on 11 September 2009
Somewhere along the way, we seemed to have lost the point of translating the Arabic Quran (or Koran). Thomas Cleary's work brings translations back on course. Alongside Abdul Haleem's new translation (they both complement each other), Thomas Cleary's translation is the best modern translation I have seen.
When you think of the original Arabic Quran, it has: no index, no footnotes, no forward, no chapter introductions, and no brackets (and certainly not brackets upon brackets as in the Saudi Arabian government's signature translation by Muhsin Khan). And yet, the original Arabic Quran has been the major source of reference and inspiration for classical and scholarly works. No one has yet reflected the original in this manner, let alone so masterfully - until Thomas Cleary's New Translation. His is as faithful a reflection in the English language of the Arabic original as there has been. Just like the original, there are no indexes, footnotes and brackets (something Muslim users may find unusual at first). In doing so, Thomas Cleary provides opportunities today in the English language similar to those scholars of Arabic have benefitted from for centuries - opportunities to reflect upon, study, analyse and develop critical and conscious thought.
Since around the 1970s, the dominant thought concerning translations of the Arabic Quran was that it couldn't really be translated. There was also an obsession with Arabic linguistics, grammatical norms and even the Arabic pronunciations. This yielded awkward translations accompanied by copious notes - notes that were, importantly, notes of the translator, not of the Divine (Muslims lay claim to the Quran being from the Divine). In some cases, these notes amounted to the translators making the message of the Qur'an their own! The primary purpose of a translation - to convey through a faithful reflection - got diminished in that process.
Another unique aspect is Cleary's specialism. His standpoint can be seen as neither a 'Muslim' nor 'Christian' one, as he comes to the task as a Professor of ancient languages, having translated over 50 ancient and classical eastern texts. He has a Ph. D in East Asian Languages from Harvard University - is at the top of his game - and uses his genuine expertise and skill to bring us a translation that is at once faithful, beautiful, original, relevant, comprehensible, sincere and a joy.
This is a classic in our midst.
on 25 March 2012
I really like this translation of the Holy Quran. My only gripe with it, is the chosen word for - Jinn has become, Sprite, and Non-Believer becomes Atheist.
I find this quite a big change considering I am used to the Yusuf Ali translation of the Quran, as I find it stays more faithful to the original. However this was a refreshing and clear modern translation which is my second fav translation for the modern reader.
As a believer, and also happen to be familiar with Thomas Cleary's other work, I decided to try this translation.
Also due to the layout, I was pleased with the format of the text in the book, but not the book size. I felt it could have been built better. Its rather large surface, I'd generally prefer thicker and smaller size. More pages, and smaller size. Otherwise, a great buy.
Overall, 4 stars. As a work well done and enjoyed.
on 20 September 2005
I have been so disatissfied withtranslations of the Qur'an which many default to. Namely the Yusuf Ali, Pickthall and especially the non-flowing, (bracketed), pigeon like Muhsin Khan translation.
Cleary's translation flows and is so much more of a joy to read.
My only crtitism is that sometimes the word "God" is repeated, in place of He. Other than that, worth the buy.