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EP 094 – Ilmfeed Podcast Amatullah Bantley Atheism To Islam
Channel: Fatima Barkatulla
File Size: 65.79MB
Translating Quran, Sahih International
Episode Transcript ©
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Bismillah Alhamdulillah wa salatu salam ala Rasulillah to brothers and sisters Assalamu alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh. I'm your sister Fatima barkatullah and welcome to another l fi podcast episode.
Today I have a guest with me who, without knowing it, many of you will actually have been touched by our work.
Some of you might have a copy of this translation of the Quran in your house, or perhaps this version.
They're basically both the Sahara international budgets. Well, my guest today played a very important part in bringing those translations to life. And she is none other than
Emirates Allah Bentley.
I'm going to introduce her Salam aleikum system with Allah radicals and I'm Rob with a low record. And what's the word Bentley is the founder of Sahih International, a group of female writers and editors best known for their Quran translation into English.
She embraced Islam at the age of 20 and move to Saudi Arabia a year later. During her time there she was one of the first women to mashallah to be granted a publishers license. She eventually purchased the herbal possum, and ran her own bookstore for 10 years. In February of 2017. She returned to her native homeland in the USA. She holds a degree in business and is currently an office manager for a public charter school Desikan affair and for joining me, sister amatola wacky sister, it's my pleasure to be with you.
And we're so excited to kind of go on the journey with you, I think and, and find out how this all started, because I don't think most people even knew that behind this beautiful translation of Quran.
There was a sister like you Mashallah. So please tell us. First of all, a little bit about your background, if you don't mind sharing your, you know, your journey to Islam.
And how your relationship with the Quran developed during your early, you know, years, I guess.
So I was born into a Catholic family,
but by the time and went to Catholic school all of my life. From the time I was young, I questioned things.
It just, there were certain things within the church that didn't sit well with me, it didn't make sense to me. And by the time I was 16, I was actually professing atheism. I couldn't understand at that point in my life, if there was a God, why did we have war and poverty and abuse and you know, all the kind of evils of the world. And so I just figured, you know, you have to be a decent person, do the best you can on this life, and you die, and that's it.
But when I went to college, I met quite a few Muslims from overseas who were here studying. And where is this in America? Yeah, in Minnesota, Minnesota. Yes, in the Twin Cities, St. Paul Minneapolis.
To be honest, they weren't practicing Muslims. But there was something
in their personalities that stood out to me, the generosity, the kindness, the concern, there were just, there was something different about them than a lot of the American guys that I knew. And over time, you know, religion came up, of course, I had a very narrow view of Islam, I really didn't know anything about it, but had seen in movies that, you know, the typical bad portrayal of Arab men being, you know, the woman behind them and all of that. So I just said, you know, if you think I'm going to live that way, you're crazy, without really knowing anything. But little things would come up where now I see it, that Allah was touching my fitrah. You know, I would just,
I would literally get like, shivers down my spine when little things came up. And so there was an American Muslim woman and a woman in the group. And she said, you know, we're not a very good example of Muslims. And if you really want to know, I'm going to take you to the Islamic center. So that's where I went. And I, the, the person in the bookstore there said, you know, what can we do for you? And I said, Well, I keep hearing all these wonderful things about especially about women in Islam, but I don't have an example. I want to hear it from a Muslim woman herself. And so he contacted me with a group of sisters. A couple of them were American. There were several Malaysian
sisters who were studying here as
Well who were in this group, and they just kind of took me under their wing, they had Holika every week, and I went, the first time I went, it was time for prayer. And you know, back in the day, little cassette tape they had of the event, had no idea what it was. And when I heard it, I just started to cry. And they said, what's wrong? You know, what did we do? And I said, I don't know that. It's just so beautiful. You know, it's what is that? And I guess my curiosity was really fueled at that point.
Somebody did give me a copy of the Quran. Because I wasn't a faithful person, I'll have to be honest reading, reading the Quran, you know, some people who become Muslim, say, oh my god, I read the Quran, it all just resonated. And, you know, I became Muslim from that.
That wasn't my path. My path was Muslims who treated me with decency, and explained, you know, really the beauty of Islam. And then later on, of course, my connection with Quran intensified and became important. And the best experience I had with Quran was when I was in Saudi Arabia, and I was going to an Islamic Educational Institute, where we not only memorize Quran, but we studied the Tafseer of Quran in depth, I always love the section of belaga, you know, when it talks about how wordiness is used in the root meanings, and how they're interconnected,
that that really brought the beauty of Islam to me, you know, there's some people that are good with language, I have a lot of friends who, you know, went to, to touch weed school, and, you know, memorize huge, huge portions of the Quran, myself, language is a little more difficult for me, I'm not a great memorizer still, to this day, when I pray in Arabic, I still translate in my head back to English so that I get the meaning. But it's, I think it's just about committing to spending some time, hopefully daily with the Quran, whether it's sitting next to your bed and reading a page before you go to sleep or, you know, reading your short stories every night before you go to sleep.
There's, you've got to maintain some kind of connection.
But studying it, you know, really studying the meanings. And of course, a lot of that came up while we were doing the translation, too. So those were also some wonderful years of, of learning. But we know how life takes us away, and we get busy with, you know, surviving paying the bills, taking care of kids. And I think it's just like the Hadith that talks about how our faith goes up and down, our relationship with the Quran may go up and down like that as well. But we have to be forgiving of ourselves and just, you know, commit to as much as we can.
