Quran translations

Title page of a German translation of the Qur'an published in 1775

Translations of the Qur'an are interpretations of the scripture of Islam in languages other than Arabic. Qur'an was originally revealed in Arabic language and has been translated into most major African, Asian and European languages.[1]

Islamic theology

Further information: Islamic theology

Translation of the Qur'an has always been a problematic and difficult issue in Islamic theology. Since Muslims revere the Qur'an as miraculous and inimitable (i'jaz al-Qur'an), they argue that the Qur'anic text should not be isolated from its true form to another language or form, at least not without keeping the Arabic text along with. Furthermore, an Arabic word, like a Hebrew or Aramaic word, may have a range of meanings depending on the context – a feature present in all Semitic languages, when compared to the moderately analytic English, Latin, and Romance languages – making an accurate translation even more difficult.[1]

According to modern Islamic theology, the Qur'an is a revelation very specifically in Arabic, and so it should only be recited in Quranic Arabic. Translations into other languages are necessarily the work of humans and so, according to Muslims, no longer possess the uniquely sacred character of the Arabic original. Since these translations necessarily subtly change the meaning, they are often called "interpretations"[2] or "translation[s] of the meanings" (with "meanings" being ambiguous between the meanings of the various passages and the multiple possible meanings with which each word taken in isolation can be associated, and with the latter connotation amounting to an acknowledgement that the so-called translation is but one possible interpretation and is not claimed to be the full equivalent of the original). For instance, Pickthall called his translation The Meaning of the Glorious Koran rather than simply The Koran.

The task of translation is not an easy one; some native Arab-speakers will confirm that some Qur'anic passages are difficult to understand even in the original Arabic. A part of this is the innate difficulty of any translation; in Arabic, as in other languages, a single word can have a variety of meanings.[2] There is always an element of human judgement involved in understanding and translating a text. This factor is made more complex by the fact that the usage of words has changed a great deal between classical and modern Arabic. As a result, even Qur'anic verses which seem perfectly clear to native speakers accustomed to modern vocabulary and usage may not represent the original meaning of the verse.

The original meaning of a Qur'anic passage will also be dependent on the historical circumstances of the prophet Muhammad's life and early community in which it originated. Investigating that context usually requires a detailed knowledge of hadith and sirah, which are themselves vast and complex texts. This introduces an additional element of uncertainty which cannot be eliminated by any linguistic rules of translation.


The first translation of the Qur'an was performed by Salman the Persian, who translated Surah al-Fatihah into the Persian language during the early 7th century.[3] According to Islamic tradition contained in the hadith, Emperor Negus of Abyssinia and Byzantine Emperor Heraclius received letters from Muhammad containing verses from the Qur'an. However, during Muhammad's lifetime, no passage from the Qur'an was ever translated into these languages nor any other.[1]

The second known translation was into Greek and was used by Nicetas Byzantius, a scholar from Constantinople, in his 'Refutation of Quran' written between 855 and 870. However, we know nothing about who and for what purpose had made this translation. It is however very probable that it was a complete translation.[4]

The first fully attested complete translations of the Quran were done between the 10th and 12th centuries in Persian language. 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, Abu Hafs Omar al-Nasafi translated the Quran into Persian. The manuscripts of all three books have survived and have been published several times.

In 1936, translations in 102 languages were known.[1]

European languages


Robertus Ketenensis produced the first Latin translation of the Qur'an in 1143.[1] His version was entitled Lex Mahumet pseudoprophete ("The law of Mahomet the false prophet"). The translation was made at the behest of Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny, and currently exists in the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal in Paris. According to modern scholars, the translation tended to "exaggerate harmless text to give it a nasty or licentious sting" and preferred improbable and unpleasant meanings over likely and decent ones. Ketenensis' work was republished in 1543 in three editions by Theodore Bibliander at Basel along with Cluni corpus and other Christian propaganda. All editions contained a preface by Martin Luther. Many later European "translations" of the Qur'an merely translated Ketenensis' Latin version into their own language, as opposed to translating the Qur'an directly from Arabic. As a result, early European translations of the Qur'an were erroneous and distorted.[1]

In the early thirteenth century, Mark of Toledo made another, more literal, translation into Latin, which survives in a number of manuscripts. In the fifteenth century, Juan of Segovia produced another translation in collaboration with the Mudejar writer, Isa of Segovia. Only the prologue survives. In the sixteenth century, Juan Gabriel Terrolensis aided Cardenal Eguida da Viterbo in another translation into Latin. In the early seventeenth century, another translated was made, attributed to Cyril Lucaris.

Ludovico Marracci (1612–1700), a teacher of the Arabic language at the Sapienza University of Rome and confessor to Pope Innocent XI, issued a second Latin translation in 1698 in Padua.[5] His edition contains the Quran's Arabic text with a Latin translation, annotations to further understanding and – embued by the time's spirit of controversy – an essay titled "Refutation of the Qur'an", where Marracci disproves Islam from the then Catholic point of view. Despite the refutatio's anti-Islamic tendency Marracci's translation is accurate and suitably commented; besides, by quoting many Islamic sources he certainly broadens his time's horizon considerably.[6]

Marracci's translation too became the source of other European translations (one in France by Savory, and one in German by Nerreter). These later translations were quite inauthentic, and one even claimed to be published in Mecca in 1165 AH.[1]

Modern languages

The first translation in a modern European language was in Castilian or Aragonese by the convert Juan Andrés (or so he claims in his Confusión o Confutación de la secta mahomética y del alcorán) but this translation is lost. A few dozen Quran verses into Castilian are found within the Confusión itself. Another Romance translation was made into Italian, 1547 by Andrea Arrivabene, derived from Ketenensis'. The Italian translation was used to derive the first German translation Salomon Schweigger in 1616 in Nuremberg, which in turn was used to derive the first Dutch translation in 1641.[1]

The first French translation came out in 1647, and again in 1775, issued by André du Ryer. The Du Ryer translation also fathered many re-translations, most notably an English version by Alexander Ross in 1649. Ross' version was used to derive several others: a Dutch version by Glazemaker, a German version by Lange.[1]

French Language

L'Alcoran de Mahomet / translaté d'Arabe François par le Sieur Du Ryer, Sieur de la Garde Malezair., 1647, 1649, 1672, 1683, 1719, 1734, 1770, 1775, by André Du Ryer, was the first French translation. This was followed two centuries later in Paris by the 1840 translation by Kasimirski who was an interpreter for the French Persian legation. Then in the mid-twentieth century a new translation was done by Régis Blachère a French Orientalist followed few years later in 1959 by the first translation by a Muslim into the French Language from the original Arabic . This work of Muhammad Hamidullah continues to be reprinted and published in Paris and Lebabnon as it is regarded as the most linguistically accurate of all translation although critics may complain there is some loss of the spirit of the Arabic original.


There are four complete translations of the Qur'an in modern Spanish that are commonly available.


The earliest known translation of the Qur'an in any European language was the Latin works by Robert of Ketton at the behest of the Abbot of Cluny in c. 1143. As Latin was the language of the church it never sought to question what would now be regarded as blatant inaccuracies in this translation which remained the only one until 1649 when the first English language translation was done by Alexander Ross, chaplain to King Charles I, who translated from a French work L'Alcoran de Mahomet by du Ryer. In 1734, George Sale produced the first translation of the Qur'an direct from Arabic into English but reflecting his missionary stance. Since then, there have been English translations by the clergyman John Medows Rodwell in 1861, and Edward Henry Palmer in 1880, both showing in their works a number of mistakes of mistranslation and misinterpretation, which brings into question their primary aim. These were followed by Richard Bell in 1937 and Arthur John Arberry in the 1950s.

The Qur'an (1910) by Dr. Mirza Abul Fazl (1865–1956), a native of East Bengal (now Bangladesh), later moved to Allahabad, India. He was the first Muslim to present a translation of the Qur'an into English along with the original Arabic text. Among the contemporary Muslim scholars Dr. Mirza Abul Fazl was a pioneer who took interest in the study of the chronological order of the Qur'an and drew the attention of Muslim scholars to its importance.

