AL-TANZIL
The
Revelation
 
[26:192]

QURAN TRANSLATION LIMITATIONS

THE NECESSITY for the use of Multiple Translations for Understanding The Message of ALLAH’S QURAN

“The Qur’ān is God’s miraculous, matchless message that has been sent to all humanity via His last Messenger. With the Quran, God has shown humanity, one last time, a short-cut to His good pleasure. He has communicated to us about His Essence, Attributes, and Names. He has expressed in the most explicit way, leaving no room for any misunderstanding, His will to be known and recognized in the correct way, to be believed in and worshipped. Almighty God has put emphasis on the duties and responsibilities of believers, while enthusing hearts and agitating souls with His promise for punishment and reward. He has presented the Qur’ān as a sign for perfection and completion and as an orbit to rotate around for His good pleasure, while condescending to offer this gift to us as a compliment greater than any that has been or will ever be granted to anyone else” [1].

“The correct opinion, and the one held by the majority of scholars in regard to the Quran’s inimitability, is that it is due to the Quran’s syntax and its veracity. This is because the Almighty’s knowledge encompasses everything and His knowledge encompasses all forms of discourse. Thus in arranging the Quran’s wording, the Almighty knew exactly which word was best suited to follow the one before it, and which word best yielded the intended meaning. The Book Of Allah is such that if a word were removed from it and the entire Arabic lexicon were searched for a better word, it would never be found” [2].

“It [The Quran] was received and recorded in the Arabic language. Muslims believe that the Quran is inseparable from the language in which it was revealed, and for this reason, all Muslims worldwide recite it in Arabic, even though today the vast majority of Muslims are neither Arabs nor native speakers of Arabic” [3].

“Translation of the meaning of the Quran is not the same as the original Arabic Quran. You can use the book [Translation] to get at the meanings and the message of the Quran, but it is the original Arabic Text where the message truly resides” [4].

The Quran itself is a miracle and cannot be imitated by man. “translator’s duty is to distil some of the shades of meaning in the text; the end product is not Quran but just a translation (just as a shadow is merely a shadow), and so long as nothing is misquoted or taken out of context” [5].

Muslim Scholars and Muslim laity are unanimous in their view that THE TRANSLATION OF THE QURAN IS NOT THE QURAN and is not a replacement for the Original Arabic Quran. Muslim scholars believe that any translation of the Quran is an approximate interpretation, intended only as a tool for acquiring a superficial understanding of the original Arabic text [6]. The translations of the Quran; e.g. into English, French, German or indeed any other language known to mankind, in principle, are regarded as mere interpretations, paraphrases, tools and aids for reaching to the Message of the Quran.

Translations of the Quran cannot be, and they indeed are not, used in place of the original Arabic of the Quran for recitation as part of enjoined, supererogatory or devotional Muslim Prayers or other enjoined rituals and functions.

The words of different languages do not encompass and express all the shades of meanings of the original Arabic words, though they may express specific ideas or concepts. Hence narrowing down the meaning of the Quran to specific ideas and concepts in a language other than Arabic, would mean missing out other important dimensions of ALLAH’S entire Message. While studying the translations of the Quran, one must always be cognizant of the limitations of that which is Admittedly, UNTRANSLATABLE [7].

[1] EXAMPLE [1:7]
"The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace , not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians)." [1:7 - Hilali & Khan]

"Sirat (Path) allazina (of those) an'amta (You bestowed reward and blessings) alaihim (upon them); Ghair (not) al-maghzoob (those having violent anger or wrath) alaihim (over them), wa(and) la (not) az-zawllin (the losers of the Path)." [1:7 - Kamal Omar]

“the path of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not of those who have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray.” [1:7 – Taqi Usmani]

COMMENT: Renderings by respected Scholars Hilali & Khan and Kamal Omar have added meanings in parentheses which are not supported by the Noble Verse.
Rendering by respected Scholar Usmani, appears to be unambiguous and faithful.

[2] EXAMPLE [2:30]
"AND LO! Thy Sustainer said unto the angels: "Behold, I am about to establish upon earth one who shall inherit it." They said: "Wilt Thou place on it such as will spread corruption thereon and shed blood -whereas it is we who extol Thy limitless glory, and praise Thee, and hallow Thy name?" [God] answered: "Verily, I know that which you do not know." [2:30 - Asad]
When your Lord said to the angels, "I am appointing someone as my deputy on earth," they said (almost protesting), "Are you going to appoint one who will commit corruption and bloodshed therein, even though we (are the ones who) commemorate Your Name and glorify You?" The Lord said, "I know that which you do not know". [2:30 - Sarwar]
"And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels, "I am about to place My Caliph in the earth"; they said, "Will You place (as a caliph) one who will spread turmoil in it and shed blood? Whereas we glorify You with praise and proclaim Your Sanctity"; He said, "I know what you do not." [2:30 - Faridul Haque]

"And (recall) when your Lord said to the angels, `I am (according to My usual practice) going to appoint a supreme religious head in the land (to convey My Message to human beings and to execute My will in the universe).' They said, `Will You create (also) therein such (people) as will cause disorder in it and shed blood while we already glorify You with Your true praise and extol Your holiness.' He
(- God) answered, `I know that which you do not know." [2:30 - Hilali & Khan]

COMMENT: Renderings by respected Scholars, Asad, Sarwar and Faridul Haque are divergent.

Rendering by respected Scholars Hilali & Khan appear to be objective and unambiguous.

[3] EXAMPLE [2:177]
[2:177 – Wahiduddin] “Virtue does not consist in whether you face towards the East or the West; virtue means believing in God, the Last Day, the angels, the Book and the prophets; the virtuous are those who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to travelers and those who ask [for charity], and to set slaves free, and who attend to their prayers and pay the alms, and who keep their pledges when they make them, and show patience in hardship and adversity, and in times of distress. Such are the true believers; and such are the God-fearing.”

[2:177 – Haleem] “Goodness does not consist in turning your face towards East or West. The truly good are those who believe in God and the Last Day, in the angels, the Scripture, and the prophets; who give away some of their wealth, however much they cherish it, to their relatives, to orphans, the needy, travelers and beggars, and to liberate those in bondage; those who keep up the prayer and pay the prescribed alms; who keep pledges whenever they make them; who are steadfast in misfortune, adversity, and times of danger. These are the ones who are true, and it is they who are aware of God.”

[2:177 – Daryabadi] “Virtue is not in this that ye turn your faces toward the east and west, but virtue is of him who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Book and the prophets: and giveth of his substance, for love of Him unto kindred and orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for redeeming necks, and establisheth prayer and giveth the poor-rate and is of the performers of their covenant when they have covenanted; and is of the patient in adversity and affliction and in time or violence these are they who are proven true, and these they are God-fearing.”

[2:177 – Qadri] “Righteousness is not merely that you turn your faces to the East or the West. But true righteousness is that a person believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book (revealed by Allah) and the Messengers. Driven by love for Allah, he spends (his) wealth on the kindred, orphans, the needy, the wayfarers, and those who ask and in (liberating slaves´) necks; and establishes Prayer and pays Zakat (the Alms-due). And when they make a promise, they fulfill it and are steadfast in hardship (poverty) and suffering (ailment) and at the time of fierce fighting (Jihad). It is these who are truthful and it is these who are righteous.”

COMMENT: ALLAH’S Message of Noble Verse [2:177], defines an essential attribute of the Believers; Believers' Love for ALLAH. And out of their Love for ALLAH and their continuous desire/efforts for striving for ALLAH’S Pleasure, they (Believers) spend their wealth. Noble Verse [2:177], establishes the Virtue of Sadaqa.
Translations by respected Scholars lack the clarity to differentiate between Voluntary Benevolence (Sadaqa) and Enjoined Servitude of Zakat.

ALLAH, The Exalted, Has Defined the recipients of SADAQA [2:177] Thus:

[1] relatives/kindred,
[2] orphans,
[3] the needy,
[4] the wayfarer,
[5] those compelled to ask,
[6] for the freedom of those in bondage,

ALLAH, The Exalted has Defined the Recipients of ZAKAT in [9:60] Thus:
[Quran - 9:60 - Al-Muntakhab] Zakat is but a vehicle of prayers; it is due only to:

[1] The poor who are destitute of means of livelihood and
[2] The needy who are in temporary distress due to sickness, disability or the like.
[3] Those who are engaged as collectors and administrators thereof and
[4] Those who have just reconciled themselves with their own hearts and with Allah,
[5] Those in bondage -who are eager to buy their freedom-
[6] Those in debt -who are genuinely unable to pay what is owed to others-
[7] The support of the cause of Allah and
[8] And the wayfarer -who does not have the means for transportation and has to travel on foot.

