The original text of the Qur'an is in the Arabic language. In Arabic, the Qur'ans that are printed today are identical to the first materials handwritten by the Prophet Muhammad's scribes. For the 85 percent of Muslims who do not speak Arabic, however, the words of the Qur'an are very difficult to understand in their original language. While many Muslims try to learn at least the basics of Arabic and its alphabet, translations of the meaning of the Qur'an have been made so that speakers of other languages may have a fuller understanding of the holy book.
Translations do not replace the Arabic Qur'an, which remains the only undisputed source of Islamic guidance. In fact, many translations print the original Arabic verses side by side with their translations, so the reader may refer back to the original if any questions arise.
There are variations in the approach of translators and in the interpretations they make when rendering the Arabic meaning into another language. Some try to make the verses sound poetic in the target language, even if it requires changing the literal word-by-word meaning. Others give the most common interpretation of a verse, with footnotes or parenthetical statements about alternative viewpoints.
In the end, translators strive to be eloquent and as linguistically and spiritually accurate as possible. It is suggested that readers consult more than one translation in order to gain the best understanding of the nuances of meaning. The most popular English translations of the Qur'an are the following texts.
Abdul Haleem, M. The Qur'an. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Presidency of Islamic Researches, ed. The Holy Qur'an: English Translation of the Meanings and Commentary. Madinah, Saudi Arabia: King Fahd Holy Quran Printing Complex, 1990.
Al-Hilali, Muhammad, and Muhsin Khan. The Noble Qur'an. 16th rev. ed. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Dar-us-Salam Publications, 2005.
Ali, Abdullah Yusuf. The Meaning of the Holy Quran. 11th ed. Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications, 2004.
Ali, Ahmed. Al-Qur'an: A Contemporary Translation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.
Asad, Muhammad. The Message of the Qur'an. Watsonville, CA: The Book Foundation, 2008.
Pickthall, Muhammad. The Glorious Qur'an. Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, 2001.