Notes on Website Translations of the Qurʾan

By Gabriel Reynolds

Perhaps the most obvious way in which studying the Qurʾan in the internet age differs from that of ages past is the ease of accessing numerous translations of the Qurʾan.  In his 1953 article “Some Minor Problems in the Qurʾān,” Franz Rosenthal analyzes 46 different translations of the term al-ṣamad (Q 112:2).  One imagines that his office must have been quite a mess of open books and tattered pieces of paper serving as bookmarks.

Today a single website – – offers 41 different English translations of each verse with a single click (and tomorrow there may be more).  These websites (of which there are a number;, for example, has translations of the Qurʾan in 66 different languages, and into 40 languages) are undoubtedly useful, but in using them a few cautionary notes might be kept in mind.

First, it often seems that the multiplication of verses has a diminishing rate of return; that is, a scholar interested in understanding a difficult Qurʾanic passage (say, Q 3:3-4; 12:110; 13:33; or 108:1), will usually not learn much more about it by consulting 40 different translations, as opposed to 4.

Second, many of these websites categorize translations in religious terms.  Islamawakened does so as follows:

1. Generally Accepted Translations of the Meaning

2. Controversial, Deprecated, or Status Undetermined Works

3. Non-Muslim and/or Orientalist Works

The editors of the website put Yusuf Ali’s original translation under category 2, but the later (Saudi-sponsored) edited version of this translation under category 1.  Evidently philological rigor may not always be the standard for privileging certain translations.  It should also be noted that under “non-Muslim translations” most websites tend not to include those translations generally seen as standard in the academy.  Thus George Sale’s outdated English translation is found on most sites, but those current in the academy like Blachère’s French translation and Paret’s German translation are almost never found (this is the case, for example, with both and

The case of translations suggests that studying the Qurʾan in the internet age can be tricky in its own way.  Other cases, however, are more auspicious.  Websites with other tools for the study of the Qurʾan — such as and — are exceptionally useful, although an explanation of their usefulness will have to wait for a future post!

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2012. All rights reserved.

Qur’anic Studies around the World

By Emran El-Badawi

There are several research projects, journals, conferences and other initiatives dedicated to the academic study of the Qur’an around the world. One of IQSA’s goals is to give scholars from these different international initiatives the opportunity to meet regularly.

The Qur’an Seminar meets 5 times throughout 2012-13 at the University of Notre Dame. This conference series is directed by Gabriel Reynolds (associate professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame) and Mehdi Azaiez (PhD, Université Aix-Provence). The seminar allows invited participants to share their insights on 50 central passages distributed throughout the Qur’an text. The work of the participants will eventually be collected, edited and published. See in relation the Qur’an in Its Historical Context.

The Corpus Coranicum is a project directed by Angelika Neuwirth (professor of Semitic and Arabic Studies, Freie Universität Berlin) and Michael Marx, and it belongs to the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Included in the work of the Corpus Coranicum is research on the paleography and intertextuality of the Qur’an.

Among the academic journals in this area is the Journal of Qur’anic Studies (JQS), whose editor in chief is M.A.S. Abdel Haleem (professor of Islamic Studies, School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London). Another biennial journal is Al-Bayan: Journal of Qur’an and Hadith Studies, whose editor in chief is Faisal Bin Ahmad Shah (senior lecturer, al-Qur’an & al-Hadith Academy of Islamic Studies, University of Malaya).

The Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur’an (EIQ) is a seven volume reference work that originated as a joint academic venture between the Center for Islam and Science, Canada and the Society for Qur’anic Studies, Pakistan. Among other things, EIQ preserves centuries worth of classical Islamic scholarship on the Qur’an. This publication is not related to the Encyclopedia of the Qur’an (EQ) published by E.J. Brill.

The International Institute of Qur’anic Studies (IIQS), which was co-founded by H.E. Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid and Dr. Syafi’i Ma’arif, explores the intersection between modern scholarship and the study of the Qur’an in Indonesia. The institute belongs to the organization LibForAll, chaired by Holland Taylor, and has worked with the late Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd (d. 2010).

For more information on Qur’anic Studies around the world visit the External Resources link.

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2012. All rights reserved.

IQSA in the News

By Gabriel Reynolds

The establishment of a consultation dedicated to the foundation of a learned society for Qurʾanic Studies– the International Qurʾanic Studies Association (IQSA) – was announced on May 29, 2012. Since that time a number of media outlets have published articles on IQSA, which will become the first learned society dedicated to the study of the Qurʾan when it is formally founded in 2015. The following may be of particular interest:

– “For Koranic Studies, a Scholarly Society is Born.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (June 6,
– “Across Religions, Persistent Battles Over What the Faithful May Read.” The New York Times
(June 8, 2012)
– “Anti-Muslim Video – One More Reason for Independent Scholarship on the Qurʾan.” The
Christian Science Monitor (September 14, 2012).

On this blog we will be regularly adding posts on a range of engaging topics connected to the study of
the Qurʾan: from the world of academia, popular culture, and international affairs. By following IQSA
by email, facebook, or twitter (see the fields on the left-hand column of the blog) you will be notified
immediately when new posts appear. You will also be included among the IQSA community of scholars,
and be the first to receive information regarding our developing plans for conferences and publications on
the Qurʾan. We are eager to reach out to all those who are interested in the study of the Qurʾan!

© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2012. All rights reserved.