The Holy Qur'an

Book Review

JANUARY 1985 BOOK REVIEW 43 BOOK REVIEW An English Translation of the Meaning of the Quran Publisher: Dar Al-Choura, Beirut, Lebanon Introducing this new addition to the already existing several English translations of the Holy Quran, its publishers profess that: “It is the end product of extensive efforts by a panel of scholars associated with the American University of Beirut and various other in- stitutes of religious and scientific research. Also that after a checking of its entire text, it has been approved by the Supreme Muslim Sunni and Shii Councils in the Republic of Lebanon.” The main objective before the compilers, the preface goes on to say, has been to render the meanings of the Quran “as accurately as possible into modern English, so as to meet the pressing and long felt need of such a translation among non-Arabic speaking Muslims and non-Muslims.” In the very beginning, the reader meets with two inaccuracies. Hazrat Uthman, the third guided Khalifa, is shown in the preface as the fourth Khalifa, and in the introductory note a slur has been cast on Hazrat Khadijah, the holy spouse of the Holy Prophet Muham- mad (peace and blessings of God be on him). Alluding to their mar- riage, the note goes on to say: His marriage, thanks to Khadijah’s broadmindedness and understan- ding, proved a happy one. Though during the first fifteen years of their marriage, he would retire for days to a cave called Hira on a hill near Makkah, for meditation and spiritual devotion, she never complained and always welcomed him back home.” (p.xv). This passage, between the lines, suggests that Hazrat Khadijah did not approve of her husband’s occasional retreats to the cave of Hira and that it was out of her broadmindedness and understanding that she desisted from making it a cause of complaint. Similarly, it was to save their conjugal happiness that she always welcomed him back home. The editors have sadly misconstrued this episode. The fact is that Hazrat Khadijah took very keen interest in the Holy Prophet’s meditational retirements. It was she who lovingly prepared and fur- nished him with all sorts of provisions required by him for his sub- sistence in the cave. It is a historic fact that whenever any doubts assailed him as to whether he would be able to carry out his mission, it was she who encouraged him and assured him. Had she not deemed it a matter of honor for her also, and had she not gloried in his meditations she would not have taken him to her uncle Waraqa bin Naufal for fortifying his confidence. (Bukharf). 44 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS JANUARY 1985 So far as the translation of the Quran is concerned, we regret to say that this new version is not free from mistakes. We limit our remarks only to the verses discussed below. Let us take the verse It has been translated as “He is what the heavens and the earth contain.” (42:1-5, p. 356). Here, due to incorrect translation, the Almighty Allah has been equated with His creation and denied a separate identity. The Holy Quran completely rejects such panthe- istic conceptions. Unless it is a misprint, it is a glaring mistake. Again the verse has been translated as follows: “He said: Isa, I am about to cause your term on earth to end and lift you up to me.” (3:56, p.39). In this verse the imperative verb Mutawaffika is the key word on which hinges its correct interpretation. It also determines the true nature of Isa’s Rafa which occurs after his twaffi. According to Arabic usage, when God causes this action on a human being and there is no indication that Twaffi is to take place during sleep, then it invariably means to cause to die. There is no ex- ception to this rule. Twaffahullaho would mean, ‘Allah caused him to die.’ (Muhit.) Similarly in the case of Rafa, when God is the subject and a human being the object, it has no other meaning than that of granting spiritual ascension, for God, not being material or confined to any place, physical ascension to Him is inconceivable and impossible. This verb has also been used in the Quran regarding the prophet Idris, where God says, Rafa’naaho (We exalted him spiritually, 19:57). Incidentally it may be pointed out that physical ascension has never been attributed to Idris on the strength of this word. Even the present translation does not ascribe it to him and interprets the verse as: “Whom We honored and exalted” . (p.222). So, as regards Jesus, the verse would signify that God caused him to die and then elevated him spiritually. The stress on his exaltation after death is to reject the false claim by the Jews that he died an ac- cursed death on the cross. But in the translation under review, Mutawaffika and Rafi’oka have been rendered as ‘I am about to cause your term on earth to end and lift you up to Me’, (p.39). How God ended Isa’s term on this earth has been left unexplained. This translation seems to subscribe to the common belief that Isa JANUARY 1985 BOOK REVIEW 45 did not die a natural death on the earth; he was lifted alive by God to Himself and is still living in the heavens. Nothing can be more repug- nant to the spirit of the Quran. Great Imams like Imam Bukhari and Ibn-e-Abbas have translated Mutawaffika as Mumeetoka, i.e., ‘I will cause thee to die’. (Bukhari). Similarly the renowned Arab philologist, Zamakhshri, says: “Mutawaffika means, I will protect thee from being killed by the people and will grant thee full lease of life ordained for thee and will cause thee to die a natural death, not being killed.” (Kashshaf}. Present-day theologians like Muhammad Abduh Rashid Rida and Sheikh Mahmud Shaltut have also emphatically confirmed the death of Jesus. (Tafsir Al-Manar, Vol. Ill, pp.316-319: Weekly Al-Risala of Cair, May 11, 1942, Vol. 10, No. 462, p.515). It is very unfortunate that, despite the verdict of such eminent authorities, this verse has been misinterpreted to suit the Christian version of the event. Suratul Lahab affords another instance of translation deviating from the text. About Abu Lahab and his wife, it proclaims, “Soon shall he burn in a flaming fire; and his wife too, who carries the fuel. Round her neck will be a halter of coir.” (111:2-5). The Lebanese translation has rendered these verses as, “He shall be burnt in a flaming fire, and his wife, laden with faggots, shall have a rope of fibre round her neck.” (p.465). The verbs in the original text denoting the condition of Abu Lahab and his wife are in active form. In the Lebanese translation they have been changed to passive form. This unwarranted rendering has lessened the intensity of their mischief and plight, which the original verse wants to underscore. Moreover, due to the faulty structure of the sentence, the idea of the burning of the wife has been obscured. It seems from the transla- tion that she will escape with only having a rope of fibre round her neck. Then the verse C has also been given a delusive complexion. The word ayah has been translated as a verse, indicating that some verses of the Holy Quran have been abrogated by some others, (p. 11). This “abrogation theory” presupposes the presence of contradic- tions and discrepancies in the Holy Quran, which however, the Quran rejects unequivocally. It says: 46 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS JANUARY 1985 “Will they not then meditate upon the Quran? Had it been from anyone other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy. (4:82). Moreover, abrogation would prove that the knowledge of Allah is imperfect, for in this case it will have to be assumed that at first He issues an ordinance, then as a result of an after-thought, He rescinds it and replaces it with another, more profound than the earlier. This concept has no basis in the Quran nor is there any authentic Tradi- tion of the Holy Prophet to support it. This theory took shape due to a misinterpretation of the word Ayah. It primarily means a sign, a message, a command, etc. As every verse of the Holy Quran carried this significance, the word came to be applied to them also secondarily. But there is no justifica- tion for translating the word Ayah in its secondary sense when its primary meanings fit well in the context. • The context of the verse in question relates to the Jewish and Christian claim that the Bible cannot be superseded by any other revelation. The verse in this setting refers to the earlier divine messages and not to any part of the Quran itself, as would appear from the Lebanese translation. Again, verse 35 of Suratun Noor, commonly known as Ayati Istikhlaf, promising the establishment of Khilafat, i.e., spiritual and temporal leadership among Muslims, has also been grossly misconstrued. The likeness of Muslims, affirmed in this verse with the followers of the earlier prophets in respect of Istikhlaf or succes- sion emphasizes the point that as spiritual and temporal leadership was established among them, so will it be conferred on the followers of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of God be on him.) The root Khalafa, from which stems the word La Yastakhlefanna occuring in this verse, means to succeed someone (Mufridaf). Hence Khalifah would mean, a successor, a vicegerent, a deputy or an heir. The Lebanese translation has interpreted it as ‘Masters’ (p.259). The word master signifies, “ruler, chief, director, head, manager, pro- prietor, controller, employer, superintendent, etc., (Webster), but it does not mean a successor or a spiritual leader. By interpreting Khalifah as master, the Lebanese translation has denied the grant of spiritual leadership to Muslims. The idea that spiritual succession to the Holy Prophet has ended and only temporal succession continues is neither corroborated by the Holy Quran, nor by any Tradition of the Holy Prophet, nor is there any lexical sup- port for it. It is a glaring and deplorable deviation from the text. Noor-ud-Din Munir THE AHMADIYYA MOVEMENT The Ahmadiyya Movement was founded in 1889 by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the expected world Reformer and the Promised Messiah. The Movement is an embodiment of true and real Islam. It seeks to unite mankind with its Creator and to establish peace throughout the world. The present Head, of the Movement is Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad. The Ahmadiyya Movement has its Headquarters at Rabwah, Pakistan, and is. actively engaged in missionary work at the following centers: • • AHMADIYYA MUSLIM MISSIONS AFRICA: BENIN: P.O. Box 69, Portonova. GAMBIA: P.O. Box 383 Banjul. Tel. 608 GHANA: P.O. Box 2327, Accra (OSU New Estates). Tel: 76845 IVORY COAST: Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, 03 BP416, AdJame-AbidJanOS. KENYA: P.O. Box 40554, Nairobi (Fort Hall Road.). Tel: 264226. Telex: do 22278. LIBERIA: P.O. Box 618, Monrovia (9 Lynch Street). MAURITIUS:’P.O. Box 6 (Rose Hill). NIGERIA: P.O. Box 418, Lagos (45 Idumagbo Avenue). Tel: 633 757. SIERRA LEONE: P.O. Box 353, Freetown, Tel: 40699/22617 SOUTH’AFRICA: Mr. M.G.. Ebrahim, P.O. Box ‘ 41.95, Cape Town (Darut-Tablign-il Islami). TANZANIA: P. O. Box 376, Dares Salaam (Libya Street). Tel: 21744 UGANDA: P.O. Box 98, Kampala. ZAMBIA: P.O. Box 32345, Lusaka. AMERICAS: CANADA: Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, 1306 Wilson Ave., Downsview, Ont. M3M 1H5. 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Hasan, 24 San Sebastin Street, Ratnum Road, Colombo 12. EUROPE: BELGIUM: Maulvi S. M. Khan, 76 Av. du Pantheon BteS 1080, Brussels, DENMARK: Eriksminde Alls 2, Hvidovre- Copenhagen. Tel: 753502 GERMANY: Die Moschee, Babenhauser, Landstrasse, 25, Frankfurt. Tel: 681485. HOLLAND: De Moschee, Oostduirlaan, 79, Den Haag. Tel: (010-3170) 245902 Telex: 33574 Inter NLA 30C NORWAY: Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Frognerveine 53, Oslo-2. Tel. 447188 SPAIN: Mission Ahmadiyy’a del Islam, Mezquita Basharat, Pedro Abad, near Cordoba, Tel. 160750 Ext. 142 SWEDEN: Nasir Mosfe Islams Ahmadlyya Forsamling, Tolvskillingsgatan 1. S-414 82 Goteborg, Sverige. Tel: 414044 . SWITZERLAND: Mahmud Moschee, 323, Fors’chstrasse 8008, Zurich. Tel: 535570. Telex: 58378 MPTCH Islam 374/XA UNITED KINGDOM: 16 Gressenhali Road, London SW18 5QL. Tel: 01-870 8517. ‘ ‘ Telex: 28604 Ret 1292 ISSN 0743-5622 The REVIEW of RELIGIONS The Review of Religions is the oldest magazine of its kind published in the English language in the Indo-Pakistan Sub- continent. Its first issue was published in 1902 and it has been continuously published since. It bears the distinction that it was initiated under the direction of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah, himself. During the more than eighty-one years, the message of Islam has been conveyed through this magazine to hundreds of readers and many fortunate persons have recognized the truth of Islam and accepted it through studying it. The articles published in it deal not only with the doctrines and teachings of Islam but also set forth a comparative appreciation of the teachings of other faiths. One of its outstanding features is the refutation of the criticism of Islamic teachings by orientalists and non- Muslim scholars. It also presents solutions, in the light of Islamic teachigs, of the problems with which the Islamic world is confronted from time to time. A study of this magazine is indispensable for the appre- ciation of the doctrines of the Ahmadiyya Movement and the teachings of its Holy Founder. Published by the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, Inc. 2141 Leroy Place, N.W., Washington, DC 20008 Printed at the Fazl-i-Umar Press. Pomeroy Road, Athens OH 45701