With the increasing population of English-speaking Muslims around the start of the 20th century, three Muslim translations of the Qur'an into English made their first appearance. The first was Muhammad Ali's 1917 translation, which is composed from an Ahmadiyya perspective, with some small parts being rejected as unorthodox interpretation by vast majority of Muslims. This was followed in 1930 by the English convert to Islam Marmaduke Pickthall's translation, which is literal and therefore regarded as the most accurate.[7] Soon thereafter in 1934, Abdullah Yusuf Ali (from Bohra community) published his translation, featuring copious explanatory annotation – over 6000 notes, generally being around 95% of the text on a given page – to supplement the main text of the translation. This translation has gone through over 30 printings by several different publishing houses, and is one of the most popular amongst English-speaking Muslims, alongside the Pickthall and Saudi-sponsored Hilali-Khan translations.[8]

With few new English translations over the 1950–1980 period, these three Muslim translations were to flourish and cement reputations that were to ensure their survival into the 21st century, finding favour among readers often in newly revised updated editions. Orientalist Arthur Arberry's 1955 translation and native Iraqi Jew N. J. Dawood's unorthodox translation in 1956 were to be the only major works to appear in the post-war period. A. J. Arberry's The Koran Interpreted remains the scholarly standard for English translations, and is widely used by academics.[8]

The English Translation of Kanzul Iman is called "The Treasure of Faith," which is translated by Farid Ul Haq. It is in simple, easy-to-understand modern-day English. Explanations are given in brackets to avoid ambiguity, provide better understanding and references to similar verses elsewhere.

Dr. Syed Abdul Latif's translation published in 1967, regarded highly by some (he was a professor of English at Osmania University, Hyderabad), was nevertheless short-lived due to criticism of his foregoing accuracy for the price of fluency.

The Message of the Qur'an: Presented in Perspective (1974) was published by Dr. Hashim Amir Ali. He translated the Qur'an into English and arranged it according to chronological order. Dr. Hashim Amir-Ali (1903-c. 1987) was a native of Salar Jung, Hyderabad, Deccan. In 1938 he came under the influence of Dr. Mirza Abul Fazl Allahabadi, and took a deep interest in the study of the Qur'an and was aware of the significance of the chronological order of the passages contained in it.

A Jewish convert to Islam, Muhammad Asad's monumental work The Message of The Qur'an made its appearance for the first time in 1980.

Professor Ahmed Ali's Al-Qur'an: A Contemporary Translation (Akrash Publishing, Karachi, 1984, Reprinted by Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1987; Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1988, with 9th reprinting 2001). Fazlur Rahman Malik of the University of Chicago writes, "It brings out the original rhythms of the Qur'anic language and the cadences. It also departs from traditional translations in that it gives more refined and differentiated shades of important concepts". According to Francis Edward Peters of New York University, "Ahmed Ali's work is clear, direct, and elegant – a combination of stylistic virtues almost never found in translations of the Qur'an. His is the best I have read".

At the cusp of the 1980s, the 1973 oil crisis, the Iranian Revolution, the Nation of Islam and a new wave of cold-war generated Muslim immigrants to Europe and North America brought Islam squarely into the public limelight for the first time in Western Europe and North America. This resulted in a wave of translations as Western publishers tried to capitalize on the new demand for English translations of the Qur'an. Oxford University Press and Penguin Books were all to release editions at this time, as did indeed the Saudi Government, which came out with its own re-tooled version of the original Yusuf Ali translation. Canadian Muslim Professor T. B. Irving's 'modern English' translation (1985) was a major Muslim effort during that time.

Qur'an: The Final Testament, Islamic Productions, Tucson, Arizona, (1989) was published by Rashad Khalifa (رشاد خليفة; 19 November 1935 – 31 January 1990) Khalifa wrote that he was a messenger (rasool) of God and that the Archangel Gabriel 'most assertively' told him that chapter 36, verse 3, of the Quran, 'specifically' referred to him.[9][10] He is referred to as God's Messenger of the Covenant, by his followers.[11] He wrote that the Quran contains a mathematical structure based on the number 19. He made the controversial claim that the last two verses of chapter nine in the Quran were not canonical, telling his followers to reject them.[12] His reasoning was that the verses, disrupted an otherwise flawless nineteen-based pattern and were sacrilegious inasmuch as they appeared to endorse worship of Mohammed. Khalifa's research received little attention in the West. In 1980, Martin Gardner mentioned it in Scientific American.[13] Gardner later wrote a more extensive and critical review of Khalifa and his work.[14]

The arrival of the 1990s ushered in the phenomenon of an extensive English-speaking Muslim population well-settled in Western Europe and North America. As a result, several major Muslim translations emerged to meet the ensuing demand. In 1991 appeared an English translation under the title: The Clarion Call Of The Eternal Qur-aan, by Muhammad Khalilur Rahman (b. 1906–1988), Dhaka, Bangladesh. He was the eldest son of Shamsul Ulama Moulana Muhammad Ishaque of Burdwan, West Bengal, India, – a former lecturer of Dhaka University.

In 1996 the Saudi government financed a new translation "the Hilali-Khan Qur'an" which was distributed free worldwide by the Saudi government as it was in line with their particular interpretation .[15]

The Qur'an in Persian and English (Bilingual Edition, 2001) features an English translation by the Iranian poet and author Tahere Saffarzadeh. This was the second translation of the Qur'an into English by a woman, after Amatul Rahman Omar,[16] and the first bilingual translation of the Qur'an.[17][18][19]

In 2007 The Sublime Qur'an appeared by Laleh Bakhtiar; it is the first translation of the Qur'an by an American woman.[17][20][21][22]

In 2009 Maulana Wahiduddin Khan translated the Quran in English, which was published by Goodword Books entitled, The Quran: Translation and Commentary with Parallel Arabic Text. This translation is considered as the most easy to understand due to simple and modern English. The pocket size version of this translation with only English text is widely distributed as part of dawah work.

A rhymed verse edition of the entire Qur'an rendered in English by Thomas McElwain in 2010 includes rhymed commentary under the hardback title The Beloved and I, Volume Five, and the paperback title The Beloved and I: Contemplations on the Qur'an.

In 2015 Dr. Mustafa Khattab of Al-Azhar University completed The Clear Quran: A Thematic English Translation, after three years of collaboration with a team of scholars, editors, and proof-readers. Noted for its clarity, accuracy, and flow, this work is believed to be the first English translation done in Canada.[23]

Asian languages

Mir Sayyid Ali, writing a Tafsir on the Quran, during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.


Hazrat Molana Ashiq Elahi Merathi(R.A) was the first person who translated the Holy Qur'an in Urdu.Tafseer e Merathi is a renowned translation of Quran along with Tafseer and Shan e Nazool in urdu language by Molana Ashiq Elahi Merathi Irfan-ul-Quran a translation by Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri is an Urdu translation of the Quran.[24] [Mutalaeh Quran مطالعہ قرآن] by ABDULLAH, 2014, is an Urdu Translation .[25]


Girish Chandra Sen, a Brahmo Samaj missionary, was the first person to produce a complete translation of the Qur'an into Bangla language in 1886. although a currently known to be incomplete translation was made by Amiruddin Basunia in 1808.[26][27] Abbas Ali of Candipur West Bengal was the first Muslim who translated the entire Qur'an into Bangla. It is also said that one Moulana Mohammad Noymuddin of Tangail translated 1st 10 chapters of Quran in Bangla.[28] Besides many translated Quranic exegesis are available in Bengali language.[29]

Hindi and Gujarati

Kanzul Iman was also translated into the most spoken language of India, Hindi, followed by Bengali and Gujarati. The majority of Indians who do not understand the Urdu version have accepted this translation of the Quran, due to its simple and moderate translation.


Translated as Fathhur-Rahma Fi Tarjimati Tafsir al-Quran (Qur'an translation) By Sheikh Mustafa (1836 – 25 July 1888)Beruwala Sri Lanka; Later on Abdul Hameed Bhakavi Tamil Nadu- India


Elmalılı Muhammed Hamdi Yazır worked on Qur'anic exegesis in Maturidi context, and published his Hakk Dīni Kur'an Dili in Turkish in 1935.

