Qur’an translation of the week #169: Qur’an translation into every language: Goodword Books and its recent projects

When browsing any Muslim missionary bookstand in Europe today, it is hard to miss a particular series of Qur’an translations by a company named as Goodword. Almost all of them are printed in pocket format and feature the same blue and white cover adorned with stylized tulip flowers, reminiscent of Ottoman non-figurative illumination. These small volumes, widely available in mosques from Istanbul to Birmingham, are recent publications by a publisher, which is based in New Dehli, the capital of India. As of 2023, Goodword has published Qur’an translations into forty languages, all of which are either for sale at a very reduced price (most of its translations are advertised for around 1 USD on the Goodword website) or provided completely free of charge on individual request, with shipping costs also covered by the vendor. Who is behind this project, and how are its translations selected, reviewed, published and promoted?

Goodwords Books was established in 1996 as a result of the efforts of Saniyasnain Khan (b. 1959), the son of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (1925–2021), a well-known Muslim religious authority in India. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was the founder of CPS International (the Centre for Peace and Spirituality) which promotes interfaith understanding (usually the Goodword translations bear the name of this center as well as that of the publisher itself), and has headquarters in New Dehli and also a division in the USA (in Bensalem, PA). Following in the footsteps of his father, Saniyasnain Khan, who has become popular in India as TV preacher and children’s author, and has been ranked among the World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims by George Washington University, also promotes ‘a culture of peace through mind-based spirituality’. His father, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan made a great personal contribution to the promotion of Qur’an translation: not only did his commentary in Urdu (Tadhkīr al-Qurʾān) appear in Hindi and Arabic versions, but also he prepared his own translation of the Qur’an into English, first published in 2009 in cooperation with his daughter, Farida Khanam, who acted as editor (https://gloqur.de/quran-translation-of-the-week-100-the-quran-english-translation-commentary-and-parallel-arabic-text-by-maulana-wahiduddin-khan-and-prof-farida-khanam/). An Urdu version of the aforementioned commentary, which was designed to also function as a Qur’an translation, has been available in print (published by Goodword) since 2010. According to the introduction to his English translation, after completing these initial projects, which involved interpreting the Qur’an into simple and accessible language, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan came to the idea of supporting and promoting translations of the Qur’an into other languages as well. Goodword already had experience in Islamic publishing, not only in terms of selling books on the local market, but also worldwide distribution via other Islamic publishing networks such as Darussalam. As the publishers of a lot of books aimed at children in English and other languages, as well as various brochures on subjects such as Islamic history, doctrine and art, they had already made quite a name for themselves in the marketplace. In addition, they were helped by the personal status and reputation of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, who had a big popular following in the Muslim world: balancing Sunni mainstream ideas with a strong dedication to peace activism, he was held in high esteem in the region.

In its obituary, the Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune described him as ‘a scholar who rescued Islam from political utopians’ (April 24, 2021). The Indian Express described him similarly: ‘Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was an Islamic scholar who believed in dialogue and … saw his mission to help the world rediscover that the essence of Islam (both etymologically as well as substantively) was peace’ (April 23, 2021). The idea of promoting accessible knowledge of the Qur’an in the form of translation was thus a part of Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s own vision of Islam, and it is noteworthy that some of Goodword’s translations have also included Maulana Khan’s twenty-word statement on what the Qur’an is, which stresses the idea of ‘peaceful intellectual struggle’. Excerpts from this text also usually appear on the back cover of Goodword’s translations (i.e., ‘The Qur’an, a book which brings glad tidings to mankind along with divine admonition …’).             The translations published by Goodwords Books follow a very standardized format. They use almost the same cover art and layout, and are all pocketbook size, for example. The translation starts with a table of contents and usually ends with the translation of Q.114. None of the translations contain parallel Arabic text or include any footnotes or additional commentary. This seems to be a kind of formal publishing policy: by separating the Qur’anic text from any commentary, they are able to, first of all, produce translations in a small book format, and, secondly, avoid any possible controversies that could appear as a result of commentary. Since most of the translations Goodword have published are nothing but reprints of exisiting translations, the publisher has simply removed all additional commentary from these texts; for example, in the case of their edition of the Italian translation by Hamza Roberto Piccardo, previously published by King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Glorious Qur’an and Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (see: https://gloqur.de/quran-translation-of-the-week-27-the-quran-in-italian/).

