Qur’an – a Book of 7th Century Arabic Monotheism
Impressions from an Interpretative English Translation
Otto B. Wiersma

10 Feb 2007 – 15 Feb 2007 (last update)

abstracts home

one Allah, two ways (believers and disbelievers, righteous good deeds and evil),
one Day, two destinations (punishment and reward, Fire and Garden, Hell and Paradise)
One of my ancestors, Altger Douwes Houckama, made up his last will on August 13th 1478. Although he was in good health, he gave as reason: "because nothing is more sure than death, and nothing is more insecure than the hour of death". In his will he provided well for his wife Ida, his relatives, the church, the priests and the poor of his town. Most concerned he was about his soul. So he reserved a considerable amount of his wealth for the regular education of priests (preferably of his own kinship) in order to be sure that there would be read forever masses for the salvation of his soul.
This concern with the soul presupposes the belief in a Hereafter, which is also one of the dominant themes of the Qur’an.
In this sketch I like to explore parts of the contents of an interpretative English translation of the Qur’an. I had to used an English translation, because I’m not familiar with the Arabic language. On the other hand, a widely used English translation does provide more specific information about the way the Qur’an is read and interpreted these days. The ‘Noble Qur’an’ that contains the English translation of Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali & Muhammad Muhsin Khan was a present my son received while visiting the great mosque of Doha by the end of 2006. It is based on an Arabic printed text from 1405. As the translators state, some additions, corrections and alterations have been made to improve the English translation and to bring the English translation very close to what they see as the correct and exact meanings of the Arabic text. Further some additions and subtractions can be found on almost every page from different Ahadith collections (2000, 8). This translation must be used worldwide a lot, which I conclude from the fact that it also appears on the first Google-page , when searching for "English translation Qur'an" (which gave 962.000 hits by February 2007).
First reading

Reading the first part of the Qur’an for the first time, I already quickly got the strong impression that I was reading the same thoughts and expressions over and over again.
Which was confirmed by the Qur’an itself, stating in verse
Allâh has sent down the best statement, a Book (this Qur'ân), its parts resembling each other in goodness and truth, oft-repeated.
This motivated me to download and construct a complete textfile of this translation which originates from the website http://www.tanzeem.org/resources/quranonline/English/Noble/Default.html
This text provided a basis to perform an automatic analysis of the Qur’an, at first on a lexical level: just counting all the words used in the English translation. For that I used the complete text of the translation, including the interpretative extensions, which are marked clearly by the translators by putting these extensions between (..) and/or [..] brackets. So in the rest of this sketch the reader should be aware that the basis of my exploration is formed by the extended, interpretative English translation. This extended version make it all the more clear how the Qur’an is read and interpreted by its translators.
Frequency of words and expressions
Here you can find the frequency-table of the words.
If the repetitive character of the Qur’an-verses matches its most dominant thoughts, it should be possible to reconstruct the main messages of the Qur’an using the, let’s say, first 200 words of this frequency-table.
Arranging the most frequent words in expressions that also appear in the Qur’an-verses, the next 7 statements could represent the core-thoughts of the Qur’an:
Verily, Allâh is the only One Ilâh (God), the Lord of the 'Alamîn (mankind, jinns and all that exists), who created the heavens and the earth and has sent down to his Messenger (Muhammad) the Book (Qur’an) as a guidance and mercy to a people who believe. Allâh gives life to the dead on the Day of Resurrection.
Who believe the truth of the Oneness of Allâh (Islâmic Monotheism), fear and worship Allâh and do righteous and good deeds, know that they will have a reward in the Hereafter and enter Paradise.
But the disbelievers, who do not believe the Oneness of Allâh (polytheists) and do evil, they will see the punishment and a painful torment in the Fire of Hell.
Remember the Messengers and Prophets, like Mûsa (Moses), who We sent with Our Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations).
Truly, the religion with Allâh is Islâm. We made the Qur’an a light wherewith We guide whosoever of Our slaves We will. Verily, Allâh is Oft-Forgiving, Most-Merciful.
Allâh is merciful for Al-Muttaqûn (pious), who have sought the Right Path. We have written faith in their hearts and for them are the Gardens under which rivers flow.
But certainly, the Zâlimûn (wrong-doers), who are guided by Shaitân (Satan) and do sinns: Allâh sends them astray, like the people of Fir'aun (Pharao).

