“The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary” by Seyyed Hossein Nasr et. al.— Accessible and Accurate

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, Caner Karacay Dagli, et al. “The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary”, Harper One, 2015.

Accessible and Accurate

Amos Lassen

In preparation for a course I will be teaching next fall comparing stories from the Hebrew bible and the Quran, I began a search for an accessible and accurate translation of the Quran. I wanted something similar to the Jewish Study Bible (Oxford). To my dismay this is the one fault of the Jewish Study Bible— it does not include the original Hebrew text. Oxford University Press does offer a wonderful English translation of the Quran but I wanted more than just a translation. I discovered that Harper One has “The Study Quran” and it includes the Arabic translation as well as analyses the theological, metaphysical, historical, and geographical teachings and backgrounds, extensive study notes, special introductions by experts in the field. It is edited by a top modern Islamic scholar who is respected in both the West and the Islamic world. These features were important to me since I had up until now only read the Quran when I needed an explanation of something and the only knowledge I had of Islam came from several Muslim friends here and in Israel. I was going to be teaching this class to some very educated people and I wanted to make sure I would have access to the information I needed.

This edition of the Quran draws from a wide range of traditional Islamic commentaries, including Sunni and Shia sources, and from legal, theological, and mystical texts. “The Study Quran” provides information conveys the enduring spiritual power of the Quran and offers a thorough scholarly understanding of this holy text.

There are essays by 15 contributors, maps, useful notes and annotations in an easy-to-read two-column format, a timeline of historical events, and helpful indices. It is easy to explore the deeper spiritual meaning of the Quran, examine the grammar of difficult sections, and explore legal and ritual teachings, ethics, theology, sacred history, and the importance of various passages in Muslim life.

With an introduction by its general editor, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, we get nearly 2,000-pages and continuous discussion of the entire Quran that gives a comprehensive picture of how this sacred work has been read by Muslims for so many years. Perhaps by breaking it down as I have done below, you can get a better idea of what this wonderful book offers.

It includes:

A new English translation of the Quran that is accurate, accessible, and reliable in how it renders this sacred text.

A wide-ranging verse-by-verse commentary that brings together the most respected and distinguished traditions of metaphysical, spiritual, theological, and legal interpretation of the Quran within Islam

A helpful introduction to each su¯rah that provides an overview and background of its teachings, essays by fifteen internationally renowned scholars on how to read and understand the Quran and its role in shaping Islamic civilization. It is presented in a beautiful two-color, two-column design that presents the sacred text and commentary in the spirit of traditional Quran manuscripts, maps, a time line of historical events, comprehensive indexes, and other features to aid reading.

“The Study Quran” is a scholarly yet accessible resource where it is easy to explore how Muslims have interpreted the Quran through the centuries to the present day. Not only is this a great invaluable resource for scholars and students of all backgrounds, it is also a resource for Muslims who want to deepen their understanding of their own tradition especially now in this time of confusion about the Quran and Islam is so prevalent.

We see how the Quran has been understood by Muslims through the centuries and I understand that this it the first time that scholars and students of all backgrounds have a clear and reliable resource in English for exploring the history of interpretation for any passage in the Quran.

In today’s world and especially since 9/11, people in the West are studying the Koran and because of that there have misinterpretations and misunderstandings. Sometimes these become validated and instead of going back to the source there are those adhering to misconceptions. I have never been ashamed to say that I do not know something when wrong and like to know that there is a place where I can check myself.

This edition will do much to enlighten and inform the reading strategies of those who want to understand the Holy Writ of Islam, especially as it relates to the beliefs and practices of Muslims. The editors show the diversity and depth of the exegetical ideas that have been brought to the Quran. For me, this book is a wonderful resource with its careful and detailed explanation of the alphabet, its outstanding introduction to the text and short introductions for each sura and its fascinating essays from editors and scholars, connections and citations to hadith, and index and relevant maps.

Many translations omit the symbolic meaning inherent in the Quran and look only at the obvious meaning. By exploring the inner, deeper meanings in many of the verses, the spirit awakens and the message becomes universal. The message is essentially the same in all religions and such works can help people in all walks of life. The English translation of the Quran is eloquent and elegant and the inclusion of diverse commentaries allows it to say something to everyone. We read commentaries of legalists, theologians, philologists and spiritual authorities or saints. No single commentary on the Quran, even a commentary that brings diverse levels of Islamic references and commentaries to its own commentary, can be fully complete especially when we consider the amount of wisdom there is here. Like the Jewish Study Bible that has been updated once already, the Study Quran is an ongoing contribution to the field, which deserves critical appraisals everyone— academic, non-academic, Muslims and seekers or believers of other faiths and traditions of wisdom.

There are other valuable translations of the Quran, and works of commentary but what makes this edition so special is the spectrum of pre-modern commentaries and those that continue that tradition into the modern period.

Dr. Nasr in a rather lengthy introduction outlines the nature, dimensions, and the meaning of the Quran to Muslims. It is only then that we get a translation and running commentary.

Like any “study” text, this edition will be revised and reconsidered but that will not harm the intention that each verse has various meanings of depths, and thus challenges any Muslim perspective that promotes one interpretation over others.

 

 

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