Its far worse than you think:
Dr. Mark Durie explains it on the excellent Islamist Monitor site:
Non-Muslims or exMuslims who know Islam’s text in the Arabic and particularly those who know classical Arabic (few people) will tell you that the text is ‘worse’ meaning more horrifying andÂ more deadly in the original classical Arabic than we are led to believe in English ‘translations.’Â Â Islamic terminology carries with it concepts, cultural practices and a worldview belonging to an ancient Arab society.Â The words translated into English or modern European languages fail to convey the full meaning that would be understood in an Arabic/Muslim society.Â Only the original classical Arabic koran is the true text which cannot be changed and anything else is merely an interpretation and can be ‘modified.’Â Dr Mark Durie a linguist and specialist in Islam explains some of the problems with our correct understanding of Islamic text which is often a translation of the ‘meaning’ as explained by the commentaries rather than a direct translation.Â Â He notes that the real meaning can be ‘lost in translation’ with possible disastrous results as we fail to comprehend the real message in Islamic text.
Dr Durie notes –Â Reading the Quran presents many challenges.Â One is that the Arabic of the Quran is often just hard to understand.Â It contains many opaque words and expressions, and the mode of expression is often highly elliptical, leaving out material which the reader must infer.
Translations are often ‘translations of meaning’Â eg ‘The Noble Koran:Â English translations of the meanings and commentary’Â — Endowment for allah’s sake from the custodian of the two holy mosques King Abdullah ibn’Abd al-‘Aziz al Sa’ud.
Does the supposedly divine origin of the koranÂ render it untranslatable?Â Â Â Or are there problems?
Ibn Warraq (1995) notes the use ofÂ at least 275 ‘foreign’ words ie not Arabic while the koran is supposed to be in perfect Arabic â€“egÂ Hebrew words and concepts plus a great many Aramaic and Syriac words and ideas, also Ethiopic, Persian, and Greek.Â Â The word koran comes from the SyriacÂ (Warraq 1995Â p 108) .
There are variant versions of the koranÂ so the claim of one pure unaltered version is false.Â Immense errors are noted in the style, the broken or missing sequence of events, the poor connection of ideas, sentences where the beginning and end don’t fit grammatically, and phrases and words which are repeated.
“Seemingly unrelated verses often sit side by side, for example, while duplicate material, exact phrases, or even entire verses may be situated in entirely different contexts’(Reuven Firestone, Islamics professor)
Stories from others have beenÂ plagiarised and distorted and are better read and understood from their original, non-Muslim source.Â Verses seem to have been added while others are missing and many inconsistencies show that considerable revision has occurred.
Arabic writing was far from settled at the claimed time the koran was revealed with possible confusion over consonants and vowels resulting in many possible ‘readings.’Â Â Yet claims are made that it is ‘clear’ or mubeen (eg Koran 5:15, 12:1; 15:1; 26:2; 27:1; 28:2; 43:2; 44:2)
The text is more horrifying and more deadly in the original classical Arabic than in English ‘translations’.
But all these problems are smoothed over and we are fed a sugary version of the ‘meaning’ of the text as the aim is to attract people to Islam and blind us to its real aims.
Fight, commonly used in translationÂ is better understood as KILL
While translations use the word ‘fight’ Dr Durie explains that this is a ‘deficient translation’ which fails to convey the instruction to kill. For us the term ‘fight’ might mean an argument, or a wrestle with no-one killed but this is an incorrect understanding of Islam’s text.Â There is a mass of text in the koran translated asÂ fight when a better translation would be ‘engaged in an intentional, sustained activity with the purpose of killing.’
There are many verses in the Quran which refer to fighting and killing.Â I would like to consider the difficulty inherent in reading verses which attempt to translate the verb qÄtilÅ«, found, for example, in Sura 9:29 ‘Fight the People of the Book…’; Sura 2:190 ‘Fight in the path of Allah those who fight you’ or Sura 2:193 ‘Fight them until there is no more temptation (fitna)’……
To understand what the word qÄtilÅ« means, one needs to recognize that it is based upon a root q-t-l which meansÂ ‘kill’.Â From this root several other Arabic words are formed for example qatala ‘kill, murder’; qatÄ«l ‘someone killed, a casualty’; qatl ‘homicide’; maqtal ‘vital spot on the body (injuring which brings death)’.
If you look up ‘murder’ and ‘kill’ in an English-Arabic dictionary, most likely the first option in both cases will be q-t-l because the semantic range of q-t-l covers bothÂ ‘murder’ andÂ ‘kill’.Â There is a distinction in Islamic law between lawful and unlawful killing, but both types of killing are referred to under the semantic range of the root q-t-l.