So what led to your decision to move to Saudi Arabia? I happened to get married to a Saudi. Okay. That's why I moved there. Okay. So you arrived in Saudi Arabia? What was that like, for the first time, because it is wasn't that long after you embraced Islam, right? There was about a year and a half or so after I embraced Islam. Um, I was very fortunate that when I became a Muslim, I had this sisters group and the one sister who I took my Shahada from her husband happened to be any mom. So she was just, you know, she just taught me so much I had learned from the law a lot in a very short period. And I think that helped my transition in moving to a Muslim country, I think it would have
been much harder if I would have moved there first. Because you get people's cultures, you get, you know, you think you're going to the land of the sahaba. And you find out that they're just people to, you know, and every place in the world has good and bad positives and negatives. And so you have to kind of figure that out, you know, culture, what's cultural, suppose cultural Islam and true Islam. And so that, that those were some challenges. But, you know, my heart was in it. I tried to benefit as much as I could, you know, have wonderful friends there still, and stay in contact with them. The challenge was, when I'm kind of jumping ahead now, but when I got my business, not being a
native Saudi, that that was challenging having to work through the system, not being fluent in Arabic having to have people helped me.
Yeah, it was quite an accomplishment to get the, like the publishing license.
But I just I've always been a very determined person when I put my mind to something unless you literally surrounded me with brick walls. I will try to find a way to break them down. And sometimes that's not a good characteristic in a person but
If I wouldn't have had that I could have never accomplished what I did with the bookstore. And this again, I can't, you know, like, give myself, can you just say that again? Because it just cut out for a moment you said, if you wouldn't have, if I wouldn't have if I wouldn't have had kind of that. It within my personality, I tend to kind of be determined sometimes. almost a necessity, tenacity.
I think they call it nowadays. Yeah, that's just, that's just the way I grew up, you know, and I want to always see a challenge in front of me as as, like, if it seemed to be too high of a challenge, I would find a way to break through it or go around it or whatever, we just got to find a way to make it work. And of course, there are times that you just can't accomplish things. But I have always said that that was Allah's project, because he opened doors that I could have never opened.
It was not doing the translation, or even getting involved in Islamic publishing was never something that I sat down one day and said, Oh, that's what I want to do with my life. It was all misete it was all written by Allah. He just, it was a series of events that led to it. And it just happened. It was never an intention.
So do you feel like well, first of all, tell me how roughly how old were you at this time? Like when you moved to Saudi Arabia? 2020 20. Okay. Yeah. 20, almost 21.
And what was your educational history before that, like in terms of what we what had you been into before?
So I went to business school. I have school. Yeah. Okay. I had a dream of opening a deli, to be honest, a cheese shop and you know, party trays and all of that I had worked for a cheese factory in high school and absolutely loved it.
So that was my dream. I love cheese.
You have to come to London. And it's a little we get all the European cheeses. Yes.
my French friend, she said, when she came to London, she was like, she didn't consider cheddar to be your proper cheese.
But now she's grown to. She's grown to like it. Appreciate it. Yeah.
Wow. Okay, so. So yeah, that means you already had a bit of business mind. Right?
You've moved to Saudi Arabia. But you it's a completely different, it's like a complete lifestyle change. Right. Right. And I wasn't even necessary, necessarily planning on working. Yeah, there Majan. So this is this is the story.
One of our friends.
Her husband was Canadian. He had studied at Omote, Cora University in Mecca, you know, had a degree in Islamic studies as well as his wife,
and ullery, our home home, Allah, your humble, he passed away one day, and they kind of lived on the outskirts of Jeddah. So here's the single mom with five kids, you know, foreigners in the country, a group of us decided until she figures out what she's going to do. We're going to all pitch in a little bit and support the family until she can get on her feet because it was a very unexpected passing of her husband.
So the group had asked me if I would be the one to take out the envelope every month. And when I went out there one day, she said, hey, you know, my husband had contracted with the owner of durable custom, which was an Islamic publishing house in Jeddah to print a couple books before he died, and I have the manuscripts here, could you do me a favor and drop them off at the bookstore? And I sure no problem however, that day, we had happened to have borrowed someone's car, because ours was in the shop. And I said, you know, I just do you mind if I wait a few days till we get our car back? And then then I'll take it? Sure, no problem. I said, Do you mind if I take a look at them? Because
one of them was basically a translation of the treatise treaties.
Isn't it but I'll play you on the soul. And what happens to it like after death and in the grave, and having been Muslim for just a year, year and a half, I didn't really know anything about the topic. And I was just enthralled in reading this book. It was so interesting. But with all due respect, the brother You know, he had been speaking and writing in classical Arabic for so long that his English started to get a little flowery, like it is an Arabic and I thought, this is a great book, but the language it could use a little tweaking. So I would say with a
expats. Yes, yeah, they were.
He was Canadian. And she was from Fiji. Okay, so they were expats living in Saudi like, you guys, right? Like you and their English was there it was his first language, but it was, um, but I think because it was a translation from Arabic or, or based on an Arabic book it, it still had more of an Arabic style. And it didn't really work completely in English. I mean, it was, I know what you mean, you know, sometimes the sentences can run on like a paragraph. So there was there was almost like a culture back in those times I think of like when you would read certain books, they would read like an Arabic cookbook, or like an Arabic style reading rather than it was almost like deliberate as
well, like they, they wanted to put that flavor in it. But like you said, it wouldn't.
It wasn't the natural way that you would express it in English, right? If you were a student of Arabic, you would have gotten it just fine. But if you're just picking it up, it just seems a little bit awkward. And I really felt that for the I thought, you know, it was such a fantastic book and what it taught you, but let's make the English flow.
No, I'm not an English editor, right? Like, I'm a business major. But I had a really good friend, Mary Kennedy, who was an English major. And I said, Hey, you know, can you help me kind of shape this book up a little bit? And she was like, Sure. So once we got into it, we found that he had a, you know, references like to chronic eyes and stuff, and neither marry or are fluent in Arabic. And so we did not want to take on responsibility for those translations. And that's when we brought on Mohammed, who was our teacher at the Islamic education center.
