Quran Translator Should Maintain Clarity in Favor of Audience
Publish Date: 7/6/2015 Code: 44049

Quran Translator Should Maintain Clarity in Favor of Audience

An acceptable English translation of the Quran should, above all, be clear and understandable to its readers.

Dr. William S. Peachy (Davoud Abu Soleyman) made the remarks at a program held on July 3 at the 23rd Tehran International Quran Exhibition.

The English translator of the Holy Quran delivered a speech in the program entitled “An evening, A Quran Translator”.

The scholar of Foreign Languages Department at Düzce University in Turkey, Peachy, in partnership with late Dr Maneh Hammad Al-Johani, has rendered the Holy Quran into English.

The work is titled “The Quran: The Final Book of God – A Clear Translation of the Glorious Quran”, and published by World Assembly of Muslim Youth.

What follows is the main parts of his speech at the event:

In the Name of Allah, the Almighty

Thank you very much for inviting me here.

Since English has played a very important role in the world, I would like to talk a little about this language and its significant status worldwide today. English is the native language in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Unite Kingdom, and a form of it in Ireland. It forms about 500 million people. In addition to that, we have around 800 million people who speak it as a second or foreign language, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc. It is a world language without a competitor as Arabic was about one thousand years ago.

With this introduction, I would like to go to the topic of this session: Why we have to take English translation of the Holy Quran seriously into account.

The Arabic of the Quran is beautiful and logical. Its the language chosen for Revelation. The first translation we know about was done by a Persian, Salman the Persian, who was one of the companions of the Prophet (PBUH). According to the reports, he translated the Surat Al-Fatihah. We have legal rulings from some Muslim scholars permitting translation of the Quran. Why was it done then and why is it done now?

The original audience of the Holy Quran was Arabs.  Arabic was a common language which was understood by most of Arabs in the Arabian Peninsula. At the same time, there were many dialects even in the Mecca region. We can see a difference between the language of Hadith and that of Quran. Soon Islam spread to countries outside the Arabian Peninsula and one of the places was Iran. Today it is spread around the world.

Translations have been done in English from approximately 500 years ago. They were done by non-Muslims in the beginning. Their objective was to attack Islam. But even in their translation the message of the Quran was beautiful. The purpose of translation is to deliver the message. That is why in English use the term “messenger” for referring to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), in Arabic, “Rasoul”, and in Farsi, “Payambar”.

The giving of the message was done in two ways. The first way was the Quran itself. The second way was by the example of Muhammad (PBUH).

It is very important to think about for whom we are translating. The English which is used today did not exist 1400 years ago. The first English translations are very difficult to understand today. For example, Abdullah Yusuf Ali was a British-Indian Islamic scholar who translated the Quran into English.

So many translators use the old style because it sounds holy and religious. It is also preferred by the audience who find it beautiful. It is very important for many people that the language sound religious because they are used to language for religion which they do not understand. In the case of Quran, if you do not understand it and only read it, you still make a lot of benefit from it. But if you understand it, you benefit much more. But the audience of one billion Muslims who cannot understand the old translations of the Quran has been neglected until very recently.

Two translators are notable at the beginning of a trend for an easy English translation. One was an Iraqi Jew who lived in England called N J Dawood, and the second was T. J. Irving, who was an American. However, these translations are not very popular.

When I started my translation with my partner, late Dr Maneh Hammad Al-Johani, we had decided to translate in a clear and understandable way. My native language is English and his mother tongue was Arabic. When we came to disagreement, we consulted interpretations and scholars. We worked together for 10 years. After his death in a traffic accident, I continued to work another 10 years. It was finally published 3 years ago. Nevertheless, there was one audience we neglected to consider. That was the authorities of the Saudi Arabia, namely the Ministry of Religious Affairs. They wanted to stick to their own old translation because our translation did not commit to one interpretation of the Quran. In the end, it pleased the officials of the Saudi Arabian State, but most Muslims find it ugly.  Therefore, the audience is very important.

I hope that the translation will find a favorite distribution and acceptance around the world.

Thank you.

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