1935 print of Hakk Dīni Kur'an Dili. A Qur'anic exegesis and translation of Qur'an in Turkish ordered by Atatürk.


The first translation into Japanese was done by Sakamoto Ken-ichi in 1920. Sakamoto worked from Rodwell's English translation. Takahashi Goro, Bunpachiro (Ahmad) Ariga and Mizuho Yamaguchi produced Japan's second translation in 1938. The first translation from the Arabic was done by Toshihiko Izutsu in 1945.[30] In 1950, another translation appeared by Shūmei Ōkawa (1886–1957), who had been charged with war-crimes after the World War II on account of his anti-Western sympathies.[31] Other translations have appeared more recently by Ban Yasunari and Osamu Ikeda in 1970 and by Umar Ryoichi Mita in 1972.


It is claimed that Yusuf Ma Dexin (1794–1874) is the first translator of the Koran into Chinese. However, the first complete translation into Chinese did not appear until 1927, although Islam had been present in China since the Tang dynasty (618–907). The translation was by Lǐ Tiězhēng, a non-Muslim, who did not translate from the Arabic, but from Rodwell's English via Sakamoto Ken-ichi's Japanese. A second non-Muslim translation appeared in 1931, edited by Jī Juémí. Wáng Jìngzhāi was the first Chinese Muslim to translate the Koran. His translation, the Gǔlánjīng yìjiě, appeared in 1932, with new revised versions being issued in 1943 and 1946. Other translations appeared in 1943, by Liú Jǐnbiāo, and 1947, by Yáng Zhòngmíng. The most popular version today is the Gǔlánjīng, translated by Mǎ Jiān, parts of which appeared between 1949 and 1951, with the full edition being published posthumously only in 1981.

Tóng Dàozhāng, a Muslim Chinese American, produced a modern translation, entitled Gǔlánjīng, in 1989. The most recent translation appeared in Taibei in 1996, the Qīngzhēn xīliú – Gǔlánjīng xīnyì, translated by Shěn Xiázhǔn, but it has not found favour with Muslims.[32]

Indonesian languages

The Koran has also been translated to Acehnese, Buginese, Gorontalo, Javanese, Sundanese, and Indonesian of Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world. Translation into Acehnese was done by Mahijiddin Yusuf in 1995; into Buginese by Daude Ismaile and Nuh Daeng Manompo in 1982; into Gorontalo by Lukman Katili in 2008; into Javanese by Ngarpah (1913), Kyai Bisyri Mustafa Rembang (1964), and K. H. R. Muhamad Adnan; in Sundanese by A.A. Dallan, H. Qamaruddin Shaleh, Jus Rusamsi in 1965; and in Indonesian at least in three versions: A Dt. Madjoindo, H.M Kasim Bakery, Imam M. Nur Idris, A. Hassan, Mahmud Yunus, H.S. Fachruddin, H., Hamidy (all in the 1960s), Mohammad Diponegoro, Bachtiar Surin (all in the 1970s), and Departemen Agama Republik Indonesia (Indonesian Department of Religious Affair).[33]

Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian languages

William Shellabear (1862–1948) a British scholar and missionary in Malaysia, after translating the Bible into the Malay language began a translation of the Qur'an, but died in 1948 without finishing it.[34]

African languages


After the fall of the Shah, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran called on Muslims to learn Esperanto. Shortly thereafter, an official Esperanto translation of the Qur'an was produced by the state.

Allama Muztar Abbasi also translated the Quran into Esperanto and wrote a biography of Muhammad and several other books in Esperanto and Urdu.

In 1970, Professor Italo Chiussi, of the Ahmadiyya sect, translated the Quran into Esperanto.

