Translating the Quran... A new translation into Lithuanian is on the way!


The Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, through the angel Gabriel, who first appeared to him on Mount Hira. In order to isolate himself from society, the Prophet used to go to a cave in this mountain from time to time. Here he could calmly reflect on the questions that concerned him and search for a way to get closer to God, his Creator.

The first revelation that the Prophet received from Gabriel invited all believers to seek the knowledge of faith: “Read: In the Name of your Lord who created. Created man from a clot. Read: And your Lord is the Most Generous. He who taught by the pen. Taught man what he never knew.” [Qur’an 96:1–5].

In response to this call, from the time of the Prophet until today, Muslims consider the Qur'an to be the most important book in their lives. For this reason, the Qur'an is the most read book in the world today.

Every Muslim recites it from memory or listens to it in prayers at least five times a day. Millions of people have fully memorized the whole book and hundreds of millions never pass a day without looking at its pages. There is not a moment when it is not being read by thousands of people all over the world.

But the Qur'an is more than just a religious text. This is the Book in which there is no doubt, a guide for the righteous." [Qur'an 2:2]. It is a guide that shows people how to live a righteous life and answers the pressing spiritual questions.

It teaches about the oneness of God, justice, morality, proper treatment of family members and others, the importance of community, and the ultimate goal of eternal life after death.

As Muslims have interacted with people from all over the world for the past fourteen hundred years, the Qur'an is relevant to all of us today. It not only provides the keys to getting closer to God, explains the aspirations of the Muslim community, but also allows a better understanding of world history and today's events, both distant and near.

Considering this, it is very unfortunate that the Qur'an is still not fully accessible to Lithuanians. The commercial editions available to us have not only been and remain a very costly for most Lithuanians, but they also present the content of the Qur'an in a way that is not easily accessible to most readers, and sometimes even contains inaccurate translations.

Therefore, in 2022, an idea arose to solve this problem by providing Lithuanians with a translation of the Qur'an that will not only be distributed as a gift, but also be easily understood by everyone.

To make this a reality, as with all translations, the translator has to make a decision about how faithful they should be to the original, its sentence structure and literal translation of the words, and how far they would allow themselves to depart from it in order to make it more palatable for the reader.

In this translation, in order to make it easy to understand, a compromise was taken: where possible, conservatism was followed, but for the most part the nuances of the original language were adapted to the norms of the Lithuanian language. In other words, where the structure did not conform to the norms of the Lithuanian language, it was changed, sometimes drastically, and where the original word was used in a different meaning, the translation was not done directly.

Although such a translation is not the best choice for those seeking to study the Qur'an in Arabic, it is far more suitable for a wider audience of readers who wish to learn the timeless truths and teachings of the Qur'an.

For the more sceptical reader, the question should arise here: on what basis was this interpretation of the Qur'an's meanings made? How can a translator know what a certain word used in the Qur'an really means?

In order to answer this question, it is necessary to become familiar with the tradition of Qur'anic interpretation known as ʿUlūm al-Ḳurān (Sciences of the Qur'an). Specialization in Qur'anic sciences is mandatory for any religious teacher who wants to explain the meanings of the Qur'an. The methodology of this science, based on the principles of logic, prevents incorrect interpretation of the Qur'an.

In order to explain a verse of the Qur'an, a strict sequence of five steps must be followed, otherwise the interpretation will be considered invalid. First, other verses of the Qur'an are used to explain the Qur'an, thus interpreting them in the context of the Qur'an itself. Then the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, are invoked. Thirdly, the interpretation uses the explanations of the companions of the Prophet who saw when and why the verses of the Qur'an were revealed. Finally, the interpreter of the Qur'an can rely on the principles of the Arabic language and his personal opinion.

Although in this way the Qur'an is protected from misinterpretation, it does not mean that all the meanings of the verses are explained in the same way. Several opinions may prevail among the interpreters of the Qur'an, sometimes complementary to each other, and sometimes contradictory. However, the differences between these opinions will not be pivotal. They will be secondary, not changing the essence of the Qur'an and its teachings. Meanwhile, based on interpretative methods, attempts to radically reinterpret the Qur'an will be rejected.

This new translation has been based on the most famous works of Qur'anic commentators, thus ensuring that the meanings it conveys, while not always claiming absolutely accurate, are consistent with the traditional understanding of the Qur'an. Primarily based on the 11th century Qur'anic exegete, al-Baghavī (1044-1122 AD) and his work Maʿālim al-Tanzīl. Commentaries by Ibn Kaşīr (1300–1373 AD) and al-Ṭabarī (839–923 AD) and the modern summaries of Qur'anic interpretations al-Mukhtaṣar fī tafsīr al-Ḳurān al-Karīm and al-Tafsīr al-Muyassar were also used.

Significant references are also made to English translations of the Quran: Mustafa Khattab The Clear Quran; M. A. S. AbdelHaleem Oxford World’s Classics: The Quran; Saheeh International; Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan: The Noble Quran; and A Word for Word Meaning of the Quran by Muhammad Mohar Ali.

Also used by Dr. Yasir al-Muways doctoral dissertation Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī’s Approach on The Semantics of Literal Association (Almushtarak al-Lafẓī) in The Qur’ān: An Analytical Study.

Sigitas Geda's translation of the Qur'an was also not forgotten. Geda's extensive dictionary has repeatedly helped to convey meanings and was one of the important sources of the new translation. Romas Jakubauskas latest translation was also used, to correct some of the interpretations of several lines. Finally, Prelate Prof. Antanas Rubšys translation of the Old Testament served in the translation of some place names.

Following this method, an effort was made to ensure that the translation reflected the traditional understanding of a particular Qur'anic verse without distorting its meaning but also without making the reader's job more difficult.

Another significant nuance when translating the Qur'an is that no matter how clearly each verse is translated, certain parts of the Qur'an will still be difficult, sometimes even impossible, to understand. The reason for this is the fact that the Qur'an was revealed in parts over a period of 23 years. During these years, the position of Muslims changed from a small group of monotheists persecuted in Mecca to a community of believers ruling most of the Arabian Peninsula. Some verses of the Qur'an were revealed in different, sometimes very specific, contexts. Without understanding these contexts, they cannot be properly understood and interpreted.

For this reason, it was decided to add explanations of this context in the translation where the verses could not be understood without knowing the reasons for their revelation. This detail, although small, is a very important key to understanding the meaning of the Qur'an.

In order for this translation to become a reality and to be of the highest possible quality, a whole team of Lithuanians contributed to it, devoting their valuable time to reviewing the drafts of the translation. It is our gift to all Lithuanian readers who want to know something that seems so far away, but is actually a part of us.

Parts of the new translation will be published on our website very soon.

The translation will be presented at the Vilnius Book Fair on February 22-25, 2024. You are invited to collect this free gift!