You know, we said, hey, will you check the eyes? Will you check the translation of Quran and Hadith in this book, so we make sure that we're not, you know, making any errors. So that's how it started. We did that book, we took it to the publisher. He liked the work that we did, you know, we reorganized it, kind of rewrote it. And after that, he said, Well, would you be interested in doing the other book? And we said, Sure, fine. And then he had people submitting texts to him. And he said, Well, why don't you start doing this with all of the things that I get? So we basically subcontracted with him? Any manuscripts that he got? We checked the English and we got them ready
for typesetting? Well, fast forward about five years, I've been studying for that time with Oh, Muhammad, and I'm, you know, learning all the,
the Tafseer classes and learning about the language and, you know, all these things in Quran. And when she would translate Quran, it was like, Oh, I get that. Finally, I get that. I never understood that when I read that from Yusuf Ali, or, you know, and I just went to him. I told her, Oh, I think you should do a Quran translation. And she refused. She said, Absolutely not. I don't, you know, I'm not a scholar. I'm not qualified to do that.
And what was her background? Sorry, if you don't mind, like, I'm just trying to help people to picture like, where the various people are, from and
so on. Muhammad, is from California, originally, he had married a Syrian and lived in Syria before moving to Saudi Arabia, I think in the early 80s. In the 70s, I think she moved to Syria. And she took intensive Arabic classes while she was there. And it was her she was also an American convert. She was not a convert at the time, while she was studying and learn Arabic. This is what led her to convert to Islam yet, but she is you know, fluent in Arabic. And you know,
very well knowledge, she would be more she doesn't she didn't go like to a university to study Islam. She was more of how you would study in circles of people, or directly from scholarly works and whatnot. So she said, nobody will ever take it seriously, because I don't have that degree. So she was like, No, I'm not going to do that. But I went to Suleyman, GOSUB, the previous owner of the book store and I said, Leah, she is amazing. She has a talent. She's very concise, precise.
She she will make a person understand Quran in a way that they won't understand it from other translations that are out there. And so we badgered her really
long time. And it actually took years before she even prayed us to borrow and once she prayed
So Cara Subhanallah somebody had just gifted her a set of Tafseer books. And she started thinking, you know, maybe I'm supposed to be doing this. I don't know.
So she finally agreed Alhamdulillah. And then Mary Mary is married Kennedy, she's from Florida. She was also married to a Saudi. And that's what brought her to Saudi Arabia. She had two degrees, one in English language, and oh, my goodness, I'm drawing a blank right now. I think she studied law.
Please don't quote me. Anyway. So yeah, it was just the three of us. We each had talents, you know, I did layout work. I had a lot. We all were editors, we review things, you know, quite often. It was amazing to me, even as a native speaker, like how much I learned about grammar rules. And you know, a comma can change the meaning in a sentence in English. So you have to be so careful and Arabic is so much more fluid than English, that it can be really hard, and especially the Arabic Quran. You know, it can mean more than one thing. But when you translate, you can only reflect one meaning. You can't reflect multiple meanings in a phrase like you can an error, right?
Again, it's only reflective of the meanings any translation is going to be limited. Any translation is going to reflect kind of what style you choose, are you going to be literal? Are you going to keep transliterated words? Are you going to translate the meaning each time into English, when you eat them, even having made a list of common phrases or common words, you can't always stick to them. Because that same word can mean something different in a different verse. Like fitna, it can mean disbelief, it can mean distress, it can mean, you know, temptation, yes, different things, different things. It's you can't just translate Quran, without knowing the tafsir.
Absolutely. And different time series reflect different things as well, you know, so you really have to do you know, what I love about about
what I, what I'm observing about you and the other sisters, that is really beautiful is
the attitude of allowing new things to come into your life that you hadn't expected, you know, or planned. Because I feel like that openness, and spontaneity and willingness to consider
is such a, an amazing quality, because it helps. Even in my own life, I felt that
if I just let go of control a little bit, you know, not not to be too rigid not to be to kind of planning every little thing and just just leave yourself open to Allah subhanaw taala sending opportunities or ideas, right, that maybe you never saw yourself in a particular position or doing a particular work, or maybe you don't think you're good enough, or you know, all of those kinds of doubts that you have. But sometimes when, if you if you allow yourself to, to be open,
then when those opportunities come by, and you're new, and you honor those opportunities, it's like honoring them, right, like, seeing them as a gift, not just kind of, because I've met people who I feel like, because they're so rigid in what they think they want to do in life.
opportunities will come their way. Yeah, they're different to what they had thought they could be better, though, you know, they could end up being better things. And it could be a calling, but because that person is so
shut off from even the possibility of considering anything, they'll just kind of back those opportunities away. But what I like about your attitude and the sisters was that
you kind of
you're humble enough, you know, to be like, Am I really ready for this? Is this really, for me, but at the same time you have enough
Tawakkol I think, you know, in Allah to know that, well, if Allah sending something your way,
maybe it is what He wants you to do. Maybe it is something you should rise to the challenge of, and I just really love that. Well, Muhammad was asked what was the most difficult part of the translation? And she said, the responsibility, you know, knowing that if we make an error, we're going to be asked by Allah Spano, Tala, you know, this is his word. This is the book of Allah. You know, it's not an essay. It's not a personal opinion, true, strong. So it's a heavy burden. But
you know, 100 Allah, it seems like it has been well received and people have benefited from it. And that was the ultimate goal. Actually, that's why we did originally we did not put our names on it. We did
Don't tell anybody who we are, first of all, because we thought that, you know, oh, back in those days,
three women, you know, there had never been women transmitted there was, you know, who there, we were afraid we couldn't even get it through the Ministry for approval, you know, although the ministry who knew who we were but
you know, but then people started to say, well, how can how you're not taking responsibility for who you are. So then that's when we agreed to put just a short little blurb about each of us at the back. But it was also to hopefully to keep our knee up here. You know, this isn't, this is something we did for the sake of Allah, you know, we didn't get paid to do that job. We did this because we really felt that it could help the OMA. And, you know, I had been feeling really guilty. Like I said, language isn't quite my thing. I don't have that gift. And I was feeling so guilty that all I had had all my friends going to tofi the Koran school, and here I was not doing it. And another
sister said, But, and not to say that you shouldn't make an attempt to, you know, memorize and all of that. But she said you have other gifts and other talents that are in a different way. And that that really almost in a way gave me an extra encouragement to fight the battles when there were days that I didn't think we were gonna be able to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish, because those walls were high. But Subhan Allah, I swear to you, there were miracles olace upon Attala, absolute miracles in opening doors that I could have never ever, ever opened. So there are three of you working on this together, did you? Did you divide the roles like was there like some kind of
demarcation of roles or pretty much but then they also overlap. So originally,
the suggestion came that because Hello, alien con had corrected many of the Akita errors from the use of Oli, that maybe would just try to fix the English of that. So we actually typed up the whole use of Lolly Excuse me, how the use of
we translation of halal, is it Hello, Lee. Yeah, Hillel in con. Yeah. So we had, we had considered doing that. And that's how we started out, we typed up the whole thing. And we're just going to edit it, but then, because Oh, Muhammad is really the translator. Okay.
