A study on the manuscript translations of the Holy Qurʾān

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Ekmeleddin Ihsanoğlu

Article contents:
Different categories of translation
The artistic importance of manuscript translations of the Holy Qurʾān
The distribution of translations the Holy Qurʾān according to country and language

This paper deals with extant manuscript translations of the Holy Qurʾān in various languages, and tries to analyse the data with regard to the characteristics and dates of translation of these manuscripts, as far as possible without any attempt to assess the translated texts. A good translation preserving as many of the characteristics of the text as possible is a demanding task, and depends on knowing both languages fluently and understanding the characteristics of the nations which speak both languages, while being aware of the subject and the requirements of style. Given the difficulties of translating any text, the difficulties in translating a divine text such as the Holy Qurʾān, revealed in eloquent Arabic and in a beautiful style ornamented with literary arts, are obvious. Moreover, the moral responsibility involved in the translation of such a text is no light matter.

The translation of the Holy Qurʾān into various languages has been going on since the early centuries of Islam. Considering the importance of the subject, we undertook, in 1980, an important project on ‘Bibliographies of Translations of the Holy Qurʾānʾ at the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art, and Culture. This project was planned in three stages: printed, Manuscript, and oral translation. The bibliography of printed translations constitutes the first stage of the project. After six years of research, this bibliography was printed at the beginning of 1986 by the Centre under the title of World Bibliography of Translations of the Meanings of the Holy Qurʾān; printed translations 1515-1980 (Istanbul, 1986).

This paper does not deal with the different views of the schools of fiqh concerning Qurʾān translations. A lengthy study on this subject was presented in the introduction to the World Bibliography of Translations. On the basis of this long-term study, the views of Muslim scholars on this subject may be summarized as follows: the Islamic religion permits the translation of the Holy Qurʾān into other languages so that people who do not know Arabic can understand it However, it is generally admitted that the translations cannot equal, or be alternatives to, the original text in performing acts of worship and deducing judgments in Islamic jurisprudence.

The bibliographic search entitled ‘Manuscript Translations of the Holy Qurʾān in Languages all over the World,’ which constitutes the second stage of this project, started with a very limited number of collaborators at the beginning of 1986. From the beginning of our research up to the present time, despite the limited staff and various difficulties, more than 4,000 copies of manuscript translations of the Holy Qurʾān have been found in thirty different languages, spread over thirty-seven countries. Thus our studies have advanced to a certain degree. Naturally, the number of copies will increase by the time the bibliographic searches have been completed.

The present paper aims to briefly evaluate the above study on manuscript Qurʾān translations and to present our findings to the scholarly world for the first time. Without doubt, the information on this subject is not definitive. It will gain a more decisive character and will be improved by the contribution of constructive criticism and the assistance of scholars concerned with this subject.

An examination of the available documents showed that the greatest number of translations is in the Persian language, followed by Turkish and Urdu. There are also copies of manuscript translations of the Holy Qurʾān in various languages which are spoken in Asia, Europe, and Africa. Again, according to the findings of our research, these copies are mostly located in libraries in Turkey, Iran, India, and England (for the general enumeration of these copies and their distribution according to languages and countries, see Tables l, 2, and 3, respectively). As stated above, these numbers are not definitive; they are subject to change in accordance with new information. Moreover, these numbers include various copies of the same translation and volumes of the same work and are an indication of the great interest in the Holy Qurʾān, an interest which no other work has enjoyed. Without doubt, this number is also a clear indication of the interest taken in Islam by the nations who speak these languages.

Table 1: General table indicating the collections by country and language
47           47                          ALJAMIADO
1 1                                    ALBANIAN
4                          112         AMENIAN
1                             1        BERBER
3                                      CHINESE
2                                  2   DUTCH
1                             1        ENGLISH
7                             7        FRENSH
3                                      FULANI
2                            11        GERMAN
2     2                                HEBREW
1                              1       HINDI
1                             1        ITALIAN
8     1           4          21        JAVANESE
1                1                     KANEMBU
9                         9            KURDISH
46  1  3     2     6     3    919     3  LATIN
2                 2                    MACASSAR
10     4           12         21        MALAY
5     1        1                      3PASHTO
229719464181776171 3   2254  8 12   9207983211820656 1   58PERSIAN
5   5                                  RUSSIAN
1    1                                 SLAMESE
13     3        10                       SINDHI
4     1                      12        SPANISH
22        22                             SWAHILI
2    11                                SYRIAC
1730631112241114022 11  19 3 3   1312125 612193 31 101 TURKISH
71     111       13          1 431 1       URDU
1            1                         WOLOF
43017411691242162020322414944178312521213411428043659775160632213161  TOTAL     TOTAL
Table 1: General table indicating the collections by country and language


Table 2: Table of distribution according to languages


Table 3: Table of distribution according to countries

Different categories of translation

A general examination of copies of manuscript translations of the Holly Qurʾān reveals two main categories of translation. Firstly, there are literal or verbal (arfī or lafī) translations, i.e. word for word translations. This category gives the most appropriate equivalent of the Arabic words in the language into which they are translated. Translations are generally written interlinearly under the Arabic words (interlinear translations). In this category of translation, the translator does not attempt to form grammatically correct sentences: the task is to find and choose the best equivalent of a particular word in Arabic.  These equivalents vary according to the natural evolution and change which occurs over time in the language of the translation. This matter is of particular interest to linguists since the Arabic text of the Holy Qurʾān has remained exactly in its original form, without any change in even one word, down to the present day. However, the vocabulary from which are chosen the translation equivalents of the words in this firm and enduring text does change with time. Translations of the Holy Qurʾān therefore constitute a very important source and key to understanding the meaning which the Arabic words convey; they are also an important subject of study for linguists.

