Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I'm Glad to Read My Koran in English

I'm glad I have my Koran in English, especially until I learn the old, out-dated Arabic Mohammad used.

Here's sad news from last Friday: One overly religious Zabar Sabit, the democratic Afghanistan's attorney general, is kowtowing to the ousted Taliban. So he has imprisoned Ahmed Ghous Zalmai for distributing the Koran translated into Dari (the Afghani lect of Farsi, or Persian). Zalmai sits in prison, without visits from his family, without any formal charge, and likely because of his ethnicity and his free-speech influences. Zalmai's friend, Nelofer Pazira, posts the news.

Aren't you glad Aristotle can't prevent us from reading his Organon in English, as we get better at reading his old, out-dated Greek? Shouldn't we be thankful to all the classicists who've translated even the religious texts of the likes of Homer, Hesiod, and Sappho? Aren't we glad many Bible translators have been so thoughtful and careful in making wider reading possible? Translation, for all the disputes about what it loses, gives back much.


Esteban Vázquez said...

I, for one, am particularly thankful for translations of the fragmentary Sappho we've inherited, because they help me kill the masculinist impulse in me to fill in whatever stands as a gap in her (our) text.

J. K. Gayle said...

Yes, she writes about you, or for you, if not just around you. And those translations; well, I think now you've written about me as well. (Anne Carson, thankfully, comes to her before we do).

Anonymous said...

Transubstantiation here. http://transubstantiation.wordpress.com/

Interestingly, I think we'd find that Muhammad did not actually 'speak' or 'use' the Arabic that we find in the Qur’ān.

J. K. Gayle said...

Welcome Transubstantiation!

Are you saying that the words of the Koran are Gabriel's?

Here's an English-translated bit from the sacred scriptures of Islam on the book itself:

And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Sura like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides Allah, if your (doubts) are true. But if ye cannot- and of a surety ye cannot- then fear the Fire whose fuel is men and stones,- which is prepared for those who reject Faith.

(Today, I attended a speech given by a Muslim woman which she entitled "The Original Feminist Movement." She brought her English Koran, which persuaded her to wear her Purdah; she's from Pakistan. She ran through the educated, wealthy, and family oriented heroines of the Koran; gave names of a few contemporary Muslim women who are prominent; made several contrasts between the Arab world and the U.S. with regard to rights of women; and noted several contrasts between Christianity and Islam, the Bible and the Koran. I was impressed with her presentation; but it did to me sound like the kind of culturally-sensitive near-propaganda of some Christian evangelical groups. The biggest problem which she tried to solve for the crowd was Mohammed's polygamy and treatment of women. She excused his Aristotle-like views as the first Muslim's sensitivity to the exigencies of the day (such as strife with Jews).)