Qur’an translation of the week #09: The Majestic Qur’an by Dr. Musharraf Hussein OBE

“The Majestic Qur’an” (Nottingham: Invitation Publishing, 2018) is among the recent translations placing an emphasis on “plain English”. Its translator, Dr Musharraf Hussein OBE, is a graduate of Al-Azhar and longstanding educationist in the UK. The front matter contains an endorsement from Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta’ and various individuals. The translator’s intro draws attention to the Surah intros and topical headings in this work. Footnotes are used “sparingly”. Not mentioned here are its marginal reflection questions.

Hussein belongs to the Barelwi strand of Sunni Muslims and mentions his adherence to “orthodox commentators”. In a Facebook post, he further specifies that his work (after revision) is “fully in line with Aqaid-e-Nasafi the standard Sunni creed”. That post came in the wake of a statement circulated on social media from a meeting of Barelwi imams who discussed points of critique brought to their attention, mainly concerning Sunni doctrine. According to the statement [attached image], the work was to be withdrawn pending “corrections”.

Hussein’s list of errata reveals the issues of controversy. You can access it at this link: https://www.majesticquran.co.uk/…/…/2019/09/Errata-FINAL.pdf

Some comments:

  • Although exegetical works provide explanations for the Prophet being told not to “have doubts” in 2:147, the translation has been adjusted to address the general “Listener”. Similarly 6:35’s “like the ignorant”.
  • The correction to 2:216 is pertinent, as fighting is “ordained” here rather than merely “allowed” as in the original translation. The choice between al-islām as “submission” vs. reified “Islam” presents itself often, and Hussein originally adopted the former in 3:19.
  • 3:55 is an interesting case, linked to the dispute over whether tawaffī means “death”. “Receive” is attested in exegesis but this makes “then” out of place (it is plainly “and”). It looks like an awkward adjustment.
  • Establishment on the Throne (7:54): it’s noteworthy that they retained quite a literal rendering but inserted “as befits Him”—a Salafi strategy, on the face of it! Does it imply that the simple expressions of the Qur’an are unbefitting? Perhaps this deserves clarification.
  • The adjustment of tufannidūni as expressed by Jacob in 12:94 is largely cosmetic.
  • 21:107 is improved, in that the Qur’an never addresses him as “Muhammad”. They also extended that mercy/kindness beyond this world (two possibilities re: al-ʿālamīn).
  • In 33:40, the rationale for the gloss “the final prophet” (italicised) is unclear, but effectively provides the other canonical reading: khātim, alongside khātam as “seal”.
  • The improvement to 93:9 concerns English usage.
  • In 112:1, we should note that there is no definite article on أحد so both need to justify that. It’s not obvious why they found “Unique” problematic.

This case study demonstrates the interplay between Qur’an translation, doctrines and orthodoxies. While this was more of an individual project than an institutional one, a committee of UK imams still brought about this list of Errata.

Sohaib Saeed

Share this post