Translating the Quran has always been problematic and difficult. Many argue that the Quranic text cannot be reproduced in another language or form. Furthermore, an Arabic word may have a range of meanings depending on the context, making an accurate translation even more difficult.
Nevertheless, the Quran has been translated into most African, Asian and European languages. The first translator of the Quran was Salman the Persian, who translated surat al-Fatiha into Persian during the seventh century. Another translation of the Quran was completed in 884 in Alwar (Sindh, India, now Pakistan) by the orders of Abdullah bin Umar bin Abdul Aziz on the request of the Hindu Raja Mehruk.
The first fully attested complete translations of the Quran were done between the 10th and 12th centuries in Persian. The Samanid king, Mansur I (961-976), ordered a group of scholars from Khorasan to translate the Tafsir al-Tabari, originally in Arabic, into Persian. Later in the 11th century, one of the students of Abu Mansur Abdullah al-Ansari wrote a complete tafsir of the Quran in Persian. In the 12th century, Najm al-Din Abu Hafs al-Nasafi translated the Quran into Persian. The manuscripts of all three books have survived and have been published several times.
Islamic tradition also holds that translations were made for Emperor Negus of Abyssinia and Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, as both received letters by Muhammad containing verses from the Quran. In early centuries, the permissibility of translations was not an issue, but whether one could use translations in prayer.
In 1936, translations in 102 languages were known. In 2010, the Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review reported that the Quran was presented in 112 languages at the 18th International Quran Exhibition in Tehran.
Robert of Ketton's 1143 translation of the Quran for Peter the Venerable, Lex Mahumet pseudoprophete, was the first into a Western language (Latin). Alexander Ross offered the first English version in 1649, from the French translation of L'Alcoran de Mahomet (1647) by Andre du Ryer. In 1734, George Sale produced the first scholarly translation of the Quran into English; another was produced by Richard Bell in 1937, and yet another by Arthur John Arberry in 1955. All these translators were non-Muslims. There have been numerous translations by Muslims. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has published translations of the Quran in 50 different languages besides a five-volume English commentary and a simple English translation of the Quran.
As with translations of the Bible, the English translators have sometimes favored archaic English words and constructions over their more modern or conventional equivalents; for example, two widely read translators, A. Yusuf Ali and M. Marmaduke Pickthall, use the plural and singular "ye" and "thou" instead of the more common "you".
Arabic Quran with interlinear Persian translation from the Ilkhanid Era.
The first printed Quran in a European vernacular language: L'Alcoran de Mahomet, André du Ryer, 1647.
Title page of the first German translation (1772) of the Quran.
Verses 33 and 34 of surat Yā Sīn in this Chinese translation of the Quran.