In literal translations it is left to the reader to construe an understanding of the meaning of the text. But the reader’s level of knowledge is not always sufficient to arrive at an understanding of the meaning of the text of the Holy Qurʾān, and so the text requires more extensive explanation. A second category of translations, exegetic or tafsīr translations arose from this need. In this second category, the translator expresses the meaning of the text through well-constructed sentences. The responsibility of the translator is thus greater; he can use more words and add explanations from other sources, such as the Traditions of the Prophet, other tafsīrs, and other translations, in order to render his expression more comprehensible and powerful. In consequence, these translations come close to being commentaries.

In the case of interlinear word for word translations by anonymous translators, it is difficult to determine, at first sight, whether two texts are two copies of the same translation or separate translations. As for tafsīr translations, they generally include an introduction or a table of contents and have certain characteristics related to the style of writing. For this reason, it is somewhat easier to decide whether two texts are merely copies of a single translation or two different works. Besides the above mentioned two categories, there are also short translations written in complete sentences which resemble the printed translation of today.

Manuscript Qurʾān translations can again be divided into two different categories: complete translations and selected or part translations. In addition, there are translations which the translator was unable to complete, for whatever reasons. It is necessary to separate these incomplete translations from part translations, since, in the former case, the translator did not intend to make a selection. It is always possible that the missing parts of the seemingly incomplete copies may surface in another collection.

Complete translations include the entire text of the Holy Qurʾān. However, there may be copies in which some parts are missing, and it is necessary to attend to such copies with great care. Some translations consist of more than one volume, and these volumes may differ in terms of external characteristics such as the kind of paper, the calligraphic style, and the ornamentation, as well as the language. There may even be inconsistencies in the dates of copying of some volumes, which may result from the fact that owners of particular collections often tried to complete a work with volumes obtained at different dates. Evidently, the volumes which are assembled in order to create a unity may subsequently be dispersed in different collections. Since there is no such practice as the exchange of manuscripts, it is impossible to realize a unity by assembling the pieces. It is only possible to establish a complete work from these dispersed copies by a scholarly and patient study based on a bibliography like the one which we have compiling.

There are two varieties of selected translations. In the first case, one or a few selected divisions (juzʾ), suras, or verses or the Holy Qurʾān are translated. In the second case, the translator assembles the verses on a particular subject and translates them, or a copyist may select some sections of a translation. In this case, if it is possible to discover the original manuscript these translations may be considered to be sections of this manuscript. However, if the original manuscript from which the translations are copied cannot be discovered, the most that can be done is to categorize Such as selected translations. In the light of our information, Selected translations most often choose the twenty-ninth and the thirtieth divisions, the suras al-Fātiḥah (1), Yūsuf (12), Yā-sīn (36), and al-Ikhlā (112) as well as verse 255 of the sura al-Baqarah (2) which is known as the Throne Verse (Āyāt al-Kursī).

The majority of translations of the Holy Qurʾān are in prose, but there are also translations which contain sections in verse, as well as translations written with rhyme and metre of a limited number of Qurʾānic verses. There are also translated texts of the Holy Qurʾān in dictionaries of the Holy Qurʾān, as Well as in scholarly, mystical, and literary works.

It is also necessary to briefly indicate the reasons for the differences in Various Copies of translations of the Holy Qurʾān. With the exception of differences resulting from orthographic errors, these variations essentially arise from natural changes which occurred in the language. In some cases, additional notes were written to the main text by readers, and these were subsequently included in the main text by the copyists. For example, the copyist may fill in missing sections in the main text by copying these sections from another manuscript, or with sections he has translated himself. 

The artistic importance of manuscript translations of the Holy Qurʾān

Manuscript translations of the Holy Qurʾān have great artistic significance. This results primarily from the great reverence of Muslims for their Holy Book, as a result of which copies of the Holy Qurʾān and copies of translations are written in decorated scripts, and great attention is paid to their binding. The Holy Qurʾān and its translations played an important role in the rapid development and perfection of the arts of calligraphy, gilding, and binding. The artists undertook their copying of the Holy Qurʾān and its translations as a divine duty and perceived the heavy moral and legal responsibility which fell on their shoulders. They displayed all their skills in copying, adorning, and binding these works, and were careful to use the best materials that could be found. Manuscript of the Holy Qurʾān also, therefore, constitute an important subject of study from the viewpoint of calligraphy and the arts of gilding and binding. The examination of the materials, tools, and techniques used in producing these masterpieces is an important study in its own right.

Manuscript Qurʾān translations differ in regard to the arrangement of their material. In literal translations, as has been mentioned, the equivalents of the Arabic words are written between the lines. Generally, the calligraphy used for these equivalent words is different from that of the Qurʾānic text; alternatively they may be in the same style but inscribed in smaller and finer characters. This latter kind of translation is generally written in a different kind of ink, mostly red, and in a slanted script (see plate 1). Sometimes there is more than one interlinear translation in a copy, generally in different languages. There are also copies which contain both interlinear and tafsīr translations (sec plate 2). Manuscripts are also found which contain all three categories of translations, i.e. interlinear translations, short translations, and tafsīr translations (sec plate 3). Mention should also be made of manuscripts which contain more than one tafsīr translation besides an interlinear translation (see plate 4).

