arabic. Spoken Arabic can be quite different from region to region that parties may not understand each other.
  2. Proper Arabic: Newspaper and television Arabic. Arabic term for that is fus-ha. This is also called modern standard Arabic. Proper Arabic can be argued to be correct Arabic.
  3. Ancient Arabic: Far more sophisticated, advanced, complex, intrigued and involved than proper Arabic. Understanding of Proper Arabic doesn't still mean the understanding of Ancient Arabic. The subtleties that ancient Arabs can hear and understand what is going on is no longer present today. So an avarage Arab doesn't hear what Arab of 1400 years ago heard.

So, best way to understand Qur'an would be to learn ancient Arabic. However, learning it requires serious effort (years of study), and not practical for average person. That is where tafseer becomes neccessary. A tafseer is a work of an Islam scholar, that explains each ayah in its context of relevation, using hadith and also demonstrating the relationship between different ayahs.

So my suggestion is, first read one or two tafseers. After reading tafseers, I would argue reading translations become safe, because you now know that what is going on. If you want understand in Arabic while you are reading it, you can learn fus-ha and have a good dictionary under your hand.

What I do sometimes is to read some ayahs word by word and check meaning of some words in the dictionary I mentioned above.

Also, check out Near Synonyms and this audio library.

  • Thank you for your answer. Where can someone learn Ancient Arabic? I believe Arabic in things like Rosetta Stone is Proper Arabic. – user206 Aug 15 '12 at 2:52
  • @DanAndrews I don't know if you can learn it online. I don't have personal experience on that area, but I want to mention dream program . I personally admire N.A Khan's expertise in Qur'an, and since he is associated with bayyinah (founder and lecturer AFAIK) it is probably best you can get :) – user44 Aug 15 '12 at 2:58
  • @DanAndrews, I've asked this question many times, and the answer I always get is that you need to do a full time quranic arabic course which is usually 7 years long. – oshirowanen Aug 15 '12 at 7:36
  • @oshirowanen I wonder why it's 7 years. I'll have to see where I can learn it and if I can squeeze it in. – user206 Aug 15 '12 at 12:31
  • @DanAndrews, you can try, but you will not be able to understand it full without starting off with a 7 year course in classical quranic arabic, which would includes many many tafweers, and many many hadith without which you won't even be able to scratch the surface of the quran. – oshirowanen Aug 15 '12 at 12:57
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There are no translations of Quran, and they can not be.

As you have said, there are a lot of things that can only be expressed in Arabic language. Quran translations are not translations at all, they are very approximate interpretations, and you should perceive them in that way.

So, you should not make important decisions, study Islam or teach somebody using interpretations, because they can be wrong in any point. For such purposes, Islamic books written by well-known Muslim scholars are preferable unless you have education that let you read and understand (in general) original text in Arabic.

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    Thank you for the answer. Can you expand on that to explain why? – user206 Aug 14 '12 at 16:57

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