George Sale (1697-1736)

British orientalist Best known for his translation of the Holy QurÁn first published in 1734, which won great praise from various European luminaries such as Voltaire

“The Qur’an is universally allowed to be written with the utmost elegance and purity of language, in the dialect of the tribe of Quraish, the most noble and polite of all the Arabians, but with some mixture, though very rarely, of other dialects. It is confessedly the standard of the Arabic tongue and as the more orthodox believe, and are taught by the book itself, inimitable by any human pen (though some sectaries have been of another opinion), and therefore insisted on as a permanent miracle, greater than that of raising the dead,” and alone sufficient to convince the world of its divine original.

The style of the Qur’an is generally beautiful and fluent especially where it imitates the prophetic manner and Scripture phrases. It is concise and often obscure, adorned with bold figures after the Eastern taste, enlivened with florid and sententious expressions, and in many places, especially where the majesty and attributes of God are described, sublime and magnificent; of which the reader cannot but observe several instances, though he must not imagine the translation comes up to the original, notwithstanding my endeavours to do it justice.

Though it be written in prose, yet the sentences generally conclude in a long continued rhyme, for the sake of which the sense is often interrupted, and unnecessary repetitions too frequently made, which appear still more ridiculous in a translation, where the ornament, such as it is, for whose sake they were made, cannot be perceived. However, the Arabians are so mightily delighted with this jingling, that they employ it in their most elaborate compositions, which they also embellish with frequent passages of, and allusions to, the Qur’an, so that it is next to impossible to understand them without being well versed in this book.

It is probable the harmony of expression which the Arabians find in the QurÁn might contribute not a little to make them relish the doctrine therein taught, and give an efficacy to arguments which, had they been nakedly proposed without this rhetorical dress, might not have so easily prevailed. Very extraordinary effects are related of the power of words well chosen and artfully placed, which are no less powerful either to ravish or amaze than music itself; wherefore as much has been ascribed by the best orators to this part of rhetoric as to any other. He must have a very bad ear who is not uncommonly moved with the very cadence of a well-turned sentence…”

A Comprehensive Commentary on the Quran, Rev. E. M. Wherry, Comprising Sale’s Translation and Preliminary Discourse, vol. 1, pg. 102-104; Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd. 1896