Feqhizadeh (ibid: 158) reasons that some of these factors (1, 2, and 3) are the inherent characteristics of the Qur’an and some others (4, 5, and 6) are external factors which are from the part of translators and their lack of knowledge (my translation).
Saffarzadeh (2009: 1203-1204) argues that the linkage between ‘Revelations’ can be preserved by ‘related punctuation’. Lack of this, in her idea (ibid), leads to “the incohesion in the linkage between the Revelations and results in the reluctance of the unaware readers towards the text.”
Erfan Shahid, talks about the role of relation between the Ayahs in a Surah:
Attention to the congruence between Ayahs in a Surah carries a lot of significance in the interpretation of the Qur’an, as dismantling the Qur’an and interpreting each Ayah apart from the whole Surah, more than anything else do harm to the Qur’an. (Abdolkarim Bi-Azar Shirazi & Mohammad Baqer Hojjati, 1363a: 13, as cited in Feqhizadeh, 1995/1374: 80, my translation).
Feqhizadeh (ibid) believes that most of translators and interpreters, due to neglecting this feature of the Qur’an, have produced “disjointed interpretation of Ayahs” (my translation).
The origin of the current problem, he (ibid) continues his point, comes from the fact that “interpretation (Tafsir) was first an offshoot of hadith and the scholars of hadith used to use that part of Ayah about which a hadith had been told, and along with the hadith itself, apart from other parts” (my translation).
۲٫۶٫۳ Culture-Bound Quality of the Qur’an
Yet another challenge hidden in the Holy Qur’an is culture-bound quality of the Text. There are lots of culture-bound terms and expressions that have no equivalent in the TL and this means that compactness and some semantic features are lost in translation. Religious concepts are culture-bound and can be categorized as semantic voids. (Abdul-Raof, 2001: 162) As we know language and culture are two elements that are closely connected to each other. Among scholars there are those who believe that culture is a component of language and those who refute any such idea. Religious texts, as Mosaffa Jahromi et al. (2005: 1) believe, “codify aspects of highly culture-specific characteristics […]. Rendering religious texts faces translators with non-indigenous difficulties both in linguistic and culture-specific aspects by and large.”
Lotman’s theory states that “no language can exist unless it is steeped in the context of culture; and no culture can exist which does not have at its centre, the structure of natural language” (as cited in Khanjankhani & Khatib, 2005:41).
Bassnett maintains that “language is the heart within the body of culture” (ibid).
On the other hand, Newmark (1988b: 95, 183), though states that “a language is partly the repository and reflection of a culture’, believes that:
Language is not a component or feature of a culture. If it were so, translation would be impossible. Language does however contain all kinds of cultural deposits, in the grammar, forms of address as well as the lexis. The more specific a language becomes for natural phenomena the more it becomes embedded in cultural features, and therefore create translation problems. There will be a translation problem unless there is cultural overlap between the source and the target language.
On the other hand Nida (1991:92) holds that “words only have meaning in terms of the culture of which they are a part.” (See further Nida 1975, 1964.)
Mosaffa Jahromi et al. (2005: 43) mention that “religious terms carry with themselves certain cultural load, which in the process of translating from one language to another find no equivalent [.] They (ibid) quote Hume (1990/1369), who has brought examples from Islam and other religions that have no one-to-one equivalents in languages. Words like ablution, Khums, Zakat, Hajj in Islam, the Eucharist, and baptism in Christianity, karma, reincarnation … in Hinduism, and Wailing Wall, Pentecost, Passover (Pasach) in Judaism (ibid, my translation).
An Islamic society which utilizes religion in every aspect of life, can be assumed to have numerous religious concepts, which are emanated from its own cultural focus. Cultural focus is a natural phenomenon in every society which results in devising and forming words. Western societies can be regarded to be rich in technological words as their culture requires such a focus. Cultural focus can be very diverse even within a country. On a global scale, we know that Arabs have many words for camel, Eskimos use numerous words for different kinds of snow and ice. The area of cultural specialization, however, is likely to cause one of the greatest difficulties. In this cases the translator is required to construct descriptive equivalents to make intelligible something which is quite foreign to the receptor (Nida, 1975:89). (See further Nida 1964).
Therefore, it would be quite wrong to assume that the average reader in the receptor language will understand precisely what the original receptors understood. This is impossible, because the receptors in the target language do not share with the original the same common experiences which is essential to the total setting of communication. As a result, all translations suffer from some loss of information and impact (Nida, 1975:267).
۲٫۷ Strategies in Translating the Qur’an; Losses and Gains
It is the varied qualities of the Qur’an which trigger much controversy among translators and translation scholars as to what aspect of the Text should be viewed as prominent or be of prime importance in the process of translation. It is a common consensus that the Holy Message is a masterpiece of divine nature. It contains multi features which one cannot capture in a single text. For example if we follow Katherine Reiss’s textual typology (2000), originally adopted from Karl Buhler (1990), i.e. expressive, informative, and appellative, it can be noticed that the Qur’an holds in itself all three functions. And though all texts have the aspects of the expressive, the informative and the vocative function […] (Newmark, 1988a:21), and languages serve simultaneously to represent (objectively), express (subjectively) and appeal (persuasively) (Karl Buhler, 1990:28, as cited in Reiss, 2000:25), it is not easy to decide which function of language is dominant in the Qur’an, as all of its aspects seem to be having its own significance.
The very controversy talked about above seems to be emanating from the idea that it is not possible to keep all these features of the Holy Qur’an, thus forcing the translator to choose the one which seems to be the most prominent one.
One can say that the form and style of the Qur’an displays the highest degree of expressiveness. This very form envelopes the information as beautifully as possible. The information in the Qur’an is revealed in a very compact and meaningful way. This very information, tailor made in beautiful forms, is to achieve a response from the receptor of the message. Now the thing is that it doesn’t seem to be possible to bring together all these features in a single work. To compound the problem, as mentioned earlier, translators and translation scholars do not totally agree on what aspect to pay more attention to. At least their translations and comments so far prove the claim. This “disagreement among the Qur’an translators is yet another feature of the Qur’an translation” (Abdul-Raof, 2001:34).
۲٫۷٫۱ What are Priorities in Qur’an Translation?
To see what aspects of the Holy Qur’an, in the eyes of translators and translation scholars, are important, it is necessary to have a look at their accounts regarding the Divine Message.
Some translation scholars may discuss that a moderate attention to the meaning will suffice and the rhyming character should be somehow reproduced in a similar f
orm. Professor Nikayin in his work, The Quran, a Poetic Translation from the Original, pays particular attention to the ease of recitation and memorizing. He brings forward some statement from Pickthall, Arberry, Jones and others referring to the significance of the symphony, sounds, prosodic, rhetoric and rhythmical characteristics of Quran. Nikayin puts emphasis on the sound features of the Holy Qur’an by citing Pickthall: “that inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy. (Pickthall, 1957, as cited in Nikayin, 2006: ix).
In his discussion of the importance of the sound features of the Holy Qur’an, Nikayin refers to Pickthall’s account regarding the formal features of the Holy Book and their role in the ease of recitation:
It is a fact that the Koran is marvelously easy for believers to commit to memory. Thousands of people in the East know the whole book by hearts. This translator who finds great difficulty in remembering well-known English quotations accurately, can remember page after page of the Koran in Arabic with perfect accuracy. (Pickthall, 1957, as cited in Nikayin, 2006: x).
Fazllolah Nikayin gives priority to the elegance and eloquence and the ‘enchanting force’, which he calls ‘captivating, little nuances’ of the original:
My new translation of the Holy Quran, […], is therefore a most humble effort intended, if God will, to carry over into the English language some of the beauty and sublimity, elegance and eloquence and the enchanting force of the original, to echo these captivating, little nuances, which in the Quran, are always lying between prose and poetry, and to let non-Muslim acquaint themselves with a book that is to Muslims both scripture and literature at the same time. (Nikayin, ibid: xi).
As far as meaning is concerned, he makes the claim that he has tried ‘not to deviate an iota’ from it by his ‘constant consultation with the most noted and authentic exegeses in Arabic and Persian’, and that he hasn’t let ‘any sectarian interpretation creep into’ his work. He lets the book itself inspire him, ‘only and finally.’
Likewise, in Arberry’s view sublime rhetoric of the Qur’an, ‘apart from the message’, puts the Qur’an among ‘the greatest literary masterpieces’:
In making the present attempt to improve on the performance of my predecessors, and to produce something which might be accepted as echoing however faintly the sublime rhetoric of the Arabic Koran, I have been at pains to study the intricate and richly varied rhythms which- apart from the message itself- constitute the Koran’s undeniable claim to rank amongst the greatest literary masterpieces of mankind. (Arberry, 2007: ix).
As he describes, his attempt is directed ‘to catch the inimitable symphony’ something which, in his idea, is lacking in the previous renderings that make them ‘dull and flat in comparison with the splendidly decorated original’:
All previous renderings of the Koran, like the original text itself, have been printed as continuous prose, the rhapsodic nature of its composition has been largely lost to ear and sight; by showing the text as here presented, some faint impression may be given to its dramatic impact and most moving beauty. (Arberry, ibid: xi).
This is while, Abdul-Raof (2001:180-181) believes that Arberry’s attempt to reflect the rhetorical and rhythmical patterns are ‘in vain’, as He (ibid) maintains that these features are “Qur’an-specific idiosyncrasies and culture-bound.”
