QURAN: A Reformist Translation
Translated and Annotated by
Layth Saleh al-Shaiban
Arguments against the practices and teachings of “Orthodox Islam” have created controversies in the past and are likely to continue to do so in the future. But the Holy Quran, the word of God Almighty, demands that its words be proclaimed without misdirection or obstruction (3:187).
This volume is undertaken in obedience to this command. Quran: A Reformist Translation is an English version of the Quran that takes an accurate reading of what is in the Quran itself as the standard. It thus abandons the rigid preconceptions of all-male scholarly and political hierarchies that gave rise to the series of writings and teachings known as the “Hadith & Sunna”, which, according to the Quran itself, carry no authority according to the Quran itself (9:31; 42:21; 18:110; 98:5; 7:3; 6:114). It is a progressive translation of the final revelation of God to all of humanity – a translation resonates powerfully with contemporary notions of gender equality, progressivism, and intellectual independence. It is a continuation of the modern monotheist movement that started an era of paradigm change and reform in 1974 with the fulfillment of a Quranic prophecy based on the number 19 mentioned in chapter 74.
Centuries after the revelation of the Quran, understanding of the Quran was inevitably influenced by the cultural norms and practices of tribal cultures in ancient Arabia, which were attributed to Prophet Muhammad and his close friends, and introduced as secondary religious sources besides the Quran. As the sample comparisons offered below demonstrate, these norms and practices distorted the perceptions of what the text actually said. When translation is liberated from these traditions the Quran conveys clearly a message that proclaims freedom of faith, promotes male and female equality, encourages critical thought and the pursuit of knowledge, calls for accountability and repudiation of false authority, as well as the replacement of political tyranny and oppression through representation in government, Above all, it is God’s command for the realization of justice for every man, woman, and child irrespective of ethnic origin or religion.
By presenting the peaceful and unifying message of the Quran, we hope to increase understanding and reduce tensions between the “Muslim World” and people of other religions, especially those whom the Quran calls the People of The Book (Jews and Christians). This translation will also highlight, without apology or distortion, the major differences between our approach and that of orthodox translations and commentaries.
Quran: A Reformist Translation offers a non-sexist understanding of the divine text; it is the result of collaboration between three translators, two men and a woman. We use logic and the language of the Quran itself as the ultimate authority in determining likely meanings, rather than previous scholarly interpretations. These interpretations, though sometimes useful as historical and scholarly reference resources, are frequently rendered inadequate for a modern understanding and practice of Islam because they were heavily influenced by patriarchal culture, relied heavily on the hearsay teachings falsely attributed to the prophet Muhammad, and were frequently driven by hidden or overt sectarian and political agendas. We therefore explicitly reject the right of the clergy to determine the likely meaning of disputed passages.
In the Reformist Translation, we also offer extensive cross-referencing to the Bible and attempt to provide scientific and philosophical reasoning to support and justify the translation. We intend for the translation to reflect the original message of the Quran for those who have scholarly or personal curiosity in it, and to provide an alternative perspective, unfettered by the constraints of uncritically accepted interpretations that rely on hearsay accounts.
We argue that any modern commentary on the Quran – and all translations are, by definition, commentaries upon the Arabic text – should not be monolithic, but should instead reflect the perspective and critical evaluation of diverse disciplines and populations. We also argue that the voices of women, suppressed for so many centuries by Sunni or Shiite alike, should be taken into account in any interpretation of these extraordinary verses. To correct the egregious historical biases so obvious in previous English translations, we have chosen to take an inclusive approach incorporating input from scholars, lay readers, and even non-Muslims. The final word choices of the actual translation, however, are ours. We alone are responsible for them before God; if we have made an error, we appeal only to God for forgiveness.