Please consider these 2 English translations of the same verse (Surat Al-Mā'idah 5/4).

They ask you, [O Muhammad], what has been made lawful for them. Say, "Lawful for you are [all] good foods and [game caught by] what you have trained of hunting animals which you train as Allah has taught you. So eat of what they catch for you, and mention the name of Allah upon it, and fear Allah ." Indeed, Allah is swift in account. (Sahih International)

They ask thee (O Muhammad) what is made lawful for them. Say: (all) good things are made lawful for you. And those beasts and birds of prey which ye have trained as hounds are trained, ye teach them that which Allah taught you; so eat of that which they catch for you and mention Allah's name upon it, and observe your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is swift to take account. (Pickthall)

Why is one of them uses words like "ye", "Lo", "thee" etc? Where do these words come from? Is it proper English of 500 years ago for example?

I know that trying to look like non-Muslims is forbidden and whoever doing this is regarded as one of them. I saw a couple of verses from the Bible and they were using the same words (lo, thee etc). If so, can translating Qur'an as Christians translated Bible (I mean using the words like these while unnecessary) be counted as trying to imitating Christians, which is forbidden?

  • they're Biblical words. Used to show work of God, since Bible is a work of God. No. Just because we're talking here in English not allowed, just because Christians are speaking in English. There are Bibles with simple English too and so are Qur'an (Muhsin Khan). They're just cultures and languages. Mar 9, 2015 at 2:46
  • Then what is the difference between "you" and "ye" for example? Is one of them more literate while other is more street language? Or is it because of change of language through time?
    – kalahari
    Mar 9, 2015 at 2:57
  • Yeah kind of I guess. Doesn't make much difference unless meanings change completely. Mar 9, 2015 at 7:29

1 Answer 1


the quran can never truly be translated from arabic to any other language, as the arabic language is so complex, that one arabic word can mean up to 15 english words!! (just an example). Regarding those words (lo, thee, etc), they are old english words, and alot more sophisticated, which is why they use them in Scripture books, to differentiate them from ordinary books. I suppose that's why they use them in the quran, bible and torah. if it is forbidden, i'm not sure, but i know a fact that reading translations should be avoided where possible, as they only give you the translator's understanding of the verse, and it may give people different views regarding what that particular verse is meant. For this reason, it is best that we all study the arabic language to know what the original quran means, and not just what some translator thinks it means :)

  • I explained the question further, please look at it again.
    – kalahari
    Mar 9, 2015 at 6:34
  • 1
    Yes we should try to learn and understand Arabic, Insha Allah, but so as not to fall prey only in the views of one translator, you can refer to a couple of translations, say 5 to 10 if you're doubtful about a verse. Else, reading from two standard prescribed translations would suffice. Because not everyone can make up to understanding Arabic. :) Mar 12, 2015 at 8:19
  • @servantofWiser, I think I can't explain what it is to ask really. Maybe I selected the wrong example verse for it. I just want to learn why these specific words are used in translations. If we look at the other translations, they are not so much needed. Why some translators use "thee, lo" etc?
    – kalahari
    Mar 14, 2015 at 22:57
  • @servantofWiser, I am fine with meaning. I am just wondering about syntax.
    – kalahari
    Mar 14, 2015 at 22:58

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