[Table of Contents] [Search]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[BKARTS] Qur'anic Recitation vs translation

Greetings everyone.

Yes, the Holy Qur'an actually means "recitation" in Arabic.  It is
meant to be orally transmitted.  A Hafiz is someone who has memorized
the entire Qur'an.  The Qur'an was ORALLY compiled  and arranged during
the Prophet Muhammad's lifetime, and recited back to him in entirely at
which time he approved the final form.  However it was not written.
The Qur'an was only written down in scattered bits and pieces until it
was fully assembled and codified during the reign of the third Sunni
Khalifa (Caliph ) Umar al Khattab.  This was task was accomplished by
Zubayr, a beloved and respected companion of the Prophet who helped
with the "oral" compilation during the Prophet's lifetime.

The earliest manuscripts are quite interesting and in need of further
study.  It is commonly thought by many muslims that there are no
spelling differences, but this is not true in one single respect, and
that is with long vowels, and later vocalization.  For instance, in the
first chapter "al-Fatiha", second verse, there are manuscripts that are
written "Maalik yawm ad deen", and "Malik yawm ad deen".  the variation
is slight, but significant.  This topic has rarely discussed and was
brought to my attention by the American calligrapher Muhammad Zakariya,
to whom I am eternally grateful.

Transliteration- is simply the writing of the phonetic sounds of the
Arabic script into latin letters to help a non- arabic reader to recite
the Qur'an properly.  There are many standards of transliteration, and
they vary from region to region.  I have Arabic, Pakistani, Turkish,
and Persian examples, and they all reflect the various accents,
inflections, and dialectical differences of the region.  For instance
in arabic, there are three "h" letters ha a more aspirated "H", and
then "Kha", similar to the Ch soud in Gaelic- the Scottish "loCH".  In
Turkish transliteration, they all become an "H", and it is impossible
to distinguish between them without knowing the Arabic script.

As far as translation, I think that there are some misunderstandings.
Many orthodox and fundamentalists would agree that it is impossible to
properly translate the Holy Qur'an.  Prophetic traditions ( ahadeeth)
state that there are 7 levels of meaning to every verse.  This is why
it is imperative to learn to speak the actual Arabic when making
prayers etc.  One would NEVER recite translated Qur'an suring prayer
(salat or namaz).  Only the Arabic version is recited, and this is a
requirement to make the prayers valid according to all of the schools
of law in both Sunni and Shia sects.

Nevertheless, the Qur'an was and is still translated.  Even Wahhabis
have translated it.  A commission of a team of scholars sponsored by
King Fahd produced and "authorized" translation about 10 years ago.
"Authorization" stems from different religious bodies and schools.  For
instance, in the case of the Wahhabi translation, the authorization is
given by scholars in Madinah.  In Egypt, it is done at al-Azhar
univeristy.  In Iran, this would be done at the holy cites of Qum or
Mashhad.  In Turkish, this is done by the Religious ministry.  In India
there are many centers depending on the particular flavor and
persuasion of the translator.

So goes "official" translations.

But there are others...

The Persian language work Masnavi-manavi ("Spiritual couplets") of
Hazrati Mavlana Jalalddin Rumi, a great 12th century Sufi mystic is
widely considered to be a "spiritual translation" of the Holy Qur'an.
The stories and verses are thought to have seven levels of meaning that
reflect the 7 levels in the Arabic original.  It is widely respected as
such by a number of Persianate schools-"Persianate" meaning that it is
broadly Persian culturally, but ethnically inclusive of Turkish,
Indian, and Central Asian schools as well.  Arabic Sufis do not refer
to these works, as they are already Arabic speakers and strguggle to
omprehend the original in all its complexity directly.  While the
Mevlevi Dervishes ( the "tariqa" or Sufi order taht was founded by
Rumi, and codified by his son, Sultan Veled) are found in some Arab
countries- mainly Syria ( and at one time in Egypt), and while the
Masnavi has been translated into Arabic, there is a great divide
between Arabic Sufism and Persianate Sufism.  Hence, Arabic tariqas,
such as Qadiris in central Sudan are unfamiliar with Rumi's works, nor
Morrocan Tijanis, nor Yemeni Shazalis.

Here in the west, many generalities abound about what Sufism is, and much of it stems from the 'persianate" schools. Runi has become very popular- translated into English, and has led many to beleive that he somehow represents all of sufism, but that is quite misleading. It is better to think of them as a branch from the same tree, rather than representative of all sufis in the Muslim world. There are some references to "Sufi Symbolism", that mainly stem from poetry, the minutae of which are not necessarily shared among all Sufi orders and schools, though the "larger" concepts all stem from the same thread. The one practice that is shared in common is the "rememberance of the names of God" "Zikr asma Allahu Husna". How this is actually practied varies a great deal from region to region and order to order, but it is the one thing that is held in common.

When it is said that Qur'an cannot be translated, it simply means that
the intensity, complexity, and different levels of meaning cannot truly
be rendered properly into another language.  What you have instead is
merely a "shell" or "ghost" of the meaning, not a true rendering of the

Jake Benson

Benson's Hand Bindery 1027 Brookwood Circle West Columbia, SC 29169 (803) 926-5544


                      Spring[binding]Hath Sprung
        Worldwide Springback Bind-O-Rama and Online Exhibition
           Full information at <http://www.philobiblon.com>
                  ENTRY DEADLINE -- September 1, 2004

     Book_Arts-L FAQ and Archive at: <http://www.philobiblon.com>

[Subject index] [Index for current month] [Table of Contents] [Search]