This Ramadan I am reading Arthur J. Arberry’s translation of the Qur’an. I first came across Professor Arberry’s translation ‘The Koran Interpreted’ at university. I had borrowed it from the uni library and read it over the summer of 1989. Btw, somewhere out there is a Pakistani chap I worked alongside in a summer job that year who borrowed that library copy from me and never returned it! I had to pay the library to replace that copy. Grrr.
Anyway, in the introduction to the World Classics edition of his translation of the Qur’an, Arberry mentions that he thinks his work is distinguished from earlier translations because of the length he went to to capture the ‘intricacies’ and ‘rhythmic patterns’ in the original Arabic Qur’an.
I mentioned last Ramadan that all of us non-Arabic speakers owe a huge debt to translators of the Qur’an such as Arberry, Abdullah Yusuf Ali and many others. In a very moving passage from the introduction to the World Classics edition of his translation, Arberry mentions that, on the contrary, it is he who owed something to the Qur’an for comforting him while he was translating it.
“This task was undertaken, not lightly, and carried to it’s conclusion at a time of great personal distress, through which it sustained and comforted the writer in a manner for which he will always be grateful. He therefore acknowledges his gratitude to whatever power or Power inspired the man and the Prophet who first recited these scriptures.”
I can’t find the text of Arberry’s World Classics edition online – though you can purchase it at the link given above, but an earlier 1950’s edition of Arberry’s work with a different introduction can be read in full at this link.