Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Periphery

a record of mundane things that have stuck in my mind, and what they may mean.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

On why translations are inadequate

I’ve been thinking about this verse lately:

Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said: "Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?" He said: "I know what ye know not." (2:30)

It embodies so many things that make the Quran Allah’s word:
1. It recognizes the need for people to know their purpose (even though here it’s angles asking the question).
2. It gives people a role—khalifa.
3. It has soooooooo much feeling.

I’ve known this verse in Arabic for a long time now (I’ve memorized it). So today, I was thinking of putting it on my sidebar, instead of the verse that’s there now. But the translation is totally inadequate. I think the translators (I look at four different translations) did the best they could., but it's just not good enough. Some problems:

  1. Behold, thy Lord said to the angels
    The Arabic says “wa id qala rabbuka lil malaikatu”
    Wa id means “and when”
    Rabbuka means your Rab. Rab is not lord. Lord refers to kingship, for which the Arabic word malik is more accurate (as in maliki youm addin in the fatiha). Rab refers to sustainer and nourisher.
  2. Lil malaikatu does mean to the angels… but it doesn’t have the right cadence.
    “I will create a vicegerent on earth."
    This part is more adequate. But is khaleefa really the same as vicegerent? But again, it doesn’t have the right cadence.
  3. They said: "Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?"
    Mischief: yufsidu refers to breaking the principles which Allah has set up... it refer to corruption.
    Wa nahnu Nusabbihu bi hamdika wa nuqaddisu lak: sorry can’t explicate here now.. . may be later!

I only understand a little (very little) Arabic, but the difference is still noticable.

2 Comments:

At 5:39 AM, Muslim said...

jazaks

 
At 5:18 PM, vora said...

subhanallah, that was good.
isn't sad that you did that with one ayah but that's the case with every ayah in the quran. man, i NEED to learn arabic.
i was listening to a hamza yusuf lecture the other day and he said something that was so true i had to laugh. he said that we could read the quran a hundred times over and each time we'll find something new. like an ayah that we'll be like 'hold up, where'd that come from'. as a matter of fact, we could probably read the quran a thousand times over and still get that. shayk hamza was like i read this particular surah hundreds of times and one day i read this ayah and it felt like it had appeared out of nowhere... and he explained how subhanallah we don't see certain things until we're ready or it's the right time. he's so right. we can read things over a billion times but it doesn't get to our hearts until we're ready and we're ready for certain ayahs at specific times. allahu akbar, the power and miracle of the quran once again.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home