I recent asked the following question of some Muslims, “What is the best English language translation of the Quran for the non-Muslim to begin with and why?”

The recommendations I received were multiple, but almost always they included the translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, for the stated reason that his was widely used, credible and with “no hidden agendas”. Other translations recommended were those of Muhammad Asad, Mohammad Marmaduke Pickthall and M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, but not nearly as frequently.

The most controversial translation seemed to be that of Saheeh International, one saying it was the best, others saying it was the worst. Apparently this is where the “hidden agendas” issue comes in. “Some translators interpret certain verses to mean Jews and Christians even though it’s not stated that way at all in the Qur’an,” wrote one. Surah al-Fatihah was cited as an example. “It equates Christians and Jews with the ones God is Displeased with or has left astray in Surah al-Fatihah and goes downhill from there,” wrote another. I found this warning most instructive.

As the translation of the Quran that I have already is that of Abdullah Yusuf Ali, I was reassured that what I am reading appears to be one that is widely respected by Muslims themselves. I therefore thought I should pass this tip on, in case there are any more non-Muslims out there that are curious about the sacred text of Islam, a text that we hear so much about.

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