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 Post subject: Impact of annotations on translation
PostPosted: 06 Jul 2009, 16:17 
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Admin note: This topic was originally a reply to the "Verses 30:1-7" topic. We moved it here as it invites discussion of an important translation issue.

One danger, however, is ignoring human agency in compilation of the Qur'an (which influenced verse location and numbering), rules of recitation (which influenced points at which recitation is stopped or continued; which need not adhere to verse ends in some cases), classification into parts (by none other than Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf Al-Thaqafi, which also influences where story-telling is often stopped)... All of those risks arise in part from treating the مصحف (the written text) and not the Qur'an (recitation: oral tradition par excellence). Finding a lot of meaning in numbers of verses, verse endings, etc. must rely -- a la Biblical narratives -- on divine inspiration of the compilers, reciters, classifiers, and so on. Otherwise, it is not appropriate to confuse the written text with the Divine recitation.


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 Post subject: Re: Impact of annotations on translation
PostPosted: 06 Jul 2009, 19:48 
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Let me inject my humble opinion about the issues you raised, for what it's worth.

Poetic wrote:
One danger, however, is ignoring human agency in compilation of the Qur'an (which influenced verse location and numbering)

I view our task as translating the text as is, including how it is divided into chapters and verses. The goal is to create a text for English speakers that is as close as possible to what we have as Arabic speakers. That's all.

Even as we find significance in the choice of verse endings, I feel that we should not impose our understanding of such significance on the translation. Just preserve the division into chapters and verses as is, and let the significance speak for itself.

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rules of recitation (which influenced points at which recitation is stopped or continued; which need not adhere to verse ends in some cases)

This is an important issue. This topic addresses one such rule, and it will be beneficial to start topics on other rules as well.

Quote:
classification into parts (by none other than Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf Al-Thaqafi, which also influences where story-telling is often stopped)

I believe that the partition of the Quran into 30 parts, and sub-parts, should not be taken into consideration in any shape or form. It is a historical fact that this was not part of the Quran as conveyed by the Prophet (PBUH), therefore it is not part of the Quran.

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All of those risks arise in part from treating the مصحف (the written text) and not the Qur'an (recitation: oral tradition par excellence).

This point is worthy of discusion. Are there examples of differences that would affect the translation?

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 Post subject: Re: Impact of annotations on translation
PostPosted: 07 Jul 2009, 05:40 
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Poetic wrote:
One danger, however, is ignoring human agency in compilation of the Qur'an (which influenced verse location and numbering), rules of recitation (which influenced points at which recitation is stopped or continued; which need not adhere to verse ends in some cases), classification into parts (by none other than Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf Al-Thaqafi, which also influences where story-telling is often stopped)... All of those risks arise in part from treating the مصحف (the written text) and not the Qur'an (recitation: oral tradition par excellence).

Compilation of the Quran, verse location and chapter ordering were all done by the Prophet :pbuh: He used to say to his scribes, after reciting verses that were freshly revealed to him, "Write those after such and such", referring to another set of verses previously written down. Even places of pauses and places forbidding pausing were done by the prophet as well and Muslims simply copied him. The prophet often listened to a Sahabi reciting the Quran and there is no mention in any tradition that any Sahabi made even one deviation from the way the prophet recited the Quran. We also know from the Hadeeth that the angel Gabriel reviewed the Quran every year with the prophet during the month of Ramadan.

The way the Mus-haf was written was to ensure that all those considerations were noted. That includes verse endings, annotations of where to pause and where not to, etc. It preserved the oral tradition.

You are certainly correct about the thirty parts. That came after and it has no particular significance.

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 Post subject: Re: Impact of annotations on translation
PostPosted: 07 Jul 2009, 17:09 
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Linguistic wrote:
Compilation of the Quran, verse location and chapter ordering were all done by the Prophet He used to say to his scribes, after reciting verses that were freshly revealed to him, "Write those after such and such", referring to another set of verses previously written down. Even places of pauses and places forbidding pausing were done by the prophet as well and Muslims simply copied him. The prophet often listened to a Sahabi reciting the Quran and there is no mention in any tradition that any Sahabi made even one deviation from the way the prophet recited the Quran. We also know from the Hadeeth that the angel Gabriel reviewed the Quran every year with the prophet during the month of Ramadan.

The way the Mus-haf was written was to ensure that all those considerations were noted. That includes verse endings, annotations of where to pause and where not to, etc. It preserved the oral tradition.


Well, that is definitely the "sacred history" that you will find in mainstream media and school curricula. The classical literature, however, includes other descriptions, including most notably كتاب المصاحف by السجستاني, which reports on many disputes, especially involving عبد الله ابن مسعود.

More broadly, however, I should also comment on Pragmatic's view that this is the way Arabs have read the Qur'an for centuries. Well, for a newcomer who wishes to read an English translation, which is more important: to translate the Book as it is read today, or translate it the way those who listened to it for the first time did?

An added problem is the following: How do you indicate to the first-time reader that a certain verse has been abrogated? This is particularly important for the verses that address dealing with non-Muslims, where the accounts on what was abrogated by آية السيف are obviously contentious and of paramount importance.

I am sorry if I am being argumentative, and not necessarily sticking to what you wish to do, but you'll see that my proposed translations actually stick to your program (adding rhythm and some rhyme). However, I think that there are fundamental issues that make this approach far from optimal (although what is optimal is even harder).

So, if we have the three approaches "Linguistic", "Pragmatic", and "Poetic", I think that we need a fourth: Historical. Otherwise, if we translate an Arabic word based on its current meaning, we would not be translating the Qur'an as it was revealed. There are obviously the other issues that I have raised in this thread that are also historical in nature.


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 Post subject: Re: Impact of annotations on translation
PostPosted: 07 Jul 2009, 18:13 
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Poetic wrote:
I should also comment on Pragmatic's view that this is the way Arabs have read the Qur'an for centuries. Well, for a newcomer who wishes to read an English translation, which is more important: to translate the Book as it is read today, or translate it the way those who listened to it for the first time did?

If the meaning of an Arabic word has changed with time, the original meaning is what matters in the translation. I find Asad's translation to be helpful in this regard.

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An added problem is the following: How do you indicate to the first-time reader that a certain verse has been abrogated?

We are translating the text as is. Since there is no annotation within the text that a particular verse was abrogated, the issue does not impact the translation.

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I am sorry if I am being argumentative, and not necessarily sticking to what you wish to do, but you'll see that my proposed translations actually stick to your program (adding rhythm and some rhyme). .

I am certainly enjoying your proposed translations and your feedback on the other translations. As for arguments, I can't speak for Linguistic but my reading of the purpose of the board is that religious debates are to be avoided here, and that the only goal of this board is to translate the Quranic text as is.

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