Richard Bell, The Qur’ān. Translated, with a critical re-arrangement of the Surahs (1939)


The necessity for a new translation of the Qur’ān which would present the results of critical study came home to the author as an urgent task more than twelve years ago, in the course of the preparation of his lectures of The Origin of Islam. He began it somewhat light-heartedly, not realising the labour which it would involve. The task has grown in complexity with each fresh revision. That all the problems of the Qur’ān have now been solved, it would require the confidence of ignorance to claim. But he hopes that his work marks a sufficient advance in the understanding of this important religious document to justify its publication.

The main object has ben to understand the deliverances of Muhammad afresh, as far as possible in their historical setting, and therefore to get behind the traditional interpretation. But the Moslem commentators have not been ignored. Baiḍāwi has constantly, and other standard commentaries have occasionally, been consulted. It would be temerity in a European to question their understanding of the language. But dogmamtic prepossessions sometimes vitiate their exegesis, and in many passages the grammatical construction is evidently difficult even to them. In these cases, one may use one’s own judgment, and seek the solution of the difficulty by methods which they were precluded from adopting.

Textual emendation has been very sparingly adopted; not from any a priori principle, but because, even in many cases where emendations have been suggested as necessary by scholars, study of the passage has shown that the text is to be accepted as it stands, and the difficulty removed by other methods. Ther is as yet no critical edition of the text available.1 I have worked with Fluegel’s edition, but in all cases of difficulty I have consulted Oriental copies and considered the textual variants recorded by Baiḍāwi. The result has been to convince me that the redactors of the Qur’ān must have done their work with great care.

1 Such an edition, with full apparatus criticus, is in course of preparation, by Dr. Jeffery of Cairo.

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Richard Bell, The Qur’ān. Translated, with a critical re-arrangement of the Surahs, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, Consulted online at “Quran Archive - Texts and Studies on the Quran” on 07 Oct. 2022: