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Qur'an translation

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The Prohibited Translation: Conceptions of Qurʾan translation in Early 20th century Egypt and South Asia University

The Prohibited Translation: Conceptions of Qurʾan translation in Early 20th century Egypt and South Asia University

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Transcript

  • 1. THE PROHIBITED TRANSLATIONCONCEPTIONS OF QURʾAN TRANSLATION IN EARLY 20TH CENTURY EGYPT AND SOUTH ASIA AMIN VENJARA, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
  • 2. “First off, I praise the title:The Qurʾan: A NewTranslation. There is nosilliness of trying to say thisisnt really the Qurʾan,which is, after all, totallyapparent to anyone whenthe title is in English and itis called a translation.” :: ANDREW RIPPIN
  • 3. “The Koran cannot be translated. That is the belief ofold-fashioned Sheykhs and the view of the presentwriter.” :: PICKTHALL, TRANSLATOR’S FOREWORD
  • 4. WHAT CONCERNS UNDERLIE THIS CAUTIOUSNESS? QURʾAN TRANSLATION
  • 5. WHAT CONCERNS UNDERLIE THIS CAUTIOUSNESS? QURʾAN TRANSLATION
  • 6. WHAT CONCERNS UNDERLIE THIS CAUTIOUSNESS? QURʾAN TRANSLATION “For Christians, translation is not only permitted, it is required....The Muslim position on the other hand is quite different; translation of the Quran is not only not encouraged, it is expressly forbidden. The text is divine, inimitable, uncreated and eternal, and to translate it would be an act of presumption.” :: BERNARD LEWIS, FROM BABEL TO DRAGOMANS
  • 7. EQUALLY IMPORTANT IS HOW CONCEPTIONS OF TRANSLATIONAFFECT SENSITIVITIES TO QURʾAN TRANSLATION QURʾAN TRANSLATION
  • 8. EQUALLY IMPORTANT IS HOW CONCEPTIONS OF TRANSLATIONAFFECT SENSITIVITIES TO QURʾAN TRANSLATION QURʾAN TRANSLATION
  • 9. EQUALLY IMPORTANT IS HOW CONCEPTIONS OF TRANSLATIONAFFECT SENSITIVITIES TO QURʾAN TRANSLATION QURʾAN TRANSLATION “The Koran cannot be translated. That is the belief of old-fashioned Sheykhs and the view of the present writer.” :: PICKTHALL, TRANSLATOR’S FOREWORD
  • 10. Tracing understandings of translation and textual authority is a crucial lensARGUMENT for understanding Muslim sensitivities to Qurʾan translation 20TH CENTURY FOCUS + EGYPT S. ASIA
  • 11. OUTLINE TRANSLATION IN EGYPT MODES OF READING TRANSLATION IN SOUTH ASIA CONCLUSION
  • 12. OUTLINE TRANSLATION IN EGYPT MODES OF READING TRANSLATION IN SOUTH ASIA CONCLUSION
  • 13. VS
  • 14. PUTTING SHĀKIR’S TEXT IN CONTEXT Turkish Parliament abolishes the MARCH 1924 Caliphate ʿAli ʿAbd al-Rāziq put on trial for his AUGUST 1925 book, Islam and the Foundations of Governance
  • 15. PUTTING SHĀKIR’S TEXT IN CONTEXT Turkish Parliament abolishes the MARCH 1924 Caliphate ʿAli ʿAbd al-Rāziq put on trial for his AUGUST 1925 book, Islam and the Foundations of Governance “[t]his Qurʾan in its Arabic syntax (naẓm) is the last remnant from among the relics of Islamic civilization after the Great War ripped apart Islamic lands and after the Turkish Republic razed the throne of the great Caliphate” :: M. SHĀKIR, 1925
  • 16. SHĀKIR LOCATES HIS NOTION OF TRANSLATION INOPPOSITION TO THE PRACTICE OF COMMENTARY “Commentary is one thing and translation another. A translation replaces the original in COMMENTARY VS. every aspect (yaqūm maqām al-aṣl min kull TRANSLATION wajh), while this is not the case with commentary.” 1 Islamic Intellectual Tradition FOUNDATIONS 2 Law of the Nation State
  • 17. SHAKIR’S VIEW ON TRANSLATION IN THE ISLAMICINTELLECTUAL TRADITION “Translation (tarjama) is to convey everything which the source text comprises, and it is impossible with regards to the Qurʾan. Commentary (tafsīr), on the other hand, is to convey that which [the commentator] understands from the source text.” :: BADR AL-DĪN AL-ZARKASHĪ (D. 1392)
  • 18. SHAKIR’S VIEW ON TRANSLATION IN MODERN LAW “...a commentator on a statute of state law [qānūn] is able to write what he wishes in his commentary, be it long or short....A translator, on the other hand, must follow the statute itself without adding or subtracting from it.” :: M. SHĀKIR, AL-QAWL AL-FAṢL
  • 19. SHAKIR’S PRIMARY CONCERN IS WITH THE TRANSLATIONREPLACING THE ORIGINAL “[I]f you approach a verse from the Book of God, Most High, and translate it as you translate legal statutes such that the translation takes the place of the original…and replaces it in ritual prayer [ṣalāt] and recitation [tilāwa] and [religious] argumentation…as the official translation of legal statutes replaces the original and takes its place for legal argumentation and veneration, then…this is what the consensus of the scholars of the Islam has decisively prohibited” :: M. SHĀKIR, AL-QAWL AL-FAṢL
  • 20. NOT EVERYONE AGREED WITH SHAKIR’S DISTINCTIONBETWEEN COMMENTARY AND TRANSLATION“...there is no difference between the commentator and thetranslator except that the former uses Arabic to explain themeaning of a word and the later uses a foreign language.” :: M. MARĀGHĪ, BAḤT FĪ TARJAMAT AL-QURʾĀN AL-KARĪM“Translation: the transfer of meaning from one language toanother. Translation is unconditionally commentary.” :: M. SHALTŪT, TARJAMAT AL-QURʾAN WA NUṢŪṢ AL-ʿULAMAʾ FĪ HĀ
  • 21. WHICH DEFINITION OF TRANSLATION IS RELEVANT FOR THELEGAL RULING ON QURʾAN TRANSLATION?“Even though translation (tarjama) in its linguistic meaning iscommentary (tafsīr) in another language, it has come to beknown as producing a text (al-kalam) in one language which fullyconveys a text in another and replaces it in that which isintended by it” :: I. JIBĀLĪ, AL-KALĀM FĪ TARJAMAT AL-QURʾĀN
  • 22. WHICH DEFINITION OF TRANSLATION IS RELEVANT FOR THELEGAL RULING ON QURʾAN TRANSLATION? (2)“Can a text which provides some of the meanings of the Qurʾanand does not replace it in fulfilling all that is intended by it becalled a translation?”“...people (al-nās) only know translation as that which fulfills allthat is intended by the original” :: I. JIBĀLĪ, AL-KALĀM FĪ TARJAMAT AL-QURʾĀN
  • 23. OUTLINE TRANSLATION IN EGYPT MODES OF READING TRANSLATION IN SOUTH ASIA CONCLUSION
