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This is the revised 2011 edition of QRT, in which the word Muslim is translated as peacemaker. This is work in progress. There will be a major revision to improve the language and style of the translation. Please keep in touch via

"From the perspective of the academic study of the Qur’an, this book has very little to contribute. ... To proclaim that the Qur’an contains 20th-century scientific discoveries renders meaningless the religious faith of Muslims of the past who could not possibly have been aware of such a concept. … Controversy may assist book sales, as happened in the case of The Satanic Verses, but it would be a cynical and questionable strategy to publish a book simply because it arouses the wrath of many people. Simply to publish this work as it is basically gives this religious group a platform to express their distinctive theology, which is highly polemical and dismissive of other perspectives…" – A anonymous Sunni Scholar who was described by the editor of Palgrave-Macmillan as "a very well-established professor."

"A bold and beautiful translation that serves as a timely reminder to all believers that the Qur'an is not a static scripture, but a living, breathing, ever-evolving text whose sacred words are as applicable today as when they were first uttered by the Prophet Muhammed fourteen centuries ago." - Reza Aslan, PhD., CBS News Consultant; Author, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.

"A testament to the fact that faith need not suffocate reason. This is bound to be among the smartest of 'smart bombs' in the battle of ideas within Islam." - Irshad Manji, Fellow, Yale University and author, The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith.

"I completely agree with you in your rejection of the right of any group to arrogate to themselves the sole interpretation of the Quran. The Quran, being a book containing divine knowledge and wisdom, can only be understood progressively. It has to be interpreted anew by every generation and through a scientific methodology…. Your effort is praiseworthy. Well done. Keep it up." - Kassim Ahmad, former president of Malaysian Socialist Party and head of Malaysian Quranic Society who was declared "apostate" by religious authorities for his controversial work on the Prophetic Traditions.

"This translation is the best tool for those who want to understand the uncorrupted Message of Islam - justice and peace. This translation shows that the Quran is but the confirmation and continuation of God's system memorialized through Abraham, demonstrated in Torah through numerous prophets, and in the Hebrew Gospel through Yeshu'a/Jesus, the righteous of God. This translation is a message of peace, justice and judgment. I pray that the Reformist translation of the Quran will replace all others not only because it is the best but also because it is the closest to the original Arabic text." - Gershom Kibrisli, theologian and communal leader, The Karaim of the Early Hebrew Scriptures, Holy Land & Benelux.

"Every conversation begins with a single voice. This Reformist Translation of the Quran and its ancillary materials should begin many conversations, between and among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In many parts of the Muslim world this is a dangerous discussion, and sometimes that danger can reach well into the West, as evidenced by the 1990 fatwa-inspired murder of Rashad Khalifa in Tucson, Arizona. It is an important discussion, however, and the editors of this book have assumed this risk to argue for a perspective that sets violence aside both in discourse and living. One can imagine that a broader adoption of their perspective across the Muslim world would reduce strife and invite greater examination of Islam by non-Muslims as something other than a threat. It would expand the conversation." - Mark V Sykes Ph.D. J.D. Director, Planetary Science Institute.

"Very Interesting and Timely" - Riffat Hassan, Ph.D. Professor of Religious Studies and Humanities at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. A pioneer of feminist theology in the context of the Islamic tradition.

"Quran: A Reformist Translation is distinct from other translations of the Qur’an in several important ways. First, to the best of my knowledge, it is only the second English translation of the Qur’an produced by Qur’anists--advocates of the concept of the Qur’an as the sole legitimate scriptural source of religious law and guidance in Islam. As Qur’anists, Yuksel and his colleagues reject the Hadith as sources of religious law and guidance and do not rely on them in this translation and commentary. The first Qur’anist English translation was done by the late Rashad Khalifa, a seminal figure in the late twentieth-century Qur’anist movement who directly influenced both Yuksel and Shulte-Nafeh. Quran: A Reformist Translation is also unique because it is the product of collaboration between two key figures in the present-day Qur’anist movement: Edip Yuksel and Layth Saleh al-Shaiban. The Qur’anist approach offers religious rather than secularist challenges to traditional understandings of Islam, whether Sunni, Shia, or academic, on a number of critical issues; so this translation and commentary have the potential to spark extreme controversy among Muslims and non-Muslims." - Aisha Y. Musa, PhD, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies, Florida International University; author of An Examination of Early and Contemporary Muslim Attitudes toward Hadith as Scripture (Doctoral Dissertation, Harvard University, 2004).

"A timely and stimulating contribution to scholarship on Islam that offers cogent testimony to the diversity of views within the Islamic community. This new translation challenges those in East and West alike who see Islam as irreconcilably opposed to the scientific and democratic impulses of modernity." - Germaine A. Hoston, Ph.D, Professor, University of California. San Diego, former Director of the Center for Democratization and Economic Development.

"With its lucid language, brilliant theological and philosophic arguments, Edip Yüksel removes the smoke of distortions and ignorance generated by clergymen that have concealed the light of the Quran from masses. Pulling our attention to numerous scientific evidences supporting the authenticity of the divine nature of the Quran, the Reformist Translation is destined to create a Copernican Revolution in the realm of religions. I highly recommend it to Agnostics, Skeptics, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, or anyone who seeks truth about God without suppressing or compromising their brains." - Caner Taslaman, PhDs in Theology and Political Science; Post doc fellow at Harvard and Oxford Universities; author, The Quran: Unchallengeable Miracle; The Big Bang and God; The Theory of Evolution and God; and The Invented Religion;

"Allah has gifted humanity with many signs for guidance. The Qur’an not only directs us towards these signs all over creation, but also in itself is a most miraculous sign. We can never know the full meaning of the Qur’an even as we exercise our minds and peacefully surrender our hearts to Allah so that we become able to read the signs and grow to know more. A Reformist Translation directs us to this miracle by offering an intense and challenging addition to the practice of sincere reading for knowing. I cannot accept its Qur’an only perspective, even as I support the efforts of these translators to engage, as they have, in reading and growing with knowledge while relaying to others some new possibilities of meaning for the sake of reflection and peacefully surrender. I hope many will examine their efforts to gain benefit and challenge." - Amina Wadud, PhD, Author: Inside the Gender Jihad: Reform in Islam.

"I have to say that this translation --following in the same spirit of Dr. Khalifa's Quran: The Final Testament -- not only is daring, brave and non-traditional in its approach, it will open a lot of eyes that the Quran is dynamic in nature and relevant for all times. The spirit of using the Quran to explain the Quran, namely trying to understand a certain word by searching for the meaning of the same word in many different contexts within the Quran, is very evident in this translation. This is a book that encourages the reader to use his/her intelligence faculty in order to understand the message, true to the key message of the Quran itself." - Gatut Adisoma, PhD, Indonesia.

"I strongly suggest that this English representation of the Qur'an can only be fully appreciated by slowly absorbing it, cover to cover. As well, I suggest that the most integrated understanding of the Qur'an can only be realized by synthesizing the full message in one's heart first, as a single experience. With this in mind, this Reformist Version does an unusually fine job in clarifying those elements (such as gender imbalance) which have been perceived as dissonant within the whole message in the "standard" translations. This version, which is not revisionistic, presents an integrated consistency rarely found in other translations and it elucidates issues not commonly grasped by modern readers (in any language). Those with an open mind and heart, who only understand modern Arabic and not the dialect in which it was originally revealed, have the opportunity to experience comfort and inner peace by absorbing this clean, Reformist translation. With this in mind, this version can only be judged following a thoughtful read of the entire volume…" - Jeff Garrison, MD, Colorado.

"THANK YOU, DEAR GOD THANK YOU, I'm coming back because of your work. Edip, your work has freed me from year of condemnation, cruelty and misinterpretation of islam by my ex husband. Your work has freed me from the pain I've carried for so long and gave me back basic self esteen that was mine from God but was slowly erroded by mysogyni. Your work gave me the wings i had lost. Again thank you." Martina D., a reader.

