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Translatability of Quran: Debates and Differences

The political scenario and social contest play a vital role in representing the opposition views in both Turkey and Egypt. But in Kerala, it was an internal dispute among the venerable scholars of Samastha Kerala Jam-iyyathul Ulema.


The controversy over the translatability of the Qur'an emerged in the global Islamic arena as a historical coincidence that led to heated debates among Muslim scholars. In the early period of the twentieth century, the intellectual discourses in the academic sphere of Turkey and Egypt lately in the Indian state of Kerala disseminated contrasting dialogues. The political scenario and social contest play a vital role in representing the opposition views in both Turkey and Egypt. But in Kerala, it was an internal dispute among the venerable scholars of Samastha Kerala Jam-iyyathul Ulema.


Turkey was witnessing radical reformations by the end of the world war and the growth of the colonial tide as the Sufi orders and devotional practices were averted. In 1894, Ahmed Mithat Efendi wrote an article opposing the Qur'an translation. In 1908, opposing this, Ubaidullah Efendi published an article in Millath newspaper that stated Quran translation was obligatory to disseminate the Islamic ideologies as the prophet ordered in his farewell pilgrimage. Then his formidable opponent was Yahya Hafeef, who argued through the Sabeel ul Rashad Magazine the translation is impossible, even if it is good.


Many translations were published in Turkey with ample errors and were strengthened by the declaration of Ataturk on February 21, 1925, reading the Holy Qur’an in Turkish instead of its original Arabic language and was widely recited in the minarets. Indeed, state involvement in Qur'an interpretation happened solely after private publishers printed the translation in 1924 which caused considerable contention, driving the parliament to support the creation of an authentic and reliable Turkish interpretation.


Consequently, the ministry of Deeniyath decided to publish a state-sponsored error-free translation and handed it over to esteemed Mehmet Akif (1873–1936) with the patronage of twenty thousand Lira. But, even after seven years of strenuous efforts and diligent work, he refused to publish the translation.


As for Egypt, following the colonization and consequences of the revolution, the English language had many privileges. The political intervention of the Turkish government in Islamic affairs

was widely discussed all over the world, especially among Azhari scholars. Rashid Rida strongly opposed the Turkish government stating in Al Manar magazine "Their heretical idea has been headed toward this action for many years to turn the devout people among them away from the word of God the Exalted, who revealed it to the Arabian Prophet Muhammad in the clear Arabic tongue, with a Turkish translation—which consists of their words, their composition, and their arrangement—to facilitate the distortion of the translation so that they can use it as they wish."


Consequently, the scholars divided into two poles as supporting and opposing the Qur'an translation. The core conflict on the translation of the Noble Qur’an lies in the reformist movement, represented by Sheikh Al-Maraghi and Farid Wagdy, supporting the decision of the Government of the Turkish Republic to approve the translation into Turkish and adopting it in the recitation and prayers imposed upon the Masjids.


Musthafa Al Maraghi, and Shykhul Azhar, penned a translation of the Qur'an and were a stagnant supporter of Ahmed Mohammed Lahori's English translation of the Qur'an, which was widely used in that time. Likewise, Muhammad Farid Wagdy who was, at that time, director of Al-Azhar magazine concluded on the permissibility of Qur'anic translation through his research work "Scientific evidence on the permissibility of translating the meanings of the Qur’an into foreign languages."


Contradicting this, Sheik Mustafa Sabri composed "The Question of Translating the Qur'an" in 1931, in which he delineated the arguments of Sheik Muhammad Mustafa al-Maraghi and Muhammad Farid Wajdi concerning the possibility of interpreting the Qur'an reinforcing the dangers raised in this issue.


Sabri opposed the preposterous arguments of Maraghi on extracting the jurisprudential rules from the translation of the Qur'an and the credibility of a Mujthahid (diligent) by the ignorance of the Arabic language if he is an expert in the translated language.


The global controversy of Muslim Scholars blew on the shores of Kerala at the time the Vahabist Movement was at its peak. The backbone of this Sunni Ulama dispute was K V Muhammed Musliyar. He interpreted the Qur'an in Malayalam as an exact retaliation to the misinterpreted translations of C N Ahmed Maulavi, Amani Maulavi, and Umar Maulavi. But, it was affected

adversely by the stringent dispute between the Scholars of the distinguished Sunni Shafi scholarly body ''Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama''.


Renowned scholars like Kanniyath Ahmed Musliyar, E.K. Aboobacker Musliyar and his brother

E.K Hassan Musliyar opposed the translation and Hassan Musliyar wrote "Thahdeerul Ikhvan fi Tharjumathul Qur'an" against K V Muhammed Musliyar while K V Muhammed Musliyar objectified his explanation through "Tharjumathul Qur'an fi Zauhil Burhan". The other faction including Zainudhin Musliyar, C.H Hydrose Musliyar, Aboobakker Hazrath, and K.T Manu Musliyar supported the Qur'an translation into foreign languages.


Samstha stands pause (tawaquf) even today on this topic having two groups but as a need of time, copious translations and explanations of the Quran have been published by the scholars but the usage of translated Quran in prayers and other worships are not permissible and the translated work has no such authenticity as the original Arabic Quran.



Key Words: Translatability of Quran, scholarly debates, Samastha Kerala, Turkey, Egypt 




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