She found that that was too hard. And so she went back. And then she made that list of common phrases, knowing that they weren't always going to be able to be the same. But that was a helpful step for her. And then she just ended up starting over. So then she she wrote, she wrote it all out. And then I typed it up. And then I also was very, I, she never wanted to do a tafsir because that was just too large of a focus. But I told her there are certain ideas that I was pretty insistent, these need a little bit of an explanation.
Of It can't just be left as a street. Word for word type. Well, it's sometimes concepts of things, you know, we know that are honest, explained by by Hadith, and by scholars and all of that. And sometimes if you put some of those ideas out there, they're the ones that, you know, people want to attack. Yes, exactly. And they're not undertake out of context. Yes. Right. Exactly. So,
you know, like, kill them and kill them wherever you find them kind of thing. Well, when they're, you know, after years of being patient, and then they come in and attack you, you can defend yourself, right. So versus that could be misconstrued. I feel like I had a lot to do with what versus needed footnotes. And although we were trying to keep those limited, we still ended up with about 2000.
But some of them are very brief and short, but and then we ended up doing an index, like a subject index.
There are those kinds of books available in Arabic. And so Mohammed basically compiled that, but then we went back and double check that each reference was actually the correct verse, you know, like, there, there wasn't a typo in the number. Um, back in those days, there was not an easy desktop publishing program where we could just put the ideas in, like side by side Arabic and English. So we had a printing press in Mecca, print out the whole entire Quran to the width of the first addition. And I literally had to cut and paste every single ayah in by hand to match the English typeset already. All right. That was um, that took a while.
painstaking, painstaking work. And
it feels like Subhanallah you guys were were the right people. Because also I don't know what you think about this, but
because you had
that Western I,
you could probably see the verses that needed explaining, like needed a little bit more, you know?
Do you know what I mean? And even me being okay, I was probably most of them by five, six years by then but still a relatively new Muslim, I'm going to have a different eye than on Muhammad who I don't know, I'm guessing, let's say 2530 years being Muslim, and fluent in Arabic, you know, things are going to come natural to her mind that aren't going to come natural to my mind. Right. So and then marry somewhere in the middle. Right. So that was, yeah, that was all beneficial. Our circumstances probably really did help that.
I never thought of that until you said it. But that's a valid point.
again, I'm, I'm kind of noticing the theme here. Once a theme that, you know, sometimes we don't see our own unique selling point, like, I don't want to call it a USP. But it is like that, you know, we don't see our own
unique position. Right.
And sometimes other people notice it, or sometimes it's almost as if Allah subhanaw taala makes us go down a certain road. And then, because we, even though we wouldn't have said that we're the best people to do something. There's something in us that other people don't have. So, yeah, so I really love that kind of, it really feels like it was orchestrated by Allah.
Oh, there's no doubt in my mind. You know, it was just total fate, that I happen to be handed those manuscripts, you know, that it just something inside of me, actually, when I first went back to his wife the first time and said, I think we should be at a did, she said, Oh, no, you know, shake so and so looked at it. And, you know, everybody said, it's good. And I said, maybe if I bring them to you and point out what I'm talking about, you'll see it and then once I did, and she had the, you know, in front of her, she said, Oh, I can see where that English could be improved. You know, her open mindedness tool. Otherwise, yes, that ultimately, if we hadn't had that experience of editing
and publishing those other manuscripts, I don't think we would have ever been led down the path to doing the Quran. So who was the person in charge of? Is it $30 A barrel costs him? Was it a Saudi? Yes.
Suleyman. gasm is
a businessman who's started durable custom.
I think in the very early 80s, he was the first Islamic bookstore concentrating on books in other language books other than Arabic, right. So if you had books in Tagalog, you know, Philippine language,
Indonesian because at that time, there were a lot of laborers in the country, from Indonesia, from the Philippines. in English. He was actually friends with DDOT. So he had all the early did not Pamplin it was the only place for us as English speaking Muslims in the city of Jeddah to go and buy books. This was before Doris began as well. Yeah, so um, that's where if we wanted to book, that's where we went, you know, and he had imported some books from Pakistan or India or the West, you know, different different places. But that's where you went as an English speaking Muslim to to get your books, right. So
like I said, we contracted work with him for, you know, 10 or 15 years, and then he became ill to the point where he could no longer keep his business open. And it's shut down. And it was closed for at least a year, if not two. And I approached him and said, you know, Souleymane I would, all of those books. By that time, we had published probably 60 7080 books in association with him. And I said, all those books are just sitting in a warehouse, you know, I want to open the bookstore back up, but I don't have money. You know, I can give you my life savings, which at that time was probably, you know, $5,000 or something, but you're gonna have to give me time, get the store back
open, and I'll pay you bit by bit. What do you say? Alhamdulillah? Because he knew me and had worked with me. He agreed. And
then it was the legalities. You know, you have hamdulillah Al Hamdulillah that I had Saudi citizenship, you can't you can't have a dar without that. And when I approached him, I hadn't it hadn't been finalized yet. So I told him once I get my citizenship Inshallah, you know, then we can talk serious about this, but I just wanted to see what how you'd feel him to live. He was happy. You know, he was
happy that I wanted to open the store backup.
So we went through some of the process and you know, the Chamber of Commerce and transferring the business title and let it out and out of that. What I didn't know at that time is that even though it got approved in Jeddah, there was another step where it had to go to Riyadh in the capitol to get like a final signature, and it got stuck. When it got there, it actually got declined. And so I was at a dinner with some friends of mine. And at that point in my life, I wasn't telling people what I was doing, because I feel like when you do a big project like that,
you know, you do it, and you get it accomplished. And then you tell people, then you announce it, but we were my closest little group of friends, right? And I said,
I was really stressed, I said, you guys, I do not know what I'm gonna do. I have signed a five year contract with the building. And I started remodeling that where, you know, the bookstore used to be, you know, I had signed a contract to buy this business and had put a down payment. So all the and now I'm being forbidden from opening it. And there are literally two people in the country that can approve this. And there's no one higher than them. And one of the women said to me, Well, who's who's the minister? And Minister so and so? Well, I happen to know somebody who knows him. And I'm really, and she's, she's an expat. And I'm thinking how,
you know, um, but this is one of the miracles. Yeah, you made a phone call to a person and, and she called me a couple of weeks later and said, Have you received a phone call? And I said, No, I haven't. She said, Well, I'll try one more time. But if it falls through, I'm not that close, I can't really push the issue. So I'm praying and hoping that something will happen. And I've already like I said, I've already signed contracts, I was already remodeling the store. So I was in this space for the store. And it was empty and echoey. But we were, you know, making counters or whatever. And I get this phone call. And this man says to me, wait for me, and I'm thinking, this is
another person comes on about five minutes later and said, Hello, badly. Yes. I'm Minister so and so. And being this naive, you know, westerner who I know, there's an appropriate way to address a minister. This American Westerner, you know, we have Mr. President, right. And I'm like, home, you know, here, I'm completely unexpected. Hello, Mr. Minister.
You said, I hear you have a problem. And I'm like, Yes, I do. And subhanAllah you know, in the long run, I took him information and showed him what was wrong. And the papers got signed and all hummed Allah. Oh, shoot Allah Al Hamdulillah. And that's just and so that was the beginning of you reopening.
And did you at that point established Sahih International or no, so he international we established from when we did the first editing of the manuscript. So this is, wait, like I said, we worked with silly man for 10 or 15 years. And then when he got ill and needed to close his store, so this would have been, like 1517 years later, that I took over the business. So this business is something separate from the publishing house. Also the publishing house and the shareable Kasam which came basically then we could start printing the books on our own distributing them. But so he International is like the Editing group. Okay, right. Oh, we so we basically began as editors, but
then being in the school with Oh, Muhammad, and she just had all of her written notes when she was teaching us. I said, you know, these would be really beneficial for the students to have. So I went to Suleyman, you know, and said, we'd like to make some of the books that were or we'd like to make some of the work that we're learning in school as books to help the teaching center we could sell these to the students in the school, and then he could sell them from the bookstore. So we had published you know,
quite a few books by then already understand your national or under own Muhammad's name, or in cooperation with other authors who brought manuscripts that we edited?
What kinds of books were they like? What kinds of topics
we had a lot of books for beginners you know how to pray Basic Books, but we had three tough series and English we did sort of cough sort. Yeah, scene and sort. What was
sorry, I'm just drawing a blank. Then we, we had double books, you know, we did a book called the Global Messenger, which
a little bit of a biography about the Prophet, slice Islam, but also just basic information for non Muslims.
One of my favorite books was called realities of faith, which was geared to Muslims, you know, when you're kind of going through the weak times and need kind of a kick. And a reminder, that's a fantastic book take on Muhammad does not like to take an Arabic Book and translate it, she likes to take topics and take information from different sources and compile them. Because when you translate a book in full, then you can't put any of your own emphasis or your own costs, you have no focus. So she found it was easier to just compile things.
Instead of just taking a book and translating it.
Wow. So it seems like men also had a role to play in this, you know, like, I think sometimes.
You know, we, we don't always point out, or we don't always notice that in some of the things that we've, you know, successful women.
And women who've been able to achieve things. Often they'll have men in their lives who,
even if they're not like their own relatives, just men, brothers, you know, who facilitate who support and I feel like,
I wonder if in your journey, you would say that that was also the case, because people, people sometimes stereotype Saudi, right? Saudi Arabia, like the idea of,
you know, a Saudi bookshop owner, or publishing house or even,
you know, having that kind of openness to working on these types of things, you know, people have stereotypes. So
I wonder if you could speak to that a little bit? Well, that's one point. But we all had husbands, you know, we were taking time away from, you know, it took us three years, from beginning to end, because you don't just sit down and go through it once. You know, you sit down and you have to proofread it, and then you have to lay it out, and then a question comes up, or you say, oh, all of a sudden, a word, you know, that could be better translated as this. Now we need to go back and find all instances of that and change it, or somebody gave me this suggestion. Um, you know, we'd have our little back and forth about No, there's got to be a comma there because it changes the meaning
but no, it can't because of it. It you know, it just, yeah, how much time we spent in phone conversations. And in those days, women couldn't drive in Saudi Arabia. So sometimes we'd actually want to be together to work in person. So it was the husband's, you know, their work schedules? Who's going to watch the kids who's going to who's going to take us who's, you know, who's going to pick up food, so we got something to eat? I mean, yeah, there were sacrifices by other people behind us. Absolutely. You know, but, ya know, mashallah, you know, we have to give a lot of credit to brothers Suleyman for, you know, opening up an opportunity, and for trusting us, and, you know,
yeah, that's very true.
Yeah, I think, I think is important. I think it illustrates how men and women, we complement one another, we, you know, we are supporters of one another. And that's where it, where I think our Alma thrives, you know, when we take the best talents of each other, and have that kind of synergy, and build on that. Right. And then when I was opening the bookstore, there were a lot of legalities that needed to be handled. And, you know, you know, maybe I'll remembered my husband at the time, you know, who took on a lot of, you know, had to take work, vacation from work and things like that to go accomplish, you know, just a lot of messes that need to be cleaned up. Right.