In the previous arrangement, based on the first around 60 most frequent words it’s remarkable that, while following the trace of the frequencies, already the verses F5, F6 and F7 are variations on the verses F1, F2 and F3. And most of the following around150 words can be ordered within one of the themes of F1 up to F4 as well:
86 All-Knower, 79 power, 79 might, 71 promise, 70 All-Mighty,
65 All-Wise, 56 Grace, 56 Beneficent, 56 Kind, 51 Judge, 52 Protector,
90 Scripture, glad 64 tidings, 55 command
55 term
90 obey, 86 pious, 82 peace, 76 forgiveness,
73 repentance, 65 forgive, 64 covenant,
51 bounty, 48 blessings (92 wealth, 127 children)
71 doubt, 70 recompense, 65 destroyed, 61 false, 58 pagans,
57 hypocrites, 55 disobedient, 54 criminals, 47 belied,
45 destruction
126 Jews, 110 water, 73 Ibrâhim (93 Abraham), 89 witness,
83 Christians, 73 'Iesa (73 Jesus), 71 Taurât (72 Torah),
66 message, 66 rain, 59 Nûh (59 Noah), 52 Israel,
47 warner, 46 Injeel (46 Gospel)
Together with the prominent first pillar of Islâm (testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allâh and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allâh and the last Prophet (33:40)), the next two pillars of Islâm are also present within the range of the first 200 most frequent words: (As-)Salât (prayers) and give Zakât (pay a certain fixed proportion of the wealth for the benefit of the poor in the Muslim community). The pilgrimage to Makkah (26 hajj) and the fasting (8 saum) during the month of Ramadan are less frequently referred to.
Jews and Christians
Some remarks can be made related to the frequent words that appear in the F4 Messengers / Ayât list. They express a relation of the Qur’an with the religion, Scriptures, Messengers and Prophets of the Jews and the Christians.
Most of these words can be found together in e.g. verse
He (Allâh) has ordained for you the same religion (Islâm) which He ordained
for Nûh (Noah), and that which We have inspired in you (O Muhammad ),
and that which We ordained for Ibrahîm (Abraham), Mûsa (Mosesý) and 'Iesa
(Jesus) saying you should establish religion (i.e. to do what it orders you
to do practically), and make no divisions in it (religion) (i.e. various sects
in religion).
A lot of references in the Qur’an imply that Islâm wants to encapsulate the true religion of the Jews (Ibrâhim (Abraham) as true Muslim, 3:67) and the Christians ('Iesa (Jesus) as Prophet, 3:84, 4:163, 19:30), while the Qur’an encapsulates the true Sciptures of the Taurât (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel) (12:111, 29:47).
But then again: a lot of verses in the Qur’an make clear that this did not work out very well. Most Jews and Christians were not inclined to leave their religion and Scriptures and submit to Islâm. The Qur’an gives interesting information about the way the Jews, Christians (and other disbelievers) responded to the call for Islâm, see responses of disbelievers.
This makes clear why in the Qur’an especially the reluctant Jews and Christans are seen and mentioned as prototypical ‘disbelievers’, which is made explicit by the translators already in some of the first verses of their interpretative Qur’an-translation:
Guide us to the Straight Way
The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of
those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray
(such as the Christians).
Who are ‘those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace’ (1:7)? Some verses of the Qur’an explain that every community or nation (Ummah) receives its own Messenger (10:47, 16:36), and Muhammad is presented as the Messenger for the Arab nation with as message ‘an Arabic Qur'ân‘ (12:2), see: Arab references.
And similar to the Scriptures of the Jews the Qur’an rejects Arab polytheism (53:19,20) and rejects what it takes for christian polytheism (4:171).
Remarkable is the selectivity of the Qur’an: from the Torah very often (more than in the Torah and in the Gospel themselves) the Qur’an refers to the destruction-of-disbelievers-stories, like that of Noah (drowning almost all inhabitants of the world), Abraham/Lot (destruction of ‘the towns of Sodom’) and Moses/Pharao (drowning the Pharao with his army). These stories have to be remembered as a ‘sign’, yielding the general picture of the way Allâh destroys disbelievers, see verse
And indeed, We destroyed generations before you, when they did wrong while their Messengers came to them with clear proofs, but they were not such as to believe! Thus do We requite the people who are Mujrimûn (disbelievers, polytheists, sinners, criminals, etc.).

Qur’an references to Torah and Gospel
For the readers who would like to perform a bit of ‘close-reading’, comparing the Torah and the Qur’an, I refer to the story of Noah with the suggestion to read first the narrative as told in Genesis 6-9 and after that compare it to the Qur’an-verses that refer to Noah. Those who want to get a broader picture of the references of the Qur’an to previous ‘Scriptures’, can go to Qur’an references to the Torah and the Gospel.
Second reading
A second reading will have to focus on special topics, for which the ‘frequency-tool’ was transformed into a ‘search-tool’, looking for (combinations of) keywords in the Qur’an-verses.
Let’s give some examples in a scheme that presents the topics, the search-strings and a links to the pages that contain the results.
When a ^ is used, this stands for a space in the combination, so ‘One^Il’ will find e.g. ‘And your Ilâh (God) is » One Ilâh (God - Allâh)’.
When & is used, this means that all the words after & have to be found in every selected verse.
When & is not used, every verse in which at least one of the words is used, will be selected.




the five pillars of Islâm One^Il Salât Zakât Hajj Saum pillars
the meaning of ‘miracle letters’ meaning meaning
Jesus as Prophet & Jesus Prophet Jesus
the position of women woman women wife wives daughter female women
Jihâd Jihâd battle fight fought kill destroy destruct drown smite Jihâd
When you are interested in reading a selection of verses from this English interpretative Qur’an translation about one or more specific topics, you can send me one or more search-strings through the contact-form (on the home page for which you find a link on top of this page). Please put only one search-string on every line. You will receive back an email with the link to the results of the search-string(s), which will give you a first impression of what this Qur’an-translation has to say about the topic(s).

Links to places on this page where you can find abstracts of / about:

Links naar abstracts in het Nederlands

Qur’an (English interpretative translation by Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali & Muhammad Muhsin Khan, publised by Darussalam, the fifteenth revised edition of 2000)
And for every Ummah (a community or a nation), there is a Messenger;
when their Messenger comes, the matter will be judged between them with justice, and they will not be wronged.
And verily, We have sent among every Ummah (community, nation)
a Messenger (proclaiming): 'Worship Allâh (Alone), and avoid (or keep
away from) Tâghût (all false deities, etc. i.e. do not worship Tâghût
besides Allâh).' Then of them were some whom Allâh guided and of
them were some upon whom the straying was justified. So travel through the
land and see what was the end of those who denied (the truth).
Arab Qur’an
Verily, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'ân in order that you may
Arab polytheism
Have you then considered Al-Lât, and Al-'Uzza (two idols
of the pagan Arabs)
And Manât (another idol of the pagan Arabs), the other third?
And that He (Allâh) is the Lord of Sirius (the star which the pagan
Arabs used to worship);
Christian Trinity
O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians)! Do not exceed the limits
in your religion, nor say of Allâh aught but the truth. The Messiah 'Iesa
(Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), was (no more than) a Messenger of Allâh and
His Word, ('Be!' - and he was) which He bestowed on Maryam (Mary)
and a spirit (Rûh) created by Him; so believe in Allâh and His
Messengers. Say not: 'Three (trinity)!' Cease! (it is) better
for you. For Allâh is (the only) One Ilâh (God), Glory be to Him
(Far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belongs all that is in
the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allâh is All­Sufficient
as a Disposer of affairs.
repetitive > easy
The repetitive character of the contents of the Qur’an-verses is aknowledged by the Book itself, stating:
And We have indeed made the Qur'ân easy to understand and remember (..)

Online Qur’an (corresponds with the one I read): http://muttaqun.com/quran/
with extensive commentary
A version of this English Qur’an translation could be downloaded from: http://www.tanzeem.org/resources/quranonline/English/Noble/Default.html
Asking a bit information about the background of this translation, I received the next reply from the tanzeem.org site:
From: Islamic Research & Training Section
Assalamu A'laikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakaatuh
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (SWT) for guiding us to Islam.
Had it not been for His guidance, we would never have found the Guidance.
Your Question:
Thanks for your service of providing the English translation of the Qur?an translation by Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali & Muhammad Muhsin Khan. I have two question about this translation: - is this a translation which is familiar and used by a lot of Muslims? - have the translaters a Sunni or other background?
Answer: Yes, this is a familiar and widely used translation and the translators have Sunni background.
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us anytime.
Islamic Research & Training Section,
36-K, Quran Academy,
Model Town, Lahore, Pakistan.
OBW The relevance of the Sunni background of this translation is the fact that approx. 90% of the muslims are Sunni.
Online Qur’an with search options: University of Virginia click Search
Online Qur’an with online index: University of Southern California

Artificial Memory

Abstracts in English

Abstracts in het Nederlands


Notes OBW
In the year that Altger Douwes Houckama signed his will, Muslims were still present in a (former much larger) territory in Spain, Al-Andalus, which was governed by Muslims from 711 until 1492. Muslims condemned those who believed that Jesus is God.
In the same year 1478 the Spanish Inquisition was established by the Catholic monarchs to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms. This Spanish Inquisition condemned those who did not believe that Jesus is God.
Arabic Language
The setback of the Arabic culture could perhaps be ascribed as well to the technical difficulties that had to be faced for printing books in the Arabic language. The written Arabic language swings elegantly, due to the different ways characters have to be printed, which is determined by the surrounding charachters. While in the European language-area’s printed books stimulated the upgrading and spreading of knowledge, in the Arabic language-area’s the handwritten books were only available for the happy few. The first printed book in the Arabic language dates from 1730 and is printed by the Hungarian converted protestant Ibrahim Müteferrika in Turkey. In the 19th century the christian Armenian Mühendisyan produces printed text with a higher quality, based on the handwritten texts of e.g. Mustafa Izzet Efendi. The Linotype fonts from the beginning of the 20th century were not high enough, which made the font look like the feet of Chinese women: too small to be beautiful. In 2007 the Dutch designers Thomas Milo, Mirjam Somers and Peter Somers reconstructed the original Arabic written characters into the Tasmeem (‘tasmeem’ is Arabic for design) calligraphical font, based on the most beautiful Arabic texts of which most could be found in Turkey, the country that dominated the Arabic world until 1917.
Torah, Gospel and Qur’an show remarkable differences in literary style. In the Torah one can find a lot of carefully structured stories and in the Gospel a lot of carefully developing parables with high literary quality. In the Qur’an one only finds short and selective references to some of these stories and parables. Remarkable is also the way the stories of the old Scriptures are extended in the Qur’an, e.g. projecting backwards the idea of an Hereafter into transformed representations of the Torah in which this idea is not present yet, or at least not dominant at all.
The Jews developed both ethnic (Torah etc) and universal (Gospel) monotheism. With the Arabic Qur’an there seems to be an ethnic lift-off (the people addressed are at first the Arab pagans), but the message is soon taken to be universal: all mankind will be devided apocalyptically into believers and disbelievers.
Some forms of Jewish, Christian and Islâmic thougth can be regarded as religious reductionism (meaning: everything has to be reduced to and judged by religious principles). If applied in e.g. politics this religious reductionism can grow out to be a source of uncontrolable violence due to the fact that religious systems are inherently conflictuous and when the religious systems or their applications involved approve (or even tend to recommend) the use of violence in (religious and/or political) conflicts. Violence, fuelled by religious fanaticism, can be found in all religious groups in all times.
Relevant criteria for judging the use of violence are e.g.:
- the room that is given for conscious free choices
- the question whether the use of violence is offensive or defensive
notitie 15.1.2007 na dispuutsavond alumni filosofie
We hebben een avond gezellig gefilosofeerd over metaforen, maar het is een discussie die hier en daar ook op het scherpst van de snede wordt gevoerd, waarbij je bv kunt denken aan de metaforische cartoons over de Islam.
Op 14 Januari 2007 kwam onze oudste zoon Matthijs terug van een verblijf van een half jaar in Doha, Qatar waar hij meewerkte aan de Asian Games. Tijdens dat verblijf heeft hij in augustus 2006 een moskee bezocht waar een rondleiding met toelichting werd gegeven en hij onder meer de Qur’an in het Arabisch met een Engelse (hier en daar commentariërende) vertaling ontving. Er was ook gelegenheid vragen te stellen en Matthijs vroeg onder meer hoe dat nu zit met de Jihad. De rondleider legde uit dat dit door de westerse mensen vaak letterlijk wordt uitgelegd als ‘heilige oorlog’ en dan met name tegen het westen, maar dat dit een niet juiste interpretatie is. Het betekent ‘het uitdragen van de Islam, op welke manier dan ook’. Ook kreeg Matthijs een paar toelichtende boekjes. De Qur’an is de 15e Revised Edition van 2000, uitgegeven door Darussalam Publishing House, de vertaling is vervaardigd door dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilâli en dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khân.
Ik nam de Qur’an en de boekjes voorafgaande aan de dispuutsbijeenkomst op 15.1.2007 ter hand om er eens wat doorheen te bladeren en vond in de boekjes over de Qur’an herhaalde malen de uitpraak dat de Qur’an "the literal word of God’ is.
Achterin de Qur’an staan een paar toelichtende artikelen met nadere uitleg en samenvatting van de belangrijkste gedachten van de Qur’an. Het laatste artikel van de hand van Sheikh ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid, Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia, heeft als titel ‘The call to Jihad (Holy Fighting for Allah’s Cause in the Qur’an), waarin een iets ander beeld gegeven wordt dan de rondleider, die deze Qur’an cadeau gaf, schetste. Sheikh Abdullah stelt onomwonden dat deze Jihad gebeurt ‘with the heart (intentions or feelings), with the tongue (speeches etc) and with the hand (weapons etc.) (p 885). Dat deze ‘weapons’ niet metaforisch bedoeld zijn, blijkt uit de passage op p. 897, waar staat ‘To get ready (for Jihad) includes various kinds of preparations and weapons (tanks, missiles, artillery, aeroplanes (air force), ships (navy), etc. and the training of the soldiers in this weapons.’ De Jihad is volgens de schrijver ‘obligatory’ en dient gevoerd te worden ‘with your wealth and your lives (Q 61:11 afkorting van Qur’an hoofdstuk (Surat) 61, vers 11, vergelijk ook Q 4:95, Q 9:20, Q 9:111). De actuele vraag is of oproepen in de Qur’an hoe deze strijd gevoerd dient te worden (en die uitgebreid door de Sheikh geciteerd worden), ‘metaforisch’ zijn te interpreteren en zo ja, hoe dan. Ik geef de volgende uitspraken met de uitnodiging om daar ‘metaforische interpretaties’ bij voor te stellen.
Q 2:104,105 specifieert de tegenstanders, for which is a painful torment: ‘the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) and the Al Mushrikun (the idolaters, polytheists, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah, pagans).
Q 3:139v Allah may take martyrs from among you (..) and Allah may test (or purify) the believers and destroy the disbelievers.
Q 3:169-172 Think not of those as dead who are killed in the way of Allah (..) Allah will not waste the reward of the believers.
Q 4:74 Let those (believers) who sell the life of this world for the Herafter, fight in the Cause of Allah, and who so fights in the Cause of Allah, and is killed or gets victory, We shall bestow on him a great reward.
Q 4:74,76,84, fight in the Cause of Allah
Q 9:5 Then when the Sacred Months have passed, then kill the Mushrikun where-ever you find them (..)
Q 47:4 So when you meet (in fight – Jihad in Allah’s Cause) those who disbelieve, smite (their) necks till when yhou have killed and wounded many of them (..)
En uit de overlevering van uitspraken van de Profeet:
Haidith 2790 Paradise has one hundred grades (..) reserved for the Mujahidun who fight in His Cause
Haidith 2797 I would love to be martyred in Allah’s Cause
En nog een paar citaten in het artikel van de Sheikh waarvan de bron mij in de tekst niet duidelijk werd:
pg 901 in the name of Allah (..) kill those who disbelieve in Allah (..) do not kill the children (..) do not kill the very old or a child or a woman (..)
De vraag is of voorgaande ‘utterances’, gedaan in de ‘literal Word of Allah’ metaforisch zijn te interpreteren. Zo ja, hoe dan? Zo niet, wat voor implicaties heeft dat dan?

