T. B. Irving, The Qur’an: The First American Version; Translated and Commentary (1985)

Introduction to
The Noble Reading

T. B. Irving

The Qurʾān is a magnificent document that has been known for fourteen centuries because of its matchlessness or inimitability, its essential iʿjāz (10:iv), to use the Qurʾānic term. A clear strain runs through its message, and the intent of this translation is to permit everyone, Muslim or non-Muslim alike, to understand the sacred document itself, even though they do not understand Arabic.

There is a necessity, almost an urgency now for an American version in contemporary English. Our holy Book should be recited on solemn occasions, both public and private, for comfort, morality and guidance. This process must begin in childhood in order for it to become familiar, for it is every Muslim's duty to read the Qurʾān and try to understand it. However, the duty has become a problem for those who no longer know any Arabic. A new generation of English-speaking Muslims has grown up in North America which must use our scripture differently than their fathers would have done. Their thinking roots have become distinct on a new continent without the familiar use of our holy tongue, and a great difference has developed between their customs and their ancestral faith.

American Muslims face many problems, and the younger ones face more than the usual group of teenagers; many now have reached the second and third generation when the use of Arabic is being forgotten in the home. It has rarely been taught as a formal subject of instruction, nor has the intellectual content of the Qurʾān been studied. The practice which has grown up around the traditional faith has been gravely weakened. Muslims do not have to dance the dabka, wear a fez, eat Arab-style bread or shish kabob in order to be good Muslims. You can have soft drinks, but it is harder to handle stronger beverages and remain faithful to Islam.

In the first place, any accurate version is really a tafsīr or commentary written in the target language, and it is important for us to have a trustworthy one with Islamic views. The Qurʾān itself says that any divine message should be presented in a people’s own tongue: “We have not sent any messenger unless he was to explain to them in his folk’s own tongue” (Abraham 14:4). Later on some poetic spirit may bring us the noble paraphrase that we likewise need; I have attempted no such paraphrase myself, because I might feel inclined to take too many liberties with it. Right now the message must simply be accurate, and clear enough so that it will

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T. B. Irving, The Qur’an: The First American Version; Translated and Commentary, Amana Books, Brattleboro, Vermont, United States, Consulted online at “Quran Archive - Texts and Studies on the Quran” on 24 Sep. 2023: http://quran-archive.org/explorer/thomas-ballantyne-irving/1985?page=19