Tafsīr translations are generally written in a particular calligraphic style in a slanted and fine script in the margin of the text of the Holy Qurʾān. Alternatively, different means of marking out the verses from the main text in tafsīr translations may be used. For example, the Qurʾānic text may be

Interlinear translations in Çagatay Turkish. 451 folios, 9 lines to a page, verses written in large  Naskhī script and translation in Naskhī with vowel marking. Thought to be written in Turkestan approximately in 1000/1500—1600 (Topkapi Palace Museum, Hirka-i Saadet Section, 54)
Abū al-Muzaffar Ṭāhir b. Muḥammad Asfarāyīnī’s Persian exegesis with interlinear translation entitled Tafsīr Tij al-Tarājim and Persian interlinear translation. 1,102 folios, number of lines vary from one page to the other. Verses in large Naskhī, interlinear translations in Naskhī, and the tafsīr in broken Naskhī calligraphy. (Süleymaniye Library, Rüstem Paşa Section, 28)
Interlinear translation in Persian. are also tafsīrs in the margin. 667 folios, 9 to a page. Verses in Thuluth script, translation and exegesis in the Naskhī and Taʾlīq scripts. (Süleymaniye Library, Ayasofya Section, 2)
Interlinear translation in Persian. In addition there are quotations from al-Kashshāf, Tafsīr Husaynī, al-Baydawi’s commentary, Tafsīr Madārik, Tafsīr Rahmānī and Tafsīr al-Jalālayn. 782 folios, 9 lines to a page. Verses in Naskhī script with vowel marking and the translation in Taʾlīq script. Copied by Hasan b. ʿAli b. Aḥmad c. 1000/1700. (Topkapı Palace Museum, Medine Section, 97)

written in a differently coloured ink, or in a large and thick script. The verses may be given in tabular form and thus be separated from the text of the translation, or lines may be drawn above or below the verses, mostly using red ink. The names of the suras and headings may be written in different coloured ink, or be decorated.

These characteristics of the ornamentation seen in complete translations also appear in some copies of selected translations. Although the bulk of the selected translations is smaller, they reflect the same attention and care which one observes in complete translations with respect to writing, gilding, and binding. The following copies in the Süleymaniye Library can be cited as examples: Ankaravī Ismail b. Ahmed’s commentary on the sura al- Fātiḥah entitled Futuḥāt al-ʿAyniyyah (see plate 5) and Şeyhülislam Esad Efendi’s Tafsīr Āyāt al-Kursī (see plate 6). There are also the translations which consist of more than one sura. An example of this is the copy in the Topkapı Palace Museum Library, dating from the eighth century AH and comprising suras 1, 6, 35, and 36.

An example of the verse translations of the Qurʾān is the copy of Okçuzāde Muhammed b. Muhammedʾs translation of the forty verses al- Nam al-Mubīn fi Āyāt al-Arbaʿīn found in the Süleymaniye Library (see plate 7). Most of the above copies have beautiful examples of binding.

The distribution of translations the Holy Qurʾān according to country and language

As stated above, there are more than 4,000 copies of manuscript translations of the Holy Qurʾān written in thirty different languages and dispersed in thirty-seven countries. This number includes different copies and volumes of the same work. A significant number of these translations are located in libraries in Turkey, Iran, India, and England. Libraries in Germany, Russia, Pakistan, France, Spain, the Vatican, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt contain totals of approximately twenty-five to a hundred copies of manuscript Qurʾān translations (see Table 3). However, it would not be appropriate to look merely at the number of copies: although some libraries may contain a limited number of Qurʾān translations, these copies have great linguistic importance, as well as other points of interest. The figures in these tables merely indicate the distribution of copies according to country and do not signify their value (see Table 3).

An important number of these translations are in Persian, Turkish, and Urdu (see Table 2). Persian and Turkish translations make up ninety per cent of the total number. One of the reasons for the existence of numerous translation in these languages was that Persians and Turks were among the first nations to embrace Islam, and early adopted the Arabic script, and had a

Tafsīr of the sura al-Fātiḥah (1) in Turkish by Ankaravī Ismail b. Ahmed entitled Fütuhat el- Ayniyye 120 folios, 23 lines to a page. Copied in Naskhī script in Rajab 1030/May—June 1621. (Süleymaniye Library, Halet Efendi Section, 27)
Turkish exegesis of the Throne Verse (sura al-Baqarah, 255th verse). 10 folios, 19 lines to a page. Written in fine Taʾlīq script in 1164/1750. (Süleymaniye Library, Hamidiye Section, 56)
Turkish translation of Okçuzade Muhammed Shahī’s Nazm-i Mūbin fi el-Ayāt el-Erbain in verse. 252 folios, 25 lines to a page. Copied by Sehbaz b. Saʾban in 22 Jamādi I-Ākhir 1051/28 Sept 1641 in Istanbul. (Süleymaniye Library, Lala Ismail Paşa Section, 612)

firmly established history, culture, and art of their own. Persian translations are more numerous than those in Turkish. This was probably due to the fact that Persian was used by other nations besides the Persians, particularly Turkish dynasties in Central Asia and Anatolia, as well as Indians, as the written and literary language. Many Persian translations were in fact made by translators of Turkish origin. It must be stressed that it is impossible to present detailed information about the thousands of translations within the limited scope of this paper. However, once the present project is completed, the knowledge on this subject will expand. Moreover, this bibliography will hopefully lead to various scholarly research and open new horizons.

The oldest known Persian translation is that of al- abarī’s Tafsīr, which was prepared by a group of scholars during the reign of the Samanid Amīr Manşūr b. Nūḥ (d. 350/956). However, in the course of our studies, we found an interlinear Persian translation which, according to its colophon, was made half a century before that of the above-mentioned tafsīr. It comprises the section from the sura al-Ḥujurāt (49) to the end of the Holy Qurʾān. Although it was included in some catalogues and stated in the colophon that it was copied by the famous calligrapher ʿAlī b. Muḥammad b. Muqlah in 308/939-40, our examination of the manuscript and the style of calligraphy shows that this work does not date from the time of Ibn Muqlah. Rather it was a work most probably dating from the ninth/fifteenth century to the extent that the calligraphic style indicates, and was attributed to him. This interlinear translation is now in the National Library of Egypt (No. 64, Maşāḥif).[i] The earliest copy of the Persian translation of al- Ṭabarī’s Tafsīr is in Turkey in the Bursa Public Library. It is dated 562/1166—67, and has an exquisite gilding; it includes the section from the sura al-Muʾminūn (23) to the sura Sabāʾ (34).

From the fifth/eleventh—twelfth centuries onwards, the number of Persian interlinear and tafsīr translations increases: both different copies of the same translation and separate We have established that Husayn Vāʾiz al-Kāshifi’s tafsīr translation, known as the Mavāhib-i ʿĀliyyah or the Tafsīr Ḥusaynī, was among the most frequently copied Persian texts, and more than three hundred copies of this translation have been located, the oldest of which dates back to 871/1492. An incomplete copy of this translation is in the Süleymaniye Library in Istanbul.

The first examples of Turkish translations were composed in Eastern Turkish dialects. The sources indicate that, since there were Turkish Scholars among the group which translated al-Ṭabarī’s Tafsīr into Persian, it was probably translated into Turkish as well, but there is no extant copy of this Turkish translation.[ii] Among the oldest copies of translations in Eastern Turkish dialects, we may mention one dating from the seventh/thirteenth Century, written in a language resembling the Turkish current in Transoxiana, comprising 343 folios.[iii] This manuscript is in the Āstān-i Quds-i Razavī Library in Mashhad. The translation in Uzbek, dated 647/1249, by ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Tahir al-Baghdādī (d. 429/1038) comprises the first eight suras of the Holy Qurʾān. This copy is located in the Tashkent Uzbek Academy of Sciences (no. 3116).[iv] A manuscript with both interlinear and tafsīr translations, dated 733/1332—33, comprising the section from the sura Ṣād (38) to the end of the Qurʾān is in the Āstān-i Quds-i Razavī Library (no. 293).[v] We should also mention the Qurʾān in the Türk Islam Eserleri Müzesi (Museum of Turkish Islamic Works) which displays the characteristics of the Central Asian literary language, and which was copied in 737/1337 [vi] as well as a manuscript from the ninth/fifteenth century in the Asian Museum Library in Leningrad. Besides the interlinear word for word translation in the dialect of Karakhanid Turkish, this copy also contains tafsīrs and legends which bear the characteristics of the dialects of Kıpçak, Oguz and even Çagatay Turkish. Therefore, some sources state that it was probably written in Khwarazm Turkish.[vii] Copies of manuscript Qurʾān translations in the dialects of Karakhanid, Uighur, Çagatay, Tajik, and Azeri Turkish belong to a more recent period.[viii]

Translations of the Holy Qurʾān in Anatolian -Turkish first appeared in the era of the principalities which followed the decline of the Anatolian Seljuks. The first copies were tafsīr translations of short suras.[ix] Sure-i Mūlk Tefsiri, the oldest of these translations, was copied in 826/1423. This copy is now in the Burdur Library in Turkey.[x] Starting in the eighth/fourteenth century complete translations appeared in Anatolia for the first time. Tafsīr translations were mostly made on the basis of the tafsīr of Ebulleyth-i Semerkandī, which was separately translated into Turkish by Ahmed-i Daʿī, Mūsā el-lznikī and Ibn Arabşah.  These translations, made from the same source by different scholars, are usually confused with each other. There are many extant manuscript copies of the tafsīr of Ebulleyth dating from the eighth/fifteenth century. In many cases the translator's name is not indicated.

We do not yet have definite, detailed information on all the seventy manuscript translations of the Holy Qurʾān in Urdu. In the light of our limited information, we believe the date of the oldest copy in Urdu to be 1000/1591—92.  These copies are selected translations and the translators are anonymous.[xi] It is known that Muḥammad Baqir Fazl Allāh Haydarābādī is the translator of the oldest manuscript dating back to 1115/1703-4.[xii] There are also manuscripts of anonymous translations dating from the thirteenth/eighteenth—nineteenth centuries, as well as manuscripts of translations by Shah Rafi al-Dīn Dihlavī and his brother Shāh ʿAbd al- Qādir Dihlavī.

It was Robertis Ketenensis who first translated the Holy Qurʾān into Latin in 1143 AD. Eight manuscript copies of this translation are located in the Bibliothèque Nationale.[xiii] Subsequent translations of the Holy Quran into Latin by Robert von Chester and Hermann von Carinthia,[xiv] Guillelmus Raymondus Monceta,[xv] Marcus Conanicus Toletanus,[xvi] Dominic Germanus Silésie,[xvii] Abraham Hinckelmann,[xviii] Nicolas Wilheim Schroder,[xix] jean Henri parau,[xx] and Devinus Warenus,[xxi] as well as anonymous translations[xxii] are extant in manuscript.

The only manuscript translation of the Holy Qurʾān in Chinese which we were able to locate dates from the thirteenth/eighteenth—nineteenth centuries. This translation, which consists of 61 folios, is in the India Office Library (Arabic MS.3340).[xxiii]

We were able to confirm four manuscript translations in Armenian, two of which are in Germany and one in Iran. Another translation by Stephanos is located in Bhopal, India.[xxiv] The copies in Germany are located in Tūbingen University Library (No. Ma.XIII 84)[xxv] and in the Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz Orientalabt (No. Or.Quart 605).[xxvi] This second manuscript in Germany was copied in Istanbul in 1803 AD and consists of 186 folios. We have not yet received detailed information about the copy which is in an Armenian church in Iran.[xxvii]

Three copies of manuscript translations of the Holy Qurʾān in the Pulaar dialect of Fulani are located in Dakar, Senegal. Two of these are found in the Institut Français de l’Afrique Noire (IFAN 57,58), and they both have the translation of each verse on a separate page.[xxviii] The third copy consists of. 622 folios (IFAN 99). We do not yet know if it is a complete translation.[xxix]

We were able to confirm two manuscript translations in Dutch (Flemish). The first copy, consisting of 281 folios, was translated by Salamon Swigger, and is presently in the Royal Albert Library in Brussels.[xxx] The other copy by an anonymous translator is in Leiden University Library.[xxxi]

One of the two Hebrew translations of the Holy Qurʾān is by Jacob Ben Israel. It was copied in 1636 in Venice and carries the name Sefer Ha Al- Koran. Presently it is in the Bodleian Library at Oxford (MS. Michael 113).[xxxii] There is another copy of the Holy Qurʾān in this library (Huntington 529)[xxxiii] in Arabic with Hebrew translations by an anonymous translator within the text and in the margins; it is dated 1600 AD.