  • 24. SHAKIR’S PRIMARY CONCERN IS WITH THE RECITATION OFTRANSLATION “[I]f you approach a verse from the Book of God, Most High, and translate it as you translate legal statutes such that the translation takes the place of the original…and replaces it in ritual prayer [ṣalāt] and recitation [tilāwa] and [religious] argumentation…as the official translation of legal statutes replaces the original and takes its place for legal argumentation and veneration, then…this is what the consensus of the scholars of the Islam has decisively prohibited” :: M. SHĀKIR, AL-QAWL AL-FAṢL
  • 25. READING PRACTICES IN THE ISLAMIC INTELLECTUALTRADITION • recitation TILĀWA • emphasizes the ritual (taʿabbudī) aspect of reading • reading for comprehension MUṬĀLAʿA • “inspecting a thing well, in order to obtain a knowledge of it” - Lane’s Lexicon Muṭālaʿa is to study and understand what you are reading, while tilāwa is recitation (qirāʾa) even if it is divorced from [understanding].” :: I. Jibālī
  • 26. SABRĪ DIFFERENTIATES BETWEEN THE PERMISSIBILITY OFTRANSLATION FOR TILĀWA AND MUTĀLAʿA “The difference between us and the proponents of translation, as a whole, is that they call non-Arabs to translations which they can recite [yatlūnahā] in prayer and otherwise just as the Qurʾan is recited. We do not agree with them on this, even though we permit translations which they [viz., the non-Arabs] can read for comprehension [yuṭāliʿūnahā] just as one of us would read [yuṭāliʿ] commentaries of the Qurʾan. We consider [such] translations to be abbreviated commentaries.” :: M. SABRĪ, MASAʾLAT TARJAMAT AL-QURʾĀN
  • 27. OUTLINE TRANSLATION IN EGYPT MODES OF READING TRANSLATION IN SOUTH ASIA CONCLUSION
  • 28. THE 19TH AND EARLY 20TH CENTURY SAW A BURST OFQURʾAN TRANSLATION ACTIVITY IN SOUTH ASIA“A pious man was blessed by a dream in which he saw AlmightyGod. Seeing him speak Urdu, he inquired: "0 God, how did youhappen to pick up that language? You used to speak only inSyriac or Hebrew or Arabic.” God replied: "From dealing withShah Rafiud-Din and Shah Abdu l-Qādir and Thanawi andDeobandi and Mirathi and Mirza Hairat and Deputy Nazir Ahmad, Ilearned the language.” :: ANON., QUOTED IN METCALF (1982) Why the difference from Egypt?
  • 29. NON-ARAB DYNAMICS OF THE REGION ARE NOT ASUFFICIENT EXPLANATION • During the late Ottoman period translations were censored TURKEY • During the early republic, translations appeared amongst fierce controversy “...the idea of vernacular commentaries that did not even pretend to be ‘translations’ was INDONESIA highly controversial in the early decades of this century....” -- J. Bowen (1998) Argument: We need to examine how South Asian jurists think about translation to understand the difference
  • 30. MANY S. ASIAN JURISTS THINK OF QURʾAN TRANSLATION ASA CLOSE RENDERING OF THE ORIGINAL TEXT Passive QURʾAN 2:4 7ْ9:ِ‫َ ( أ ُ?>ِلَ إ‬BِC َ َ Transitive THAT WHICH HAS BEEN REVEALED TO YOU Active SHAH ʿABD AL- ,2 34) ‫1! .53 ا),ا‬ Intransitive QĀDIR THAT WHICH DESCENDED UPON YOU Passive THĀNAVĪ Transitive !" #$% ‫1! آپ .# -,ف ا)(ری‬ THAT TO YOU HAS BEEN REVEALED
  • 31. A POPULAR TEXTUAL LAYOUT OF SOUTH ASIAN TRANSLATIONSEEKS TO ACHIEVE WORD TO WORD MAPPING THĀNAWĪ, ASHRAF ʿALĪ. 1934. BAYĀN AL-QURʼĀN. LAHORE: MAKTABAH-YI AL-ḤASAN.