For a sample reader response please see the last Appenidix.

EDIP YUKSEL is an American-Turkish-Kurdish author and activist who spent four years in Turkish prisons in the 1980's for his political writings and activities promoting an Islamic revolution in Turkey. He experienced a paradigm change in 1986 transforming him from a Sunni Muslim leader to a reformed muslim, a rational monotheist, or a peacemaker. Edip Yuksel has written more than twenty books and hundreds of articles on religion, politics, philosophy and law in Turkish, and numerous articles and books in English. Edip is the founder of, the Islamic Reform organization, and co-founder of Muslims for Peace, Justice and Progress (MPJP), and the chief editor of the annual anthology, Critical Thinkers for Islamic Reform. After receiving his B.A. from the University of Arizona in Philosophy and Near Eastern Studies, Edip received a J.D. degree from the same university. Edip teaches Philosophy and logic at Pima Community College. He is fluent in Turkish, English and Classic Arabic; proficient in Persian, and barely conversant in Kurdish, his mother tongue.

LAYTH SALEH AL-SHAIBAN is an author of various books and articles on Islam, founder of Progressive Muslims, and co-founder of Islamic Reform. Layth works in a financial institution as a financial adviser, and lives in Saudi Arabia.

MARTHA SCHULTE-NAFEH is Professor of Arabic language at the University of Texas at Austin. Before, she worked as Assistant Professor of Practice at the University of Arizona and Language Coordinator of Middle Eastern Languages at the Department of Near Eastern Studies. Martha received her B.S. from Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in Economics, received her M.A., in Linguistics from the University of Arizona in 1990, and her Ph.D. from the same university in Near Eastern Studies - Arabic Language and Linguistics 2004. She also taught English as a Foreign Language at American University in Cairo, Egypt.


We would like to thank the following individuals for their feedback, criticism and suggestions: El Mehdi Haddou, M.D., Aisha Musa, Ph.D.; Germaine A. Hoston, Ph.D.; Pierre Boyreau; Mark Syks, Ph.D., J.D; Chris Moore; Linda Moore; Ruby Amatullah; Oben Candemir, M.D.; Miriam Janna; Daniyar Shekebaev; Arnold Mol, Caner Taslaman, Ph.D.; Timur Irdelp, Abdullah Al-Mamun, and the thousands others who shared their knowledge with us through their words, mails, books, and critical reviews. We also would like to thank Nima Aghili, J.D., and Ahamed Abdou for their feedback, comments, suggestions, and extensive editorial assistance. We should also mention Muhammed Kodzoez and Tufan Karadere for volunteering their technical skills to design and, particularly a private internet forum that facilitated our early discussion on the methodology and key words. Special thanks to Ogan Timinci and his son Tayfun. Kindle and Electronic versions were made possible by brother Omar AL Zabir of UK.


A Reformist Translation

Translated and Annotated by

Edip Yuksel
Layth Saleh al-Shaiban
Martha Schulte-Nafeh

Hundred Fourteen Books
United States of America

© 2007, 2010, 2011 Edip Yuksel

Edip Yuksel & Layth Saleh al-Shaiban:

Translated the main text of the Reformist Translation of the Quran.

Edip Yuksel:

Authored the annotations, subtitles, endnotes, introductory materials, and appendices.

Martha Schulte-Nafeh:

Provided linguistic consultation and feedback.

A message for those who prefer reason over blind faith, for those who seek ultimate peace and freedom by submitting themselves to the Truth alone.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used, transmitted, or reproduced in any form or by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations in reviews and critical articles. For permission requests or other information, contact the publisher or Edip Yuksel electronically at:

ISBN: 978-0-9796715-0-0

Cover Design: Yusuf Urfalı

Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4

Following a Fatwa-Review of Establishment,
Palgrave/Macmillan Abandoned the Publication of this Book

In 2004, my colleagues and I signed a contract with Palgrave/Macmillan publishing house for the publication of Quran: a Reformist Translation. The editor and other staff of the publishing house were very encouraging and enthusiastic, and during the summer of 2006, I was personally introduced to the director of the publishing company at its New York headquarters. Palgrave even published an announcement about the upcoming Reformist Translation in their 2006 Fall/Winter Catalogue, which was later postponed to the summer of 2007. The publishing house posted information about the Reformist Translation for pre-orders at and other online bookstores. However, in December 2006, the editor informed me that the board had determined that my manuscript was not acceptable for publication.

Apparently, they were convinced or intimidated by a review (more accurately, a fatwa) of "a very well-established professor," who misleadingly likened our annotated translation of the Quran to Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. This was akin to a medieval publishing house turning down Martin Luther's 95 Theses after consulting "a very well-established" Catholic Bishop! It is telling that Palgrave's "very well-established scholar" in his several-page review, had only one substantive criticism, which consisted of our usage of a word, yes a single word in the translation: progressive.

I believe that without hearing my defense against this Sunni version of excommunication in the guise of a "scholarly review," the publishing house committed an injustice against my person and our work. I called the publishing house and asked them to give me the chance to respond to the reviewer and defend myself and work against his disparagement and distortions; I was told he remain anonymous.

We were not surprised to hear negative remarks, insults, or false associations from a reviewer who considers a rejection of backward and bankrupt sectarian dogmas "heresy." However, we were surprised to learn that the board of the publishing house cancelled the publication of a potentially controversial yet crucial book that would introduce the message of the Quranthe message of peace, justice, reason, and progresswithout the distortion of sectarian teachings. Any scholar who can see beyond his or her office can see the growing reform movement, open or clandestine, particularly in Turkey, Malaysia, Iran, Egypt and Kazakhstan where people take great risks to question popular dogmas.

You may visit the following websites for the full text of the letter of the Sunni scholar whose advice was taken at face value by Palgrave/Macmillan, and for our response to the letter. You may also find in the following websites, recent updates, reactions, and feedback from reviewers, our responses, and the activities of the global reformist movement:

Let the world hear the message. Let the West hear the voice of monotheism, the voice of reason, peace, justice and progress. Let the East and the Middle East hear the clear message of the book that they have abandoned for centuries.

9:32 They want to extinguish God's light with their mouths, but God refuses such and lets His light continue, even if the ingrates hate it.

9:33 He is the One who sent His messenger with guidance and the system of truth, to make it manifest above all other systems, even if those who set up partners hate it.

Edip Yuksel

Tucson, Arizona

July 2007

Table of Contents

We decided that it is unnecessary to insert page numbers in the translation section, since each verse is indicated with a number and they are ordered within chapters starting from verse 1:1 ending with verse 114:6. The sum of all verses in the Quran is 6346, including the 112 unnumbered Basmalahs.

Asterisks (*) in the end of verses refer to our notes, comments, cross-references, and discussions in the ENDNOTES section, which follows immediately the respective chapter. To visually separate ENDNOTES from the text of the translation of the Quran, we used a smaller font, six digits for verse numbers, and full justification for the text.

The subtitles in italics are not part of the Quran. We inserted subtitles to make the reading easier for those whose attention might be compromised by fast-paced modern life complicated with numerous tasks and technologies.

Translators’ Introduction:

The Case for a Reformist Translation of the Quran

"And had We sent it down upon some of the foreigners, and he recited it to them, they would not have acknowledged it.” (26:198)

"A book that We have sent down to you, that is blessed, so that they may reflect upon its signs, and so that those with intelligence will take heed." (38:29)

"The messenger said, 'My Lord, my people have deserted this Quran.'" (25:30)

"Say, 'O people of the book, let us come to a common statement between us and between you; that we do not serve except God, and do not set up anything at all with Him, and that none of us takes each other as lords beside God.' If they turn away, then say, 'Bear witness that we have peacefully surrendered.'" (3:64)

"… and God made a covenant with those who received the Book: 'Proclaim the scripture to the people, and never conceal it.'" (3:187)

"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (Old Testament, Isaiah 61:1 ; 42:6; New Testament, John 8:32 ).

Arguments against the practices and teachings of "Orthodox Islam" have created controversies in the past and are likely to continue to do so in the future. But the Holy Quran, the word of God Almighty, demands that its words be proclaimed without misdirection or obstruction (3:187).

This volume is undertaken in obedience to this command. Quran: A Reformist Translation is an English version of the Quran that takes an accurate reading of what is in the Quran itself as the standard. It thus abandons the rigid preconceptions of all-male scholarly and political hierarchies that gave rise to the series of writings and teachings known as the "Hadith & Sunna", which, according to the Quran itself, carry no authority (9:31; 42:21; 18:110; 98:5; 7:3; 6:114). It is a progressive translation of the final revelation of God to all of humanity – a translation that resonates powerfully with contemporary notions of gender equality, progressivism, and intellectual independence. It is a continuation of the modern monotheist movement that started an era of paradigm change and reform in 1974 with the fulfillment of a Quranic prophecy based on the number 19 mentioned in chapter 74. 1

Centuries after the revelation, understanding of the Quran was inevitably influenced by the cultural norms and practices of tribal cultures in ancient Arabia, which were attributed to Prophet Muhammed and his close friends, and introduced as secondary religious sources besides the Quran. As the sample comparisons offered below demonstrate, these norms and practices distorted the perceptions of what the text actually said. When translation is liberated from these traditions the Quran conveys clearly a message that proclaims freedom of faith, promotes male and female equality, encourages critical thought and the pursuit of knowledge, calls for accountability and repudiation of false authority, as well as the replacement of political tyranny and oppression through representation in government, Above all, it is God's command for the realization of justice for every man, woman, and child irrespective of ethnic origin or religion.

By presenting the peaceful and unifying message of the Quran, we hope to increase understanding and reduce tensions between the "Muslim World" and people of other religions, especially those whom the Quran calls the People of The Book (Jews and Christians). This translation will also highlight, without apology or distortion, the major differences between our approach and that of orthodox translations and commentaries.

Quran: A Reformist Translation offers a non-sexist and non-sectarian understanding of the divine text; it is the result of collaboration between three translators, two men and a woman. We use logic and the language of the Quran itself as the ultimate authority in determining likely meanings, rather than previous scholarly interpretations. These interpretations, though sometimes useful as historical and scholarly reference resources, are frequently rendered inadequate for a modern understanding and practice of Islam because they were heavily influenced by patriarchal culture, relied heavily on the hearsay teachings falsely attributed to the prophet Muhammed, and were frequently driven by hidden or overt sectarian and political agendas. We therefore explicitly reject the authority of the clergy to determine the likely meaning of disputed passages.

In the Reformist Translation, we also offer extensive cross-referencing to the Bible and attempt to provide scientific and philosophical reasoning to support and justify the translation. We intend for the translation to reflect the original message of the Quran for those who have scholarly or personal curiosity in it, and to provide an alternative perspective, unfettered by the constraints of uncritically accepted interpretations that rely on hearsay accounts.

We argue that any modern commentary on the Quran – and all translations are, by definition, commentaries upon the Arabic text – should not be monolithic, but should instead reflect the perspective and critical evaluation of diverse disciplines and populations. We also argue that the voices of women, suppressed for so many centuries by Sunni or Shiite alike, should be taken into account in any interpretation of these extraordinary verses. To correct the egregious historical biases so obvious in previous English translations, we have chosen to take an inclusive approach incorporating input from scholars, lay readers, and even non-Muslims. The final word choices of the actual translation, however, are ours. We alone are responsible for them before God; if we have made an error, we appeal only to God for forgiveness.

Since we reject all man-made religious sources, and accept only God's signs in nature and scripture as the guide for eternal salvation, one might wonder about the presence of subtitles and extensive endnotes in this translation. We would like to emphasize that the subtitles and endnotes are not part of God's word and they do not constitute a source or authority. We think that this is the best available English translation and the most accurate in its rendering the meaning of the scripture. Any translation, by the very nature of the deficiency of one-to-one correspondence among human languages, is not identical to the original text and reflects our fallible understanding that is tainted with limited time, limited knowledge and human weaknesses. However, a translation done with a monotheistic paradigm and clear mindset, despite some inevitable loss in rendering the richness and eloquence of the original text and minor translation errors, will convey the intended message of the Quran to the world in any language.

41:44 Had We made it a non-Arabic compilation, they would have said, 'If only its signs were made clear!' Non-Arabic and Arabic, say, 'For those who acknowledge, it is a guide and healing. As for those who reject, there is deafness in their ears, and they are blind to it. These will be called from a place far away.'

One might notice that we did not refer to books of Hadith and Sunna, since they are commonly idolized and associated partners with the Quran. Their perceived value is wrongly based on the sanctified names of the narrators and the authority of the collectors, rather than their substance. Muslims, or peacemakers and submitters to God alone, might read and benefit from studying any book, including books of Hadith and sectarian jurisprudence, without considering them infallible authorities or partners with God's word. Similarly, we might benefit from the ideas of philosophers and scientists regardless of their religious position or affiliation.

The Quran puts the search for truth and its acknowledgement as a top priority for us, and uses the word "truth" more than two hundred times. Additionally, the Quran uses the word "the truth" or "Truth" (Haq) as an attribute of God. We should acknowledge and appreciate any truth, be it in the scripture or nature. Search for truth should be continuous, since we are imperfect humans. However, the only truth that is relevant for our eternal salvation is the one expressed and implied in the Quran, which is basically the same with the message of revealed books in the past. When we assert that God alone is the authority in defining the system of Islam, we mean that no signature and no authority beside God will be considered as justification for the truth-value of a proposition regarding Islam. Thus, a statement made by this or that scholar or clergymen, by this or that messenger or prophet, has no truth-value just because they said so. Prophets, messengers, and scholars, all are humans like us, and their personal statements or understanding of God's word have no authority in defining Islam, the system exclusively defined by God (9:31; 42:21; 18:110; 98:5; 7:3; 6:114).

Each of us is responsible for our own understanding. We may exchange views and benefit from one another’s insights, but we should never value each other's understanding on the basis of rank, diploma, reputation, the number of halos, the size of turban, or the length of the beard (17:36; 10:100; 39:18).

Thus, our understanding, inferences and arguments in this translation should not be accepted just because they are those of scholars in theology, linguistics, or philosophy. The reader is invited to take a critical perspective to this as well as to other translations, thinking carefully about the words and following those that seem the best (39:18), The point is that as each individual is responsible alone to God on the Day of Judgment the reader must not delegate their intellectual responsibility to others but rather search constantly and sincerely for better understanding (20:114), knowing that only the truth can liberate one from falsehood and idolatry.

To assist the reader in this endeavor, we have chosen to include subtitles and endnotes for the following reasons (Endnotes are indicated by asterisks placed in the end of verses):

1. The translation from one language to another can cause the loss of meaning or ambiguity. For instance, translating an Arabic word with multiple alternative meanings into an English word that does not reflect all those meanings, would limit the rich implication of the original text. For instance, the Arabic word AYAAT in its plural form is used in the Quran to mean signs, miracles, lessons, and revelation; and the usage of the word KaFaRa has additional contextual meaning. We needed to inform the reader about the various meanings of this word so that they would not be confused regarding the selection of different words, depending on their context, for the same Arabic word in our translation. (See 2:106)

2. When it was possible, we preferred a word-by-word literal translation, with which we had to compromise the fluency of the language. However, in the case of language-specific idioms, we preferred to convey the intended meaning. The Quran provides us with guidelines in translation. For instance, one of the purposes of the repetitive mentioning of some events is to teach us how to translate. The Quran translates some historical non-Arabic conversations to Arabic in different words. Please compare 7:12 to 15:32; 11:78 to 15:67; and 20:10 to 27:7 & 28:29. These examples instruct us to focus on conveying the meaning rather than being constrained by the literal translation. We occasionally used the endnotes to inform the reader about why we translated a particular word or phrase the way we did.

3. We also utilized the subtitles and endnotes to alert the reader to orthodox or sectarian distortions.

4. Since the participants of this annotated translation are independent thinkers, and have different backgrounds, education, and experience, naturally there are some differences in our understanding some verses. The endnotes are an attempt to accommodate some of these differences.

5. Through endnotes, we also aimed to provide the readers, especially the Christian readers, some cross-references to the Bible, which shares a common message and numerous events and characters with the Quran.

Space does not permit a detailed discussion in this Introduction of all the methodological and philosophical issues that have arisen and how we have resolved them. For the reader's convenience, we have incorporated some of these into Appendices, as follows:

Appendix 1: Some Key Words and Concepts

Appendix 2: The "Holy" Viruses of the Brain

Appendix 3: "On it is Nineteen"

Appendix 4: Which One do you See: Hell or Miracle?

Appendix 5: Manifesto for Islamic Reform

Appendix 6: Why Trash All the Hadiths?

Appendix 7: A Forsaken God?

Appendix 8: Eternal Hell and the Merciful God?

Appendix 9: There is No Contradiction in the Quran

Appendix 10: Sala Prayers According to the Quran

Appendix 11: Blind Watch-Watchers or Smell the Cheese

Appendix 12: Sample Comments and Discussions on RTQ

This translation will certainly contain errors. However, we think that its potential errors do not have effect on its basic and emphasized message. When working on this translation we tried to remember 20:114; 55:1; 42:38; 2:286; 22:2; and 11:88 frequently. We would like to extend our gratitude to those who review and evaluate this translation and inform us about its errors. We invite the reader to help us improve this translation by contacting us with your critical comments via,,, or

Before presenting you a comparative analysis of a few verses, we should introduce you a general description of the Quran and its content.

The Quran

Al-Qur'an (also transliterated as Koran or Kuran), which means The Reading or The Recitation, is a proper name, not a generic common adjective. Thus, it rejects the existence of any other Quran (10:15). Besides, though the Bible and Psalms are also readings, they are never referred to as al-Quran or Quran, but as Injeel, Torah, or as Zabur. Each have their own dictionary meanings, like all other Arabic and Hebrew proper names do. If the Quran was not a proper name of the book revealed to Muhammed but just a generic common word meaning "reading/recitation," it should have also been used for other books. The Arabic words Kitab (book/law), or Zikr (message), on the other hand, are used as generic or common names, since they are used to not only to refer the Quran, but to the Torah, the Injeel, and all other books revealed to numerous prophets. Conversely, the Quran has not been used even once for other books.

Al-Quran is used only for a particular book given to Muhammed. So, the Quran is unique. There is no other quran besides the Quran. Some may suggest translating the word Quran as "reading," but the word "reading" is not unique, but the Quran is. Note that the Quran refers to itself more than sixty times, and mostly as a single word. In Arabic, a "reading" is Qiraa; Arabic textbooks or reading books are called al-Qiraa, not al-Quran.

A complete study has shown that the scripture uses the unique name of 'Quran' when speaking about certain aspects of itself or properties that are conveyed:

Though a majority of the followers of Sunni and Shiite sects show apparent respect to the physical papers where the 114 chapters of the Quran is recorded or listen to its recitation with utmost respect, for centuries they have adopted sectarian teachings contradictory to the Quran. They read it without understanding; they listen to it without hearing. Even if they understand its message, they prefer following the teachings of their scholars or hearsay narratives falsely attributed to Muhammed.

Since its revelation, tens of thousands of books have been written to analyze, to study, to understand, to distort, to praise, or to criticize the Quran. Here, I would like to quote from Harold Bloom's description of the Quran's literary aspect:

"The Koran, unlike its parent Scriptures, seems to have no context… Strangely as the other Scriptures are ordered, they seem models of coherence when first contrasted to the Koran. The Koran has one hundred and fourteen chapters or sections (called suras) which have no continuity with one another, and mostly possess no internal continuity either. Their length varies enormously, their order has no chronology, and indeed the only principle of organization appears to be that, except for the first sura, we descend downwards from the longest to the shortest. No other book seems so oddly and arbitrarily arranged as this one, which may be appropriate because the voice that speaks the Koran is God's alone, and who would dare to shape his utterances?

"Sometimes I reflect that the baffling arrangement (or lack of it) of the Koran actually enhances Muhammed's eloquence; the eradication of context, narrative, and formal unity forces the reader to concentrate upon the immediate, overwhelming authority of the voice, which, however molded by the Messenger's lips, has a massive, persuasive authority to it, recalling but expanding upon the direct speeches of God in the Bible." (Harold Bloom, Genius, A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds, Warner Books, 2002, pp. 145-146)

The observation above is accurate in its literary aspect. However, when we study the Quran according to its message, semantic web, scientific accuracy, and its mathematical structure, we find it to be the most coherent, the most consistent, the most meticulous, and the most organized book in the world. Thus, the Quran is like a beautiful tree that relaxes the eyes of its spectators with its apparently unorganized branches, leaves and flowers; yet its chemical, biological, and microscopic structure is so marvelously organized it leaves its students in perpetual awe and wonder.

Reaction to the Quran is not all positive. For instance, Prof. Gerd Puin of Germany, who had worked on Sanaa Manuscript, was quoted saying the following:

Gerd-R. Puin's current thinking about the Koran's history partakes of this contemporary revisionism. "My idea is that the Koran is a kind of cocktail of texts that were not all understood even at the time of Muhammed," he says. "Many of them may even be a hundred years older than Islam itself. Even within the Islamic traditions there is a huge body of contradictory information, including a significant Christian substrate; one can derive a whole Islamic anti-history from them if one wants." … Puin speaks with disdain about the traditional willingness, on the part of Muslim and Western scholars, to accept the conventional understanding of the Koran. "The Koran claims for itself that it is 'mubeen,' or 'clear,'" he says. "But if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn't make sense. Many Muslims—and Orientalists—will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Koranic text is just incomprehensible. This is what has caused the traditional anxiety regarding translation. If the Koran is not comprehensible—if it can't even be understood in Arabic—then it's not translatable. People fear that. And since the Koran claims repeatedly to be clear but obviously is not—as even speakers of Arabic will tell you—there is a contradiction. Something else must be going on." (Toby Lester, What is the Quran? Atlantic Monthly, January 1999)

Ironically, the majority of Sunni and Shiite scholars agree with Puin regarding the impossibility to understand the Quran without the help of external sources such as hearsay reports called hadith, distorted history called syrah, or the so-called asbab-i nuzul, the reasons for revelation. As we will demonstrate, this perception is both true and false. It is true since it is a self-fulfilling assessment. Those with prejudice against the Quran will not have access to the real meaning of its verses. See: discussion on verse 3:7 in the Introduction: How Much of the Quran Can/Should We Understand?

The Quranic description of the earth, the solar system, the cosmos and the origin of the universe is centuries ahead of the time of its first revelation. The Quran contains many verses related to a diverse range of sciences and not a single assertion has been proven wrong. For instance, the Quran, revealed between 610-632 AC., states or implies that:

Sample Comparisons

On the following pages, you will find several comparisons between our translation and that of traditional orthodox English renditions of the Quran. By the word "tradition," we refer to the works that heavily rely on hearsay reports such as hadith, sunna, and sectarian jurisprudence.

We chose to compare our work primarily with the translation of Yusuf Ali, Pickthall, and Shakir, since they reflect most of the common errors and ­distortions, and because they are popular translations among the English-speaking Sunni population.

We use standard reference numbers in referring to specific passages of the Quran: the number preceding the colon is always the chapter number, and the subsequent numbers are always verse numbers.

Should Men Beat Their Wives?

A famous (and controversial) passage in the Quran has brought about a great deal of misunderstanding about Islam. When in 1989, I started translating the Quran to Turkish, verse 4:34 was among a few verses that I noted down on an orange paper for further research. I had problem with my understanding of it and I let its solution to God, in accordance to the instruction of verse 20:114. I shared the story of my discovery of its original meaning with my Turkish readers in "Errors in Turkish Translations of the Quran" (1992). Below are three translations of that verse, reflecting a deformed mindset followed by our translation:

! Disputed passage: The traditional rendering is: you may beat them.

Yusuf Ali Pickthall Shakir Reformist
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all). (4:34) Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for their support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then, if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great. (4:34) Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great. (4:34) The men are to support the women by what God has gifted them over one another and for what they spend of their money. The reformed women are devotees and protectors of privacy what God has protected. As for those women from whom you fear disloyalty, then you shall advise them, abandon them in the bedchamber, and separate from them; if they obey you, then do not seek a way over them; God is High, Great. (4:34)


"Verse 4:34 of the Quran orders Muslims to beat their wives; therefore, Islam is a male-dominant religion." Many of us have heard this criticism from Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, and others. Though wife-beating is not a Muslim specialty, and domestic violence is an endemic problem in the West as well as the East, the issue nevertheless is whether it is justified by God. Most people reading conventional translations of 4:34 feel that something is deeply wrong. How could God, the Most Wise order us to beat our women? What kind of solution is that? It appears to be in contrast to the verses in which God describes marriage:

"Among His signs is that He created for you spouses from among yourselves, in order to have tranquility and contentment with each other. He places in your heart love and care towards your spouses. In this, there are signs for people who think." (30:21)

Obviously, these mixed messages have bothered many contemporary translators of the Quran. To avoid the moral and intellectual problems, they try to soften the word "beat" when they translate the verse 4:34. For instance, Yusuf Ali uses a merciful parenthesis after "beat," adding the word “(lightly).” This insertion does not appear in the Arabic text; it serves as a kind of apology for his translation of the surrounding material.

Later, Rashad Khalifa, a leading figure in the modern Islamic reform movement, rather than questioning the orthodox translation of the word, demonstrates his discomfort with his own version of orthodox translation by an implausible argument in the footnote and a contradictory subtitle before the verse: "Do not beat your wife." (However, Rashad Khalifa does not duplicate the orthodox distortion of other key words in the verse).

Many orthodox translators have tried to beat around the bush when it comes to explaining this passage, and perhaps just as many have beaten a hasty retreat from those inquiring after the author's intention -- but all have found themselves, in the end, beaten by 4:34.

Now please reread the sentence above. You will see that the word "beat" has been used three times, conveying totally different meanings each time: a verbal phrase meaning "avoid approaching directly" ("beat around the bush"); a verbal phrase meaning "depart quickly" ("beat a hasty retreat") and the status of having been defeated ("beaten"). Interestingly, the Arabic verb traditionally translated by male translators as "beat" or "scourge" -- iDRiBuhunne – also has numerous different meanings in Arabic, which is reflected by the Quran.

When I finished the Turkish translation (1991), this verse was on the top of my list to study carefully. Whenever I encounter a problem regarding the understanding of a Quranic verse, I remember 20:114 and pray accordingly: "Most Exalted is God, the only true King. Do not rush into (understanding) the Quran before it is revealed to you, and say, 'My Lord, increase my knowledge.'"

Almost all of the translations have mistranslated the four key words or terms of this particular verse. These are:

In one of my books published in Turkey in 1992, "Errors in Turkish Translations," I discussed the real meaning of these words and the motivation and reasons for mistranslating them. Let's first start from the last one.

A Famous Multiple-Meaning Word

The main problem comes from the word iDRiBuhunna, which has traditionally been translated as "beat them." The root of this word is DaRaBa. If you look at any Arabic dictionary, you will find a long list of meanings ascribed to this word. In fact, you will find that that list is one of the longest lists in your Arabic dictionary. It can be said that DaRaBa is the number-one multiple-meaning word in Arabic. It has so many different meanings; we can find numerous different meanings ascribed to it in the Quran.

As you see, in the Quran alone we can attest to the verb DaRaBa having at least ten different meanings. DaRaBa also has other meanings that are not mentioned in the Quran. For example, in modern Arabic, you do not print money--you DaRaBa money. You do not multiply numbers--you DaRaBa numbers. You do not cease doing work--you DaRaBa doing work. In Turkish, we have many verbs similar to the Arabic DaRaBa, such as Çalmak, which means to play, steal, or strike. In English, we have two verbs that are almost equivalent to DaRaBa. These are "strike" and "beat." Consider, for the sake of comparison, that Webster's Dictionary gives fourteen different meanings for the verb "to strike," and eight for the verb "to beat"! (One strikes a match, strikes a deal, strikes an opponent, strikes gold, goes "on strike" against an unfair employer; one beats another team, beats out a rhythm, beats a retreat, and so on.).

Finding the Appropriate Meaning

Whenever we encounter a multiple-meaning word in the Quran we must select the proper meaning (or meanings) given the context, the Arabic forms, the usage of the same word elsewhere in the Quran, and a certain amount of common sense. For instance, if one were to translate DaRaBa in 13:17 as "beat" (as one could conceivably do), the meaning would be ridiculous:

." . . God thus beats truth and falsehood..." (13:17)

A more sensitive rendering of the context, however, yields a better translation:

"… God thus explains truth and falsehood..." (13:17)

Another example of mistranslation of DaRaBa can be found in the translation of 38:44. Almost all the translations inject a rather silly story to justify their rendering of the passage. Here is how Yusuf Ali translates the first portion of this verse, which is about Job:

"And take in the hand a little grass, and strike therewith: and break not (the oath)." (38:44)

Yusuf Ali, in the footnote, narrates the traditional story: "He (Job) must have said in his haste to the woman that he would beat her: he is asked now to correct her with only a wisp of grass, to show that he was gentle and humble as well as patient and constant".

However, without assuming the existence of this strange, male-viewpoint story (which has no other reference in the Quran), we can translate the verse as:

Yusuf Ali Reformist
And take in thy hand a little grass, and strike therewith: and break not (thy oath)... (38:44) Take in your hand a bundle and travel with it, and do not break your oath… (38:44)

Another Take on 4:34

In keeping with the translation we have used in 38:44, we translate the controversial "beating" portion of 4:34 as "leave her" (Literally, the phrase might also be rendered "strike them out," meaning, in essence, "Separate yourselves from such wives.").

Additionally, the word nushuz, which is generally translated as "opposition" or "rebellion" in 4:34, has another meaning. If we study 4:34 carefully we will find a clue that leads us to translate that word as embracing a range of related ideas, from "flirting" to "engaging in an extramarital affair" – indeed, any word or words that reflects the range of disloyalty in marriage. The clue is the phrase before nushuz, which reads: "… they honor them according to God's commandments, even when alone in their privacy." This phrase emphasizes the importance of loyalty in marriage life, and helps us to make better sense of what follows.

Interestingly, the same word, nushuz, is used later in the same chapter, in 4:128 – but it is used to describe the misbehavior of husbands, not wives, as it was in 4:34. In our view, the traditional translation of nushuz, that is, "opposition" will not fit in both contexts. However, the understanding of nushuz as marital disloyalty, in a variety of forms, is clearly appropriate for both 4:34 and 4:128.

The fourth key word is QaNiTat, which means "devoted to God," and in some verses is used to describe both man and woman (2:116; 3:17; 16:120; 30:26; 33:31; 39:9; 66:5). Though this word is mostly translated correctly as "obedient," when read in the context of the above-mentioned distortion it conveys a false message implying women must be "obedient" to their husbands as their inferiors. The word is mentioned as a general description of Muslim women (66:12), and more interestingly as a description of Mary who, according to the Quran, did not even have a husband! (66:12).

