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Tafseer e Majidi

Tafseer e Majidi

By Shaykh Abdul Majid Daryabadi (r.a)

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OF all great works the Holy Qur’an is perhaps the least translatable. Arabic is not at all easy to translate into a language so widely and radically differing from it in structure and genius as English, unless it be with the aid of loose periphrasis and lax paraphrase. Even so the fire of the original is quenched, its vivacious perspicuity is lost, and the so-called literal translation looks rugged and dreary. That the language of the Arabs abounds in nuances and both the noun and the verb are extremely flexible, is a fact well known to every student of that tongue.
The difficulty is increased hundredfold when one has to render into English, with any degree of accuracy and precision, a work so rich in meaning, so pithy in expression, so vigorous in style and so subtle in implications as the Holy Qur’any To reproduce even partially its exotic beauty, wonderful grandeur and magical vivacity without sacrificing the requirements of the English idiom and usage, is the despair of the translator and an ideal impossible of attainment. The result is that every fresh attempt at translating the Holy Writ brings home, in varying degrees, the truth of the old saying that nothing is-so unlike an original as its copy.
The impediments confronting an honest translator may be summed up under six main heads and various sub-headings :
1. In the first place comes the comparative poverty of the English language in several respects. For instance :
(a) There is a large number of Arabic verbs untranslatable into English as verbs, such as j.^ /^ , ^*J / v ;^f , JJ*A , ^ , J,y , ^UV etc., and one has perforce to render each of these words not by a single word but by a combination of words. Thus Jd^j has to be translated as ‘is niggardly,* jd^ as ‘is truthful’, ^ ^j as’ ‘is equal/ J^j as 4s extravagant/ J.!**.* as ‘maketh vain* or rendereth void/ ‘w* as ‘conferred a benefit/ JLJaj as ‘is exorbitant/ and u>%^ as /causes death/
(A) There is no equivalent for the Arabic *)[J+ (aorist) in English, or, for that matter, in any other language known to the translator. The Arabic £){*+ is both present and future tenses combined, whereas in other languages (including English) a tense is either present or future. Thus thousands of Arabic verbs are to be rendered in English only incompletely.

Maariful Hadith

In the name of Allah, the Beneficient, the Merciful


The Quranic i’Jaz, variously interpreted as its inimitable, ellipticism, miraculous elegance, grandiose cadence and emotive and evocative force, is so multilateral that Imam SuyutT has in the M’otrak ahAqr’an fl I’jaz //-Quran, enumerated 35 distinctive features of the Divine Scripture, all of which pertain to its literary excellence alone. These, by no means, exhaust the marvellous super- excellence of the Holy Qur’an : some have been discussed by other writers while others are yet to be expounded, but these are so self-evident that not even the most inveterate enemy of Islam can deny them. One of these is that the writers like Noldake Theodor, Friedrick Schatty, Charles Francis Potter, Phillip “K. Hitti and several other orientalists, none of whom is known for his sympathetic approach to Islam, had to acknowledge the fact that the Qur’an was “the most widely read book in existence/’ 1 and the Prophet to whom it was revealed was “the most successful of all the prophets.” 2 They had willy-nilly to admit this undeniable fact for they had noticed that the Christian missionary societies, financed by affluent European and American countries, had succeeded in rendering the Christian Bible into about seven hundred languages 3 and making finely printed copies of it available to nearly all the urban centres or even in every room of a high class hotel all over the world, yet the numbers who go through them in ten years is just a fraction of those who recite the Qur’an everv day. 4
Another notable aspect of the i’jaz of Qur’an is that notwithstanding the persistent campaign launched since the beginning of the thirteenth century A. D. to present the Holy Qur’an as a product of human mind drawing the mate- rial contained in it indiscriminately from the apocryphal books of Judaism and Christianity, hundreds of its translations/ commentaries and glossaries have been brought out even in Europe. Nor the political and industrial ascendancy of the West coupled with its intellectual and educational supremacy and control over the vyorld-wide mass media has been able to shake the faith of the Muslims in the Holy Qur’gn as the Word of God. This conviction has rather increased with the passage of time than being eroded by these deliberate misrepresentations : the denigrators of the Qur’an have, on the other hand, been forced to put them- selves on their guard. Prof. R. B. Sergeant writes in his introduction to the Dictionary and Glossary of the Quran by John Price that the readers of the Qur’an ought to understand the Book directly from it since the Arab and Muslim countries which are now forsaking conservatism in favour of modernism still take the Scripture as a divine revelation and the people are still accustomed to say, “God Exalted has said” before quoting any passage from it and end the citation with the words, “God Almighty has truly spoken”.
European scholars of Islam, whether they be Prof. Sergeant or GeorgeSale or contributors to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, cannot be expected to express anything beyond their own impressions of the Holy Qur-Sn. They, even if not inspired by a malicious prejudice, cannot shake off their mistaken notions about Islam that have become a part of their intangible heritage of thought and feeling. But, for us, Muslims, it is an apparent fact that God Almighty has Himself taken the responsibility of preserving the Holy {lur’Sn in its absolute purity.
“Verity We, it is We who have revealed the Admonition, and varily We are its Guardians .” ‘[XV : 9] This prophecy has been strikingly confirmed by the fact that the Qur’Sn has remained free from ail alterations, accretions and deletions ever since it was enun- ciated by the holy Prophet (peace be upon him). The purity of the Quranic text maintained through fourteen centuries has already been acknowledged by all, friends and foes alike. I would better cite here the commentary of the learned author of this exegesis on the above verse. He writes :
“Islam knows no such thing as ‘redactions’ of its Holy Text. Even those who have most stoutly denied its being the Word of God are unanimous in testifying to its being exactly the same ‘ work of Muhammed’ as it was thirteen centuries ago. Let us have the testimony of a few such unwilling witnesses :—
(i) ‘The texit of the Quran is the purest of all works of a like antiquity/
(Wherry, Commentry on the Quran. I, p. 349) . (ii) ‘Othman’s recension has remained the authorised text* …. from the
time it was made until the present day \ (Palmer, The Quran, Intro.
p. liv).
(iii) ‘The text of this recension substantially corresponds to the actual utterances of Muharhmed himself/ (Arnold* Islamic faith, p. 9).
(iv) “All sects and parties have the same text of the Quran* (Hurgronje, Mohammadanism, p. 18).
(v) c It is an immense merit in the Kiiran that there is no doubt as to its genuineness. . . . . That very word we can now read with full confi- dence that it has remained unchanged through nearly thirteen hundred years. (Lane and Lane-Poole, Selections from the Kuran, Trubner, London, Intro, p. c). (vi) ‘The recension of ‘Othman has been handed down to us unaltered
There is probably in the world no other work which has remained
twelve centuries with so pure a text’ (Muir, Life of Mahomet, Intro, pp. xxii-xxiii). (vii) ‘In the Koran we have, beyond all reasonable doubt, the exact words of Mohammad without subtraction and without addition/ (Bosworth Smith, Mohammad and Mohammedanism, London 1874, p. 22). (viii) “The Koran was his own creation; and it lies before us practically unchanged from the form which he himself gave it’, (Torrey, Jewish Foundation of Islam, p. 2).” In addition to these testimonies of European orientalists about the purity of the text of the Holy Qur’an, the author goes on to substantiate the claim of the Qur’an to be a Divine revelation which is undisputed and unique among all the religious scriptures. He writes :
“Not only, is the meaning of the Holy Book therefore inspired but every word, every letter— dictated through the angel Gabriel to the holy Prophet from an Archetype preserved in the heaven. That is the distinctive claim of the Holy Qur’an shared by no other ‘revealed Book’ in the world. The Bible, in particular ‘makes no such claim ….. The Bible is the work of a large number of poets, prophets, statesmen, and lawgivers, extending over a vast period of time, and incorporates with itself other and earlier, and often conflicting documents” (Boswarth Smith op. cit., p. 19).

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