A beginner should know a few points about Qur’an translations. First, there is a distinction between the Qur’an and its translation. In Christian view, the Bible is Bible, no matter what language it may be in. But a translation of the Qur’an is not the word of Allah, for the Qur’an is the exact Arabic words revealed by Allah, revealed to Prophet Muhammad through Gabriel. The word of God is only the Arabic Qur’an as Allah says: “Indeed, I revealed it as an Arabic Qur’an.” Qur’an Surah Yousuf 12:2
A translation is simply an explanation of the meanings of the Qur’an. The translated text loses the inimitable quality of the original so be aware of the degree to which a translation reflects the original message at every level of meaning, and that it will probably not match it. For this reason, all which is regarded as recitation of the Qur’an is to be done in Arabic, such as the recitation of the Qur’an in Salah.
Second, there is no perfect translation of the Qur’an and being human works, each almost always has errors. Some translations are better in their linguistic quality, while others are noted for their exactness in portraying the meaning. Many inaccurate, and sometimes misleading, translations that are generally not accepted as reliable renditions of the Qur’an by mainstream Muslims are sold in the market.
Third, while a review of all the English translations is out of the scope of this lesson, some translations are recommended over others. The most widely read English translation is Saheeh International by three American women reverts, Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali, followed by that of Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, the first translation by an English Muslim. Yusuf ‘Ali’s translation is generally acceptable, but his footnote commentary, useful at times, can be odd and unacceptable. Pickthall, on the other hand, has no footnotes or commentary and that makes it difficult for a beginner. The language of both tends to be archaic and difficult to understand for some people. Another widespread translation is done by Dr. Hilali and Muhsin Khan called ‘Interpretation of the Meaning of The Noble Qur’an.’ Although it is the most accurate, the many transliterated Arabic terms and endless parentheses makes it hard to follow and confusing for a beginner. A newer version with more flowing text has been published by Saheeh International, and this is probably the best translation yet, as it combines both exactness in translation and readability.