Channel: Jamal Badawi
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AsSalamu Alaikum and welcome to Islam in focus. Today's program is the 51st in the series sources of Islam and we are starting a new topic, very interesting way that you saw in the translations of the Quran.
Could you give us a summary from last week's program please certainly, we'll start at first by making a distinction between literal translation of the Quran and we said that this is impossible in the case of the Quran, he can't really conveyed an electoral form. Secondly, we talked about the second the non literal type of translation which somehow convey the meaning and intent then we said only the basic and explicit meanings are conveyed but not the implicit or implied ones. So it might be only possible partly and thirdly, the interpretive translation which at times that afflict the own understanding of the translator, which is seem to be more accurate description of most or all
translations available today.
Secondly, we try to examine some of the difficulties that are faced in attempting to try and translate the Quran.
We said that it is difficult to translate in general, from one language to the other, it is more so that is more difficult in translating from the Arabic language because of the nature of the language itself and its characteristics. But it is even more difficult in the case of the Quran, which is actually the standard bearer of the of the eloquence. And finally, we touched briefly on some sort of historical review of the translations of the Quran with a special reference to the translation to English, indicating again how they evolved from the 12th century on.
In dealing with this, we touched on some of the difficulties and errors committed by many orientalist in their attempts. Sometimes because the there are so many words in Arabic that are translated in one single word in English, even though the shades of meaning and the original are quite different in implication. Secondly, that there are certain Arabic words like not for which acquired a whole sentence to explain it, there is no single English word to explain its meaning.
We also indicated that sometimes the background of the translators himself seem to be projected in the translation resulting in several errors. Now, as far as I can remember, we touched on that topic last week, but we ran out of time. So I'm going to have to ask you to please continue on that last point. What what we were saying last week, essentially is that many orientalist have been obsessed throughout several decades, and trying to prove explicitly or implicitly, that the Quran is not really an original revelation that came, you know, to Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, but something of a source of compilation of previous scriptures. And many of them, especially those with
Judeo Christian background, at times misinterpreted, several verses in the Quran somehow to make it parallel, are similar to Biblical concepts. The the point that was raised at the end of the previous program, was simply an example of this arrows. And George says, translation of the verse 15, and chapter 16. In the Quran, in which the additional word in the Quran simply says that God created the mountains, so that it prevented or prevent the earth from shaking with you, as we see in this illustration, the word the Arabic word 10, it simply means shake or lose its balance. However, we find that George said, it translated to me and so that the Earth would not move forever,
or not move at all. And that seemed to be a reflection of his own biblical background, you might say, because in the Psalms of David in the fourth sun in verse five, it has this concept that God placed this mountain
On earth so that they do not move forever. But this is not really the concept that the that the Quran speaks about at all It simply means that it would not lose balance. And we have explained in some detail, this Quranic expression in the light of modern science in the series dealing with the authority of the Quran or the source of the Quran, we have seen again that this is not the only reference in the Quran, there are several references in the Quran, that clearly shows that the earth actually is moving, and that it shaped his trick. So that's one.
Another example of errors also we find in the translation by Palmer
in his translation of chapters 22, verse 65.
The original Arabic simply say that God holds the sky, so that it won't fall on you. While you translate it, okay, he explains the sky here as rain. And nowhere in the Quran, do we find that the term sky or Santa has been ever used to refer to rain or rainfall. In fact, the Caribbean and Arabic seem to give the indication of the concept of gravity, the gravitational forces, which you know, hold the various heavenly bodies in their particular orbit without having to clash with each other.
Sometimes, the problem arises because of the lack of understanding of the context in which the Quranic terminology or the Arabic original word is used, and as such, it leads to some kind of misinterpretation or erroneous results. An example of this is found in the commentary made by Arthur Jeffrey, concerning the verse in the Quran, that is chapter 89, in verse 10. And that verse, it speaks about the Pharaoh and describes him as the Pharaoh, Lord of the stakes, or tempt text. Well, the original Arabic word.