A Coherent Understanding

When we read 4:34, we should not understand iDRiBuhunna as "beat those women." We should, instead, remember that this word has multiple meanings. God gives us three ways of dealing with marital disloyalty on the part of a wife. In the beginning stage of such misbehavior, the husband should begin to address the problem by giving advice. If this does not work, he should stop sleeping in the same bed and see if this produces a change in behavior. And if there is still no improvement in the situation, the husband has the right to compel a separation.

The Quran gives analogous rights to women who must deal with disloyal husbands (4:128); this is in accordance with the principle that women have "similar" rights to men in such situations, as stated clearly in 2:228. These would hardly be "similar" rights if women had to suffer physical beatings for marital disloyalty, and men did not!

Beating women who are cheating and betraying the marriage contract is not an ultimate solution, and it is not consistent with the promise of equitability and comparable rights that appears in 2:228. (This is an important consideration, because the Quran proclaims, and Muslims believe, that it is utterly free from inconsistencies.) But "striking out" the disloyal wives – that is, separating from them -- is consistent, and it is the best solution. It is also fair.

Should Thieves' Hands Be Cut Off?

If non-Muslims "know" anything about Islam, it is that they "know" that the Quran mandates a severe punishment for thieves: the cutting off of their hands. Here are three traditional translations of the famous passage on the left and our translation on the right:

! Disputed passage: Traditional translations render the punishment for thieves as "cut off," while the verb has other meanings too.

Yusuf Ali Pickthall Shakir Reformist
As to the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime: and Allah is Exalted in power. (5:38) As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty, Wise. (5:38) And (as for) the man who steals and the woman who steals, cut off their hands as a punishment for what they have earned, an exemplary punishment from Allah; and Allah is Mighty, Wise. (5:38) The male thief, and the female thief, you shall mark, cut, or cut-off their hands/means as a punishment for their crime, and to serve as a deterrent from God. God is Noble, Wise. (5:38)


The Quran often uses words with more than one applicable and relevant meaning. This leads to verses that mean two, three, or more things at the same time, verses that make the translator's job exquisitely difficult.

We come now to such a verse. The verb form we translated as "mark, cut, or cut off" comes from a root verb -- QaTa'A – that occurs in the Quran many times. In almost all of its occurrences in the Quran, this verb means "to sever a relationship" or "to end an act." Only in two instances (12:31 and 12:50) is this verb clearly used to describe a physical cutting; in another instance (69:46), the verb might possibly be interpreted in that way. A related form of this same verb -- one that implies repetition or severity of action -- occurs in the Quran seventeen times. This particular form is used to mean physically cutting off; or as a metaphor for the severing of a relationship; or to describe physically cutting or marking, but not cutting off.

Thus, the verse recommending punishment for theft or burglary, in the context of the Quran and its terminology (and not the terminology or interpretation attributed to Muhammed or his followers) provides us with a single verb … but one that God has permitted to incorporate a range of possible penalties. For instance:

The act of imposing any of these penalties, or any of their combinations, would of course depend on the facts of each case, the culpability and mental capacity of the accused, and the ability of the society as a whole to act in accordance with God's other instructions in the Quran. Note, for instance, that a Muslim society cannot punish a hungry person for stealing food, since letting a member of the society go hungry is a much bigger crime than the act of stealing food. Such a society actually demonstrates the characteristics of a society of unappreciative people! (See 107:1; 89:17; and 90:6). Considering theft solely as an individual crime, and advocating the severest possible interpretation of the Quran in rendering punishment, is neither fair nor consistent with the scripture.

Should Muslims Levy an Extra Tax on Non-Muslims?

Verse 9:29 is mistranslated by almost every translator. Shakir translates the Arabic word jizya as "tax," Pickthall as "tribute." Yusuf Ali, somehow does not translate the word at all. He leaves the meaning of the word at the mercy of distortions:

! Disputed passage: The meaning of the Arabic word jizya (reparation/compensation) has been distorted to mean extra tax for non-Muslims.

Yusuf Ali Pickthall Shakir Reformist
"Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (9:29) Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low. (9:29) Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latte day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection. (9:29) Fight those who do not acknowledge God nor the Last day from among the people who received the book; they do not forbid what God and His messenger have forbidden, and they do not uphold the system of truth; until they pay the reparation, in humility. (9:29)


We should be reminded that the context of the verse is about the War of Hunain, and fighting is allowed only for self-defense. See: 2:190, 256; 4:91; and 60:8.

Furthermore, note that we suggest REPARATION instead of Arabic word jizya. The meaning of jizya has been distorted as a tax on non-Muslims, which was invented long after Muhammed to further the imperialistic agenda of Kings. The origin of the word that we translated as Compensation is JaZaYa, which simply means compensation or, in the context of war, means war reparations, not tax. Since the enemies of Muslims attacked and aggressed, after the war they are required to compensate for the damage they inflicted on the peaceful community. Various derivatives of this word are used in the Quran frequently, and they are translated as compensation for a particular deed.

Unfortunately, the distortion in the meaning of the verse above and the practice of collecting a special tax from Christians and Jews, contradict the basic principle of the Quran that there should not be compulsion in religion and there should be freedom of belief and expression (2:256; 4:90; 4:137; 10:99; 18:29; 88:21, 22). Since taxation based on religion creates financial duress on people to convert to the privileged religion, it violates this important Quranic principle. Dividing a population that united under a social contract (constitution) into privileged groups based on their religion contradicts many principles of the Quran, including justice, peace, and brotherhood/sisterhood of all humanity.

Some uninformed critics or bigoted enemies of the Quran list verses of the Quran dealing with wars and declare Islam to be a religion of violence. Their favorite verses are: 2:191; 3:28; 3:85; 5:10; 9:5; 9:28; 9:123; 14:17; 22:9; 25: 52; 47:4 and 66:9. In this article, I refuted their argument against 9:29, and I will discuss each of the verses later.

Some followers of Sunni or Shiite religions abuse 9:5 or 9:29 by taking them out of their immediate and Quranic context. Sunnis and Shiites follow many stories and instructions falsely attributed to Muhammed that justify terror and aggression, which is currently used as a pretext and propaganda tool by imperialist or neocolonialist powers to justify their ongoing terror and aggression against countries with predominantly Muslim population. For instance, in a so-called authentic (or authentically fabricated) hadith, after arresting the murderers of his shepherd, the prophet and his companions cut their arms and legs off, gouged their eyes with hot nails and left them dying from thirst in the desert, a contradiction to the portrayal of Muhammed's mission in the Quran (21:107; 3:159). In another authentically fabricated hadith, the prophet is claimed to send a gang during night to secretly kill a female poet who criticized him in her poetry, a violation of the teaching of the Quran! (2:256; 4:140; 10:99; 18:29; 88:21). Despite these un-Quranic teachings, the aggressive elements among Sunni and Shiite populations have almost always been a minority.

Can One Marry Underage Orphans?

A passage of the Quran has persistently been interpreted as sanctioning marriage to young orphan girls:

! Disputed passage: The traditional rendering suggests that the objects of marital intention are the orphans, not the mothers.

Yusuf Ali Pickthall Shakir Reformist
"They ask thy instruction concerning the women say: Allah doth instruct you about them: And (remember) what hath been rehearsed unto you in the Book, concerning the orphans of women to whom ye give not the portions prescribed, and yet whom ye desire to marry, as also concerning the children who are weak and oppressed: that ye stand firm for justice to orphans. There is not a good deed which ye do, but Allah is well-acquainted therewith." (4:127) They consult thee concerning women. Say: Allah giveth you decree concerning them, and the Scripture which hath been recited unto you (giveth decree), concerning female orphans and those unto whom ye give not that which is ordained for them though ye desire to marry them, and (concerning) the weak among children, and that ye should deal justly with orphans. Whatever good ye do, lo! Allah is ever Aware of it. (4:127) And they ask you a decision about women. Say: Allah makes known to you His decision concerning them, and that which is recited to you in the Book concerning female orphans whom you do not give what is appointed for them while you desire to marry them, and concerning the weak among children, and that you should deal towards orphans with equity; and whatever good you do, Allah surely knows it. (4:127) They ask you for divine instruction concerning women. Say, "God instructs you regarding them, as has been recited for you in the book about the rights of orphans whose mothers you want to marry without giving them their legal rights. You shall observe the rights of helpless children, and your duty to treat orphans with equity. Whatever good you do, God has full knowledge of it. (4:127)


Though the Quran permits polygamy for men (4:3), it severely discourages its actual practice by requiring certain significant preconditions: men may marry more than one wife only if the later ones are widows with children, and they should treat each wife equally and fairly. (See 4:19; 127-129.). Unfortunately, verse 4:127 has been traditionally misinterpreted and mistranslated in such a way as to suggest that God permits marriage with juvenile orphans. This is clearly not the case.

The Arabic expression yatama-l nisai-l lati in 4:127 has been routinely mistranslated as "women orphans, whom..." The expression is also sometimes translated as "orphans of women whom..." This later translation, though accurate, makes the crucial reference of the objective pronoun "whom" ambiguous: Does the phrase after "whom" describe orphans or women?

As it happens, the Arabic plural pronoun in this verse is the female form, allaty (not the male form allazyna), and it can only refer to the women just referenced, not to the orphans. This is because the Arabic word yatama (orphans) is male in gender!

All the English translations of the Quran that we have seen have mistranslated this passage. This is remarkable, because correct translation requires only an elementary knowledge of Arabic grammar. This error is thus much more than a simple grammatical slip; it is, we would argue, willful misrepresentation. The traditional interpretation of this passage offers an apparent justification for marriage with children, which flatly contradicts the Quran.

Like so many passages in the Quran, 4:127's meaning was severely distorted in order to gain the favor of rich, dominant males. Over the centuries, male scholars with active libidos have used fabricated hadith to pervert the meaning of this and other Quranic verses relating to marriage and sexuality. (See the discussion of 66:5, below.)

What are the Characteristics of a Model Muslim Woman?

Verse 66:5 lists some ideal characteristics of an appreciative woman. The last three characteristics, however, have been mistranslated.

! Disputed passage: The traditional rendering emphasizes virginity.

Yusuf Ali Pickthall Shakir Reformist
"It may be, if he divorced you (all), that God will give him in exchange Consorts better than you—who submit (their wills), who believe, who are devout, who turn to God in repentance, who worship (in humility), who travel (for Faith) and fast, previously married or virgin." (66:5)

It may happen that his Lord, if he divorce you, will give him in your stead wives better than you, submissive (to Allah), believing, pious, penitent, devout, inclined to fasting, widows and maids. (66:5)

Maybe, his Lord, if he divorces you, will give him in your place wives better than you, submissive, faithful, obedient, penitent, adorers, fasters, widows and virgins. (66:5)

"If he divorces you, his Lord will substitute other wives in your place who are better than you; peacefully surrendering (to God), acknowledging, devout, repentant, serving, active in their societies, responsive, and foremost ones." (66:5)


Traditional translations mistranslate the last three adjectives used here to describe Muslim women. They distort their meaning as “fasters, widows and virgins.” When the issue is about women, somehow, the meaning of the Quranic words passes trough rapid mutations. For instance, we know that the Sunni and Shiite scholars who could not beat cows and examples (since the same verb is used in relation to a heifer as in 2:68, and for citing examples, yet translated differently) found it convenient and fair to beat women (see 4:34). Those of us who have rejected other religious sources besides the Quran are still struggling to clean our minds from these innovations that even have sneaked into the Arabic language long after the revelation of the Quran. There is, in fact, nothing whatsoever about fasting, widows and virgins in this verse. We are rediscovering and re-educationg ourselves in matters pertaining to the Quran.

The third word from the end of the verse, SaYiHat, which we have translated as "active in their societies" simply means to travel or move around for a cause. About two century after the revelation of the Quran, when the rights of women were one by one were taken through all-male enterprises called hadith, ijtihad and tafseer, Muslim communities found themselves thinking and living like the enemies of Islam in the Days of Ignorance. The misogynistic mind of orthodox commentators and translators simply could not fathom the notion of a Muslim woman traveling around alone to do anything – and so they pretended that the word in question was not SaYaHa, but SsaWM – fasting! Socially active women were indeed more difficult to control than the women who would fast in their homes; they were even less costly, since they would eat less. For the usage of the verb form of the root, see 9:2. The word SaYaHa has nothing to do with fasting; the Quran consistently uses the word SaWaMa for fasting (2:183; 4:92; 5:89; 19:26; 33:35; 58:4).

The second word from the end is THaYiBat, which means “those who return” or “those who are responsive”. Various derivatives of the same root are used to mean “reward” or “refuge” or “cloths”. For instance, see 2:125; 3:195. The Arabic words for widow are ARMiLa or AYaMa. The Quran uses AYaMa for widow or single; see: 24:32.

The last word of this verse, aBKaR, which means those who are "young," "early risers" or "foremost," has traditionally, and implausibly, been interpreted as "virgins" in this passage. The resulting distorted meaning of the verse supports a sectarian teaching that justifies a man marrying more than one virgin. The Arabic word for virgin is BaTuL or ADRa.

Here, I will focus only on the last word.

This false interpretation has become so popular that it is apparently now considered beyond any challenge. We have not seen any published translation (except Edip Yuksel's Turkish translation, Mesaj) that does not duplicate this centuries-old error. It is particularly important, therefore, that we explain exactly why we have translated this verse as we have.

The Arabic root of the word we have translated as "foremost" is BKR, and it occurs 10 times in the Quran. In seven of these occurrences, the word describes time; in two (including the present verse) it describes women; and in one case it describes a heifer.

Before deciding that aBKaR means "virgin," the translator should look closely at how the Quran itself employs the root word. Here are the references in Quranic sequence:

When this word is used in reference to women (in 56:36 and 66:5), orthodox scholars, without hesitation, leap to translate it as "virgin." We reject this interpretation, and choose instead to translate the word as "foremost.”

Reportedly, one of the earliest converts to Islam, and the first elected Islamic leader after the death of Muhammed, was his father-in-law, a man who became known to Muslims as Abu Bakr. Abu means "father." This nickname was not given to Muhammed's father-in-law because he was the "Father of a Virgin"! Being the father of a virgin was not something unique, since every father of a daughter would deserve such a title at one time in their lives. Besides, Abu Bakr's daughter did not remain virgin; she married Muhammed and was called by many as the "mother of Muslims." Some sources relate the name to "young camels." However, the best explanation must be related to his standing among Muslims. Abu Bakr was one of the foremost ones, one of the progressive ones, one of the early risers, one of the first converts to Islam. He was foremost – or, if you prefer, progressive.

We must note, too, the Arabic conjunction Wa (and), which appears before the word aBKaR (foremost ones). The end of the verse has traditionally been mistranslated, as though the word were actually OR:

"... previously married OR virgins".

The traditional commentators and translators knew full well that a contradiction might present itself had they translated Wa accurately:

"… previously married AND virgins".

We have chosen to render this passage as "responsive and foremost," thereby retaining a legitimate alternate translation of the word traditionally translated "previously married" – as well as the impossible-to-evade "and" of the Arabic text.

There is, however, a portrait of the ideal Muslima (female Muslim): submitting, acknowledging, devoted, repentant, worshipful, active in her society, responsive and foremost.

Was Muhammed Illiterate?

