Category Archives: Qur’an Sciences

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Divergence in Qur’an Translations: Causes and Examples

Category : Translation

By Sohaib Saeed

The translation of the Arabic Qur’an into the languages of the world has received the broad acceptance of Muslim scholars since the middle of last century, though the practice of translating the whole Qur’an extends back to the sixteenth century or earlier. The original missionary goals were replaced by academic research and the efforts of Muslims to clarify the teachings of their faith, not only for non-Muslims, but also for new generations of believers of foreign tongues. Translation is a particular method of explaining the Quranic text, and can serve as a succinct way of expressing the meanings of its words and sentences.

For a number of pertinent reasons, Muslims make a fundamental distinction between the Qur’an – revealed verbatim in Arabic as a divine challenge – and translations, human renderings of its meanings into other languages. Any product of the human mind is subject not only to the possibility of error, but also the capacity for difference of opinion. Translation of any complex and highly literary text must necessarily be a difficult task, and one in which expert opinions can diverge at various points.

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Hasan al-Shafi‘i: The Required Response to Feminist Reinterpretations of the Qur’an

The author – Shaykh Dr. Ḥasan Maḥmūd ‘Abd al-Laṭīf al-Shāfi‘ī – is a leading authority on Islamic theology, philosophy and spirituality. He is a lecturer at Dar al-‘Ulūm, University of Cairo, and one of the senior scholars of Al-Azhar. In addition to studies in his native Egypt, he received a doctorate from the University of London in 1977. Among many academic appointments, he served as president of the International Islamic University in Islamabad from 1994-2004. He is a member of numerous bodies including the Arabic Language Academy in Cairo, and has published at least 19 books including translations and critical editions. This paper was published in 2010 in The International Journal for Qur’anic Studies and was originally presented at a conference entitled: The Effect of Contemporary Cultures on the Arabic Language. It was translated by Sohaib Saeed Al-Azhari.

Abstract: The present study addresses the recent cultural and intellectual movement that works to adopt the Western “hermeneutics” methodology and apply it to the Noble Qur’an and Islamic religious texts in general, with complete indifference to the established principles of tafsīr (exegesis), rules of interpretation and related Prophetic clarification from the authenticated Sunnah. It also shows how this movement turns a blind eye to the accumulated experience of Islamic civilisation, based on the claim that the Islamic heritage has been patriarchal and chauvinistic against women. It further brings to light the fact that this movement consists of a number of academics educated in Western paradigms, but almost entirely lacking in authentic training in Islamic culture and religious sciences. Then it discusses the negative consequences of this movement for Muslim societies in terms of their connection with their civilisational heritage, and for the Arabic language, in that it poses a threat to the soundness of the Arab tongue. After this, it outlines the origins of hermeneutics and its development until its present form, as well as its highly subjective and biased approach to Arab and Islamic heritage. It concludes by discussing the requirements of constructing an Islamic hermeneutics that is appropriate to our heritage, language and unique historical experience.

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