Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Reading the Koran
I was reading a post on Citizen Warrior about an Egyptian born Christian who begs people in the West to actually read the Koran. I have a friend who is a former missionary to Morocco who has been also saying the same thing for years. So much misinformation and silliness (often passionately believed) would disappear if Christians would read the Koran.
It struck me that the exhortation needs a qualification, though. You must not only read the Koran, but you must read the Koran in a clear, reliable translation. Many translations of the Koran are somewhat sanitized. While the meaning is often clear enough if you know what you are reading, often the novice reader will miss entirely what is being said.
Here is a classic example from Sura (chapter) 4, verse 34
Marmaduke Pickthall - As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them.
Yusef Ali - As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly)As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly).
The Simple Koran (CSPI) - As for the women whom you fear will rebel, admonish them first, and then send them to a separate bed, and then beat them.
[The Hilali-Khan follows the Ali in this verse, but makes up for it by giving generous footnotes from Islamic sources showing violent supremacism throughout.)
Note that the Pickthall obscures the meaning somewhat through archaic language (Muslims tend to translate the Koran into faux King James idiom to make Koranic language sound exalted) and the Ali does the same thing with archaic idiom and the insertion of language that is completely absent from the Arabic.
The Simple Koran is by far the clearest translation that an English speaker can read. As a word of caution, though, the Simply Koran has a great strength that is also a weakness. CSPI has rearranged the Koran so that the sura are in chronological order and has inserted narrative information to give context. There is no better Koran for reading straight through and getting a real understanding without years of painful study. They've really done a service with this. On the other hand, the Simple Koran is very difficult to use for study and reference. If you get the Simple Koran, have another version as well.