A manuscript copy dated 1805-6 AD gives the only presently confirmed English translation of the Qurʾānic texts inscribed on the walls of the interior court of the Taj Mahal; it consists of 79 folios, and is in the Bibliothèque Nationale (Arabe 4529).[xxxiv]

We came across the only translation in Italian in the Tassy Catalogue.[xxxv] We were not able to obtain information about this manuscript, which is a translation of the second sura, al-Baqarah.

We confirmed eight manuscripts in Javanese. Of these three are interlinear commentaries from the Tafsīr al-Jalālayn; these are the copies in the Bibliothèque Nationale (MS. Arabe 654)[xxxvi] and the Bibliothek der Rijkuniversiteit, Lèiden (Or. 1886[xxxvii] and 6890/2[xxxviii]). There is another copy in Javanese, containing the translation of the sura al-Fātihah (1), and dating from the nineteenth century, in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek (Schocm.II.19).[xxxix] There are two other copies in the Bibliothek der Rijkuniversiteit, Leiden (Nos. 2097[xl] and Or. 5697[xli]). A manuscript in the Bibliotheca Bonnensi Servantur (No. 85a) comprises 264 folios.[xlii] Lastly, in a manuscript with mixed contents (majmūʿah) in the India Office (MS. Arabic Loth 2448)[xliii] there is a translation of sura al-Baqarah (2).

The sole manuscript Qurʾān translation in the Kanembu language is found in the form of an interlinear commentary in a copy dated 1080/1669—70, written in Maghribi script.[xliv] There is another commentary in the margin of this manuscript, entitled Jāmiʿ Aḥkām al-Qurʾān by ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad.

The only Kurdish translation which we were able to confirm is in the Library of Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn University in Irbīl, Iraq. This manuscript, which dates from 1349/1930—31, was translated by ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Qāḍī, and is written in the author’s own hand and consists of eight parts (juzʾ). Besides this translation, a complete Kurdish tafsīr translation of the Qurʾān is located in the private collection of Masūd Muḥammad Jalīzādah, Mullā Muḥammadʾs son. The translator is Jalīzādah Muḥammad b. Jamal al-Din ʿAbd Allāh b. Ḍiyāʾ al-Din Muḥammad Assad (Kakjalī). Detailed information about this copy is not available yet.[xlv]

Information on manuscripts of Polish translations of the Holy Qurʾān is still scant.[xlvi]

There are two manuscripts in Macassar located in Leiden University Library (Bugis Makasar 36 and 52).[xlvii]

The majority of the ten Qurʾān translations in Malay which we were able to confirm are selected or incomplete translations. Some copies only contain notes in Malay. The most extensive among the extant copies is in the Dewan Bahasa Library, consisting of 687 folios[xlviii] , and is written in Arabic and Javanese scripts. An interlinear translation of the Tafsīr al-Jalālayn, dating from the nineteenth century AD, is in the Bibliothek Rijkuniversiteit, Leiden (Or. 3224).[xlix] A manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale (Arabes suppl. 129) consists of 290 folios, and contains interlinear commentaries.[l] There are two translations in Malay consisting of 352,[li] and 19[lii] folios in the Royal Asiatic Society Library (Arabic 4; callmark: Malay 79). There is also a translation of the sura al-Fātiḥah in the Universitàtsbibliothek der Karl- Marx Universitàt Leipzig (MS. Or. 8696),[liii] and a translation of the sura al- Kahf (18) in Cambridge University Library (li.6.45).[liv] A manuscript of the

Tafsīr al-Jalālayn dated 1450 belonging to Jalāl al-Din b. Aḥmad al-Muhlī is in the Dewan Bahasa Library (MS. 97). There are notes in Malay at the beginning of this copy and interlinear commentaries in Javancse.[lv] There is also a manuscript of al-Zamakhshārī’s commentary al-Kashshāf in King’s College Library in Cambridge (No. 86) at the end of which there are notes, probably in Malay.[lvi]

We have confirmed the existence of a Panjabi translation of sura 88 entitled Tarjumah wa-sūrat al-ghāshiyyah in private possession, but we were not able to obtain any details about this manuscript.[lvii]

Of Pashto translations, there is a manuscript entitled Sharh-i Mandum bar Āyāt-i Qur’āniyyah va A ḥādiş -i Nabaviyyah, translated by Adīb Muḥammad Samed[?] dated 1125/1713. This copy is in the Private Library of Zahir Shāh (No. 2390) in Afghanistan.[lviii] Two other translations, the Tafsīr-i Badr-i Munīr and the Tafsīr Ḍubā, are in the Kitābkhānah-yi Vizārāt-i Maṭbūʿāt va Irshād (Nos. 185[lix] and 188[lx]). Another copy which contains the translations of the suras al-Fātiḥah and al-Ikhlās dates from the eighteenth century and is located in the India Office (Or. 6274).[lxi]