  • 32. A POPULAR TEXTUAL LAYOUT OF SOUTH ASIAN TRANSLATIONSEEKS TO ACHIEVE WORD TO WORD MAPPING
  • 33. A POPULAR TEXTUAL LAYOUT OF SOUTH ASIAN TRANSLATIONSEEKS TO ACHIEVE WORD TO WORD MAPPING
  • 34. HOWEVER, THERE IS LIMITED CONCERN ABOUT TRANSLATIONBEING HELD AS EQUIVALENT TO THE ORIGINAL • In 1913, Thanavi issued a fatwa criticizing an Urdu only translation • After quoting passages from legal manuals on the need to be in a state of ritual purity to touch a Qurʾan translation, he states: “It is certain that the general public will understand this translation as not containing any part of the Qurʾan and they will not make ritual ablutions (wuḍūʾ) in order to touch it” :: THANAVI, 1913
  • 35. STRIKING CONTRAST BETWEEN JIBALI’S & THANAWI’SNOTIONS OF POPULAR PERCEPTIONS OF TRANSLATION “...people (al-nās) only know translation as that which fulfills allthat is intended by the original” :: I. JIBĀLĪ, AL-KALĀM FĪ TARJAMAT AL-QURʾĀN VS “It is certain that the general public will understand this translation as not containing any part of the Qurʾan and they will not make ritual ablutions (wuḍūʾ) in order to touch it.” :: THANAVI, 1913
  • 36. SOUTH ASIAN READERS DISTINGUISH BETWEEN RECITATIONOF THE QURʾAN AND READING OF TRANSLATION•A certain ʿAbd al-Rahman from the district of Khīrī writes to therenowned Braelvi jurist, Aḥmad Riḍā Khān in June 1916• He asks about a man (potentially himself) who has beenreciting the Qurʾan after the morning prayer (fajr) for 18 years• The man does not understand Arabic, so he does not know themeaning of what he recites• “Should he look at the literal translation of the Noble Qurʾan inUrdu or Persian and...recite [only] a quarter pare...or should he,as is his habit, recite two pares daily?” Fatāwa Rizviyya 23/382
  • 37. OUTLINE TRANSLATION IN EGYPT MODES OF READING TRANSLATION IN SOUTH ASIA CONCLUSION
  • 38. KEY TAKEAWAYS• Arguments against Qurʾan translation are typically rooted in the idea of translation as the production of equivalence• Recitation, not reading for comprehension, of Qurʾan translations was a key concern driving early 20th century opposition in Egypt• South Asian jurists, while often favoring literal translations, did not worry about lay practioners reciting translations• South Asian readers themselves differentiate between recitation of the original Arabic text and a reading of the translation
  • 39. APPENDIX
  • 40. SHAKIR IS DIRECTLY CRITICAL OF ʿALI’S TRANSLATION “Why is that which is on the upper part of the page [called] a translation and that which is at the bottom [called] a commentary, when both of them are [allegedly] from the category of commentary…, as they claim?” :: M. SHĀKIR, AL-QAWL AL-FAṢL
  • 41. :: NOUR-EL-ISLAM REVIEW, JUNE 1931
  • 42. :: NOUR-EL-ISLAM REVIEW, JUNE 1931
  • 43. :: NOUR-EL-ISLAM REVIEW, JUNE 1931:: NOUR-EL-ISLAM REVIEW, JULY 1931
  • 44. :: NOUR-EL-ISLAM REVIEW, JUNE 1931:: NOUR-EL-ISLAM REVIEW, JULY 1931
  • 45. :: NOUR-EL-ISLAM REVIEW, JUNE 1931:: NOUR-EL-ISLAM REVIEW, JULY 1931
  • 46. :: NOUR-EL-ISLAM REVIEW, JUNE 1931:: NOUR-EL-ISLAM REVIEW, JULY 1931
  • 47. AL-AZHAR’S JOURNAL USES COMMENTARY AS A VISUALINTERMEDIARY IN ITS QURʾAN TRANSLATIONS 1 2 3
  • 48. AL-AZHAR’S JOURNAL USES COMMENTARY AS A VISUALINTERMEDIARY IN ITS QURʾAN TRANSLATIONS 1 2 3 :: NOUR-EL-ISLAM REVIEW, MAY 1932