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Book Review
Errors in Qur’an translations
By A U Asif

Book: Three Major Errors in Twelve English Translations of the Qur'an
Author: S Ameenul Hasan Rizvi
Publisher: Markazi Maktaba Islami Publishers, N Delhi-110025, E-mail: mmipub@nda.vsnl.net.in; pp. 32; Price: Rs 20.00
 

Qaseeda Burda is considered the most popular Arabic poetical seerah of Prophet Mohammed, pubh, penned by Allama Busairi more than seven centuries ago. It has been rendered into Urdu by about two dozen men of letters. Among them the most popular and authentic is said to be the one by Abdullah Hilal Siddiqui, an India-born scholar and income tax official, now living in Karachi. His "Urdu Qaseeda Burdaa" is also in verses. Since 1970 its ten editions have been brought out so far. But the most surprising fact is that the man who has done this great task is a modern educated intellectual and does not know Arabic. He proudly disclosed it in a meeting with the reviewer during his recent visit to India.
This interesting fact is also seen elsewhere. The booklet "Three Major Errors in Twelve English Translations of the Qur'an" by Sayyid Ameenul Hasan Rizvi, a lawyer-turned-to-media and intellectualism, under review, also gives the same impression. He is himself not too well versed in Arabic. But it is also a fact that he considers the conditions essential for translating the Qur'an into English to be well versed in both Arabic and English languages. This is evident from his assertions in his 6-page "Initial Observations".
However, it is true that due to lack of mastery over both the languages and also a deep insight into the Qur'an, there have remained some major errors in the English translations of the Qur'an. One also notices some errors in the translation of the Qur'an by orientalists arbitrarily, not by mistakes merely.

The author under whom this reviewer had got an opportunity to serve in "Radiance Viewsweekly" for 6 years has been pondering over these important points since his days of editing the weekly. Actually a number of difficulties led him to think it over and go through various English translations. One may or may not agree with his findings, but the strenuous efforts made by an octogenerian, taking interest in understanding the Qur'an in English in its exact meaning, compels one to pay attention.

The author has discussed with three verses of the Qur'an common to twelve translations in English by George Sale; E H Palmer; T J Arberry; Mohammed Asad; N J Dawood and Mahmud Zayid; Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall; Abdullah Yusuf Ali; Ahmad Ali; Dr Muhammad Taqiuddin Al-Hilali and Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan; Syed Anwar Ali; Maulawi Sher Ali; and T B Irving. Says he: "Translation of these verses goes quite against as well as distorts three clear and well known laws laid down in the Qur'an and regarding which there has been no difference of opinion worth the name ever since these had been revealed over fourteen hundred years ago." The translations of the words in question are "fabalaghna ajalahunna" (2:231 and 65:2), "riba" (2:275-76 and 278; 3:130; 4:161; and 30:39) and "Zina" (17:32 and 24: 2-3).
One hopes the author's efforts would draw the attention of the scholars and admirers of Qur'an as well as those related with the translation work of the Qur'an.
q

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