Author Archives: Sohaib Saeed

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hindawi

The making of “Solomon and the Queen”

Category : Media

By Sohaib Saeed

Just as we are celebrating ten years since the launch of Quranica, it is now nine years since one of our most memorable events. On 13th August 2006, a world-renowned reciter – Sh. Hajjaj Ramadan al-Hindawi – sat down in Edinburgh’s Central Mosque to recite at the end of a whole weekend of Quranica events in Scotland.

It was quite a journey getting him over to join us, but that is perhaps another story for another time!

At this Sunday event, we did things differently, and more traditionally. We didn’t give the reciter any instructions. He began to recite from Surat al-Naml, and the story of Prophet Sulaiman and his encounters with the ants, birds and jinns, and then with the Queen of Sheba.

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Tense Discussions… About Tense!

Category : Translation

By Sohaib Saeed

Anyone who takes on the task of translating the Qur’an (or indeed any lofty and complex literary text) will be faced with innumerable challenges, and throughout the process, he or she will have to make all kinds of choices. On some points, they will diverge widely, and on others, they may agree (or imitate each other), yet not be safe from the critics.

There are some who seem to take great pleasure in pointing to a particular verse or form of expression in the Qur’an, then declare that all the translators got it wrong. This would be acceptable if they had undertaken the following steps:

  1. Surveying those translations comprehensively;
  2. Giving weight to their consensus, and considering their reasoning carefully;
  3. Considering whether both could be said to be correct;
  4. Checking that their proposed amendment is safe from critique – for example, does its underlying method work for all such junctures in the Qur’an?

In the past year, I have attended three lectures in which the speaker declared all the translators wrong on a certain point. One of them is himself an acclaimed translator of the Qur’an, so it may be said simply that he was arguing for his own methodology and preference. He emphasised the significance of Quranic polysemy (wujuh), such that the word kitab, for example, has as many as ten different meanings, yet the translators have generally stuck to writing “book”. I would simply point out here that this English word can also handle various metaphorical usages, and that there is a good argument to use the single word as the Qur’an did – at most junctures, if not all – and allow the reader to exercise his mind.

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Imam Ghazali on Interpreting According to “Opinion”

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Category : Interpretation

Excerpt from Ādāb Tilāwat al-Qurʾān (Book XIII of the first quarter of Iḥyāʾ ʿUlūm al-Dīn)
Translated by Sohaib Saeed

So what of [God’s Messenger (S)] saying, “Whoever explains the Qurʾān by his opinion (raʾy)…” and prohibiting this, and what of the saying of Abū Bakr (R), “Which earth would carry me, and which sky would shade me if I were to speak of the Qurʾān by my opinion” – and similar reports forbidding interpretation of the Qurʾān according to opinion? There are only two possibilities: either these entail a restriction to transmitted narrations without inference and independent understanding, or they mean something other than that.

It is categorically mistaken to conclude from them that none may speak of the Qurʾān with anything other than what has been transmitted, for the following reasons:

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Dealing with Difference

Category : Values

By Sohaib Saeed

Differing and disagreement… must they result in discord and disunity? Or can they be embraced as divinely-ordained diversity?

Before looking at “difference” from a theological perspective, let us philosophise for a moment about the very idea of difference. When you compare two things and decide that they are different, they must be comparable – on some level – in the first place. Indeed, when we describe two things as “opposites” (say, black and white), they must in another sense be exactly the same thing (in this case, hues). It is not so strange, therefore, that one’s bitterest enemies are sometimes the people with whom one has most in common.

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The Quranic Constitution of Coexistence

Category : Values

Watch the first 20 minutes for an explanation of the points below (Article 6 excluded):

The following are some principles extracted from Quranic guidance which are pertinent to Muslims living alongside people of different beliefs and practices. The hope is always to go beyond the mere fact of coexistence, to tolerance and acceptance, and beyond that to mutual respect and celebration of diversity.

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