So, oh, yeah, the bureaucracy, the bureaucracy in those places, is because I lived in Egypt and
just to get something simple, done, you know, like something administrative. Right? Well, even even simple things, you know, because when Suleyman got ill and shut the business, he just, it just stopped. And so like the telephone lines didn't get disconnected or, you know, the bills weren't changed over. Yeah, all of that. gets complicated.
Yeah, lots of red tape. So where are you all now?
Like, you and the other sisters, what do you do? Can you share with us like any kind of reflection you have on
the journey from that point to now? Like, are you all back in America? No, Muhammad and Mary are still in Saudi Arabia, I made the decision five years ago
to return to the US.
That was a, I didn't think, you know, having come back every year, as a visitor, I thought I would just be able to jump right back in, because I grew up here, and this was my native land. But after 30 years of being in Saudi, and just the changes in the world, you know, I struggled, I struggled quite a bit, it was an adjustment, you know, I thought I'd just come back, it'd be easy to get a job because I had been a business owner.
You know, I thought all the experience of all the things I had done in my life, but here, it's all about what degree you have. And I had, you know, I guess this if there's any lesson in my life story, um, you know, back in my day, you could have an AAA and still join a corporation and move up the company ladder and be established. And in my 18 year old mind, I knew that I wanted to own a business and I just said, I'm not going to go to college and study, you know, French, and philosophy and all those other things. I want a business degree, and let's get on with it. So I only went to business school and had an AAA. And so when I got back here, that's not that's like not even having
a GED it, you know, nobody would know, companies would take me seriously because they didn't have anybody to call. Because, you know, I didn't have a boss. I was my own boss.
And it was it was really hard for me to get a liberal I was a single mom, at that point, really hard to take care of my kids and get a viable position. You know, so I ended up working in a factory nights and that was, that was miserable, you know,
but Subhanallah Hamdulillah that somebody told me after a while, and now I'm back in a field that, you know, is suitable to me. Oh, Hamdulillah. But yeah, big. So what happened to the bookshop in the end? What happened to the well, I was able to keep it open for about a year after I left all because of a wonderful, my wonderful employee, who had actually been the office manager for Suleyman when Suleyman opened the business, the brother Aberdeen had worked there, you know, for more than 30 years. And this was one of the other miracles when Suliman close the bookstore, Aberdeen, you know, went back home to the Philippines, but he was able to come back on a visitor visa, and he was
looking for a job because he, you know, wanted to work in Jeddah, and of all people on Muhammad's husband happened to be, you know, in the grocery store or something like that. And he bumped into Aberdeen. And, you know, I mean, this is like a year after the bookstore closed down or something. And, you know, of course, Omaha men's husband knew that I was trying to open the store. And so he told Aberdeen, you should try to context Sister, I'm cool. I'm sure she would be thrilled to have you back. I mean, look at the size of the world. Look at the situation. You know, what made Aberdeen come back to Jeddah at that time and be on that street in this massive city and run into Oklahoma's
husband who happened to know that I was thinking about opening the store back up. This is Allah. This is because there couldn't have been a better person. He knew all of the books, he knew all the customers, he knew how everything ran.
And it can you just remind us who was Aberdeen? So he was the office manager, who worked in the bookstore during silly months. When should we not own the bookstore? Before he became I knew Aberdeen through all my years of contracting work and buying books. And
I knew him as the brother who was the, the clerk in the bookstore.
And I mean, he
SubhanAllah. He had he had found a job and he was thinking about signing a contract, but he didn't sign it. And so then he contacted me when he heard this, and he was thrilled. He loved the bookstore. No, it was his life. He came to work in Saudi Arabia when he was like 18 years old, and had been working there for over 20 years.
And so he was the perfect person, he knew everything.
So that also helped you and it facilitated the whole making the whole journey easier. Right? So he was my only, you know, employee he stayed in that he stayed in the bookshop both shifts, if he was on vacation, or something that I did, which, you know, at that time, women weren't really working in
And places like weren't working in retail. In Saudi. Yeah, people would come in. And that was very strange. You know, people, I'd say that again, people would come in and it was strange for people to walk into a boy. Yeah, there's a female lady. Yeah, this is, you know, the, the country is very open that way now. Yeah, I opened my bookstore. And that was not what women did. Yes. And also men, some would prefer probably to deal with,
with a male as well. For some men, some men thought it was great. And other men weren't so keen.
Yeah, it's just not the culture.
Well, Subhan Allah. So that's, that's lovely. Can you like what are your reflections on the impact of the translation? And, you know, the work that you did in general and
how it was received? And, you know, when you look back now, obviously, you're like, 1000s of miles away from where you were then?
Does it feel like a different life? Does it feel like it was a different life? And what are your reflections on the impact and the reception?
Yes, it does absolutely feel like a different life. You know, my life during those three years.
Besides having to cook and clean the house, all I did was work on the translation. I mean, it was just every day, there was something to do on it, right? Or to.
So it's like, when you have a project, and then all of a sudden it ends? Yeah.
Is there like,
they say that they that when you have a goal
while you're in the process, so like you're climbing a mountain, right? And like, while you're in the process of climbing the mountain, you're so engaged in it, that that's actually the
that's actually where you get the joy from the kind of the motivation and then when once you achieve that goal, and once it's done and dusted.
There's almost like an anticlimax or, or a feeling of.
