The list is too long to mention here, but below are six examples to show the precision our translator used when choosing the most appropriate words in English in relation to the Arabic meaning. The comparisons are between our translation and those that were readily available in 1997 when we first produced it.

1)  Verse 2:231 (and 65:2 in some translations):  Previous translators basically said, “When you have divorced women, and they have reached their term, then retain them in kindness or release them in kindness.”  The Arabic words “fabalaghna ajalahunna” can also refer to the stage when a time period is about to expire.  In Islamic law, a man cannot take back his wife once she has actually reached her term, for the divorce would have already taken effect.  Thus, we translated it as “[nearly] fulfilled their term.”

2)  The word “riba” in verses 2:275, 2:276, 2:278, 3:130, 4:161 and 30:39 has been translated as “usury” in many translations.  This is definitely incorrect because usury means “an exorbitant, exploitative or excessive rate of interest.”  Therefore, one could argue that charging a low or “reasonable” rate of interest is permitted.  Islamic law clearly forbids any amount; therefore, the translation of “riba” must be “interest” rather than “usury.”

3)  Regarding the words “zina,” “zania,” and “zani” in verses 17:32 and 24:2-3:  English uses different terms pertaining to unlawful sexual intercourse when committed by a married person (adultery) and by an unmarried one (fornication).  In Islamic law the rulings about fornication and adultery are vastly different; therefore, the correct term must be given each time the word “zina” or its derivatives appear.  In 17:32, zina applies to both fornication and adultery (Pickthall only mentioned adultery).  In 24:2, the ruling for one hundred lashes applies only to fornicators, but Pickthall used the word adultery (a definite error).  And in 24:3, zina again applies to both adulterers/adulteresses and fornicators/fornicatresses, but he only indicated the former.

4)  In 2:255 the phrase usually translated as “Neither slumber nor sleep overtake Him” is technically incorrect because “slumber” and “sleep” are similar in English and reflect the meaning of “nawm” in Arabic.  ”Sinah” is the state when one is on the verge of falling asleep but still aware of his surroundings.  There is probably no exact term in English for “sinah,” but “drowsiness” is closer in meaning.  In the Saheeh Internationl translation, the phrase reads:  “Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep.”

5)  Verse 18:71:  Several translations used the word “scuttle,” as in this example by Hilali and Khan:  “So, they both proceeded till when they embarked the ship, he (Al-Khidr) scuttled it.  [Moses] said:  ‘Have you scuttled it in order to drown its people?’”  The meaning of “scuttle” is to open holes in a ship below water level in order to sink it.  Al-Khidr was instructed by Allah to disable the ship so that the unjust king who was confiscating ships would see a defect in it and not want it.  It was not intended to be sunk, and scuttling refers to sinking.  The Arabic term is “kharaqa,” which means “torn.”  Our translation reads:  “So they set out, until when they had embarked on the ship, he [i.e., al-Khidr] tore it open.  [Moses] said, ‘Have you torn it open to drown its people?’”

6)  2:116 (and 10:68, 18:4, 19:88, 21:26, 23:91)  Several translators used “begotten” or “begets” in each of these verses.  By translating the word “ittakhadha” as “begotten” implies that Allah fathered a son, yet it has nothing to do with reproduction.  What is meant by “ittakhadha” is to take, adopt or consider one as a son.  The Arabic verb that means “fathered” is “walada,” as in verses 37:152 and 112:3, in which case using “begotten” is appropriate.

Qur'an
advertisement