The Humble Foundation Qur'an Project
One of our first projects - in shā' Allah - is all about attaching our hearts to the Qur'an, and making the Qur'an easier to read, learn, and understand in the English language. We're commissioning a short tafseer of the Qur'an, free of restrictive licensing, as well as working on a new translation, and setting up a website to inspire and motivate people of all ages to read, memorise, and understand.
The Need for This Project
Right now, there are some good translations of the Qur'an in English, but there are also many problems. It's frustrating that most professional translations in the English language are often the most inaccurate, in terms of the meaning that they convey. Conversely, the translations which convey the most accurate meaning suffer from poor grammar and the use of phrases and sentence structures which are either convoluted or simply unknown in the English language. The upshot of all of this is that from the point of view of the reader - both Muslim and non-Muslim - there is a lack of clarity and readability, whereas from the point of view of the translator, many translators and writers simply amalgamate two or three translations, and then edit the result. We can and should do better.
The good news is that we don't need a new translation. All we need to do is to blend the best of the existing freely-available translations, passage by passage, to produce a translation that is written in clear and accurate English, while remaining as faithful to the original source as possible. In all honesty, this is what we already do and have been doing for many years, and this is merely an attempt to formalise and professionalise the job.
When it comes to reading and memorising the Qur'an, there is a great deal of inconsistency. There are hundreds of classes for children, and only a tiny number for adults, many of whom are too embarrassed to admit that they struggle to recite. Standards across classes vary widely, and the wide availability of Qur'anic audio recitation means that people often learn from recordings that were not intended for the purpose.
As for understanding the Qur'an, we are still lacking a simple book of tafseer that is both widely available, and that an average Muslim can read and understand. Perhaps the most widely available is Tafseer Ibn Katheer, which is an amazing book, but one that is aimed at a more advanced and knowledgeable audience. There are some good examples out there, but they are either priced above what the average Muslim can afford, or have limited print distribution, due to the need for the publishing house to get a return on their investment. What is needed is a simple, easy to understand tafseer that is available online, and free for anyone to print and distribute, wherever they are in the world.
Re-inventing the Wheel?
We're certainly not aiming to re-invent the wheel. Where we can use existing material, we will do so. However, a lot of material is protected by copyright and restrictive licensing, meaning that even though it exists, we can't use it. We have contacted more than one publishing company, but they have not agreed to let us use their material, and that's fine - we understand why they refused, and we continue to wish them success with their endeavours. However, since the original source material is free of copyright, there's nothing to stop us translating it again and distributing it for free. What matters is that this work is done with the highest possible quality, and that it reaches the largest number of people possible, for the sake of Allah alone.
There are a number of aims for this project, in it's first phase:
- To produce a new translation of the Qur'an, based on taking the best of the freely-available existing translations, and making informed changes, for the purposes of accuracy and clarity.
- To include in the translation the changes in meaning that come from different ways of reciting the Qur'an.
- To have this translation checked by a professional copy-editor, preferably one who has no knowledge of the Arabic language.
- To produce a translation of one or more summarised books of tafseer, suitable for ordinary Muslims to read and benefit from.
- To produce a website, mobile app, as well as eBooks and printable books, which will present all of the above, as well as materials and tools to make learning and memorising the Qur'an easier and more accessible, in both printed and electronic form.
- To do all of the above under a Creative Commons License, allowing free distribution.
This project doesn't cost us anything at the moment, as work is done exclusively by volunteers. We hope that we can slowly build up this team, so that the majority of the first edit is done for free. However, there are certain jobs, like professional copy-editing that we would like to pay to have done, and we would consider paying for part of the translation of the tafseer, to speed up the process. Finally, the website will have a server rental cost proportionate to the number of users, although it will be developed for free in-house, but the server rental is likely to be a very small cost in the initial stages.
We have recently made a purchase of professional translation software to help speed up the process. This was heavily discounted, at a total cost of £515, and the cost is being shared across all of the Humble Foundation projects using translation.
Taking all of this into account, we have set an initial target of £10,000. Anything raised beyond this amount will be used for the later phases of this project, or to speed up the first phase, in shā' Allah. Information on making donations can be found here.
We aim to have completed our first major version by the end of 2016. This is defined as a version which is suitable for print distribution. However, we hope that useable material will be available within a short period of time, and will continue to be published on a regular basis, so that by the middle of 2015, we have completed at least one sūrah of medium length, as well as a number of shorter chapters, and that frequent and regular releases follow on from that.
We aim for the first version of the website to be completed no later than the end of Hajj 2015, as we would hope to have a considerable amount of translated material ready by then.
Timescales are subject to change, particularly according to whether we raise, or indeed exceed, our fundraising target.
Finally, this is intended to be a continuous project, such that the material will be under constant review and improvement, with major versions released on a regular basis from the end of 2016, as well as additional and improved supporting material, in shā' Allah.
Where Are We Now?
We have moved all of our content offline, to integrate our existing work with our newly acquired professional translation software. We expect to publish content at fairly regular intervals, perhaps once or twice per quarter.
Once the work reaches a certain amount, we will begin the process of developing the website and producing our first eBooks and PDFs, in shā' Allah. We are currently aiming to showcase our work by producing a translation of Surah ar-Rahmaan, along with its explanation, and distributing it as a means of generating interest in the project.