What In the World . . . ?
The question regarding the translations of the Quran has serious flaws in it from the very beginning. Read the statements in the question carefully and think about the propositions being offered here.
To start, we Muslims must not, nor do we need to put down others or insult them simply because they choose put us down or use cheap and insinuating remarks against our faith.
In fact, it is their own desire not to be guided by Allah that is keeping them from understanding or being guided. This is mentioned clearly in Quran (excuse my "translation"): "Certainly, you do not guide whom you love, rather it is Allah who Guides whoever He wills. And He Knows best who are the guided." [QTafsir.com click here]
Next, it is better for us to begin our reply in this manner:
⁃ "Thank you for asking me about my religion. In answer to your question, we have to always say the truth or we can go to Hell, and none of us wants that. There are only two sources we rely on for guidance and they are Quran in Arabic and authentic narrations from our prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
⁃ Often times people ask questions that are actually statements with a question mark at the end and for this reason it is up to us to examine what is presented and then reply to the real question if possible. In the case where we do not know the answer, we are supposed to say, "I don't know, but we can ask someone who does".
⁃ By the way, if after hearing the answer, your question has been satisfied, are you prepared to worship your Lord and my Lord, without any partners, or would you still have other reservations and problems with believing in One God and then submitting to God's Will on earth?"
⁃ Because after all, Islam means in English - Submission to One God, without partners, in total obedience to His Will and in peace."
After acknowledgement from the questioner we would either answer their question to the best of our ability or - suggest ways to find answers - like www.SearchForIslam.com or get the APP for phones "searchforislam" (one word in the APP store search) or visit www.JustAskIslam.com
Here's our statement in fact: "You are not an expert at giving accurate meanings of details of Islam without insight to the original language of the revelation (Quran)":
OK. Now here's the question (replies are in dark blue):
⁃ Although Muslims often tell critics of Islam to "read the Qur'an," they are usually unprepared for what happens when their advice is heeded. An honest translation of Islam's holiest book generally reinforces negative opinion. The fallback is to then claim that the Qur'an can only be understood in Arabic.
: Is this really an accepted fact? For over 200 years various people (first famous ones are by non-Muslims, like George Sale) have attempted translations to English at different times and places and even when being deliberately mistranslated to scare people away from Islam, many well respected and important people have found approval in the Quran and some even accepted Islam from these attempts to put down the truth of Islam.
⁃ Of all the efforts to artificially insulate Islam from intellectual critique, this is probably the most transparent. Unfortunately, for those Muslims craving reassurance from the more embarrassing passages of the Qur’an and Sunnah, this cheap tactic of arbitrarily dismissing anything they disagree with still comes at a heavy price, since Islam cannot be protected in this way without sacrificing its claim to being a universal religion.
: Actually, the opposite is clearly demonstrated throughout the history of Islam and Muslims since the very time of Muhammad, peace be upon him. To make statements without proof is one of the biggest objections Islam introduced into the scientific world over 1,400 years ago.
Previous thinkers and skeptics had always offered their own interpretations and (mis)-understandings without need for relevant evidences. Whereas, none of the real scholars of Islam every take this type of thinking as serious proof.
⁃ In the first place, it is fundamentally impossible for anyone to learn a language that cannot be translated into the only one they do know, which means the apologists who insist that “one must learn Arabic” in order to understand the Qur’an are committing a logical fallacy. Either the Arabic of the Qur’an is translatable (in which case there is no need to learn Arabic) or it is not (in which case it can never be learned by the non-native speaker).
: Here is a clear statement that cannot be seriously taken regardless of how well worded it may sound. First of all, it makes a claim that is not from knowledgeable Muslims. Who said Arabic cannot be translated or interpreted into other languages.
Arabic, like Aramaic (Jesus, peace be upon him, spoke this language) and Hebrew are semitic languages and it is not too difficult for someone who knows one of these to grasp meanings from the others. But even then, not all words will "translate" exactly, but they can be understood or interpreted in most cases.
Let us consider what languages really are, according to the Cambridge dictionary:
⁃ language: a system of communication consisting of sounds, words, and grammar, or the system of communication used by people in a particular country or type of work: Java and Perl are both important computer programming languages (= systems of writing instructions for computers).
These are attempts to communicate through expressions from a sender to a receiver.
Expressions are interpreted by receivers. This could be sounds (generated by the sender) to be interpreted by the the ear (the receiver). Also images, drawings or characters made to look like something to be interpreted by the receiver (eyes).
Quran is an expression generated by sounds and interpreted by hearing (ears) and then according to what people heard, they wrote down. Sometimes, they needed clarification from the prophet, peace be upon him, to be sure they understood what the meanings of certain words, phrases or expressions meant. This is why we have the sunnah to clarify and make clear to us what Allah wants for us.
No one says we cannot interpret the Quran. But that is not the statement made here. If it was true, that all languages have to be able to translate exactly into each other according to this so-called "logic", there would be no need for the many books, courses and programs designed to help us understand the usage of words, concepts, expresssions and idioms offered by various languages.
There is another very serious fallacy in the statement because it does not take into consideration that not all languages have a word that exactly expresses the same thing another language is trying to communicate. That is why several words, sentences or even paragraphs are necessary to make clear what is being talked about.
In the 1950's the Russians sent something up in the atmosphere to circle the earth. America didn't have such a thing, so initially we used the same word the Russians did; "sputnik". Later on America, not to be outdone by their enemy (at that time Russia represented the axis of evil to America) America came up with the word; "satellite".
There are many words that change in meaning over the years and this offers another problem to the false statement being made here.
Take for example, the word for: "happy, jolly, fun loving and merry" in the 1970 Webster's dictionary. What do you think it might have been?
Cambridge dictionary tells us:
⁃ gay: adjective (SEXUALITY) sexually attracted to people of the same sex and not to people of the opposite sex: Mark knew he was gay by the time he was fourteen. the lesbian and gay community
⁃ gay: adjective (HAPPY) › old-fashioned happy: We had a gay time down at the dance hall. ›
⁃ gay: old-fashioned › If a place is gay, it is bright and attractive: The streets were gay and full of people.
This means you would have to know if this was expressed before or after the 1980's.
Let's take for example from the Cambridge dictionary, their translation of the word "Translation"; it says:
⁃ translation: something that is translated, or the process of translating something, from one language to another: A literal translation of 'euthanasia' would be 'good death'. The English version is boring - perhaps it has lost something in translation (= is not as good as the original).
So we cannot accept this opinion that every language has to "translate exactly" into other languages. It is just not a fact.
We know the Quran can be interpreted in many ways, not only to spoken languages, but also to other forms of communications as well, take for instance "sign language" for our deaf brothers and sisters.
⁃ Enter the skeptic. While every language has its nuances, how is that Arabic is the only one with words and phrases that are literally untranslatable? More importantly, why in the world would Allah choose to communicate his one true religion for all people in the only language that cannot be understood by all people? Even the vast majority of Muslims and their imams do not speak Arabic.
This question provides us with a better insight to the misunderstandings of the one speaking. The problem with translations and the need for knowing Arabic comes from the possibility giving one's own desires to the interpretation and not really following the meanings back to the source.
It is very true that many of our imams and reciters do not speak to each other in Arabic, but at the same time, this does not mean they don't understand. So this is yet another attempt to through statements out inside of questions while purposely playing with the wording.
As to the difference in languages, even the Arab speakers will tell you they are not all experts in the classical Arabic and for sure we have to go back to the texts and writings of scholars of the times. After all, wouldn't we want to be sure what was meant by the expression: a gay man over 1,400 years ago?
⁃ Even more suspicious is that this amazing linguistic “discovery” was only recently made – and that it corresponds quite remarkably with the contemporary rejection of Islamic practices that were considered acceptable up until the religion’s recent collision with Western liberalism. In fact, the argument that hidden and alternate meanings exist to unflattering Qur’anic passages (justifying slavery, the inferior status of women, intimate gluttony, holy warfare, wife-beating, and religious discrimination) corresponds quite precisely with the level of embarrassment that modern scholars have about the presence of such verses in the Qur’an!
The only thing "suspicious" here, is the intent behind someone purposely playing with words in English to give the impression they are eager to correct Muslims and put down Islam, while making statements in questions - that are not correct.
Categorically, Quran and hadith specifically forbid the oppression or violation of rights in all cases:
Slavery is not "justified" in Islam - it is acknowledged as existing. Every educated person on earth knows slavery still exists, even today. It was only "abolished" in the United States 150 years ago, and forms of it have continued long after that.
Women were first given their "rights" by Islam, and had their voices heard clearly be Umar bin Khattab during his rule as Khalifah.
1000 - Egypt's Al Azhar was formed and first Dean was a woman.
This was long before women's suffrage (right to vote):
Only in the late 1890's were women anywhere else in the world given rights by men to speak up and be heard officially.
Limited voting rights for women in Sweden, Finland some western states in U.S. in late 1890's.
1893 - New Zealand granted adult women right to vote, but not to hold any office
1895 - Australia followed, and even let then hold office (but only the white women)
1962 - Australia finally allowed aboriginal men and women a chance to vote.
1907 - Finland elected the world's (non-Muslim world) female to office.
1913 - Norway followed granting full women's suffrage (but stopped after World War I)
1941 - Before World War Two (most of America, north, south, Canada, etc)
1944 - France (a late adaptor)
1946 - Italy
1952 - Greece
1971 - Switzerland
1984 - Liechtenstein
Gluttony - Forbidden in every form by Islam 1,400 years ago.
Holy Warfare - Doesn't exist. It is unholy and only to fight when rights are being taken away.
Religious discrimination? Islam is the world's largest religion to include every single race on earth. And there is never to be discrimination between any Muslims based on race.
As far as other religions? Islam has protected Jews and Christians and Hindus for centuries with their standing armies of Muslims against ravaging Huns and Mongols and Roman tyrants.
What are you talking about here?
Check any encyclopedia or dictionary on the planet and see for yourself - look up the words "crusade" at the time of Catholics invading the Holy Land and wiping out Christians, Muslims and Jews, or "inquisition" of Spain against the population when Catholics took over from the Muslims.
Quran set out clear limits as to how to deal with combative enemies: Read Quran, Surah Baqarah, ayahs number 189-193 (with understanding of the Arabic of the time).
⁃ No other world religion claims that knowledge of a particular language is imperative to understanding itself and its holy texts. Neither is the same level of effort required to massage a primary message into palatability. While the Bible is distributed pretty much as is by various Christian groups, for example, it is rare to find a Qur’an that does not include voluminous and highly subjective footnoted commentary deemed necessary to explain away the straightforward interpretation of politically-incorrect passages.
Another statement but again twisted. No one is saying you can't understand Islam without Arabic language. The statement is still the same as always, "You are not an expert at giving accurate meanings of details without insight to the original language":
May Allah Guide them and open their hearts to worship Him, alone without partners, ameen.
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