Voorbeelden van religieuze uitsluitingszucht en moordlust vanwege (vermeende) ketterij:
70 vervolging Joods orthodoxen en verwoesting van de tempel in Jeruzalem
2e en 3e eeuw enkele duizenden Christenen worden in het Romeinse rijk geslachtofferd
390 christenen bestormen en vernietigen de beroemde bibliotheek van Alexandrië (voorbeeld christelijk fundamentalisme?)
1157v RK inquisitie (vervolging van ketters)
1243 RK marteling toegestaan bij verhoring van verdachten van ketterij
1478v, mn 16e eeuw Spaanse inquisitie als dwangmiddel tot politiek-religieuze eenheid (in 50 topjaren 44.000 processen met 700 terdoodveroordelingen. Tot de brandstapel werden alleen diegenen veroordeeld die weigerden hun ketterse overtuiging af te zweren en mensen die hun ketterij afgezworen hadden maar daarna weer tot de ketterij waren teruggekeerd.)

1553 Michael Servetus (1511-1553) (Zwitserland) door de calvinisten terechtgesteld omdat hij de drie-eenheid en de efrzonde loochende
1600 Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) (Italië) op de brandstapel omdat hij niet een persoonlijke God geloofde en Copernicus’ kritiek op het geocentrisme ondersteunde
1633 Galileo Galileï (1564-1642) (Italië) levenslang gevangen omdat hij de kerkelijke kosmologie bekritiseerde
16.. Barthelomew Legatt (Engeland) op de brandstapel omdat hij de goddelijkheid van Jezus ontkende
1612 Edward Wightnan (Engeland) verbrand om dezelfde reden
1656 excommunicatie van Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677) door de Sephardische gemeente te Amsterdam (Nederland) (evenals eerder Uriel Acosta (1585-1640))
1697 Thomas Aikenhead (Schotland) opgehangen vanwege loochening van de drie-eenheid
Fik Meijer, Vreemd Volk. Integratie en Discriminatie in de Griekse en Romeinse Wereld, 2007 Grieken: vooral eigen volk eerst; Romeinen: meer een smeltkroes van volken en culturen
Overigens is overmatig geweld niet exclusief te herleiden tot religieuze bronnen. Altijd en overal is sprake van competitie, die kan uitgroeien tot gewelddadige conflicten. Instituties (zoals bv clans, staten, godsdienstige instituties) kunnen dat geweld wel katalyserend opschalen tot moeilijk beheersbare grootschalige conflicten.
[cf Abram de Swaan, Baken in niemandsland. Opstellen over massaal geweld, 2007]
[doden als ultiem geweld – doden als probleem of als oplossing]
Mulder, E., Milo, T., De Omstreden Bronnen van de Islam, 2009
Holland, T., Het Vierde Beest, God, de strijd om de wereldmacht en het einde van de oudheid, 2012
Duitse stichting Inarah – onderzoek naar de historische bronnen van de Islam en de Qur’an
vs de islamitische orthodoxie die van de oorsprong van de islam een bijna a-historische mythologie heeft gemaakt, vermomd als exacte geschiedenis
A lot of scholared and wise men in the Middle-East and North-Africa had to offer so much more, where they were e.g. ingenious discoverers of science and inventors of art, like e.g. Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham (965 – 1039, work on optics) and Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406, first sociologist).
Men like them were successful in their scientific work, because they did not believe in one fixed picture of the world with one fixed point of view.