The form qÄtilÅ«, which we are focusing on here, is known as a ‘form III’ verb.Â A common feature ofÂ form III verbs is that they denote an intentional, sustained activity directed towards an object. For example form I kataba means ‘he wrote’, but the form III verb kÄtaba means ‘he kept up a correspondence with someone’.Â Form I á¸araba means ‘he hit’ but form III á¸Äraba means ‘he fought against’.Â Â The form I verb á¹arada means ‘he drove away, pushed away’, but form III á¹Ärada means ‘he assaulted, launched an attack, stalked, gave chase to.’
The form I qatala means ‘he killed’, but the corresponding form III qÄtala is the normal word used in the Qur’an for doing battle, hence the standard translation ‘fight’.Â The fact that this is a form III verb would lead one to expect a meaningÂ ‘he engaged in intentional and sustained activity with the purpose of killing.‘Â This isÂ not the same meaning as English fight.Â In English, fight means to engage in a physical struggle for supremacy (with various non-physical, metaphorical extensions).Â Although fight could involve killing, it does not necessarily imply it.Â A contest between boxers is a fight, as is a wrestling match between boys in a school yard.Â In contrastÂ the Arabic form III qÄtala (qÄtilÅ« in the 2nd person plural imperative), which is translated as ‘fight’ in English versions of the Qur’an,Â includes the connotation of killing.
Arabic has another root ‘-r-k which can be used to describe conflict ranging from an argument between neighbors through to military battle, without the connotation of killing, butÂ the words formed from q-t-l imply the act of killing.
The form III of q-t-l is very difficult to translate into English.Â Â To simply translate qÄtilÅ« asÂ ‘Fight!‘ isÂ deficient,because the sense of ‘killing’ is lost in translation.Â HoweverÂ no word in English means ‘intentional sustained activity directed at another with deadly intent’. None of the English expressions with meanings similar to fight â€“ such as combat, assault, wage war, do battle or duel â€“ have such aÂ clear connotation that the core activity involves killing.
In contrast the form III of q-t-l implies thatÂ killing is taking place.Â It refers to a kill-or-be-killed struggle, a ‘fight’ where death is in view, one way or another.
Dangerous consequences of our misunderstanding ofÂ the real ‘meaning’ of Islamic text.
In English cultural understandings, the purpose of war is not to kill your opponents, but to defeat them (killing is merely a means of defeating the enemy).Â In contrast,Â the form III of q-t-l reflects a different understanding of combat, one which is ultimately based upon pre-Islamic Arab culture,Â in which the point of battle is either to bring one’s enemies down to the grave, or to subjugate them, after which the vanquished owe you their lives.
There is no word in the English language which captures the idea of ‘deadly combat’ which appears to be part of the meaning of the form III of q-t-l.Â Therefore,Â to simply translate qÄtilÅ« as ‘fight’ offers a watered-down reading which dilutes a core aspect of the meaning of the Arabic, and distances the text from its cultural context.Â It squeezes the Arabic text into the presuppositions of an English understanding of conflict.
When Sura 9:29 is translated as ‘Fight the People of the Book’, without any qualification, thisÂ misleads English speaking readers.Â Clearer might be ‘Engage in aÂ deadly fight with the People of the Book‘.Â And when Sura 9:123 says ‘O you who believe,Â fight the disbelievers who are close to you’, this could be better translated as ‘Fight a deadly war against the disbelievers’.
It must be stressed once again thatÂ form III of q-t-l is the normal way to refer to military fighting in Qur’anic Arabic. However this fact alone is not enough to make English fight an accurate translation, becauseÂ the Arabic lexicon encodes a very different understanding of combat.
These observations have implications for understanding theÂ Islamic sharia’s rules of combat.Â They align, for example, with the observation that theÂ sharia law allows adult male captives of war to be killed, since killing is integralÂ to the meaning of qitÄl ‘fighting’, and when you vanquish someone, their lives are considered to be in your hand. On the other hand, inÂ English cultural understandings of ‘fighting’, killing unarmed captives is considered a criminal act.
This difference in understanding what ‘fighting’ actually is has a very practical impact on how battles are fought on the ground today.Â Â Jihadis in Iraq understand that if they capture American soldiers, they are free to kill them, but if they throw down their arms and put their hands in the air, their American enemies are not supposed to kill them, but are expected by their superiors to take the jihadis prisoner.
These cultural differences create the conditions for an asymmetrical war.Â American soldiers dislike the fact that if they are captured, they will most likely be killed, but if they capture and execute an enemy they could be found guilty of murder by a US military tribunal.
As another implication of these cultural differences, when in Sura 9:29 it says toÂ ‘fight [form III qÄtilÅ«] the People of the Book’ ‘until they pay tribute out of hand and are humbled’,Â the meaning conveyed by the use of qÄtala is that paying tribute and being humbled are what stops the deadly war, i.e. it stops the killing.