Among the five Russian tanslations of the Holy Qurʾān which have been located, the copy translated by D. N. Boguslavsky is dated 1871 AD. This Russian translation, which is based on the original of the tafsīr entitled Mavāhib-i ʿĀliyyah by usayn Vāʾiz-i Kāshifī and its Turkish translation by Ismail Ferruh, is in the Archives of the Academy of Sciences (Spb section).[lxii] A complete Qurʾān translation, consisting of 780 pages, by Piotr Vasilʾyevich Postnikov is located in the Central State Archive of Ancient Acts, Moscow (f. 181, opis 1, N 148/217). It is based on the French translation by André du Ryer. Another copy of the same translation which comprises the first twenty suras is located in the Library of the Academy of Sciences USSR (MS. Department, call number 33.7.6) in Leningrad.[lxiii] There is no definite information yet about the copy of a translation attributed to Volodymyr Lezevye and located in the Central Library of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR.[lxiv] Besides the above copies, there is an interlinear translation dating from the nineteenth century, at the Institute of Oriental Studies (Catalogue N 168, No. D 723) in Leningrad. Suras 113 and 114 are missing in this copy, which contains 480 pages.

We confirmed ten copies of Sindhi translations of the Qurʾān in the Institute of Sindhology at the University of Sind, Pakistan. Among these copies, three manuscripts entitled Qissa Hazrat Yusuf Jo were translated by a certain Aḥmad. Qazī Sharaf al-Dīn Sihwānī translated a manuscript entitled Qurʾān-i majīd mutarjam Sindhi. Three other copies are sections of the Tafsīr-i Hāshimī which was translated by Maqdūm Muḥammad Hāshim Thatvī in 1170/1659. The other manuscripts are tafsīr translations entitled Tardjuma ein Tafseer ʿUbayd Allāh Sindhī by Maulānā ʿUbayd Allāh Sindhī (1289-1363/1872-1944), Tardjama ma Tafseer, para 3 completed by Mian Fāẓil Shāh in1322J1904-5; and Tafseer of Qurʾān Majeed by an anonymous translator. A Sindhī translation of the tafsīr of the sura Yūsuf (12) is in the India Office Library (MS. Sind. 4).[lxv]

A manuscript written in Thai is reported to be in the University of Kansas,[lxvi] but we still await detailed information.

There are two manuscripts of Syriac translations of the Qurʾān in Harvard University Library and the John Rylands Library in Manchester.[lxvii] We have not obtained detailed information about either of these.

We established twenty-two copies of manuscript Qurʾān translations in Swahili in the Dar as-Salaam University Library, Tanzania.  These are translations of various suras. The translator of six manuscripts was Aḥmad Basheik Hussain. Mansab [?] translated ten copies, and Masud ʿAbdulla translated one copy. The other five copies were translated by anonymous translators.[lxviii]

The only manuscript Qurʾān translation which we were able to establish in Wolof was translated by Muhammed Deme [?]. This translation in two volumes is described as an Exegèse coranique, and is located in Dakar. [lxix]

As a result of his studies on manuscript Qurʾān translations in Bosnian, Dr Enes Kariç found three translations. Among them an interlinear translation by Ḥāfiẓ Said Zenunovic and copy by Hilmo Saric were destroyed during the Second World War and in the past thirty years, respectively. The copy translated by Fatin Kulenovic is the Bosnian tanslation of Izmirli Ibrahim Hakkıʾs Meani-i Kurʾan-1 Kerim According to recent information, this copy, which is located in Sarajevo, consists of two volumes and is written in Latin characters. However, detailed information on the copies stated above is not available yet.

Manuscript Qurʾān translations, which are very important sources in regard to language, art, history of culture and in their own right, deserve careful study from various sides. Certain aspects of the research on the above manuscripts can be separate subjects of study: the reasons for the interest in certain divisions, suras and verses of the Holy Qurʾān; the differences in various copies of translations of the Holy Qurʾān Which resulted from different reasons; the comparison between the extant copies of a particular translation, eg, the tafsīr of Ebulleyth-i Semerkandi, etc. The main objective of the research on this subject is to prepare a world-wide catalogue of manuscript translations of the Holy Qurʾān with the assistance of the scholars concerned.

Acknowledgements: I wish to express my sincere thanks to Dr Nejat Sefercioğlu for his valuable assistance in preparing this paper and to Dr Semiramis Çavuşoğlu for examining the English translation of the text.

Source note:
This article was published in the following book:
Foundation, 30th November_ 1st December 1991_ English version, 1992, Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation, London, UK, pp. 79-105.

Please note that some of the images used in this online version of this article might not be part of the published version of this article within the respective book


[i] Naṣr Allāh Mubashshir al-Tirāzī, Fihris al-Makhṭῡṭāt al-Farsiyyah Dār al-Kutub al-Jumhῡriyyah al-ʿArabiyyah al-Muttaḥiddah, Cairo, 1966-67, part II, p. 151, no. 2176.

[ii] Zeki Velidī Togan, ʿLondra ve Tahran’daki Islāmī Yazmalarin Bazılarına Dair’, Islāmī Tedkikler Enstitüsü Dergisi, III, 1959—60, pp. 135-8; Fuat Köprülü, Türk Edebiyatl Tarihi, Istanbul, 1926, pp. 190-3; Abdülkadir Inan, ‘Eski Türkçe Üç Kuran Tercümesi’. Türk Dili Dergisi, nos. 6, 7, 9 (1952), p. 324.

[iii] M. A. Fikrat, A Catalogue of the Manuscripts of the Holy Qurʾān in Translations, Preserved in the Library of Āstān-i Quds-i Rizavī, Mashhad, 1323 Sh, p. 89, no. 37.

[iv] A. A. Semenov, Sobraine Vostochnikh Rukopisey Akademii Nauk Uzbekskoy SSR, Tashkent 1952-87, vol. IV, p. 55, no. 2870.