I don't I don't know if grief is the right word. But no, there's relief, because it was
a part of it. That's relief that you can kind of get your life back. Right. But but then there's kind of like an emptiness, you know, the connection, because it's not just about getting the wording. You're like, I'm learning. For me, this is delicate, you know, because sometimes I would ask, well, Mohamed, well, why didn't you translate it this way? And then she'd explained to me and I learned more, you know, I learned so the entire process, the entire process was so it feels like had so many different, it was helping you to develop in different ways. Yes, it was enlightened. You know, I had all these aha moments, like, awesome how Allah? I never understood that. Now I do. You
know? Um, yeah. Wow. Yeah. So yeah, for me, it was a great a great learning experience. You know, I'm, clearly I'm not the translator, you know, I'm the project manager, I'm the typesetter. I'm the editor. You know, all Muhammad is the one who really should deserve the credit for this translation, because without her capabilities, there would be no translation. Just Allah brought me in as a way to facilitate it was all this nisi right. It's a fun level. I think, like I'm, I'm an offer, like author of a book about Khadija the Lana. And
I think so many people go into making a book. Do you know what I mean? Like that. Sometimes I'm embarrassed to take the credit for it. Because even though my name is on the front cover, the publisher has also engaged with me so much, you know, like in
shaping the book, and improving it. And being like that objective, I, you know, seeing things that I would not have seen, because I'm too close to it, you know what I mean? And then there's an illustrator who's made the book look beautiful, and there's graphic designers who make the cover and the typesetting. And
I don't know, I think
when it comes to a book, there's there's not one person who can really take the credit for it. Because it's such a collaborative, it is a project, you know,
there's a sister who never you know, may Allah forgive us. We never give her proper credit who, you know, has memorized Quran and because we were pasting in
The is by hand, you know, she went through and read the whole entire thing to be sure that we put all the eyes in the right book, you know, then that there was and then later on when we did updated versions, then by that time there was a program with Arabic and we used it. But every once in a while, I don't know why it was which the order of words. And so how many times did she proofread the whole thing in Arabic, to find when there was glitches in the system, you know, and then there was another sister, like I told you, when we did that index, who looked up every single reference to make sure that it was the right number, and she did find, you know,
errors in the numbers and whatever and corrected them. So there there were people like that behind the scenes, too. Yes, absolutely. But I want to convey to you that we will, like, here at infeed we're so inspired by you all, you know, when we were so proud of you, that you that you did this project, you know, because it is a it's a massive undertaking. And sometimes when I tell this story, it feels like this, that really me because my life is different now, you know, after I left Saudi, I'm not in the publishing world anymore. I'm just a mom, you know, and never say I'm just a mom. No, no, no, you're right, that came on, you know?
Yeah, there's an emptiness because there was so much
I feel like there's there had to have been Buttercup, you know, in anything that anybody learned, you know, the reviews have basically been good, some people.
Okay, so we have to have this balance, the original intention was make it as close to the Arabic as possible, so people can kind of get the original feel. And that students of Arabic could benefit because it's easier for them to go back and forth between the English and Arabic. But then you also need your English to be fluid, right? And you need other people who pick it up to just, if they don't, if there aren't student of Arabic, it, you don't want it to feel awkward to them. Right. So there's this this balance. So some people don't like that sometimes maybe we'll reverse the order of the noun and verb, or something like, That's not typical in English, but that's impactful. That's
how it is in Arabic. Sometimes that really works, then when you come to like, metaphors or analogies or something.
Those don't translate at all right, because you have to have the context of of the Arabic language for that. So then you get into confusion. But, you know, I feel that Muhammad really did an amazing job in trying to figure that out. And I think there's been scholars who have really appreciated, like her way of doing it, there's other people who translate who just know, they want to make only the flow of the English be the most beautiful kind of almost poetic English that they can get. But that wasn't our intent. So some people like it, and some people don't. And that's fine. You know, for me, like I always I grew up reading, when I did read translations, Yusuf Ali. And then
I remember when this came onto the scene, actually, I kind of remember suddenly, it was everywhere, you know, like in all the Islamic bookshops. And, and the thing I really liked about it, I found it really refreshingly
simple, you know, do you know what I mean? Like,
Yusuf Ali had that poetic, almost archaic sight, kind of beauty, which was nice, kind of biblical, almost, right.
which appeals to a certain type of person, I think, you know, maybe somebody who's used to the Bible would that would actually appeal to, but this translation was the was the one that I would rather give to somebody, you know, what I mean, like, in the modern day, like, as a gift and a new, a non Muslim or a new Muslim, you know, so I really liked the I found it
easy and refreshing, you know, as a modern, it had that modern feel to it, you know? Right. You know, of course, there's always going to be people, you know, giving criticism, some of it constructive, and there have been times that we thought, well, we can see why somebody would think that and we have made some changes over the years. But what we found is sometimes there would be Arabs with limited understanding of English. And they would say, it can't be this because it bubble blah, blah, blah, but they don't. They are not native speakers of English, and they oftentimes would not understand why it couldn't be. They would go to a dictionary and say, Well, you know, they go to
an Arabic, which means meanings and but no, that's not the way that's not the way we speak. That's not the way we understand things that's, you know,
Um, yeah. So you know, you know, collaborative translation, I think that's actually becoming more, more of a norm now. Like, there's this publishing company called Tordoff publishers here in the UK. And they're actually encouraging to students who can translate so or even graduates and people who have experienced translating, to come together in a program that they do to do collaborative translation. So they, they're trying to move away from this kind of one person translating things all on their own without any input into you know what I mean? Right, I thought I thought that was that's much better.
Yeah, I think there's a benefit in that, too. You know, it, I can see where it could be too many cooks in the kitchen also. Yeah. But I think if they have the focus of what's, you know, like, the methodology, there's a methodology, you have to decide that. Are we gonna get I mean, it's similar to what you what what you were doing in the sense that, that, yes, there was one person who was focused on the translation, but
that feedback, you know, and that kind of, almost questioning, and yes, and pressing and asking and prodding, and like, is that really, that's almost necessary for the process? You know? Yeah. i Yes. For it for you to for the outcome to be optimal. Right, right. Yeah. Yeah, like I said, the benefit of me not being fluent in Arabic, and,
you know, being kind of somewhat new, and,
you know, five or seven years Muslim, I mean, 100, Allah that I had the opportunity of studying during all those years, but it's not at a scholarly level. So there's still that questioning, you know, things that
definitely stood out in my mind that needed to be looked at. And and somebody who had been Muslim 3040 years, wouldn't have questioned it. So
Asha Allah, we're proud of you, sister, and with Allah and team of sisters. And so what did the future like when you look to the future? What is that? I'm Attila Bentley looking forward to? And are there any other mountains that she's planning on climbing? Well, they say variety is the spice of life, right? And I have so many things that I'd like to do that I'll never be able to accomplish. It's impossible. So for me, the challenge is
what's what makes the most sense? What's the most beneficial?