During the month of Ramadan, every evening, after the lengthy congregational prayers millions crowding the mosques ask God to bless the soul of his Nabbiyy-il Ummy, meaning, in the orthodox interpretation, "illiterate prophet." "Illiterate" (or "unlettered") is one of the most common titles used by Muslim clerics and imams to praise Muhammed, the deliverer of the Quran.

The Arabic word ummy, however, describes people who are not Jewish or Christian. The meaning of this word, which occurs six times in the Quran, has nevertheless been rendered as "one who can neither read nor write." This deliberate manipulation by Muslim scholars has become widely accepted as the true meaning of the word. For example, Yusuf Ali and Pickthall follow this pattern, while Shakir prefers not to translate the Arabic word.

! Disputed passage: Orthodox sources distort the meaning of ummy to turn Muhammed illiterate.

Yusuf Ali Pickthall Shakir Reformist
Say: "O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That giveth both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided." (7:158) Say (O Muhammed): O mankind! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah to you all - (the messenger of) Him unto Whom belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. There is no Allah save Him. He quickeneth and He giveth death. So believe in Allah and His messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, who believeth in Allah and in His Words, and follow him that haply ye may be led aright. (7:158) Say: O people! surely I am the Messenger of Allah to you all, of Him Whose is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth there is no god but He; He brings to life and causes to die therefore believe in Allah and His messenger, the Ummi Prophet who believes in Allah and His words, and follow him so that you may walk in the right way. (7:158) Say: "O people, I am God's messenger to you all. The One who has the sovereignty of heavens and earth, there is no god but He; He gives life and causes death." So acknowledge God and His gentile prophet, who acknowledges God and His words; and follow him that you may be guided. (7:158)


The Quran itself provides guidance for the true meaning of ummy. If we reflect on the verse 3:20 below, we will easily understand that ummy does not mean an illiterate person:

"And say to those who received the scripture, as well as those who did not receive any scripture (ummyyeen)..." (3:20)

In this verse, the word ummy describes Meccan polytheists. It is obvious that ummy does not mean illiterate because it has been used as the counterpart of the people of the scripture. If the verse was " ... And say to those who are literate and illiterate," then the orthodox translation of ummy would be correct. According to 3:20, the people of the Arabian peninsula consisted of two main groups:

If the people who were neither Jews nor Christians were called "ummyyeen" (3:20; 3:75), then the meaning of ummy is very clear. As a matter of fact, the verse 3:75 clarifies its meaning as Gentile.

Mecca was the cultural center of the Arabs in the 7th century. Poetry competitions were being held there. It is a historical fact that Meccans were not familiar with the Bible, thus making them Gentiles. So the verse 62:2 describes Meccan people by the word ummyyeen:

"He is the One who sent to the Gentiles (ummyyeen) a messenger from among them, to recite to them His revelations, purify them, and teach them the scripture and wisdom. Before this, they had gone far astray." (62:2)

The unappreciative opponents claimed that Muhammed was quoting verses from the Old and New Testaments (25:5; 68:15). The verse below refutes their accusation and gives the answer:

"You did not read any previous scriptures, nor did you write them with your hand. In that case, the objectors would have had reason to harbor doubts." (29:48)

This verse tells us that Muhammed did not read nor write previous scriptures. The word min qablihi (previous ) suggests that Muhammed did read and write the final scripture.

Muhammed was a literate Gentile (ummy)

After this examination of the true meaning of the word ummy, here are the reasons and proofs for the fact that Muhammed was a literate Gentile:

To magnify the miraculous aspect of the Quran, religious people thought that the story of illiteracy would be alluring.

The producer(s) of the illiteracy story found it relatively easy to change the meaning of ummy. Nevertheless, the word appears throughout the Quran, and consistently means "Gentile" (2:78; 3:20; 3:75; 62:2). In verses 3:20 and 3:75, the Quran uses the word ummy as the counterpart to the ehlil kitab ("People of the Book," a phrase that in both of these verses equates to "Jews and Christians").

The Quran describes Meccan people with the word ummyyeen (Gentiles) (62:2). According to the orthodox claim, all Meccan people must have been illiterate. Why then were the poems of pre-Islamic Meccan poets hung on the walls of the Ka'ba (the ancient monotheistic shrine of Abraham)?

The Arabs of the 7th century used letters as numbers. This alphabetical numbering system is called "Abjad." The merchants of those days had to know the letters of the alphabet to record their accounts! If Muhammed was a successful international merchant, as is universally accepted, then he most probably knew this numbering system. The Arabs stopped using the "Abjad" system in the 9th century when they took "Arabic numbers" from India.

The different spelling of the word bism in the beginning of the Basmalah and in the first verse of chapter 96 is one of the many evidences supporting the literacy of Muhammed. It is not reasonable for an illiterate to dictate two different spellings of the same word which is pronounced the same.

The very first revelation from the Controller Gabriel was, Muslims believe, "Read!" And the first five verses of that revelation encourage reading and writing (96:1). The second revelation was "The pen and writing" (68:1). These facts compel some questions that orthodox scholarship would rather avoid. Does God command an illiterate man to "read"? If so, could Muhammed read after Gabriel's instruction to do so? The story told in hadith books about the first revelation asserting that Muhammed could read only after three trials ending by an angelic "squeeze" contradicts the other stories claiming that Muhammed died as an illiterate!

Traditional history books accept that Muhammed dictated the Quran and controlled its recording. Even if we accept that Muhammed did not know how to read or write before revelation of the Quran, we cannot claim that he preserved this illiteracy during the 23 years while he was dictating the Quran! Let us accept, for the sake of argument, that Muhammed was illiterate before the revelation of the Quran. Why then did he insist on staying illiterate for 23 years after the first revelation: "Read!"? Did he not obey his Lord's command? Did he receive another command forbidding him from reading and writing?

Was it so difficult for Muhammed to learn to read and write? If a person still does not learn to read and write after 23 years of careful dictation of a book, what kind of intellect is that?

If Muhammed was encouraging his followers to read and write (which he did when he recited 2:44 to them), then why should he have excluded himself?

Muslim scholars, who are in disagreement on a bewildering array of subjects, somehow have managed to agree on the story of Muhammed's illiteracy. Perhaps the glorification of illiteracy, using it as a positive attribute of a worshipped figure, is one of the causes of the high current level of illiteracy in Muslim communities.

PS: There is another meaning of ummy, which does not exclude Gentile, is "the one who is the resident of the capital city." Mecca was the capital city of medieval Arabia and it is referred in the Quran as "Umm ul-Qura" that is "the mother of cities" (42:7).

Do We Need Muhammed to Understand the Quran?

The so-called "Orthodox Islam," by answering the above question affirmatively, has sanctified a collection of medieval hearsay reports and traditions attributed to Muhammed. Unfortunately, this was accomplished through the distortion of the meaning of several Quranic verses regarding the role of the prophet. The following verse is one of several crucial verses that have been used to promote hadith and sunna as the second source of Islam.

! Disputed passage: The traditional rendering implies the need for hearsay.

Yusuf Ali Pickthall Shakir Reformist
(We sent them) with Clear Signs and Books of dark prophecies; and We have sent down unto thee (also) the Message; that thou mayest explain clearly to men what is sent for them, and that they may give thought. (16:44) With clear proofs and writings; and We have revealed unto thee the Remembrance that thou dmayst explain to mankind that which hath been revealed for them, and that haply they may reflect. (16:44) With clear arguments and scriptures; and We have revealed to you the Reminder that you may make clear to men what has been revealed to them, and that haply they may reflect. (16:44) With proof and the scriptures. We sent down to you the Reminder to proclaim to the people what was sent to them, and perhaps they would think. (16:44)


Traditionalists have opted for what we consider an inaccurate rendering of the Arabic root word "BYN."

The word 'lituBaYyeNa is a derivative of "BYN," which is a multiple-meaning word. It means: