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Translation of the Qur'an

Reader comment on item: Uncovering Early Islam
in response to reader comment: What a mess!

Submitted by dhimmi no more (United States), Jun 22, 2012 at 07:44

Sara wrote

Thanks for your suggestion. I have ordered a copy but I am confounded by the excess of options and how much it matters which translation one reads. I think that this issue encapsulates the Islamic legitimacy issue in a nutshell.

As you might know Persians were the first people to translate the Qur'an but they realized that the Qur'an was full of mistakes in spelling of Arabic words, mistakes in Arabic grammar, mistakes in syntax, disjointed sentences, words that have no meaning and many foreign words

The basic rasm lacked short vowels as well as at times long vowels and it also lacked the hamza consonant and the shadda (double consonant) so they for sure had a task ahead of them and the final conclusion was that the Qur'an cannot be translated (because it was too embarrassing to translate a book full of mistakes) but they concluded that the Persian translation is supposed to be only a guide to the Arabic text but this was not the end of the story and the Persian Muslim ulama had to come up with the great idea of what they called:

1. tarjamat al-lafz/kilma or linear translation and here is an example in surat al-fatiha

al-hamdu lil lahi

al-hamdu means praise

lil means to

lahi means to God

2. tarjamat al-ma3na or the translation of the meaning you can also read this as exegesis

praise to God

But this example is only an easy example but you get the idea

So any translation of the Qur'an is really what the author of this translation believes that the Qur'an is really saying after all the Qur'an is supposed to be an Arabic language book

Not only were numerous versions of early Qurans destroyed or disappeared,

The story of the collection of the Qur'an is the most confused and confusing story in the history of Islam

but once a somewhat cohesive "book" was produced (long after Mo's death), it was rearranged and rewritten essentially.

I'm sure you know by now that a holy book cannot be canonized unless the text of such book is stable and this stability can be achieved through the masoritic activity and in the case of the Qur'an this masoritic activity can be dated to the 3rd century of Islam which means that the Qur'an could not have been canonized before the 3rd century of Islam

You can check in your library and see if you can get a copy of the 1923-1924 Cairo Qur'an and a copy of 1969 Tunisian Qur'an and check in surat al-fatiha the word MLK and you will find that in the Cairo Qur'an it is read as Maaliki or the owner of and in the Tunisian Qur'an it is read as Maliki or the king of and this happens by slight change in the short vowels but in the process the meaning of the basic rasm changes

This very simple example means that we really do not know what the Qur'an really says in the case of the word MLK and it also means that the Qur'an is an edited book and it did not drop from the sky as we are told

Then the translation confusion begins, much later in time than I expected. In fact it seems that the first translation (1649) was not even directly from the original Arabic, but from French. Why would such a complicated tangle of writings be foisted upon a relatively simple tribal people? Perhaps to create a smoke and mirrors effect?

Well as i just said Muslims early on realized that the translation of the Quranic text is really a problem

This whole mess is like a metaphor for the problem.

Sure and I will give you an example it says in the Qur'an 12:2 that the Qur'an is an Arabic book but the truth is the Qur'an is full of foreign words and number one foreign language in the Qur'an as would be excepted is the mother language of all Semitic languages and that is Syro-Aramaic

The interesting fact is early on the likes of al-Tabari (although his knowledge of any language beyond Arabic and Persian was mediocre at best) he was able to tell us about what he believed to be foreign words and at times he was correct and most of the time he had no clue but later on the likes of ibn Taymiyya tells us that because the Qur'an says that this is an Arabic Qur'an then any word in it even if it is not an Arabic word is now an Arabic word because the Qur'an says that it is an Arabic book! So you can see the circular reasoning here but it is still embarrassing to Muslims that the Qur'an has indeed many foreign words and indeed understanding the etymology of some of these words can a problem to any translation and here is an example Q25 is called Surat al-Furqan and it is very clear that the word Furqan is not an Arabic word and it is Syriac Purqana (Syriac P becomes Arabic F and the alip at the end is gone when the word is Arabized) but the Syriac word means salvation not a very Muslim doctrine at all

Enter the Muslim ulama and they had no clue what to make out of this very strange word and they tried hard and it just does not work and they tell us that it has something to do with the semitic root FRQ or may be it means al-Qur'an and only Allah knows so you can see it is all guessing and why would it be this way unless there was indeed a disconnect between the composition of the Qur'an and the Quranic masora because by then the ulama had no clue how to read all these strange words

Islam is so open to interpretation based on its original writing, translation, contradicting hadiths, etc. that it is no wonder that it is impossible to pin down anything with Muslims. They can always pull another rabbit out of a hat to contradict whatever conclusion one reaches.


Anyway, contrary to the opinions of many on Amazon who prefer Ali,

Yusuf Ali's translation is a shameful translation by a liar and even the Saudis are aware of this and i understand that they had plans to improve it but at the end they realized that any changes to it will be very embarrassing and they opted to pay for Halem's translation and remain silent about Yusuf Ali's translation

However, I happen to believe that you can do it. You know Hebrew this is a good start and all you need is get your Arabic alphabet and do a linear translation of the words and you can find help from elmaany dictionary on line and just translate every word

As for foreign words: and this is my rule any strange word I check a Syriac dictionary and check the Peshitta which you find on line and if I find the word in the Peshitta (Syriac Bible) then this word would pre-date the Qur'an and this word is indeed a Syriac word as in the case of the Quranic Tur and Nuun

I hope that my son is able to get something out of Pickthall...

Just do not get Yusuf Ali and tell your son that we are all proud of him for reading and learning

thank you.

Any time


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