Eteraz.Org: Muhammad Asad Modernist Quran Distribution Project

By Ali Eteraz
Posted on Sat Feb 17, 2007 at 10:21:25 AM EST
Tags: QuranProject (all tags)

At the Eteraz.Org homepage you will see a large gray box asking for donations. We are trying to raise $30,000 to purchase 1000 copies of the Muhammad Asad Translation and Tafsir (Exegesis) of the Glorious Quran. This work is considered the most authoritative English translation/commentary and corrects a number of errors in the Saudi sponsored Qurans proliferating in the U.S.

We will provide these copies free of charge (and no shipping costs) to under resourced Muslim organizations and institutions, including mosques, universities, prisons and youth centers around the world. Any left over copies will be distributed to regular Muslim people (see FAQ # 10 below). Non-Muslims can also receive a copy for free (see FAQ # 6).

This particular translation and exegesis is one of the most authoritative in the English language. The edition we are purchasing is also very aesthetically pleasing. Pictures: 1, 2, 3. This project will be the Islamic blogosphere's first major money raising project. I believe it will be a success and will demonstrate that the global Islamic netroots is alive and powerful; and a force for positive action.

Here are some commonly asked questions about the project. 

1 - Why do you want to distribute copies of the Quran to Muslims? Muslims already own multiple copies of the Quran.

This is true. I myself own four copies of the Quran translated by various scholars. However, we are distributing this Quran because it contains a very rich and well researched exegesis/tafsir section. Most major Qurans in the English the market only contain the translation. The average believer is at a loss to understand the deeper meaning of each verse. We at Eteraz.Org believe that while the Quran is for everyone, everyone can learn a lot from an exegesis which delves into the nuances of the Arabic language, as well as providing references to some of Islam's greatest classical muffasirin (exegetes), such as Zamakhshari, Razi, Mujahid, Tabari, and others. The Muhammad Asad exegesis is concise, articulate, and in this particular edition, presented beautifully. Most importantly, having a scholarly commentary on each verse of the Quran prevents non-contextual abuses of verses by Muslim extremists. Update [2007-2-18 20:47:27 by Ali Eteraz]: For an example of a comparison of the Asad Quran against The Saudi Noble Quran on the issue of beating wives, please see here.

At the current time, the only English translation which provides in depth commentary on every verse is "The Noble Quran", distributed by the Saudi Arabian King Fahd Center For Printing of the Holy Quran. That translation does not provide any actual exegesis; merely references to various ahadith that relate to some of the verses. In that sense, it is not comprehensive; nevermind the fact that many of the ahadith themselves are far too nuanced for average Muslims with no scholarly background to understand. Hadith is a complex science that most Muslims, including myself, are not equipped to understand. It is no wonder that people reading this Quran often quote verses out of context and often for extremist causes.

The Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation does provide a commentary; however, most authorities believe that the Muhammad Asad commentary is far superior.

2 - What do you mean this translation "resolves many of the errors of the Saudi translations."

Studies by Quranic scholars have shown that the Saudi Translation interjects, via parantheticals and other devices, ideas and concepts which are foreign to the Quran, starting from Surah Fatiha itself. This is unacceptable. For example, in no previous English translation except the Saudi sponsored has Surah Fatiha contained a reference to Jews and Christians. Through the insertion of the phrases “such as the Jews” and “such as the Christians,” in Surah Fatiha, the Saudi rendition fixes the meaning of the expressions “those with anger upon them” and “those who are astray.” Such errors and additions in translations merely begin at Surah Fatiha.

Unfortunately, English speaking Muslims have not had a viable alternative because many of us receive our Qurans from free through the charity of the Saudi government. It is our hope to introduce copies of a better, more authentic translation into Muslim channels. For free, God willing.

3 - What qualifications does Muhammad Asad have? That sounds like a Pakistani name. I'm not sure Pakistanis know Arabic.

Muhammad Asad was the first citizen of Pakistan, however, he was actually an Austrian convert to Islam who came to Islam while living as bedouin in Saudi Arabia, where he picked up the purest dialect of spoken Arabic and used that knowledge, and his religious learning, to write this translation and commentary. His studies included six years in Mecca and Medina. Muhammad Asad's conversion story, The Road to Mecca, is one of the most popular books of the 20th century. In addition to writing the translation and commentary on the Holy Quran, he wrote a translation and commentary of Sahih Bukhari as well.