And that word, in fact, does indeed, literally mean steaks or text. But the problem is that Jeffrey could not understand that in the context of the Quran. And as such, he raises the question, what does it mean? What What, what a vague explanation what what is that Pharaoh nodes of the of the stakes. Now if we refer to the Quran, and you can see that also in this, the second box on the chart,
we find that the term altet, or sticks, literally was used in the Quran, in chapter 78, and verses six, and seven. But obviously, it does not refer to the sticks of attempt. It is a metaphor in Arabic to mountains, because just as the sticks of the tent hold the tent, stable, so do the mountains, they hold the crust of the earth stable, again, that was discussed in the light of modern science and the series on authority of doctrine, and how the crust of the earth is very thin. And the mountains as geologists tell us, does play an important role do play an important role in keeping the stability of the thick, that thin crust of the earth. Now, when the Quran refers to the
Pharaoh, then the equivalent really of the mountain here that the pharaoh belt was the pyramids. Well, not everybody knows that the pyramids were actually the basic manifestation of the power and progress and scientific development of the of the pharaohs. They use that to pride themselves. And obviously, if you look at the pyramids, and the mountain, they're basically the same you really talk about mounting this like it's an almost like an artificial
mountain. So this is what make the reader once you put it in context make a great deal of sense of what the verse really is refer to. So it talks about the pharaoh who built the the pyramids, which are like mountains, which is used in the Quran to refer to something like steaks, I see. Now, there are many similarities, or at least a good number of similarities
in words between the Arabic language and other languages. Now could this possibly be one of the reasons for the errors in the translations?
Yes, it does. I think this is very relevant point especially with respect to Semitic languages like when you compare Arabic for example,
With Hebrew, there is a great deal of similarity and the words, but the similarity in the sound of the world does not necessarily mean that they have the same meaning. Let us look at some of the examples. In the first example we have on on this chart, for example, in chapter 48. In verse four, the Quran speaks about Sakina.
Or the second language in Arabic means peace, assurance, which God placed into the heart of the believers. That's what it means. However, we find that our son, Jeffrey, confused is that with the Hebrew word Shekinah, the word Chicana. And Hebrew, according to Dr. Khalifa is the invisible glory of Jehovah resting over his mercy seat. Now, it is obvious that there is absolutely no connection between the two words in terms of meaning even though the sound might get reasonably close, but the meaning is totally different. In the second example, in chapter six, verse 59, the Quran simply says that, with God, or with Allah is the clues of the unseen clues to the unseen. That is, God knows
everything that is not known to us, the hidden things that was confused by Padma with another Arabic word, this time, confused into Arabic words. The other Arabic words, is not Masoretic, but it pronounces Maserati, and you'll notice here the vowel, the longer vowel is in different places. In both words, even though the sound for the person was not submitted as almost identical method and method to actually the word the method it has a different meaning than clues it means keys, keys, and as such, we find that upon Mark automatically assumed to be connecting. The term key is with the rabbinical tradition of the three keys in the hands of God. You see, a concept that is totally
irrelevant to Islam. And, as indicated, again, the term is erroneous, that's not the word in the Quran doesn't say my fattier, it says my faith which means close. This mixing was not only between different Arabic terms or between Arabic and Hebrew terms, but sometimes also between Arabic and Syriac
words. Another example of this is the turn on, for example, the Arabic term is simply Koran which means reading. However, we find an orientalist like ground bomb. mix that with the Syriac word karianna karianna, which mean lectionary or a book
which contains parts of the Scriptures and is used for recitation during religious service. And again, there is no connection because the Quran we're not talking about parts of the Scripture we talk about the Quran itself, you know, the reading
another term for Khan, which in fact is another name also of the Quran. The words for Khan in Arabic means criterion that is criterion between right and wrong between truth and falsehood.
However, we find Orientals like Bell and Arthur Geoffrey, mix the term with another Syriac term called putana, percona. And percona in Syriac actually means salvation. What is the connection there between criterion and salvation, the fact that the words may sound somewhat similar does not necessarily mean that the meaning also is identical.
Sometimes, even when the translator is not wrong, in a sense of using the literal meaning of the word or having the correct translation of the word itself. Sometimes his own commentary on the word seem to reflect a lack of understanding of its context which sometimes leads to erroneous conclusions as well. Okay. Now this last statement you made maybe Can you elaborate on that a little bit? What perhaps you can elaborate by giving some specific examples? Yeah.
Perhaps one of the most famous
errors that I have heard from many friends who will seem to have read the books about Islam, again, written by outsiders always by orientalist is an error that was made in an earlier
Translation of the meaning of the Quran by George Sal Sal. He is very famous orientalist. But unfortunately, the same error seem to have been copied by many successive orientalist. And that's why the idea still until today, you hear it from people who read about Islam through the erroneous sources, for example, and Georgeson indicated that the Quran refers to marry the mother of Jesus as Dr. Harun or sister of Aaron, that is found in the Quran in chapter 19, in verse 28.
