Assalamualaikum a christian wrote the following argument :

George Sale (1697-1736) produced the first complete translation of the Qur’an from Arabic to English in the early 18th century. I have compared it with other modern translations. I have noticed some significant differences in some places. He has word in his text that do not appear in modern English Qur’ans. It is as if whole phrases are missing from modern Qur’ans. Compare :

and We bestowed on them, through our mercy, the gift of prophecy, and children, and wealth; and We caused them to deserve the highest commendations (19:50; George Sale)

with :

And we gave them of Our mercy, and assigned to them a high and true renown (19:50; Pickthall)

The words, “the gift of prophecy, and children, and wealth” are missing in most English translations.


I have seen OTHER DIFFERENCES between Pickthall and other translations. When one examines the Arabic, one can see that the difference in Pickthall’s translation from the Arabic can be due to the difference of a letter in the Arabic text used by Pickthall. Compare :

Go, O my sons, and ascertain concerning Joseph and his brother, and despair not of the SPIRIT (roohi) of Allah. Lo! none despaireth of the SPIRIT (roohi) of Allah save disbelieving folk (12:87; Pickthall)

With :

O my sons, go and make inquiry after Joseph and his brother; and despair not of the MERCY (rawhi) of God; for none despaireth of God’s MERCY (rawhi), except the unbelieving people (12:87; George Sale)

The Arabic word is rawhi here. It was most likely roohi in Pickthall’s manuscript. The difference is a vowel. Dhamma or Fatha? (END QUOTE)

Apparently he’s arguing that the Qur’an is not preserved and that the earliest translation i.e. George Sale’s translation has extra words. Also Pickthall’s manuscript is different.

Please shed some light

  • 2
    This is a serious question? George Sale relied on other translations and tafsirs to produce his 'translation' - he wrote a meaning of the Quran, not a literal translation. You can see from the copy here that the additional part is* italics*, which is described as " EXPLANATORY NOTES TAKEN FROM THE MOST APPROVED COMMENTATORS."
    – UmH
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 4:06
  • What about 12:87? R both readings authoritative?
    – Afiq
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 4:10
  • Is it possible that Pickthall was translating a manuscript with a different Qira'at?
    – Afiq
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 4:11
  • 1
    None of the qiraat recite "Rooh" for that as far as I could find. It seems a simple case of a mistake on the part of Pickthall. The words are written almost identically in Arabic except for one harakah so it is not hard to imagine (رُوح vs. رَوح )
    – The Z
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 4:13
  • 2
    Here a few assumptions there are no original readings, but the author tried to find the origin of Arabic words and failed to understand that they don't match to the scripture of the Moshaf. For example سراط is more fluent Arabic than صراط, the later appear in the moshaf while the first appears in some qira'at. Further he might have added interpretations that go beyond literal translation like Tafseer, his own interpretation etc. The same apply to Pickthall and any other translation too. Without knowing the source of this information we must guess.
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 21:48

1 Answer 1


Allah revealed the Qur'an in Arabic, not English. Translations of the Qur'an are not the Qur'an. At best, they're interpretations.

As interpretations, each translator may or may not take different tacks as to how best to interpret the divine words: Some go strictly literal, word for word. Some will attempt to capture the implied meaning, often supplemented by hadiths or established history which elaborate upon those meanings. Some prefer to use language that is more poetic or prosaic, so as to be more easily understood by the English readers, regardless of how well it matches the original Arabic text. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, but none can truly capture the divine essence of the original in full.

Any English translation, no matter how well-intentioned, no matter how accurate, is still the work of man. It is important to treat it as such.

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