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Best Translation?

Reader comment on item: A Saudi Prince's Threat to the Obama Administration
in response to reader comment: Why Transliteration is Not Always the Best Translation

Submitted by dhimmi no more (United States), Apr 29, 2021 at 08:06

Very good point.

>Why Transliteration is Not Always the Best Translation

Well, this is true if the translator really understands what the text, that he is translating, really says. Take the case of Surat al-Baqara: 1

This is the rasm of the text:

الم

This is the edited (by al-Mufasereen) text:

آلم

This is Mr. Khattab's "translation":

Alif-Lam-Mim

Then he provides a "Footnote" which does not tell us much

And indeed this is what the Arabic text says: A-L-M

But is this translation or is it transliteration?

If you read al-Tabari, you will discover that he does not know and he provides, I believe, 14 different meanings for these mysterious letters and check this link to his Tafsir and it is about 10 pages.

https://quran.ksu.edu.sa/tafseer/tabary/sura2-aya1.html

So what should Mr. Khattab do? Here are his options:

1. Transliterate, as he did, and write a "Footnote", which he did, and I give him high marks for not "translating" the meaning of these three letters (remember that a Tarjama is not a Tafsir).

2. Or he will select one of the many options provided by al-Tabari as the meaning of these letters and problem solved.

https://quran.com/al-baqarah?locale=en&font=v2&translations=131

Now, let us check the word الصمد or al-Samad in Surat al-Ikhlas:2. This word has no meaning. al-Tabari provides 6 very different meanings and then he selects, without telling the reader why, "Eternal" as the meaning of the word الصمد

Mr. Khattab has two options:

1. Select the meaning of the word from the long list of possible meanings from al-Tabari. And this is his translation of the word al-Samad:

"Sustainer Needed by all"

Why did he not select al-Tabari's "Eternal"? We just do not know. And notice that "Needed by all" is not in the text.

https://quran.com/112

Notice that he does not provide a "Footnote" that indicates that the meaning of the word al-Samad is not clear, or that the word could very well be the Syriac/Aramaic: Bundle.

2. He can transliterate the word and this is how the "translation" would be:

Allah al-Samad

And write a "Footnote" that the meaning of the word al-Samad is not clear and provide a link to al-Tabari

So do tell us what should Mr. Khattab do? Option 1 or option 2?

Best translation? It is to admit that at times we do not understand what these ancient texts are saying

Submitting....

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