By Tom Quiner
This was the honest plea of a Quiner’s Diner reader yesterday in response to my post, “With love like that, who needs hate?”
The reader voiced the confusion and frustration so many non-Muslims have when trying to understand Islam:
“And to add to our discussion hurdles, my understanding is that Muslims believe the only truly accurate version of the Koran (Qu’ran) is in Arabic. Therefore, we cannot use an English translation as “evidence” in a dialogue. Help!”
“That is a very good question. Here are some points to consider:
1. Most of the world’s Muslims do not speak Arabic. Therefore, these Muslims rely on Korans in their own language to understand their religion. I have yet to hear of an imam telling his non-Arabic speaking congregation that the non-Arabic Koran they are using is not a valid Koran.
2. Muslim-American organizations quote verses from the Koran in English all the time when talking about Islam.
3. For a number of years the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR ) has been providing an English translation of the Koran to interested parties at no charge – “The Message of the Qur’an”. In its 2006 Annual Report, CAIR noted that more than 30,000 people had received free copies of this Koran, and those people had “benefited from the opportunity to read the holy text.” CAIR apparently did not have any concern about the accuracy/validity of the translation of the Koran it was providing. And it is interesting to note that Muhammad Asad, the translator of this Koran, was actually an East European Jew and the grandson of an orthodox Rabbi, who only started learning Arabic in his early twenties and then soon converted to Islam.
4. You might hear that a translated copy of the Koran is only a valid Koran if the Arabic is included alongside the other language. This bi-lingual approach is the case with, for example, “The Message of the Qur’an” and “The Noble Qur’an”; the latter is the one I use. However, there are popular translations of the Koran that have only the English, e.g. translations by Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Marmaduke Pickthall (an English convert to Islam).
5. When Terry Jones burned a Koran in 2011, I never heard of any Muslim asking him if the copy he was going to burn included the Arabic. The burning simply led to riots in the Muslim world and the killing of some non-Muslims.
6. In 2009, two Afghans were involved in a project to translate the Koran into a local tribal language. Unfortunately, they made some mistakes in their translation and were accused of producing an altered Koran. They originally faced the death sentence, but each ended up being sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Perhaps the best way to answer the question would be a test: Get a bi-lingual Koran and an English-only Koran. Go to your nearest mosque, accompanied by the news cameras. Have a fire started and tell the imam and his congregation that you are going to burn only one of these Korans, and ask them which one is not a valid Koran. For the sake of the survey, you will need to do this at a representative number of mosques. Please keep me posted.”
Quiner’s Diner will not be accompanying you when you make this test.
Thank-you, Dr. Kirby.