In his comments about this, George says, say, how could marry, that is the mother of Jesus peace be upon him? How could merely be the sister of Aaron?
Even though between them there is almost 1800 years?
Apparently, of course, he's talking about Aaron, the brother of Prophet Moses, which is true, there's 1800 years
some orientalist, even
make a statement, which is repeated quite frequently. Maybe they say Prophet Mohammed, mixed between marry the mother of Jesus and marry or Marian, the sister of Moses.
There's more than one error in that kind of statement. On one hand, when it says Mohammed confused, it seemed to imply that Muhammad was the author of the Quran, which we have shown amply in the series on authority of the Quran, but neither is there support for that contention, by way of internal evidence from the Quran, nor from external critical analysis even that we have discussed quite extensively. But aside from that, if we focus on the question of Miss understanding or misinterpretation, the word Arabic, it is true, it could mean sister in blood, you know, from the same mother and father, let's say,
from the mother's side or father's side, but in Arabic, also the term sister or brother for that matter,
is used at times to move related to, and this is not unique in the Quran. For example, in chapter 11, in the Quran, in verse 15, it says that to the people of Iran, we sent their brotherhood Prophethood. Well, their brother here does not necessarily mean from the same mother and father, but means one of them, one who is related to them from their same family, or same kind of, of descent.
So what happened then, is that when you take the mention of the Quran of Mary as the mother of Aaron, in the proper context, it did with the story of Mary when she gave birth to Prophet Jesus peace be upon him. And when she came carrying the baby in her arms, the Jews were surprised. They told the heart, oh, sister of Aaron, which means you are a pious woman. You are related to Aaron, because according to Yusuf Ali, in his commentary on the transition to Quran,
Prophet Aaron, the brother of Moses, was actually the first in the lineage of priesthood among the Israelites. And we all know that Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth, were both from priestly families and as such they are related in that priesthood or piety to Aaron so they said, How can you relate to Aaron How can you come from the same priestly type of household and now you're bringing a baby before he got married, of course, implying that something wrong must have happened.
This is the kind of mistake you know that one can refer to concerning this issue. Another problem also is with respect to the verse, verses six and seven, and chapter 78. In the foreign word, the Earth is described as behead and which means actually an expense that God created the earth in such a way that its curvature is suitable for human life. By the way, the word to be heard also could mean a resting place. However, we find an orientalist, like levy. And eBay claims that the Quran always refer to the earth as flat.
And I can't see any connection whatsoever between saying that the earth is created suitable for life or the curvature is, is makes it possible for us to move around the earth. And between saying that the earth is flat. Indeed, we have given ample evidence again in the series on authority of the Quran, as to how the Quran speaks about the motion of the earth and the shape of the earth as strict the hair
From day one, the verse says that the mountains, if you look at the mountains, you think that they are stationary, but they are passing along like, like clouds which seem to imply the movement of the earth. When the Quran speaks about the day and night merging into each other, which can never happen unless you assume that the air the surface of the Earth is actually strict, we discuss lots of this. But the point again, here is the very erroneous conclusion simply to show that the Quran you know, make statements which is incorrect, scientifically assert example, concerning the sun. For example, in the Quran in chapter 36, and verse 38.
It says that God
appointed or the son runs into, or unto a resting place, for it a resting place. Now, the original Arabic word is Mr. Curry, which could mean either a resting place, or it could also mean an appointed term, which seems to be the more closer meaning to that context.
From our understanding, today, I think we can easily understand what is meant by an appointed term, because we all know that the sun someday will disappear. We discussed that also in a previous series, maybe in about four and a half billion years or so. There'll be no more sun, you know, so there's an appointed term for it. But whatever meaning you take a resting place, or an appointed term, has nothing to do with the explanation given by levy. When you say is the Quran say the sun journey or runs every day to an abode? The original Arabic in the Quran doesn't say every day in Arabic condemn it doesn't doesn't exist there. So this kind of misinterpretation again seem to give
a totally erroneous meaning. Finally, one more example on this the first one,
the Quran, for example, in chapter 23, verse 17, simply say that God created about you seven paths, seven path.