Holy Quran translations in different languages

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Fatani, Afnan (2006). "Translation and the Qur'an". In Leaman, Oliver. The Qur'an: an encyclopaedia. Great Britain: Routeledge. pp. 657–669.
  2. 1 2 Ruthven, Malise (2006). Islam in the World. Granta. p. 90. ISBN 978-1-86207-906-9.
  3. An-Nawawi, Al-Majmu', (Cairo, Matbacat at-'Tadamun n.d.), 380.
  4. Christian Høgel, "An early anonymous Greek translation of the Qur'an. The fragments from Niketas Byzantios' Refutatio and the anonymous Abjuratio", Collectanea Christiana Orientalia 7 (2010), pp. 65–119; Kees Versteegh, "Greek translations of the Quran in Christian polemics (9th century)", Zeitschrift der Deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft 141 (1991); Astérios Argyriou, "Perception de l'Islam et traductions du Coran dans le monde byzantin grec", Byzantion 75 (2005).
  5. S. M. Zwemer: Translations of the Koran, The Moslem World, 1915
  6. Borrmans, Maurice (2002). "Ludovico Marracci et sa traduction latine du Coran" [Ludovico Marracci and its Latin translation of the Qur'ân]. Islamochristiana (in French) (28): 73–86. INIST:14639389.
  7. by renowned Islamic scholar and linguist Muhammad Hamidullah
  8. 1 2 http://www.meforum.org/717/assessing-english-translations-of-the-quran
  9. Appendix ii, (21), Authorized English Translation of the Quran, Dr. Rashad Khalifa, PhD
  10. http://submission.org/quran/app2.html Archived 24 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. http://submission.org/messenger/ Archived 3 August 2008 at WebCite
  12. ″The idol worshipers were destined to tamper with the Quran by adding 2 false verses (9:128–129).″
  13. Gardner, Martin (1980), Mathematical Games, Scientific American, September 1980, pp16–20.
  14. The numerology of Dr. Rashad Khalifa – scientist, Martin Gardner, Skeptical Inquirer, Sept–Oct 1997
  15. Muttaqun Online: The Noble Quran Archived 27 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. Amatul Rahman Omar, "The Holy Qur'an – English", The Holy Qur'an – English, 1990. ISBN 0-9766972-3-8
  17. 1 2 Quran. "The Sublime Quran: Laleh Bakhtiar: 9781567447507: Amazon.com: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2015-05-10.
  18. Saffarzadeh Commemoration Due Iran Daily, 18 October 2010
  19. Art News in Brief Tehran Times, 28 October 2008
  20. "A new look at a holy text – tribunedigital-chicagotribune". Articles.chicagotribune.com. 10 April 2007. Retrieved 2015-05-10.
  21. Useem, Andrea (18 April 2007). "Laleh Bakhtiar: An American Woman Translates the Qur'an". Publishersweekly.com. Retrieved 2015-05-10.
  22. Aslan, Reza (20 November 2008). "How To Read the Quran". Slate. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  23. http://sirajpublications.com/clear_quran.html
  24. http://www.irfan-ul-quran.com/quran/urdu/index.html
  25. https://sites.google.com/site/myquranpak
  26. Dey, Amit (7 June 2012). "BENGALI TRANSLATION OF THE QURAN AND THE IMPACT OF PRINT CULTURE ON MUSLIM SOCIETY IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY" (PDF). University of Calcutta, Department of History: 8–18. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  27. http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2008/07/13/39557.html[] Archived 4 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  28. Sazzadur Rahman, Chayanir Publication, Tangail, Bangladesh
  29. Read this paper for elborahtion. https://www.academia.edu/11796656/THE_ROLE_OF_READING_MOTIVATION_AND_INTEREST_IN_READING_ENGAGEMENT_OF_QURANIC_EXEGESIS_READERS
  30. "The Qu'ran and its translators". Archived from the original on 21 June 2012.
  31. Democracy and Social Justice in Asia and the Arab World, Unesco, 2006
  32. ""Chinese Translations of the Qur'ān: a Close Reading of Selected Passages", by Ivo Spira, MA thesis, Oslo University, 2005" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 September 2012.
  33. http://www.alagr.com/download/Quran%28Indonesian_Translation%29.pdf[]
  34. Hunt, Robert (2002). "The Legacy of William Shellabear". International Bulletin of Missionary Research. 26 (1): 28–31. Archived from the original on 2 July 2013.
  35. "First Dagbani Version of Holy Quran Launched". GhanaWeb. December 19, 2008. Retrieved September 25, 2016.

Further reading

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