Children and The Koran

The End of Empathy


When I decided to read and study the Koran with the intention of writing about it, I was determined to get a Muslim’s interpretation, an interpretation that could only be viewed as being favourable to Islam. I also wanted a translation that was easy to read and understand.

The translation that seemed to satisfy these requirements was one by Majid Fakhry, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the American University of Beirut, which has the seal of approval of Al-Azhar University of Egypt, a world-renowned centre for Islamic study for more than 900 years.

Messrs Garnet Publishing Limited, with reference to your letter dated 5 July, 2000, in respect of your request that this department (Islamic Research) may review your book titled: An Interpretation of the Qur’an, English Translation of the Meanings. A Bilingual Edition translated by Majid Fakhry.

After having reviewed this book as requested we have the pleasure to declare that we have no objection to approve this book and put it in circulation or introduced for republication.

Islamic Research Academy, Al-Azhar University

Publishers Weekly wrote of Fakhry’s notable accomplishment that it “succeeds in expressing the meanings of the original Arabic in simple readable English.” An English translation of the Koran will run to about 77,700 words or the approximate size of a standard 300-page book. A book, Allah reveals, in which you can study “whatever you choose.”

68:35 Shall We consider those who submit like those who are criminals?

68:36 What is the matter with you; how do you judge?

68:37 Or do you have a Book in which you study? 68:38 Wherein there is whatever you choose.

It is a bold statement for a relatively small book where boundless repetitions use up print space that could, perhaps, be put to better use. The Koran is made up of 114 chapters or surahs. When referring to chapters of the Koran, I use the Arabic transliteration (conversion from one alphabet to another) of chapter, which is surah. Each surah is further divided into ayats, i.e., verses. I have chosen to remain with the English nomenclature of the ayat. There are 6,346 verses in the Koran if you include the 112 unnumbered Basmalahs, the formulaic invocation “in the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful,” which appears at the beginning of every chapter of the Koran except the first and the ninth.

All quotes from the Koran in Children and the Koran are from Majid Fakhry’s translation, unless otherwise indicated. Text added by Fakhry within a quoted verse to provide context, is enclosed within square “[ ]” brackets. Other clarifications by Fakhry, including footnotes, are enclosed in round “( )” brackets. On rare occasions, you will find italicized bracketed comments within a verse. These are the author’s. Any underlining of words or phrases is my emphasis, not Fakhry’s. I also use the more familiar “Koran” in my narrative, as opposed to Fakhry’s “Qur’an”.

Is it favored or favoured? Majid Fakhry rendered his excellent translation of the Koran into British English, e.g., favoured.

17:40 Has your Lord, then, favoured you with sons and taken to Himself females from among the angels? Surely, you are uttering a monstrous thing.

Not only have I not changed Fakhry’s translation to conform to American English (that was unthinkable), but I have, in my accompanying narrative, chosen to employ British English with rare forays into Canadian English (yes, there is such a thing).

Many verses such as 44:43-44 must be read together to form a complete sentence or thought; therefore, do not assume a typographical (typo) or grammatical error if a verse does not end with the expected punctuation.

44:43 The Tree of Zaqqum (the Tree of Bitterness) will certainly be

44:44 The food of the sinner.

Also, do not assume a grammatical error if quoted material across multiple paragraphs, i.e., verses, have only one set of closing quotation marks. This is an often misunderstood rule of English grammar. If the quote is more than one paragraph in length, you can get away with only opening quotation marks (“) at the beginning of each paragraph, supplying closing quotation marks (”) only at the end of the complete excerpt or quotation.