ZAKAT is an obligation incumbent on Muslims and dutiful to Allah, whereas Sadaqa is purely for The Love of ALLAH.

Significantly, Relatives/Kindred are not among the bonafide recipients of ZAKAT, (the poor due) but, ALLAH, The Exalted, Has made relatives/kindred bonafide recipients of SADAQA and not of ZAKAT.

[4] EXAMPLE [2:223]

"Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah. And know that ye are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give (these) good tidings to those who believe." [2:223 - Abdullah Yusuf Ali]

"Your women are fertile fields for you, so come to your fertile fields however you like. Send good ahead for yourselves and have taqwa of Allah. Know that you are going to meet Him. And give good news to the muminun." [2:223 - Aisha Bewley]

"Your wives are (like) your plowing fields; so enter (and cultivate) your fields in any manner you wish. And (first) send ahead (a prayer) for yourself. Fear Allah (always), and be sure that you (all) shall meet Him (one day). Give the glad tidings to the believers!" [2:223 - Dr Munir Munshey]

"Your wives are the bearers of your seed; so, approach them as you want. But take advantage of your life and do some good for your soul before the entertainment. Respect the Lord and bear in mind that pretty soon you have to stand in front of Him. Now give good news to mankind (that he may choose to live in Paradise forever.)" [2:223 - Moeinian]

COMMENT: Rendering by respected Scholar Bijan Moeinian, appears to be Scholarly and faithful.

[5] EXAMPLE [4:158]
"Nay ! Allah raised him (in his physical body) towards Him, [after He Himself gave him death (see 3/55; 4/157, 158; 5/17, 117, 118; 19/33, 34; 21/8, 34, 35; 33/40)]. And Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise [and protected Iesa’s body from lynching, desecration, or exhumation (see 3/55) at the hands of the disbelievers]." [4:158 - Dr Kamal Omar]
"Nay, Allah exalted him unto Himself. (They had plotted thinking that crucifixion was a death of dishonor. But Allah raised him in honor). Allah is Almighty, Wise." [4:158 - Shabbir Ahmed]

"But God raised him up (in position) and closer to Himself; and God is all-mighty and all-wise." [4:158 - Ahmed Ali]

"But Allah raised him unto Himself; and Allah is ever Mighty, Wise."
[4:158 - Daryabadi]

COMMENT: Respected Scholar Daryabadi's rendering appears to be faithful in intent, content and expression.

[6] EXAMPLE [7:158]
"Say, "O Mankind! I am Allah's Messenger to all of you (beyond temporal and geographical bounds). The Messenger of Him to Whom belongs the Dominion of the heavens and the earth. There is no god but He. He has Absolute Control over the fountain spring of life and over the Laws of transition to death. So, believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Prophet to whose people no Scripture was given before, and who believes in Allah and in His Words. Follow him so that you may be rightly guided." [7:158 - Shabbir Ahmed]

"Say: ?O mankind! I have (come) to all of you (as) the Messenger of Allah to Whom belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. There is no God except He. He is the One Who grants life and causes death.? So believe in Allah and His Messenger, who is a Prophet crowned with the glory of being al-Ummi (i.e., he has not learnt anything from anyone except Allah, but knows far more than the entire creation, and is innocent and pure like a newborn baby, despite his upbringing in an infidel and polytheistic society), who believes in Allah and (all) His (revealed) Book and follow him alone so that you may take guidance." [7:158 - Qadri]

"Say, “O humanity, I am sent to you all as the messenger of God, to Whom belongs the control of the heavens and the earth. There is no god but He. It is He Who gives both life and death. So believe in God and His messenger, the Prophet of mother wit, who believes in God and His words. Follow him that you may be guided.” [7:158 - Bilal Muhammad]

"Say (O Muhammad): O mankind! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah to you all - (the messenger of) Him unto Whom belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. There is no Allah save Him. He quickeneth and He giveth death. So believe in Allah and His messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, who believeth in Allah and in His Words, and follow him that haply ye may be led aright." [7:158 - Marmaduke Muhammad Pickthall]

COMMENT: Respected Scholars Shabbir, Qadri and Bilal have added their personal views and have deviated from the Message of The Noble Verse.

Rendering by respected Scholar Pickthall appears to be faithful in Intent, Content and Expression.

[7] EXAMPLE [9:29]
"Fight against those who reject belief in Allah and the Last Day, and hold not Sacred what Allah and His Messenger have declared Sacred, nor acknowledge the Divine System, among those who received the Scripture, until they pay JIZYA, the tax, with willing submission, and feel themselves subjects of the State as law-abiding citizens. (As citizens of the State they must pay taxes, as the Muslims contribute toward the Just Economic Order of Zakat. In return, the State will guarantee them internal and external security, and equal rights of citizenship. JIZYA will always be less than Zakat, and will be payable only by the able-bodied Non-Muslim citizens of the State. In addition, these able-bodied citizens would be exempt from compulsory military service)." [9:29 - Shabbir Ahmed]

"(O Muslims!) Wage (also a defensive) war against those of the People of the Book who (infringed the peace treaty signed with you, and despite being in exile, provided full support to the disbelieving Meccan invaders who imposed the battle of al-Ahzab [the Confederates] on Medina, and have continued every possible conspiracy against you even now). They do not have faith in Allah and the Last Day, and do not consider unlawful the things Allah and His Messenger (blessings and peace be upon him) have declared unlawful, and do not adopt the true Din ([Religion] of Islam) until they give in and surrender (to the command of Islam), and pay the capitation tax with their own hands after having been subdued." [9:29 - Qadri]

"Fight/kill those who do not believe with God and nor the Day the Last/Resurrection Day, and do not forbid/prohibit what God and His messenger forbid/prohibited, and do not take/adopt a religion the correct/right religion from those who were given/brought The Book , until they give/hand over the fee paid by non-Moslems living in a Moslem society (paid instead of Zakat by Moslems) from a hand, and (while) they are subservient/humiliated."
[9:29 - Ahmed-Samira]

"[And] fight against those who - despite having been vouchsafed revelation [aforetime] -do not [truly] believe either in God or the Last Day, and do not consider forbidden that which God and His Apostle have forbidden, and do not follow the religion of truth [which God has enjoined upon them] till they [agree to] pay the exemption tax with a willing hand, after having been humbled [in war]." [9:29 - Asad]

COMMENT: Respected Scholar Shabbir have from somewhere invented the Mechanisms of State as being part of the Noble Verse; whilst Qadri has introduced History of Islam, after Prophet's Migration to Medina and Ahmed-Samira have provided double words as they are not sure exactly, which is the appropriate word for rendering the Message of the Noble Verse.

Respected Scholar Asad's rendering appears to be faithful in Intent, Content and Expression.

[8] EXAMPLE [11:7]
[Quran - 11:7] “wa- huwa ‘alladhe khalaqa as- samaawaat wa- al- ‘ard. fe sittah AYYAAM..”

The word AYYAAM in Arabic means; days or ‘long periods’ or ‘eons’ or ‘epoch’. The four translations being given here differ in their interpretations:

[11:7 – Asad] “And it is He who has created the heavens and the earth in SIX EONS”
[11:7 - Pickthall] “And He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in SIX DAYS”
[11:7 – Shakir] “And He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in SIX PERIODS”
[11:7 – Ahmed - Samira] “It is He who created the heavens and the earth In SIX SPANS,”

COMMENT: The translation of AYYAAM as ‘EONS’ appears to meet God’s Created Parameters (commonly understood as Scientific facts e.g. heat, energy, light, darkness etc.,) which were part of the Creation of the Universe and as such Asad’s rendering would be more to the point.

[9] EXAMPLE [32:23]
"And, certainly, We gave Moses the Book. So be you not hesitant about meeting Him. And We assigned it as a guidance for the Children of Israel." [32:23 - Leila Bakhtiar]

"And verily, We gave Musa (Moses) the Book (Torah). So do not have any doubt with regard to his meeting. (That meeting is about to take place during the Night of the Ascension.) And We made it a guidance for the Children of Israel." [32:23 - Qadri]

"And indeed, We already brought Musa (Moses) the Book; so do not go into wrangling (This is addressed is the Prophet) about receiving it; and We made it for a guidance to the Seeds (Or: sons) of Israel)" [32:23 - Ghali]

"And We gave Moses the Scripture, therefore (Prophet!) have no doubt about receiving a similar perfect Book (yourself). And We made that (Torah a source of) guidance for the Children of Israel." [32:23 - Amatul Rahman Omar]

COMMENT: Respected Scholar Bakhtiar feels, the Noble Verse is a Reminder for the Prophet of his meeting with ALLAH; Qadri is of the view the Noble Verse is about Prophet's meeting with Prophet Musa (Moses) and Ghali is of the opinion, the Noble Verse is a Command from ALLAH to the Prophet to refrain from indulging in any arguments.

