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The Qur’an and its Translators

Introduction The Qur’an has been without doubt the most influential book in the history of mankind, in the same way as the great Prophet to whom it was revealed has been the most influential of men. Together they have heralded a new and ultimate era in the history of mankind. This influence is bound to […]

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The Qur’an and its Translators
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    Introduction

    The Qur'an has been without doubt the most influential book in the history of mankind, in the same way as the great Prophet to whom it was revealed has been the most influential of men. Together they have heralded a new and ultimate era in the history of mankind. This influence is bound to increase with the development of man's awareness of the higher dimensions of human existence and with the removal of the obstacles that bar humanity from its Godward journey. Neither prose nor poetry, it surpasses all human composition with the celestial music of its rhythms,

    the profundity of its meanings, its universality of appeal, its wonderful clarity, eloquence, sublime rhetoric, and above all its deep and passionate concern for the good of all human beings, which permeates all its chapters and verses. The beauty and sublimity of the Qur'anic discourse is something which has to be discovered directly by everyone to the extent of his capacity and effort, for the richness of the Qur'an is inexhaustible.

    Unlike other masterpieces of world literature and scriptures, whose interest and appeal is limited to an audience with a particular literary taste or some religious creed, the Qur'an is the book of the ordinary human being, and meant for each and every human being. It addresses every human individual qua human being and creature of God.

    Since the first century of Hijrah, continuous efforts have been made by Muslims to make the meanings of the Qur'an accessible to non-Arab communities. There have also been several unfortunate attempts to translate the Qur'an with a hostile intent or deviant purpose. In such cases, the great healer, the Qur'an, has only aggravated the sickness of those who approached it with a malicious motive, and this great spring of spiritual life has had the effect of the deadliest of poisons.

    Despite the enormous amount of effort that has been made during the past centuries and notwithstanding the numerous translations that have appeared in many languages of the world and the new ones that continue to appear almost every year, an error free translation of the Qur'an in any language - including Persian and Urdu which have been closest to the Qur'anic culture-still remains an unfulfilled dream. Apart from matters pertaining to literary expertise in classical Arabic and the target language,

    familiarity with the vast field of Qur'anic sciences and especially with the hermeneutic tradition of the past 14 centuries and the works of major exegetes is essential for the translator of the Qur'an.

    The Qur'an is the book of life meant to last until the Day of Judgment. Its meanings and concerns are perennial and everlasting. Its roots are firm, and its branches are in heaven; it gives its produce every season by the leave of its Lord (14:25). It is an exhaustible source of meaning, meeting the needs of changing times, though its words and diction remain fixed and unchangeable. Thus the human effort to extract its meanings is an unending task of interpreting and understanding the Qur'an, an understanding that links the eternal to the temporal, the terrestrial to the celestial, the mundane to the transcendent, and the relative to the Absolute.

    Hence in every era efforts have to be made to translate the Book in the language of the day and to interpret it in the light of accumulated human knowledge and Qur'anic scholarship. In view of this perpetual necessity, there is the need to develop a sound and systematic methodology for translating and interpreting the Qur'an in different languages of humankind, for to translate the Qur'an is to interpret it.

    For the purposes of such a project it might be essential to undertake a study of the existing translations and to evaluate them from the viewpoint of literary strength, loyalty to the meanings of the original, propriety and precision of the words and expressions used in the translation, and, above all, the translator's degree of familiarity with the exegetical tradition and the corpus of hadith narrated from the Prophet (S) and the Imam's of the Prophetic Household (a).

    They are the interpreters of the Qur'an par excellence, for it is they who are the first addressees of the Qur'an, and to them one must refer for settling questions relating to Qur'anic hermeneutics as well as for authoritative interpretation in cases of disagreement in interpreting Qur'anic verses al1d determining the Qur'anic viewpoint concerning various issues.

    That which could be very useful in this regard is some kind of a manual that might offer almost a verse to verse guidance to the translator, especially if the translation is being done from existing translations and the relavant works are not accessible to the translator.

    Source: alhassanain.com

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