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Translating the Noble Qur'an

MIT
5/29/2017
77 views

All the praises and thanks be to Allah Alone. Prayers and peace of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his family and companions.

 

Translation is “the act of rendering a text into another language than the one it is written”. However, due to cultural, traditional differences between languages, and the diversity arising from authentic conceptualization and imagination, literal translation of objects, acts, situations, symbols and emotions is not possible. Therefore, the original text is not translated verbatim, containing all characteristics and emphasis contained therein but only the core sense is conveyed [communication of mental and emotional message]. Therefore, a verbatim translation of an ordinary text [an exact representation of authentic characteristics of the original text] is not possible. Accordingly, verbatim translation of works of art such as poems, novels, stories, etc. is not possible either.

The scholars of Islam have agreed that translating Qur'an is permissible provided the Arabic text of the Qur’an is with it. And however, they differed on reciting the Qur'an in any other language except Arabic. Some legalized  the Qur'an in a non-Arabic language in prayer for the one who cannot recite in Arabic like Abu Hanifah, while the majority of the scholars opined that it is not permitted to recite the Qur'an in any other language except Arabic, whether one is in prayer or not, or knows Arabic or not, and this opinion is the dominant sound opinion.

The translation of the Qur'an can never be considered as a Qur'an in itself, in its rulings and sacredness. The reason for this is that translation is not the word of Allah which was revealed to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him); but it is human words offered to explain the Devine Revelation. Allah says:

 

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ

 

" Verily, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'ân in order that you may understand." [12: 2].

 

Besides, through translation, the words of the Qur'an are conveyed in a language other than Arabic which forms part and parcel of the miraculous nature of the Qur'an. Allah says:

 

كِتَابٌ فُصِّلَتْ آيَاتُهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ

 

" A Book, whereof the verses are explained in detail;- a Qur´an in Arabic, for people who understand." [41: 3].

 

There are many verses in the Glorious Qur'an that confirm this meaning. On this basis, the translated copy of the Qur'an does not enjoy the same lofty standard of the original one; it does not bear the sense of miracles initiated by Allah Almighty. Moreover, it must be clarified there are two kinds of translation: literal translation and the translation of the meanings of the Glorious Qur'an.

 

As for the former, it is based on translating the verses of the Qur'an word by word. The scholars hold this kind of translation as impermissible. It is not possible to convey the message of the Glorious Qur'an in this way for the following reasons:

 

 

 

 

 

1. The foreign language cannot deliver the polysemy of the Qur'anic style; many words in the Qur'an have more than one meaning. Besides, the foreign language can never convey all these meanings in one word. If the translator chooses one of these meanings according to his methodology in translation, then the translation will be insufficient to deliver the whole message of verse.

 

2. Some Arabic words are used figuratively; message of the Qur'an might not be conveyed in case of translating the verse literally.

3. Some specific meanings are expressed in general words; if a translator tries to convey these words without referring to the specific meaning, he will not bring the aim of using these words in the Qur'an.

 

4. Arabic has its own unique style which is considered as the key to understand the rulings of Shari`ah, the matter which could not be transferred through any other language.

 

Because of the reasons mentioned above, and many other reasons, which prove that the literal meaning could not convey the message of the Qur'an, the scholars do not allow applying this kind of translation to the whole Qur'an but it may be permissible about certain verses.

 

As for translating the meaning of the Qur'an, the scholars maintain that it is permissible to do so on the ground that this kind of translation is considered as explaining and interpreting the Qur'an, and not regarded as a Qur'an in itself. However, a translator should give a note indicating that what he does is just a translation of the meaning of the Qur'an, as he understands it, not the exact meaning of the Qur'an itself.

It is worth mentioning that no matter how a translation has effect on one, it can never have the same grandiloquent effect and beauty of the Qur'an itself, and it is not permissible to recite the Qur'an in a non-Arabic language on the plea of being incapable to understand its meaning. However, there is no harm to explain and expound its meaning and rulings in any language.






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