The body of work undertaken is not meant as a translation but as a contemporary understanding, in simple language, of the thrust of the Qur'an along with accessible, classical scholarly annotations. It is meant for younger viewers and converts, but I hope it will be of use to a wider audience too. I have put this together after years of teaching in secondary schools and colleges with the intention of making the Qur'an more accessible to a generation who I’ve found do not access the Qur’an much, nor do they understand it when they do. To this effect, what was attempted was making what was said in the Qur’an easier on the ear through rhyme and also delivering it through a visual representation to sit alongside the way a lot of young people normally view their education and entertainment, i.e music, film, television, Youtube, Spotify, etc. The rendition you are about to read is a primer for that, not an end in itself. God willing, all of these methods will be a stepping stone for them and others on the way towards a full appreciation and desire to learn the inimitable, mesmeric, Qur’an in Arabic.
One thing I notice often, in our busy lifestyles, is that the pure Qur’an in Arabic is the essence of calm and tranquillity. One really should prepare themselves to approach it with the right frame of mind and intention, but alas for many, and particularly many who are young, this is quite difficult. With their heads transfixed to screens and the world’s entertainment rooted into every smartphone, tablet, television and even some e-glasses, the Qur’an, as is, becomes self-distancing. It does not jump and demand your attention in the same sensory grabbing way; and the brain, the cornerstone of every creature, is the ultimate creature of habit. The English versions, and unfortunately even more so the Arabic, become a hurdle for many, even if they do wish to access it. Concentration and tranquillity is not what we are trained to want; distraction and entertainment is.
What the several versions of this rendition aim for is accessibility and rooting in classical understanding. The media forms will hopefully self-explain the prior, but the latter will most likely encourage some debate.
The Qur’an, when I first accessed it, was difficult to follow. I could read the Arabic, but was always corrected for erroneous reading of the diacritical marks. When I got those right, praise would ensue, but at no time did the meaning or my understanding of the meaning seem important.
I came to Islam as a religion of choice in my 20s, after being a self-professed (non-interested) atheist and hating Islam exponentially when it seemed to have turned a loved one mildly demented some five years prior. When I picked up the Qur’an to read where some of the newly demented’s views had come from, or the hadeeth, I found them right there in plain English. I did not have the time or inclination to look into what many Muslims said was ‘context’ and milled along ‘knowing’ that what I had ‘read’ of the Qur’an was the Qur’an. But, as my Sheikh would say to me many years later, it was more a case of ‘the Qur’an has been turned into English, Islam has not’. The Qur’an without context in English or any other language than it’s original becomes very much devoid of its full meaning.
When I did turn back to the Qur’an years later, I went armed with the word ‘why’ and this brought me onto tafsir literature. Tafsir in its basic meaning becomes ‘explanations’ and more accurately ‘exegesis’: opinions of scholars on an issue and a reference to how the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) explained items, the latter being the most valued source. It turns out it wasn’t only me who was slightly unsure of what was meant. Countless hadeeth mention the people hearing the Qur’an (who were Arabs of the time with proficiency, fluency and mastery of that language to varying degrees) would still often ask the Prophet, ‘What does that mean?’ Again and again, referring to Qur’anic verses and the Prophet (PBUH) would explain each word or verse to them.
What infinitesimal chance then of the English reader, picking up a Qur’an, in English, and expecting to understand it fully? So the tafsir inclusion becomes not a luxury, but a necessity, not only for explanation but for adding to a deeper understanding and hopefully instilling an interest in research in the young reader. A question on which tafsirs and why would be a book in itself, but I picked Jalalayn due to ease and Ibn Abbas (at least it is attributed to him) due to reverence. They account for nearly 99% of the references included.
As is the case with some people, they will want to know what my 'angle' is and what my ‘position’ is. I hope it suffices that when the angels in the grave ask me the questions in the grave, I pray with all my heart that Allah allows me to be one of those who responds, ‘My Lord is Allah, My religion is Islam and Muhammad (PBUH) is my prophet.’ I have only commenced this with permission from the Sheikh I learn from and with. Please be assured this is not a spur of the moment scheme, but a serious endeavor, for the last six years, in preparation of the life to come. I hope all the above information will ease the minds of those who are interested in why this project was undertaken. I care very little for labels in general, and even if I utter the word Muslim from my mouth and use it as a label for myself, it is my heart that I pray that is truly guided to Allah and in sincere pursuit of the truth, and as all should, I can only hope this is the case. Allah knows best.
If there is any good in it Allah is to be praised, for its flaws I am responsible.
And with Allah is every success.
Loay El Hady - 2016 - London