It appears as though the rendering of this Noble Verse by respected Scholar Amatul Rahman Omar is in keeping with the Message and context of Surah as-Sajdah.

[10] EXAMPLE [39:23]
[39:23 – Shabbir Ahmed] “Allah has now revealed the best HADITH, a Book fully consistent within itself. It marks out both ways (to success and failure) repeating its Messages in diverse forms. Herewith shiver the skins of those who have some idea of the Glory of their Lord, and then, their skins and their hearts soften at Allah's Reminder. This is the Guidance of Allah, and with it He guides him who seeks guidance. Whereas he who follows a path that Allah has declared to be wrong, goes astray and he cannot find a guide.”

[39:23 – Yusuf Ali] “Allah has revealed (from time to time) the most beautiful Message in the form of a Book, consistent with itself, (yet) repeating (its teaching in various aspects): the skins of those who fear their Lord tremble thereat; then their skins and their hearts do soften to the celebration of Allah's praises. Such is the guidance of Allah: He guides therewith whom He pleases, but such as Allah leaves to stray, can have none to guide.

[39:23 – Abdel Haleem] “God has sent down the most beautiful of all teachings: a Scripture that is consistent and draws comparisons; that causes the skins of those in awe of their Lord to shiver. Then their skins and their hearts soften at the mention of God: such is God’s guidance. He guides with it whoever He will; no one can guide those God leaves to stray.”

[39:23 – Bilal Muhammad] “God has revealed the most beautiful message, a book consistent with itself, repeating. The skin of those who fear their Lord, shivers from it. Then their skin and their hearts soften to the celebration of God’s praises. Such is the guidance of God. He guides with it whom He pleases, but those who God leaves to stray, can have none to guide.”

COMMENT: Rendering by Yusuf Ali, Abdel Haleem and Bilal Muhammad is consistent in highlighting the Beauty and Reverence of ALLAH’S Words. Whereas the rendering by respected Scholar Shabbir, “best HADITH” clearly indicates the Translator’s Deviant views.

It can be safely assumed, if any translation indicates some sort of inconsistency within ALLAH’S Revelation (ALLAH’S QURAN), such is entirely due to the translation limitations and translator’s personal views and likes and dislikes and MOST CERTAINLY NOT within the DIVINE MESSAGE [8].

“The Quran is one of the world’s classics which cannot be translated without grave loss” [9].

The claimed Translations of The Holy Quran, are indeed the translations of the meanings of The Quran [in short TMQ], as understood and rendered by individuals, to the best of their understandings, ability and possible sectarian or intellectual bias [10]. [see M. Ayoub, 'Translating the Meaning of the Quran: Traditional Opinions and Modern Debates', in Afkar Inquiry, Vol. 3, No. 5 (Ramadan 1406/May 1986), pp.34 9).]

“Hence the need for reference to multiple translations, for no single translation can adequately convey the meaning of the original – ALLAH’S QURAN” [11].

And the humble ones say, Translation helps in approaching The Message of The Quran but it [The Translation] is not a substitute for the Original, ALLAH’S QURAN, revealed and recorded in, Classical ARABIC.

[References]
[ 1] – [Excerpted from: http://www.theholybook.org/]
[2] - [(Ibn Atiyah) – Preface, Variant Readings of The Quran - Ahmad Ali Al-Imam - 2006]
[3] - [Excerpted from:http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/201104/thomas.jefferson.s.qur.an.htm]
[4] - [Yahiya Emerick – Preface to The Holy Quran – Guidance for Life, 2000]
[5] – [M. M. Al-Azami – Preface, The History of Quranic Text – 2003]
[6] - [Excerpted from - Mahmoud Ayoub, The Awesome News (Hiawatha, Iowa: Cedar Graphics, 1997), p. xi.].
[7] – [ALLAH’S QURAN – Untranslatable -
http://al-tanzil.com/Quran_Untranslatable.html]
[8] – [Excerpted from: asadullahali.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/the-message-of-the-Quran.pdf]
[9] – [A. Guillaume – the Life of Muhammad – 1955]
[10] – [Excerpted from - [see M. Ayoub, 'Translating the Meaning of the Quran: Traditional Opinions and Modern Debates', in Afkar Inquiry, Vol. 3, No. 5 (Ramadan 1406/May 1986), pp.34 9).]
[11] – [Dr Laurence B. Brown – Scriptural Sources and Translations, God’ed – 2007]

-the humble ones-





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