And I unfortunately, I don't think I have the answer to that yet. But um, maybe narrowing it down. When it comes to the books, I really would like one day to get them all into ebooks and make them available online. Just for the benefit, but I just haven't, you know, life has surviving has taken me away. So on May Allah subhana, Allah make everything easy for you.
And I think that's a good place for us to
end our discussion, even though I'm so pleased to have had this opportunity to get to know you a bit better. And, you know, when you meet somebody and you just feel like, we were friends in a, we don't believe in the past life.
I was gonna say, I was gonna say we were friends in a past life.
My husband heard me say, but he'd be like, can we please stay Muslim?
Curfew stay Muslim during this conversation? No. Sorry. I should say that again.
I meant, you feel like your souls have met before, you know. Yeah. But there's not the our soul the souls have met before. Yes, exactly.
That's why I think we have that feeling when we meet someone, you know, we probably didn't meet everybody back way back. You know, when we were first Yes. But
well, and even if we didn't, okay, that's besides the point. The thing is, is this is the beauty of Islam. You know, one of my best friends, one of my best Muslim friends said to me one time, you know, if we weren't Muslim, you probably wouldn't be my type.
That's very honest. So, yeah.
I, at first, I took offense, but I know exactly what she meant. You know, we come from very different backgrounds and very, you know, but we are the best of friends and that's because Islam united us and we understand each other and we have had so many shared beautiful moments, you know, together, but which you didn't tip you know, I wouldn't have been quite her tight. You know?
That's the beauty of the
sisterhood that we have, isn't it? There's almost like an immediate click clicking right Alhamdulillah Alhamdulillah. There really there is, you know, this is one of the beauty of Islam that people unite you you can go to a city and you can meet somebody in the masjid and they might invite you over to your house and you feel so welcome to go. You know, have you ever been to UK? No.
Oh, and where are you ancestors? Like where do you originate from? I'm from what you know, Ireland, Germany and Scotland. Okay, you missed out England.
Yeah, there's a tad of French in there too. But, okay. So your British Heart, some weary? Irish and I don't know if the Scots mostly Irish not so divided about their allegiance to Britain at the moment, but anyway. Oh, anyway, does I feel a heron? Well, if you do get an opportunity to come to UK, I'd love to host you, I'd love to take you out for a cream tea. You know, that's what we do here.
I'll order a coke. But
that's what the Brits are known for our scones and
English breakfast tea. So
I have two of my other best friends are actually from the UK. So yeah, if I have the opportunity, I would love to
Shala does that kind of system Attila? Is there any kind of last message or anything you'd like to share with everybody?
I think the the point of my story is, is how you alluded to it, that you have to let Allah lead you and take control. This is not what my life dream was, this is not what I was planning on doing. But Allah opened those doors and just basically led me through them. And I had to,
you feel it in your bones and you and you have to do it. And it doesn't have to be a big project like this. It might just be the sister who's sitting alone in the masjid over there. And you're the one that Allah says, Hey, go give her the greetings. Ask her how she's doing. You know, check check up on her.
You, you can do things completely silently. You know, I had a friend Allahu Allah, your humble who passed away. But I found out that she had the habit of every single day, if she had any coins, you know, after being out, she put them in a juice bottle. And this was a woman who was needy herself. But she just didn't keep her change. And she always given Seneca as soon as the bottle was full, she just go hand it to somebody on the street. Okay, that last bit again, when the bottle when the bottle would be become full with coins, he would just find somebody on the street who seemed needy
and hand it to them. You know, so we all we all have something to give to the community.
It can be a smile.
You know, it doesn't, we have to end if you have abilities,
you know, layout work or you know, IT skills or videography or whatever it is,
you know, use them make your Nia there was a sister who said one time, you know I can dread cooking every day. But if I make by Nia that this pleases my husband and my family keeps my kids healthy, that I'm getting baraka for it. Instead of it being a mundane thing. It becomes an act of worship. Yes. So I'm reminding myself before anybody else, because we get so busy in this life. But it's it's it's being practical. It's making those needles and finding your opportunity and thinking about what is it that you can do whether it
affects the whole community, or just this your tight knit community within your own household or even for yourself. If I'm struggling with reading a page a day well maybe I need to read three eyes, whatever it is, but there's something there that every single one of us can contribute.
Well just like her sister and with Allah, we love you for the sake of Allah we pray for you that Allah subhanaw taala brings you joy and benefit just like you've fought us benefit through your efforts you know, just like you love here and I think there's a piece of you in every in every Muslim home which is quite quite an amazing thing you know
just love to give all of the gratitude is to Atlas pantalla This is a latest project hamdullah um, that Allah and Allah chose
Some people as tools right to accomplish those projects.
Oh hamdulillah just like a look at some. Okay, sister salaam aleikum wa rahmatullah Ibaka. It's been a pleasure. Thank you, sister. Okay, just like Kamala Heron brothers and sisters, I'm sure you really enjoyed and benefited from that. Make dua for our sister and what Allah go and revisit your translation from Saudi International. And you'll see that this was the translation that we were talking about during this podcast. Please share this episode with some brothers and sisters who needs some inspiration. And please listen to it, comment on it. You know, we want this message and we want the inspiration that we try to share in the on feed podcast, to reach as many people as
possible. And I think having conversations and interviews with inspiring people is one of the most powerful ways that we could do that. Because sometimes we don't realize that these people exist in our communities, right.
So does that well, Karen and with that, I will bid you farewell. Salaam aleikum wa rahmatullah wa barakato Subhanallah Subhanak Allahumma will be handing a shadow Allah ilaha illa and a stockbroker to be like