This, in some ways, has presumably made the task of selecting the translations it publishes easier, especially when it comes to those languages where many such works exist. Given this approach, it is not surprising that for their Portuguese translation Goodword opted to reprint Samer El Hayek’s translation (a very popular Muslim interpretation of the Qur’an, especially in Brazil), while for the Russian, they opted for that by Elmir Quliyev (first printed by the KFGQPC, see: https://gloqur.de/quran-translation-of-the-week-142-an-emblem-of-an-epoch-the-russian-quran-translation-by-the-azerbaijani-scholar-elmir-quliyev/),  and the quite popular translation by Abu-Rida Muhammad Rassoul for German. Sometimes, Goodword uses its large networks to consult with members of local Muslim communities as to which translation they feel would be best suited for their language and region. As a rule, Goodword seeks permission to reprint the translations it publishes from the original translator via its office in Turkey, where the translations are frequently also printed and shipped from.

Most of the text is thus printed as the translator wishes, with no further interventions. There are also a few cases of Goodword producing new, previously unpublished translations: for example, in 2017 Shahnaz Saїdi’s new translation (see: https://gloqur.de/quran-translation-of-the-week-101-global-dawa-in-french-and-the-gender-question-shahnaz-saidi-benbetkas-french-quran-translation-published-by-maulana-wahiduddin/) was printed as part of the Goodword translation series, as was Goodword’s 2019 translation into Hebrew (by four Arab scholars writing under the group name Darussalam Centre). However, the latter had already made its way to the reader before being printed by Goodword (for example, it is available on Islamhouse.Com and Quran.Enc as well as other popular resources). Goodword has also printed a ‘Muslim edition’ of the Orientalist translation of the Qur’an into Polish by J. Bielawski (edited by  the Sakinah Foundation, see: https://gloqur.de/quran-translation-of-the-week-61-a-muslim-edition-of-an-orientalist-quran-translation-the-newly-revised-polish-translation-koran-interpretacja-znaczenia-wedlug/) and, very recently, a Belarusian one. The Belarusian translation was prepared by Aleksei Ismail Kryutsou and first printed in 2021, since when a new revision was undertaken by Dmitrii Radkevich (see: https://gloqur.de/quran-translation-of-the-week-67-abdulqadir-as-sufi-the-shadhiliyah-darqawiyyah-brotherhood-and-the-path-towards-the-first-translation-of-the-quran-into-belarusian/).  As we can see from these examples, Goodword mainly publishes Sunni Muslim translations or, in rare cases, academic works that have been ‘properly edited’ by Muslims. Their decision to avoid publishing any commentary on the Qur’anic text in their translations, thereby avoiding the emergence of any possible confessional bias or ideological stances, makes their use in missionary work more flexible, presenting a ‘Qur’an-as-it-is’ in translation only, with no extraneous doctrinal features.

According to recent data from their website, more than 10,000,000 Qur’an translations have now been distributed by Goodword. This makes Goodword a global leader in the market which can already compete with such other multi-lingual publishers as Darussalam (based in Riyadh, KSA) or the Ahmadiyya-affiliated Islam International Publications Ltd (based in Tilford, UK). Goodword’s avowed aim is ‘to publish the Quran in all major world languages’ but also to cover those languages for which there are no translations, as in the case of their recent translation into Belarusian.  Given its historical rate of publishing activity, and the fact that one can expect more and more translations to publish every year, Goodword has quickly become a leading global publisher in the Qur’an translation market.

Mykhaylo Yakubovych

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