The Message of the Qur’an
Muhammad Asad was born Leopold Weiss in Lwów (Lemberg), eastern Galicia, then part of the Austrian empire but now in Poland. He was descended from a long line of rabbis, and spent his early years learning to read and speak Hebrew fluently, acquiring knowledge of Aramaic, studying the Old Testament in its original language, and learning the text and commentaries of the Talmud and Biblical exegesis. At the age of 22 he left Europe for the Middle East in 1922, where he came to know the Arabs and was inspired by the religion of Islam. As a journalist, he travelled extensively in Arabia, Palestine, Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. During his travels and through his readings, Asad’s interest in, and understanding of Islam, finally lead him to embrace the religion in 1926. He later spent almost six years in Arabia, and was received warmly by the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, namely King Abd al-Aziz ibn Sa‘ud. He spent considerable time in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, where he studied Arabic, the Quran, the traditions of the Prophet and Islamic history. Later in 1932 he was invited to stay in India and even later in 1947 he moved to Pakistan.
In 1964 he published a limited edition of his translation of the Quran, containing the first nine chapters, published as The Message of the Qur’an by the Muslim World League, Mecca. Twenty-five years after beginning his translation, he published as The Message of the Qur’ān - the complete work in a volume of 1000 pages - by his own publishing concern, Dar al-Andadlus, in Gibraltar. The translation is accompanied by more than 5000 footnotes and four appendices, relying extensively on classical commentaries, frequently citing from al-Tabari, al-Zamakshari, al-Razi and Rida. Among the various sources, Asad’s reliance is more on Zamakhshari, which indicates the more rationalistic approach he has to the translation of the Quran. His translation is an attempt to reproduce the message of the Quran in an idiom closer to modern English, rendering into English for the specific readership of the modern western reader.