The Tafsir literature is a treasure trove of evidence-based interpretations, often multiple for a single verse or phrase.
Qur’an translations are generally an assertion of one reading, and translators rarely explain their choices.
Multiple possibilities arise at the level of individual words, then grammatical structures, sentence syntax and so on. For an insight, see this article which also shows how and why translations differ:
When you depend upon a translation, you are deprived of the richness of Quranic meanings and the variety of views expressed by scholars in Arabic tafsirs. You might use a site like Islamawakened.com to compare multiple translations—good idea, but there’s still a problem...
To explain: suppose one ayah has been understood linguistically in three ways which we’ll call A, B and C.
A is the most obvious but the others are plausible and accepted by scholars—some argued that B is best, or C.
When you scan through the translations, you might find all 3 represented. The wording might differ slightly, but most are based on reading it as A: even if many translators didn’t consult tafsirs. Others gathered round B, and still others, C.
Or we may find A and B represented, but C is absent. Why? It wasn’t any one translator’s job to go with C, but isn’t it unfair that it’s overlooked in aaallllllll those translations?! And maybe some people really need to find C explained and translated.
We may even find that they all went with A. But why? Because it’s the apparent meaning, or because they lacked interest in the others and might not read tafsir anyway. And maybe, just maybe, they sometimes copy each other (😮).
And even though it’s unlikely that Apparent A will be missed, it’s definitely possible that a Dubious D will pop up in some translations: something that doesn’t find support in the exegetical literature. It might still be right.. but don’t you deserve to know that it’s novel?
These are knotty problems that I’m raising and seeking to address through a postdoctoral proposal currently under consideration.
In the meantime, shop around and take care out there! 😇
Translating tafsir is one kind of solution: