The Meaning of The Glorious Koran

By Marmaduke Pickthall

First Edition (1930)

Marmaduke Pickthall

Marmaduke Pickthall, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1930
“Translator’s Foreword The aim of this work is to present to English readers what Muslims the world over hold to be the meaning of the words of the Koran, and the nature of that Book, in not unworthy language and concisely, with a view to the requirements of...


Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall (born Marmaduke William Pickthall; 1875–1936), was the son of an Anglican clergyman, worked first as a novelist and later as a journalist and translator. In 1917, Pickthall publicly declared his conversion to Islam, he became one of the highest profile English converts in history. He is noted for his 1930 English translation of the Quran. The completed translation, first published in December 1930, won broad acclaim across the English-speaking world as a translation that is faithful to the original and free from dogmatic interpolations. Pickthall recognized that every act of translation is an act of interpretation and therefore called his work “The Meaning of the Glorious Quran.” Pickthall’s use of the English language sounds like ‘scripture’ to English-speaking ears. He used a form of archaic expression reminiscent of the King James Bible, with liberal use of ‘thee’, ‘thy’ and ‘thou’ as well as of verbal forms such as ‘thinketh’ and ‘giveth’. While Pickthall reliably conveys the meaning of the Arabic, its antique form of expression strikes most contemporary readers as odd and outdated. The Arabic text from which Pickthall worked was a lithograph produced in 1830 at the behest of the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II (r. 1808–39). Some of its verse numbers and its ascription of Meccan and Medinan suras differ slightly from what has become the most popular printed edition (produced in Cairo in 1923).

Note: To find a verse in Pickthall’s translation, add or subtract: 1:2–6 -1, 1.7a -1, 6:73b–165 +1, 10:1–109 +1, 18:19–110 +1, 36:36–83 -1, 38:1–88 +1. (In some instances the letters a and b are employed to distinguish the first and second halves of a verse. As far as we can ascertain, the numbering in all other chapters is identical with that in the standard Egyptian edition.)

About the author

Marmaduke Pickthall

  • Born: Cambridge Terrace, 7 April 1875
  • Died: St. Ives, Cornwall, England, 19 May 1936 (aged 61)
  • Full name: Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall
  • Other names: Pickthall, Marmaduke Marmaduke William Pickthall Pickthall, Marmaduke William M. W. Pickthall M. M. Pickthall
  • Creed: Muslim


The Meaning of the Holy Koran (1930) has at least 150 editions and influenced numerous subsequent English translations. In 1996 it was revised by Arafat El-Ashi and republished in 1996 by Amana Books. A further revised edition, edited by Jane McAuliffe, has been published by W. W. Norton in February 2017.