4 - Why do you need $30,000 bucks! That is a lot of money!

The edition we are purchasing has a shelf price of $55. We will be receiving 1000 copies for $25 per copy. That totals $25,000. The remaining $5000 we will use for shipping costs. Our calculations indicate that $5000 is not enough for us to cover shipping on all 1000 copies. However, we are figuring to hand out some copies of the Quran at local mosques and institutions so we should be alright.

5 - Can non-Muslim groups and institutions receive this Quran?

Not from Eteraz.Org. Non-Muslims groups can get it for free already through CAIR. However, feel free to donate to help advance the cause of Eteraz.Org while you're here.

6 - If I donate, is this money tax deductible?

No. Our goal, in addition to distributing the Quran, is to encourage the creation of an Islamic net roots. The idea of net roots is simple: Muslim organizing online and donating money to a public website (such as ours) and entrusting us to deliver the money to the publisher. As such, there is no need for us to spend months getting approved as a 501 c 3 non-profit organization.

7 - Does this donation count as Zakat?

I don't know. I will have to ask a scholar. Perhaps a scholar out there can tell us.

8 - How do I know you guys won't just disappear with that much money?

Alhamdulillah we all have jobs. Further, three out of four of us write prodigiously in Muslim and mainstream media. Finally, the "amin" or "trustholder" of this operation is Brother Haroon Moghul. He is the former President of the Islamic Society of New York University, author, and has served as khateeb at University of Pennsylvania, NYU, and Columbia. His information is publicly available through Columbia University where he is a Phd Candidate. You are free to email him at moghul at gmail dot com. You can also confirm he is a real person by asking the NYU Muslim Chaplain Khalid Latif who regularly books Haroon Moghul for Friday sermons.

Further, I will be providing weekly updates of how much money we have collected in the big gray box on the top of the page. 

9 - How are you going to decide who gets a copy of the Quran?

We are going to count on you to tell us which mosques, institutions, prisons and organizations are in need. Please register for an account at Eteraz.Org and provide us the name of the group, a contact name, their mailing address and a phone number (Hey, we are going to verify). Once we receive the Qurans, one beautiful hardback copy will be delivered fi sabil lillah.

10 - Forget institutions! A $55 Quran? I want one. Give me a free one, please?

In the event that we have copies of the Quran left over (which seems likely at this point), we will, free of charge, ship a copy of the Quran to you. This will be done on a first come, first served basis. In order to get in line, you must leave a message in the comments section here. If you do not have an account for Eteraz.Org, uh, now might be a good time to make one.

11 - Where do I go to donate again?

You must go to the Eteraz.Org homepage and click in the gray box. There is no other way to donate online. If you want to write a check, email Haroon at moghul at gmail dot com

12 - How much should I give?

Whatever your heart desires. Inshallah I am pledging $25. Now we need only 1200 people to donate that much.

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Tags: QuranProject (all tags)
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mubarak!(none / 0) (#1)
by Maleeha on Sat Feb 17, 2007 at 10:34:47 AM EST

i am SO happy that this project is up and running. mashaAllah, may Allah swt reward all of your efforts.  i pray you will reach your goals and beyond, soon

also, uhhh, can a sister get hooked up with an extra copy? inshaAllah you'll run out of all of them though.

oh, and i'm donating $30. i say that b/c it makes me happy to beat ali (jk...not really :) and also because i want others out there to surpass my donation.

I contributed.(none / 0) (#2)
by dmz on Sat Feb 17, 2007 at 12:03:34 PM EST

Happy to make a small contribution to this effort. I hope all who can will.

I read the A. Yusuf Ali version and $30 is alot for a Qur'an but I trust you will all do what's right.

Best wishes on this project as Allah wills.

I'm confused(none / 0) (#3)
by Nonpartisan on Sat Feb 17, 2007 at 12:37:11 PM EST
Why are you donating Qurans to Muslim organizations?  Don't most Muslim organizations already have Qurans?  Why not give these to NON-Muslim organizations -- major state universities, etc. -- in order to spread accurate knowledge of Islam?
ProgressiveHistorians: History and Politics Of, By, and For the People
non(none / 0) (#4)
by Ali Eteraz on Sat Feb 17, 2007 at 02:43:57 PM EST

there is a big problem of what sort of quranic translations are floating out there. not only that, but this quran offers what the majority do not: an actual tafsir. our primary goal is muslim empowerement. if muslims know the quran well -- which they can only do with access to a great commentary -- they can deal with the misrepresentations of islam taking place in the modern culture.

besides, CAIR already gives this quran out for free to any non-Muslim who wants it. and educating non-Muslims on Islam is CAIR's major purpose in life.

ours is muslim empowerement. 