Saffarzadeh (2009: 1201) criticises Arthur Arberry’s translation of the Qur’an for his over attention to the rhetorical and rhythmical patterns of the Book. She describes his translation as “eloquent, poetic and literary rather than a comprehensive translation.” Arberry sees the sublimity of the Glorious Qur’an in those rhetorical and rhythmical patterns, this is while Saffarzadeh (ibid) believes that “the weeping of a listener out of ecstasy is raised by the supreme might of the meanings.”
To prove her case, she brings forward tangible evidence from the Qur’an itself:
وَ لَقَدْ یَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّکْرِ فَهَلْ مِنْ مُدَّکِر (۵۴: ۱۷, ۲۲, ۳۲, ۴۰)
“And We have indeed revealed the Holy Qur’an easy and simple to be understood and be guidance to the people; is there anyone willing to receive admonition? (54:17, 22, 32, 40, Saffarzadeh, 2009:997).
She (ibid: 1202) argues that this Surah implies that the “semantic value of the text” overrides its “stylistic aspect.” As a result she believes that the first priority in any rendering of the Holy Qur’an must be the Truth [meaning].
Thus all sorts of similitudes and parables are employed to teach the Truth which is the ultimate goal of Religion. (Saffarzadeh, ibid).
Manafi (2003: 35) puts the emphasis on the matter of the Word of Allah and seemingly believes that however one tries to render the original, much is lost of the content and the form. He goes on to state that:
Although much is lost of the divinely instructed content and ‘splendidly decorated’ unique style of the Quran in the process of transfer, a precise and adequate translation will serve as a means through which the receptors in the target language can be acquainted with the content of the Word of Allah.
In Manafi’s view a precise and adequate translation is one which conveys the meaning. He states that in translation much is lost of the meaning and form of the Message but the receptor can acquaint himself/herself with the content. This simply comes to mean that even the meaning transferred is in no way comparable to the original one.
Nejadhaqiqi (2009/1388:39) believes that “publicizing and taking the message to the uninformed […] is regarded as the most important purpose of translating religious texts” (my translation).
Manafi (2004: 39) asserts that the purpose of the translation of religious texts, is ‘communicating the message in the target language’ which if not fulfilled, the translation ‘won’t make sense.’
Shahsavandi (2006: 57) refers to Hatim and Mason regarding the issue of communicative value of the ST and the prevailing norm of the TL saying:
Hence, of prime importance are the meaning and message of the source text and the way they may be realized in another language based on the target language system of communication.
Taqiyeh (2006) states that “only a translation which, while observing the general conditions of translation, conveys the message and the style of the author to the audience won’t contain contradiction” (my translation).
In Nida’s view (1964:144) a really successful translation must illicit the response of the receptor for which it is constructed. He (ibid: 131) maintains that for the translation to be regarded successful it must normally be longer than the original. The response of the receptor can be seen in the light of a dynamically equivalent translation. For this to happen, as alluded above, the translation must be longer, i.e. translator must “draw out the message […] so as to make it equivalently meaningful” (ibid: 19). (Further see Nida 1991.)
- Qur’an translation Methods
The fact that the Holy Qur’an “had to address both the simple and the sophisticated, the shepherd and the philosopher, the scientist and the artist (Murata and Chittick, 1995: xv, as cited in Abdul-Raof, 2001: 65), suggests that the Qur’an is both very simple and at the same time very complicated which requires a lot of thinking. Now the translator has to choose a language which is befitting and a translation method which can reflect both the simplicity and complexity, beside other vital features, of the Holy Qur’an. The question is what translation method is suitable?
۲٫۷٫۲٫۱ Source-Oriented vs. Target-Oriented
From the earlier times, the orthodox opinion held that holy texts need to be translated very closely. The followers of this opinion had the belief that any other way to render a holy text would distort the meaning and does damage to the text. Newmark (1988a:127, 133) believes that the importance of a literary text is in its formal elements, and as a result it must be translated ‘closely.’
However, “The heavy weight of tradition, as Manafi (2004: 37) puts it, often stifles a translator’s creativity and obstructs a reader’s comprehension.”
In Abdul-Raof’s idea (2001:22) Qur’an translations are generally characterized by what Nida and Reyburn (1981, as cited in Abdul-Raof, ibid) call “formal overloading” which usually originates from the “overuse of rare and difficult combinations of words.” Nida (1991:93) says that such strictly literal or word-for-word translation of a text is ‘almost unintelligible.’ Abdul-Raof (ibid) continues that these translations are characterized by “dogged adherence to source language syntax, the use of archaic language, and formal bias, i.e., they are source language-oriented.”
This formal overloading and the excessive caution towards the holy texts and being intimidated by it, as Nejadhaqiqi (2009/1388: 19) points out, propagated a special type of translation known as word-for-word, which was a sign of translators’ intimidation, caution, respect, and obedience.