Sunday, March 25, 2007

Liberalizing the Qur'an: The Case of Laleh Bakhtiar

I have to say I am dissapointed in Laleh Bakhtiar that she is allowing herself to be used in this way - to make it appear as if she is some ground breaking woman of Islam --- same as some of the progressivist Moslems claimed in their drive towards "reform Islam." I am dissapointed because I have a number of Laleh Bakhtiar's translations of Islamic books (Farsi to English translation) and have found them very useful, and carefully translated.

But, in the case of this "new translation" of the Qur'an by Bakhtiar, there are way too many problems, not the least the kind of coverage she is getting from the American corporate media.

Why is it that when A’isha Bewley, who actually speaks Arabic, and is a known and respected translator of classical texts, published a translation of the Qur’an the NYT didn’t profile her? Heck, most Muslims didn’t even know she’d done this, and you have some people today talking about “the first translation by a woman” wrt Bakhtiar (and prior to Bewley’s, there was at least one other version that was done by an Egyptian woman). Is it because Bewley doesn’t fit the image of what Cheryl Benard and Rand told us “friendly” Muslims look like? Scoff all you like. I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories, but more and more coverage of Islam and Muslims seems to take a page from the infamous Rand report. And we go along with it.

Or is it because Bewley didn’t set out with the mindset that she was going to change what the Qur’an meant to English readers or not do it?

“I decided it either has to have a different meaning, or I can’t keep translating.”

What Bakhtiar is doing, then, is a grave, grave disservice to those people who pick up her version. She is doing what liberal Muslims accuse the ‘ulema of having done for 1400 years. It’s not a translation if she decides what the meaning is based on what she wants. It’s wishful thinking. Alhamdulillah, it doesn’t change the meaning of the Qur’an… but saying that English speakers are alienated by Arabic names, deciding yourself to do tafsir, even though you don’t really know Arabic and you admit to having no classical or scholarly training is changing how people who pick up your book will perceive the capital-T Truth, and this can lead one into spiritual territory where one would not want to be caught on the Day That Counts.

more here

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