Even eminent English Professors who mastered Arabic and who have translated great classical Arabic masterpieces into English hesitated to translate the Qur’an into English. Why?
An eminent translator of the Qur’an, Muhammad Asad says:
“No doubt, some of the translators of the Qur'an whose works are accessible to the Western
public can be described as outstanding SCHOLARS IN THE SENSE OF HAVING MASTERED THE ARABIC grammar and achieved a considerable knowledge of Arabic literature; but this mastery of grammar and this acquaintance with literature cannot by itself, in the case of a translation from arabic (AND ESPECIALLY THE ARABIC OF THE QUR'AN), render the translator independent of that intangible communion with the spirit of the language which can be achieved ONLY BY LIVING WITH AND IN IT.”
M.Asad then attacks the Western Orientalists who have translated many Arabic masterpieces but when they attempted to translate the Qur’an, ….”their translations have remained but distant, and faulty, echoes of its meaning and spirit.”
The language of ‘human books’ even though written by great ulama are far easier to translate than the Qur’an. In fact, one DOES NOT even need a good knowledge of BALAGHAH to translate most Arabic classics written by al-Ghazzali, ash-Shafi’i, Ibn Arabic etc. THE LANGUAGE OF ANY ULAMA HAS NO MATCHED WITH THE LANGUAGE OF GOD HIMSELF!
The Qur’an requires high level of balaghah and ‘feel’ of its aesthetic i’jaz (miracle). A simple example of controversy found in the Prof. Ma Jian Translation endorsed by Saudi government: the 2nd ayat of Surah al-Baqarah, dzalikal-kitaab is translated as 这部经 (zhe4 bu4 jing1). Note that ‘kitaab’ is translated as 经 (jing1) i.e. ‘sacred book’. A very simple word ‘kitaab’ which is usually translated as ‘book’ or ‘scripture’ in almost every translation of the Qur’an. In reality, ‘kitaab’ in this context DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN ‘BOOK’ or 经 JING1. Kitaab in classical Arabic also means ‘order, command, decree’ or ‘writ’ or ‘revelation’ or ‘prescription’. In this context, Muhammad Asad translated it as ‘divine writ’. Even ‘dzalika’ in this context does not mean 这 zhe4 as opposed to 那 na4. It is rather emphatical. ‘Allah’ is here translated as真主 zhen1 zhu3, meaning ‘the True Guardian’ can raise the eyebrows of the surrounding controversy regarding kalimah Allah in Malaysia! Of course, if one reads classical tafsirs such as Ibn Kathir, Tabari, Razi, Alusi, we find that Kufan ulama of Arabic language interpreted ‘Allah’ as al-Ilah (The God). Imagine how many ulama in Malaysia proficient in Arabic have ignored this fact. There is a huge khilaf concerning the meaning of ‘Allah’.
So, therefore we hope that tomorrow, WE SHOULD NOT BE TOO ENTHUSIASTIC in presenting ourselves to the Chinese and Malay journalists. Any RELIABLE committee of Quranic translators MUST include NATIVE ARAB SPECIALISTS IN BALAGHAH. Non-native speakers, no matter how superb their qualification and knowledge in ARabic such as Chinese, Malay, Indian cannot match the balaghah level of a native Arab specialist in Balaghah because he has the inside ‘feel’ of the language. This point must made clear SO THAT WE ARE NOT REGARDED AS ‘MUALLAF’, IGNORANT OF THE TRUE CHALLENGES OF TRANSLATING THE QUR’AN.
Indeed, translation of the Qur’an is haram but translation is needed in view of the ‘DARURAH’
of dakwah. That’s why Muhammad Asad calls his work ‘INTERPRETATION’, rather than ‘translation’.
Moga Allah swt berkati the signing of MOU kita utk hasilkan ‘terjemahan/tafsiran’ al-Qur’an esok demi dakwah, bukan demi kehebatan diri kita ini.
XIFU NASER AL-MAJNUN
fb: “xifu naser II”