In England it was illegal to translate the Bible from Latin into English until the 14C when when John Wycliffe campaigned to have this situation changed.

I have often heard that the Qu'ran is untranslatable; or rather a great deal is lost when this is done; has there ever been a country or a period when it was illegal to translate the Qu'ran from Arabic?

  • 1
    That's a particularly weird attitude with The Bible, since I don't believe a word of it was originally written in Latin.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 11, 2014 at 12:42
  • @T.E.D. This is easy to explain. Peasants or other riff-raff cannot read Latin, so the church had always the exclusive control over Bible interpretation. You do not want that the lower classes could look up what stands in the Bible, don't you ? Copernicus wrote its De revolutionibus in Latin - no hassle. Galilei wrote his Dialogo in plain Italian - everyone could read it - look what happened to him. Bible of Luther - 1534, King James Bible - 1611 and think over why the Protestantic movement grew so fast and strong. Jun 11, 2014 at 15:04
  • 1
    @ThorstenS. In general, I believe you are right. However, it could have helped Copernicus avoid a bit of hassle that he died immediately after publication.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 11, 2014 at 15:23
  • 4
    Isn't a better reading of English history that there was no law against translating the bible into English until John Wycliffe's works were suppressed after the Peasant Revolt? There followed a period when the state tried to control the production of new bibles. Before Wycliffe translation effort was much harder and quite rare but there are Anglo-Saxon translations for instance. Jun 11, 2014 at 19:08
  • 2
    The Venerable Bede from the 7th century was the first English translation of the Bible.
    – Razie Mah
    Jun 12, 2014 at 19:51

2 Answers 2


Translation of Qu'ran was always problematic question in Islamic theology. In Islamic world there is doctrine called I'jaz that holds that Qu'ran is miraculous, both in content and in form and that no human speech can match. According to I'jaz Muslims oppose to text from Qu'ran be reproduced in another language or speech. Also there are some words which have a range of meanings depending on the context, so they cannot be translated easily.

In modern Islamic theology, Qu'ran is divulgation very specifically in Arabic, and so it should only be recited in the Arabic language. Translated Quran's are experienced as interpretations of arabic version of Qu'ran and they no longer possess the uniquely sacred character of the Arabic original.

About your question for illegality, I have done some research from books about Qu'ran. First person to translate Qu'ran was Salman the Persian who translated Qu'ran from Arabic to Persian language in the early 8th century. No translations of Qu'ran were made by Muhammad's lifetime. First person to translate Qu'ran to Latin was Robertus Ketenensis in 1143.

So it wasn't illegal to translate Qu'ran, nobody was punished because of that, but translated Quran's in muslim world just haven't got value that arabic Qurans have.

  • it might well have been illegal in some places, just not in the places where the people you mention were located. Ditto to the law OP cites, it was illegal in England, but that doesn't mean it was illegal in say Bavaria or the Netherlands. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was considered sacrilege and thus a capital crime under the religious laws of some of the more hardline Islamic states at some point in time and maybe even today.
    – jwenting
    Jun 11, 2014 at 9:18
  • @jwenting is right. However, this is still a complete enough explanation of the various attitudes toward translations that I'm upvoting it.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 11, 2014 at 12:41
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    @jwenting: Thats mostly speculation on your part; Francis Davey in a comment above gave an alternative reading which sounded plausible; given that I'm talking about llegality and laws are generally recorded documentary evidence really ought to be feasible. Te question is whether any historians have looked at this question in sufficient detail. Jun 12, 2014 at 4:55
  • It would also be good to add that Salman was a direct famous companion of the Prophet (SAW). So, it isn't like a random guy did it. It was done in the Companions' time.
    – The Z
    Jun 23, 2018 at 23:47

The first ever verse of Qu'ran is: Read (commencing) with the Name of Allah, Who has created (everything)

The first word being "read", I guess whomever is making it easy for people to "read" Qu'ran is not doing something illegal.


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