Introduction

Religion is the guidance which was first inspired by the Almighty in human nature and after that it was given by Him with all essential details to mankind through His prophets. Muhammad (sws) is the last of these prophets. The Qur’an is last and final and not the first Book of this religion, revealed to Prophet Muhammad (sws). The history of this religion is that when God created man on this earth, the basic realities of religion were ingrained in man’s nature. He was then communicated the following things through his earliest ancestor, Adam (sws):

Firstly, he has a Creator who created him; He alone is his Lord, and as a natural corollary to this, He alone should be worshipped by him.

Secondly, he has been sent in this world to be tried and tested, and, for this, he has been given a clear awareness of good and evil; he has not only been given the freedom to exercise his will, he has also been given sovereignty on this earth. This trial of his will continue till his death. If he is successful in this trial, he will be given the Kingdom of Heaven where he will be free from the regrets of the past and the fears of the future.

Thirdly, the Almighty, at various times, will keep sending His guidance according to man’s needs. If he obeys this guidance, he will not go astray, and if he evades it, he will be eternally doomed in the Hereafter.

Consequently, the Almighty fulfilled His promise and provided guidance to mankind by selecting people from among them and through them delivered His guidance to mankind. This guidance contained both al-hikmah (the Wisdom) and al-shari‘ah (the Law). The former obviously did not require any change, while the latter was revealed as per the needs of a people.

Subject Matter of the Quran

The subject matter of the Qur’an is Muhammad’s indhar (admonition) and his bashaarat (glad tidings) to his addressees. Every page of the Qur’an speaks of this reality. The reason for this is that the Qur’an has not merely been revealed as an amalgam of shari‘ah (law) and hikmah (wisdom), it has also been revealed to become the real means of the Prophet’s admonition to his people:

And this Qur’an has been revealed to me that I may warn you through it and all whom it may reach. ( Quran 6:19)

It is known that Muhammad (sws) was not merely a nabi (prophet), he was also a rasul (messenger). Prophets are personalities whom the Almighty reveals divine guidance so that they can guide people. However, not every prophet is a messenger. Messengerhood is a position bestowed to only some prophets. According to its details furnished by the Qur’an, a rasul decides the fate of his addressees and implements the judgement of God on them in this very world. The Qur’an informs us that this final phase in the preaching endeavour of a rasul comes after it passes through the phases of:

  • indhar(warning)
  • indhar-i‘am(common and pronounced warning),
  • itmam al-hujjah(Conclusive conveyance of the Truth. Communicating the truth to the extent that no one among its addressees is left with an excuse to deny it)
  • hijrah wa bara’ah (Migration and acquittal). It is in this phase that the divine court of justice is set up on this earth. Punishment is meted out to the rejecters of the truth and those who have accepted it are rewarded, and, in this way, a miniature Day of Judgment is witnessed on the face of the earth.

The Quran preserves this whole mission of Prophet Muhammad (sws) as a messenger.

Central Message of the Quran

The central message of the Quran is that:

  1. There is a sole Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
  2. This life is a test for the hereafter. One day we will be held accountable to God for whatever we did.
  3. This accountability would be based on two aspects – right belief and righteous deeds.

This life is a test of our belief – knowledge and attitude. It tests that do we seek and appreciate truth? If we find something wrong or false do we shun it and embark on quest to seek the right knowledge? It checks our attitude that if we find a truth even if it is going against our preferences, our society, our culture, our profession do we accept it or simply reject or ignore it.

This life is also a test of our actions. When we acknowledge something as truth or right, do we mould our actions according to it or keep on pursuing our self-interest and bow down to social and cultural pressure?

Thus, this life is a test of our complete human self. If we are able to keep our self pure then we would succeed in this test. And if we corrupt it then we would fail in this test. As the Quran has mentioned:

And the soul bears witness and the perfection given to it, then [God] inspired it with its evil and its good that he succeeded who purified it and he failed who corrupted it. (Quran 91:7-10)

Direct Addressees of the Qur'an

Though the message of the Quran is meant for the entire humanity, Prophet Muhammad in his capacity as a messenger addressed specific groups of people in the Arabian Peninsula. They were mainly three groups – the polytheists, the Jews and the Christians of Arabia. The polytheists were mainly descendents of Ishmael (sws) who had introduced deviations in the religion of Abrahem (sws) and had become polytheists by the advent of the Prophet (sws). Quraysh was a powerful tribe among the polytheists who were in control of the Kaaba.

When we read Quran, we must keep in mind these specific groups of people. Sometimes, the dialogue of the Quran would be addressed to a particular group, sometimes to a combination of them or sometime to the entire humanity. When we attempt to extend certain ayah of the Quran to us, we must keep in mind its meaning and implications to the primary addressees and what aspects of it can be generalized.

Arrangement of the Qur’an

The surahs of the Qur’an are not haphazardly compiled as is generally thought. It is also not the book we are usually acquainted with in which there are chapters and sections which deal with a specific topic or topics. The surahs of the Qur'an have been arranged in a specific order by the Almighty, and like the arrangement of the verses within a surah, the arrangement of the surahs within the Qur’an is very apt and meaningful with relation to the topic they discuss. In a nutshell, as per this arrangement, the Qur’an is divided in seven distinct groups and the surahs within each group occur in pairs. This pairing of the surahs is on the basis of the topics discussed, and each member of a pair has a complimentary relation with one another. Some surahs are an exception to this scheme like Surah Fatihah, which is like an introduction to the whole Qur’an. Some other surahs have come as a supplement or as a conclusion of a group. This scheme, with its seven surah-groups and pairing of the surahs, is stated by the Qur’an in the following words:

And [O Prophet!] We have bestowed upon you seven mathani which is this great Qur’an. (15:87)

Mathani is the plural of mathna and it means something which occurs in pairs. Each group of the Qur’an begins with one or more Makkan surah and ends with one or more Madinan surah. Following is a brief description of the seven Qur’anic groups:

Group I {Surah Fatihah (1) – Surah Mai’dah (5)}

Makkan: 1

Madinan: 2-5

Group II {Surah An‘am (6) – Surah Tawbah (9)}

Makkan: 6, 7

Madinan: 8, 9

Group III {Surah Yunus (10) – Surah Nur (24)}

Makkan: 10-23

Madinan: 24

Group IV {Surah Furqan (25) – Surah Ahzab (33)}

Makkan: 25-32

Madinan: 33

Group V {Surah Saba (34) – Surah Hujurat (49)}

Makkan: 34-46

Madinan: 47-49

Group VI {Surah Qaf (50) – Surah Tahrim (66)}

Makkan: 50-56

Madinan: 57-66

Group VII {Surah Mulk (67) – Surah Nas (114)}

Makkan: 67-112

Madinan : 113-14

Each group has a theme, and the surahs within it are arranged according to this theme.

The theme of the first group is to communicate the truth to the Jews and Christians to the extent that they are left with no excuse to deny it, to institute a new ummah from among the Ishmaelites, its spiritual purification and isolation from the disbelievers and a description of its final covenant with the Almighty.

The theme of the second group is to communicate the truth to the polytheists of Arabia to the extent that they are left with no excuse to deny it, spiritual purification of the believers and their isolation from the disbelievers and a description of the final worldly Judgement of God.

The third, fourth, fifth and sixth groups have the same theme: delivering warning and glad tidings and spiritual purification of the believers and their isolation from the disbelievers.

The theme of the seventh group is to warn the leadership of the Quraysh of the consequences of the Hereafter, to communicate the truth to them to the extent that they are left with no excuse to deny it, and, as a result, to warn them of a severe punishment, and to give glad tidings to Muhammad (sws) of the dominance of his religion in the Arabian peninsula. Briefly, this can be stated as delivering warning and glad tidings.

If the first group is not taken into consideration, the sequence of the groups is from the end to the beginning (the seventh to the second group). Consequently, the seventh group ends on delivering warning and glad tidings. After that, in the sixth, fifth, fourth and third groups besides the theme of delivering warning and glad tidings, the theme of spiritual purification of the believers and their isolation from the disbelievers is also added. The second group is the culmination of the groups. It is here that the indhar of Muhammad (sws) reaches its culmination too. Thus besides the themes of delivering warning and glad tidings, and the spiritual purification of the believers and their isolation from the disbelievers, the worldly Judgement of God is also depicted which is actually a miniature Day of Judgement that will take place before the actual Day of Judgement.

The first group specifically addresses the People of the Book instead of the polytheists of Arabia and in this respect differs from the rest. However, it too relates to the worldly judgement pronounced in the second group in Surah Tawbah in the very manner the rest of the groups relate to it. Thus the second group is the culmination of all the groups. The topic of indhar after passing through various phases reaches its peak of worldly judgement in this group from both sides. The only difference are the addressees.

It is evident from this that from the seventh to the second group an ascending order arrangement is present in order to relate it with the first group in this manner.

The first group has been placed the foremost because the recipients of the Qur’an are its addresses the foremost.

Except for the first group, the Makkan surahs of each group discuss delivering of warning and glad tidings and of communicating the truth to the addresses to the extent that they do not have any excuse to deny it, while the Madinan surahs discuss the spiritual purification and isolation of the believers. However, both the Makkan and Madinan surahs are in harmony and consonance with one another in each group and relate to one another in a manner a root and stem are related to the branches.

This then is the arrangement of the Qur’an. If it is deliberated upon at length the extent of guidance it provides to a student of the Qur’an in understanding the background of the surahs and their time of revelation and the addressees of the Qur’an as well in determining the topic of a surah and its purport cannot be obtained whatsoever from anything external to the Qur’an [1].

This Translation of the Qur’an

The translation the Quran presented here is the English translation of Al-Bayan – an annotated translation and commentary of the Quran by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi [2]. The work is originally in Urdu language. Al-Bayan is the first translation of the Quran based on the principle of coherence[3]. The first complete commentary of the Quran based on coherence has been done by Amin Ahsan Islahi (d. 1997). Prior to it Hamiduddin Farahi (d. 1930) also produced a commentary of a few chapters of the Quran on the principle of coherence but the work did not get complete during his lifetime.

The Qur’an has been revealed in the classical Arabic spoken in Makkah. It was spoken in the age of ignorance by the tribe of Quraysh. No doubt the Almighty has endowed it with inimitable eloquence and articulacy in the Qur’an, yet as far as its substance is concerned, it is no different from the one spoken by the Messenger of God and which in those times was the tongue of the people of Makkah. Consequently, a correct understanding of this book is dependent on the correct knowledge and true appreciation of this language. It is essential that a person who wants to reflect on the Qur’an and attempts to interpret and explain it should be a very competent scholar of this language. He should also be adept in appreciating its styles and linguistic features so that at least the language is not an impediment to him in understanding the Qur’an. This work attempts to preserve the meaning of the Quran revealed in this classical Arabic as far as possible and in this way it is different from the literal translations of the Quran. Thus, latent meaning, connotations and connectives, which would normally be skipped by a native speaker and can be easily understood by a native speaker of the language, have been separately revealed in this translation through the use of square brackets []. This makes the translation a coherent flow and easier to understand. [4]

The English rendering of the work in currently ongoing and hence this webpage would be updated as and when new translation gets released on the monthly-renaissance website.

Group I

Surah No. 1 – Fatiha (The Opening)

  1. Surah Fatiha

Surah No. 2 – Baqarah (The Cow)

  1. Surah al-Baqarah (1-7)
  2. Surah al-Baqarah (8-16)
  3. Surah al-Baqarah (17-25)
  4. Surah al-Baqarah (26-29)
  5. Surah al-Baqarah (30-39)
  6. Surah al-Baqarah (40-60)
  7. Surah al-Baqarah (61-82)
  8. Surah al-Baqarah (83-100)
  9. Surah al-Baqarah (101-121)
  10. Surah al-Baqarah (122-141)
  11. Surah al-Baqarah (142-162)
  12. Surah al-Baqarah (163-177)
  13. Surah al-Baqarah (178-195)
  14. Surah al-Baqarah (196-203)
  15. Surah al-Baqarah (204-221)
  16. Surah al-Baqarah (222-232)
  17. Surah al-Baqarah (242-251)
  18. Surah al-Baqarah (252-260)
  19. Surah al-Baqarah (261-274)
  20. Surah al-Baqarah (275-286)

Sūrah No. 3 – Āl-i ‘Imrān (The Family of Imran)

  1. Sūrah Āl-i ‘Imrān (1-20)
  2. Sūrah Āl-‘Imrān (21-41)
  3. Sūrah Āl-i ‘Imrān (42-63)
  4. Sūrah Al-i ‘Imrān (64-80)
  5. Sūrah Al-i ‘Imrān (81-99)
  6. Surah Al-i ‘Imran (100-117)
  7. Surah Al-i ‘Imran (118-143)
  8. Surah Al-i ‘Imran (144-200)

Sūrah No. 4 – Nisa (Women)

  1. Surah Nisa (1-14)
  2. Surah Nisa’ (15-34)
  3. Surah Nisa’ (36-57)
  4. Surah Nisa’ (58-100)
  5. Surah Nisa’ (101-152)
  6. Surah Nisa’ (153-176)

Sūrah No. 5 – Ma’idah (Table Spread)

  1. Surah Ma’idah (1-30)
  2. Surah Ma'idah (32-63)
  3. Surah Ma’idah (64-89)
  4. Surah Ma’idah (90-120)

 

Group II

Sūrah No. 6 – An‘am (Livestock)

  1. Surah An‘am (1-24)
  2. Surah An‘am (25-45)
  3. Surah An‘am (46-73)
  4. Surah An‘am (74-99)
  5. Surah An‘am (100-127)
  6. Surah An‘am (128-165)

References

[1] – The above sections have been adapted from the book Islam: A Comprehensive Introduction by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi which is English translation of his book Meezan in Urdu.

[2] – For more details on Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, please refer to the article – Javed Ahmad Ghamidi: A brief Introduction to his life and works

[3] – To know more about the Principle of Coherence, please refer to the article – Coherence in Quran

[4] – For another review of Al-Bayan, please refer to an article by Khursheed Nadeem – A Unique Translation of Quran