When you say, Tara, that's the original Arabic, it means pass, or it could mean also heavenly spheres. However, Arthur, Jeffrey misunderstood that to mean seven volts, which come from some mythologies that there is seven bones, seven successive bones, the first Heavens and the second and so on in terms of, but this again, has nothing to do with the original expression in the Quran. And it's simply out of context, there is no mention of forms, or any word dead. That means Voltron that
Dr. Jamal Now, the last minute, so have you been talking about the different errors that come about from the translations? Well, exactly. What would you say yes, to how serious these errors are?
What in fairness, I must say that
some errors might be somewhat tolerable. Not all of them, at least a few of them might be tolerable, because there is no perfect translation. There's no question about that. Even some Muslims themselves when they translate, they commit errors and dynamic bones about it, when we come to it will say again, where some of the errors took place, we are only humans. But I think the real dangers of those mistakes is where there is implication which is totally contrary to Islam.
where for example, the backgrounds of the translators makes him a little bit biased, and erroneous and somehow imply or try to show that the Quran simply copied from a previous scripture, which is not true.
As we have seen also that some of those errors seem to imply, again that the Quran is simply a human document rather than revelation. Because, for example, live is misinterpretation about the sun and all this seems to indicate again,
if he were right, that the Quran is making statements about natural laws which are not correct scientifically. And again, that may imply that the Quran is simply human document written by someone which again is not true if you go back to the original.
Some of those
errors might even contradict with basic aspects of Islam even and its fundamental principles and whether it is intended or not, I'm not assessing the hearts of each and every orientalist or what his biases were or are. But the result is to present Islam in somewhat distorted and inaccurate way to the Western leader who is not familiar with the Quran and as such, take these writings as
Coming from authorities, which is not. Okay, well then let me take this question one step further. Now can you do as a few examples of these types of errors and maybe focus on why they contradict the basic principles of Islam? What an excellent discussion of this is found in the very good work by Dr. Elisa Elisa, who is referred to before with the book called the sublime Quran actually well boring quite a bit from his excellent work and undiscovered of programs.
take an example like the orientalist tryton t ri, wt o n, Chetan.
He claims as we see in this illustration, that, in the beginning of Islam, a prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, introduced the term man in Arabic, which means the compassionate to refer to God.
And then he says that,
later on this proper name for God
was not or did not prove to be very popular and the Prophet failed to make it popular. So, he dropped the term attachment or the compassionate and use the term Allah.
Now, suffice to show that this
understanding is totally baseless is that the term or rushman appears in the preface or beginning of 113 sources of the Quran, which means all of them except for one Bismillah R Rahman Rahim In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, The Merciful.
So how come that was dropped, even though all the revelations from beginning to end in Mecca and Medina continued in the beginning, that man I wonder how could an authority or a highly you know,
knowledge of a person like Jason make such a simple, you know, mistake, in addition to this, if it was true that the Prophet as he claimed, failed to make the name of a man popular, so introduced another name, what explained the fact that according to my count, there is at least 55 places in the Quran where the term is used. And that is in 18 different chapters in the Quran. And some of these chapters were earlier revelations, some were later revelation, which means that there was not rocking or anything as time went on. Another example is the claim made by Bill in which he says that Prophet Muhammad was hesitant between the use of the term Allah and drop the word wrap, as we see in
this second point, second illustration, Rob actually
moves millions in Arabic Lord, okay. The term Allah has went on, of course, to be a proper name of Allah and also mean God.
The point is that both of these terms are Arabic terms, and both of them are known. Both of them are used in the Quran, and there's no ground whatsoever to presume that one of them is mutually you know, substitutable for the other, the both of them are used, there's no different deities or anything like that. An example of that in the Quran, for example, in chapter 13, verse 30, would, you know, there's reference to Allah as Rob, but of course, the word drug could mean any laws. But as we use it in the proper Islamic term, there's only one through one through Lord of all and that is Allah. So, there is no difference once you define things in the proper way. This is basically you
know, some of the examples that illustrate what I said earlier that some errors are not simply a problem with lack of understanding of the language or some mistake here and there. Some errors are serious enough to justify very careful check. Well, thank you very much, Dr. Jamal, but I will have to end it right here.
Thank you all for joining us and we welcome you next week. Once again to waste time and focus Assalamu alaikum