[v] Fikrat, p. 98, no. 53; Aḥmad Gulçin Maani, Rahnamā-yi Ganjīnah-yi Qurʾān, Tehran, n.d., p. 107, no. 48; David James, Qurʾāns of the Mamluks, London, 1988, p. 244, no. 58.

[vi] Janos Eckmann, ‘Kur’ān’ ın Doğu Türkçesine Tercümeleri’, trans. Ekrem Ural. I. Ü. Edebiyat Fakültesi Türk Dili ve Edebiyatı Dergisi, vol. XXI (1973), pp. 15-24.

[vii] Abdülkadir Inan, ‘Eski Kuran Tercümelerinin Dili Meselesi’, Türk Dili Dergisi, vol. I, no. 7, (April 1952), pp. 395—8; Eckmann, pp. 15—24.

[viii] Eckmann, pp. 15—24; Muḥammad Hamidullah, Kur’ān-ı Kerīm Tarihi, trans. Sait Mutlu. Istanbul, 1965, p. 74; Ahmet Topaloǧlu, ‘Kurān-ı Kerīm’in Ilk Türkçe Tercümeleri ve Cavāhirü’l Asdāf’, Türk Dünyasrı Araştırmaları, no. 27, (1983), pp. 20, 59; Semenov, vol. IV, no. 2854; Eckmann, p. 20.

[ix] Özcan Tabaklar, ‘Amme Cüzü Tefsiri’ (MA Thesis, 1. Ü. Edebiyat Fakültesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü, Istanbul, 1987), p. 53.

[x] Ahmet Ateş, ‘Burdur—Antalya ve Havalisi Kütüphanelerinde Bulunan Türkçe, Arapça ve Farsça Bazi Mῡhim Eserler’, Türk Dili ve Edebiyatl Dergisi, 2 (1948), pp. 171-91.

[xi] Sayyarah Digest Monthly (Exclusive issue on the celebration of 1,400 years of the revelation of the Holy Qurʾān), Lahore (1973). Qurʾān number XX, pp. 902-3, B/304, B/327, B/321.

[xii] Ibid., p. 897, A/160.

[xiii] Bibliothèque Nationale, Catalogue des manuscrits latins, Paris, 1966, vol. V, pp. 334-9, 487-9, 491-2.

[xiv] Der Islam und das Christentum, p. 132, no. 35.

[xv] Muḥammad Hamidullah, Le Coran, France, 1959, p. XLVI: Bibliothèque Nationale, Catalogue, vol. V, pp. 492—3.

[xvi] Bibliothèque Nationale, Catalogue, vol. V, pp. 339-41; Der Islam…, p. 133, no. 36/Abb. 4.

[xvii] Hamidullah, Le Coran, p. XLVII; Marcel Devic, ‘Une traduction inédite du Coran’, Journal Asiatique, 8ème série I (1983), pp. 343-406.

[xviii] Carl Brockclmann, Katalog der Orientalischen Handschriften der Stadbibliothek zu Hamburg. Teil I. (Die arabischen, persischen, turkischen, malaischen, koptischen, syrischen, athiopischen Handschriften), Hamburg, 1908, vol. I, p. 10.

[xix] Hamidullah, Le Coran, p. XLIII.

[xx] Hamidullah, Le Coran, p. XLIII; P. Tiele, Catalogus Codicus Manuscriptorum Bibliothecal Universitatis Rheno-Tarajectinal, vol. I, no. 1437; P. Voorhoeve, Handlist of Arabic Manuscripts in the Library of the University of Leiden and Other Collections in the Netherlands, Leiden, 1957, p. 227.

[xxi] Hamidullah, Le Coran, p. XLVIII.

[xxii] M. le Baron de Slane, Bibliothèque Nationale, Départements des Manuscrits. Catalogue des manuscrits arabes de la Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, 1883-95, vol. 1, pp. 117-8, no. 384, p. 137, no. 590; Georges Vajda and Yvette Sauvan, Catalogue des manuscrits arabes, 2ème partie: Manuscrits musulmans, Paris, 1978, vol. II, p. 3, no. 590; Leopold Delisle, Inventaire des manuscrits conservés à la Bibliothèque Nationale sous les no. 8323—11503 du Fonds Latin, Paris, 1863, p. 110’, W. A. Ahlwardt, Verzeichnis der Arabischen Handschriften der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, Berlin, 1887—9, p. 413, no. 1032; Brockelmann, vol. I, p. 158, no. 299; E. G. Browne, A hand-list of the Muhammedan manuscripts including all those written in the arabic character, preserved in the libraries of the University and Colleges of Cambridge, Cambridge, 1900, p. 149, nos. 837, 838; Catalogue Général Bibliothèque Municipale de Poitiers, 1894, vol. XXV, p. 2, no. 10; Katalog der Handschriften der Königlichen Oftenlichen Bibliothek zu Dresden, Leipzig, 1882, vol. I, pp. 55-6; Hamidullah, Le Coran p.XLVIII.

[xxiii] C. A. Storey, Catalogue of the Arabic Manuscripts in the Library of the India Office, vol. 2/1: Qurʾānic literature. London, 1930, p. 6, no. 1062.

[xxiv] J. D. Pearson, ‘Translation of the Qurʾān’. The Encyclopaedia of lslam new ed., vol. V, p. 431.

[xxv] Franz Nikolaus Finck-Levon Gjandscheizian, Systematisch. Alphabetischer Hauptkatalog des Königlichen Universitäts Bibliothek zu Tübingen, (M. Handschriften. a) Orientalische XVIII, Tῡbingen, 1907, p. 117.

[xxvi] N Karamianz, Verzeichnis der Amanischen Handschriften, Berlin, 1988, p. 78, no. 96.