[ Parent ]
I see(none / 0) (#7)
by Nonpartisan on Sat Feb 17, 2007 at 03:33:43 PM EST

That's cool, then.  I didn't realize that CAIR was providing free Qurans.  I'll order one myself when I move in a few months.

ProgressiveHistorians: History and Politics Of, By, and For the People
[ Parent ]

Jazakum Allah Khair to Ali, Haroon and the crew(none / 0) (#5)
by Nedal Hindi on Sat Feb 17, 2007 at 02:48:34 PM EST

Alhamdulillah we can all contribute something. Some other pertinent info/suggestions:-

You can ask your library (like your univ. etc) to acquire a copy since this is a new piece of scholarship, and is worthwhile for people studying the different interpretations of Islam. Also, this is a popular idea that has less than its fair share of exposure in academia.

Asad has a short collection of essays in a book "This Law of Ours and other essays". I think it presents one interesting idea of interpretation of Law, and should be out on the marketplace of ideas along with the Sufi, Salafi, Progressive, and Ikhwani. It represents his ideas at the time of his late NY residence, and Pakistan years. Its available from Amazon and the usual Astrolabe, islamic store sites etc. I highly recommend it.

 Ali, this is great, but please also try to bring out another print version. Do you know who owns the copyright? This is kind of essential. The common man on the street needs to have a chance. There is no use of another ideological resource for an elitist group of liberal lawyers and fashionable feminists that no one else trusts. I am sorry I don't mean to be negative or offensive. Just trying to ecourage more good.

 Also, everyone - buy a copy for yourself NOW if you just can. Most of us can afford USD 38.50. That's how much you can get it for at Amazon. You will not regret it.

print version(none / 0) (#6)
by Ali Eteraz on Sat Feb 17, 2007 at 03:07:53 PM EST

 Ali, this is great, but please also try to bring out another print version.

 I'm working with muslim publishers who are also interested in getting control of the copyright. It's gonna take a while.

Also, to be really honest, the Asad quran is only valuable if it comes with the commentary/tafsir. In terms of translation of verses' it isn't soooo much better than a couple of other translations out there (and a couple of other ones coming out). It is the tafsir where the action is.

My real interest lies in getting a hold of that tafsir. 

[ Parent ]
true that ...(none / 0) (#8)
by Nedal Hindi on Sat Feb 17, 2007 at 06:23:10 PM EST

The tafsir is important. One can get the tafsir, interpretation of meanings (aka translation), and the Arabic text in a paperback that will be in bookstores for 20 bucks. Not to mention bulk purchases for mosques/schools/MSA's coming out to be ~ 10 bucks if we try hard.

 Also, and this is my personal take - of course all tafsirs are tafsir bil-rai (aka opinions), but they are important because most commentators have had more education than us. However, this does not mean blindly buying into one opinion. People should go ahead and read, for example Asad and Yusuf Ali side by side. Look at the text, both commentaries and decide yourself. I think many (not all) of Asad's translation will make sense and appear sincere scholarship. Just putting it out there - this is not "the Qur'an of the eterazians or progressives" or whatever.

[ Parent ]

Hi there.(none / 0) (#9)
by rashiddar on Sat Feb 17, 2007 at 07:18:31 PM EST

Salaam, long time reader, first time poster. >_>

I'd love to help you out in any way possible. I'm a teenage Muslim residing in Wisconsin, if you need more information, feel free to email me at


Anyway, just posting in the event that I could possibly attain an Asad translated Qur'an. They didn't have any in Chicago when I went to find one today :( 

Donation(none / 0) (#10)
by kitkat on Tue Feb 20, 2007 at 11:31:41 AM EST
I'll donate next month.  This month's tithe already went to the Barack Obama campaign.  Sorry.  Nicely designed headline ad, though.  Doesn't get in the way, yet catches my eye.

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