[xxvii] Muḥammad Dānishpazhῡh and Iraj Afshār, Nuskhah-hā-yi Khaṭṭī, Nashriyyah-yi Kitābkhānah-yi Markazī-yi Dānishgāh, Tehran, 1346, p. 324, no. 12.

[xxviii] Thierno Diallo, Catalogue des manuscrits de I’I.F.A.N., Dakar, 1966, P. 65.

[xxix] Ibid., p. 44.

[xxx] Jan Bauwens, Manuscrits arabes à la Bibliothèque Albert 1er, 1968, p. 12, no. 20.

[xxxi] Voorhoeve, Handlist, p. 278.

[xxxii] A. Nauber, Catalogue of the Hebrew Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, entry no. 2207; J. D. Pearson, ‘Translation of the Qurʾān’, vol. V, p. 431.

[xxxiii] Nauber, entry no. 1221.

[xxxiv] Hamidullah, Le Coran, p. XLV; Muḥammad sāliḥ al-Bundaq, Al- mustashriqῡn wa tarjamat al-Qurʾān al-Karīm, Beirut, 1980, p. 162.

[xxxv] M. F. Deloncle, Catalogue des livres orientaux et autres composant la Bibliothèque de Feu M. Garcin Tassy, Paris, 1879, p. 266, no. 2954.

[xxxvi] Georges Vajda and Yvette Sauvan, 2ème partie, p. 44, no. 654; M. Le Baron de Slane, vol. I, p. 147, no. 654.

[xxxvii] P. de Jong, M. J. de Goeje, and M. Th. Houtsma, Catalogus Codicum Orientalium Bibliotheca Academiae Lugduno-Batavae, 1851-87, vol. IV, no. 1696; Voorhoeve, Handlist, p. 353.

[xxxviii] Voorhoeve, Handlist, p. 353.

[xxxix] Theodore G. T. Pigeaud, Javanese and Balinese Manuscripts, 1975, pp. 131—2, no. 46.

[xl] De Jong, Goeje, and Houtsrna, vol. IV, no. 2837.

[xli] Voorhoeve, Handlist p. 278.

[xlii] J. Gildemeister, Catalogus Librorum Manuscriptorum Orientalium in Biblictheca Academica Bonnensi Servatorum, Bonn, 1864—76, p. 1, no.1.

[xliii] Otto Loth, A Catalogue of the Arabic manuscripts in the Library of the India Office, Osnabrück, 1975, p. 303, no. 1048.

[xliv] A. D. H. Bivar, ‘A dated - from Bornu’, Nigeria Magazine, 65 (1960), p. 203; Mofakhkhar Hussain Khan, ‘Translations of the Holy Qurʾān in the African Languages’, The Muslim World, 77, nos. 3—4 (July-October 1987), pp. 250-8.

[xlv] Hassan A. Ma’ayergi, ‘History of the Works of Qurʾānic Interpretation (Tafsir) in the Kurdish Language’, Journal of the ʿInstitute of Muslim Minority Affairs, vol. 7, no. 1 (1986), pp. 268—74.

[xlvi] Hamidullah, Le Coran, p. XLVIII.

[xlvii] Voorhoeve, Handlist, p. 227-78.

[xlviii] Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Katalog Manuskript di Perpustakaan Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, 1983, p. 53.

[xlix] Voorhoeve, Handlist, p. 353.

[l] M. Le Baron de Slane, vol. I, p. 128—9.

[li] Oliver Codrington, ‘Catalogue of the Arabic, Persian, Hindustani and Turkish manuscripts in the Library of the Royal Asiatic Society’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, no. 3 (1982), pp. 509-69; H. N. van der Tuuk, Short Account of the Malay Manuscripts belonging to the Royal Asiatic Society, no. 79/1X, 1866, p. 127.

[lii] P. Voorhoeve, ʿList of Malay manuscripts in the Library of the Royal Asiatic Society, London’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1963), p. 67.

[liii] Karl Vollers, Katalog der islamischen, christlichorientalischen Handschriften der Universitäts Bibliothek.zu Leipzig, Leipzig, 1906, p. 369, no. 1054.

[liv] Browne, Hand-list, p. 47, no. 255.

[lv] Dewan Bahasa … p. 54.

[lvi] E. G. Browne, A supplementary hand-list of the Muḥammedan manuscripts, including all those written in the Arabic character, preserved in the libraries of the University and Colleges of Cambridge, Cmbridge, 1922, p. 171, no. 1033.

[lvii] Sayyarah Digest.. .P. 503.

[lviii] 0. P. S. de Laugier de Beaureceuil, Manuscrits d’Afghanistan, Cairo 1964, p. 46, no. 9.

[lix] Ibid., p. 265, no. 8.

[lx] Ibid., p. 265, no. 9.

[lxi] J. F. Blumhardt, Catalogue of Pushtu and Sindhi Manuscripts in the Library of the British Museum, London, 1905, pp. 1—3, no. 2/1.

[lxii] Hamidullah, Le Coran, p. XLIX.

[lxiii] Ibid., p. XLIX.

[lxiv] Ibid., p. L.

[lxv] C. Shackle, Catalogue of the Panjabi and Sindhi Manuscripts in the India Office Library, London, 1977, p. 69, no. 85.

[lxvi] J. D. Pearson, Oriental Manuscripts in Europe and North America, Switzerland, 1971, p. 426.

[lxvii] Pearson, ‘Translation of the Kur’ān’, vol. V, p. 431

[lxviii] J. W. T. Allen, The Swahili and Arabic Manuscripts and Tapes in the Library of University College Dar-as-Salaam, a Catalogue, Leiden, 1970, pp. 1—34.

[lxix] Mbaye al-Hadji Rawane Mbaye-Babacar, ‘Supplément au catalogue des manuscrits de I’IFAN’, Bulletin d’IFAN, T. 37, ser. B, no. 4, 1937, p. 881.

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