The eminent commentator Al-Suyuti explained in relation toÂ Koran29:46 (the very same verse cited at the head of the Amman letter to the Pope, which was discussed in my previous blog post) thatÂ when non-Muslims reject the arguments of Muslims and refuse to surrender to Islam, “by fighting you and refusing to pay the jizya,Â then argue with them by means of the sword until they become Muslim or pay the jizya..”
This is also relevant for understanding the theological background of recent massacres of non-Muslims in Muslim countries, in the context of claims being made by some that the non-Muslims do not enjoy the benefit of a ‘covenant of protection’ which grants them their right to life.
All this highlights the difficulty of reading classical Islamic texts, not least of all in translation.Â In part it also explains why Westerners, schooled in the linguistic norms of ‘Standard Average European’ languages, have so much difficulty understanding Islam, and whyÂ translations of the Quran into English are inadequate for comprehending its message.Â (Durie Part B 2011)
Dr Durie also notes efforts to obscure the real meaning of jihadÂ whereÂ ‘the principal meaning of jihad in the hadiths is the use of military force against unbelievers to make Islam victorious and dominant.Â This is most significant because Islamic Law is based upon the sunna……We also find that military jihad is given extensive treatment within the Koran
He notes the claimed ‘spiritual jihad’ springs from aÂ ‘hadith which was not included in any of the 6 canonical hadith collections and has been rejected as a fabrication.’(Durie 2010 p 65)
Dr Durie’s ‘Response to: “A Common Word” clearly explains how weÂ misunderstand the meaning of Islamic text and the real intentions of Muslims who cloak their aims in words we find soothingÂ (Durie 2008).
BeatÂ not ‘chastise’
We all know koran sura 4.34 where permission is given to beat women.Â Â Mohammad in the hadith not only hit his own child bride hard in the chest (*Muslim Book 4, Number 2127 ) but also revoked any statements against beating by telling men they could now beat their wives (*Abu-Dawud Book 11, Number 2141 and 2142) .Â Even in his final speechÂ — the one which says to treat women with kindness because they are ‘prisoners’ or ‘domestic animals’ he also says to BEAT them if they disobey (*Tirmidhi 104, Ibn Ishaq P 651, Tabari, vol.9, pp.112-114)!
Despite this efforts are made, relying on our ignorance of Arabic, to pretend the text really means simply ‘chastise’ which we take as a verbal rebuke or ‘separate from.’Â This is of course a lie to sell Islam in the west.
Such pressure seems to be behind Yusuf Ali’s translation of iá¸ribÅ«hunna as ‘chastise them’ in a passage from Sura 4:34 discussing how to maintain marital harmony.Â Although Yusuf Ali’s footnote explains that what is meant is ‘mild corporal punishment’ (of the wife), the English word chastise can mean either ‘punish by beating’ or ‘scold’ (i.e. a verbal rebuke).Â This ambiguity does not exist in the Arabic:Â the Arabic root á¸-r-b simply means ‘beat, strike, hit’.Â Â (Durie Part AÂ Â 2011,)
TheÂ ‘Arabic expression just says beat or hit.’Â The word chastise sometimes used in place of beat can imply for US just ‘a verbal rebuke which is not at all what the Arabic says’.(Durie 2010 p 62)
The word ‘daraba’ (d-r-b) is the root verb involved in the critical section of 4.34 namely -Â Â ÙˆÙŽØ§Ø¶Ù’Ø±ÙØ¨ÙÙˆÙ‡ÙÙ†ÙŽÙ‘, wa-id.ribo â€“hunna.Â Â According to the Hans Wehr Dictionary, daraba means â€“beat, strike, hit, hurt, wound, shoot, shell, bombard etcÂ and any effort to make it something else fails as this is the form used in 4.34.Â Hence the true meaning as used across Arab speakers for 1400 years in Islam is ‘beat, hit’…ie the ‘wa’ means ‘and’, theÂ ‘idribo’ is the command form, 3rd person plural, masculine ‘beat’, and the ‘hun’ is a feminine ‘them.’Â Â Â Hence, ‘and beat them.’ (thanks B, Circe 2009 where an attempt was made to claim it meant separate from and Spencer 2007)Â There is no lightly etc.
Not ‘circumcision’- Female Genital Mutilation!
Clitoridectomy, falsely translated
In 1981 Sheikh Gad al-Haq of al-azharÂ University a supreme authority on sunni Islam, issued a fatwa stating thatÂ circumcision of girls was a religious obligation. (Durie 2010Â p 63)
In Reliance of the Traveller, a classical manual of Islamic sacred law in Arabic with facing English text, commentary and appendices edited and translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller (1994) re ‘circumcision’ we find the Arabic actually says
Law e4.3 p59
“Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male,
but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the clitoris (bazr in Arabic)- (this is called HufaaD or khufaadh â€“female circumcision).Â “Â (p59)(Shafi’i Law) (Durie 2010, p 64;Â answering-Islam.org, several articles on clitoridectomy on this site by Circe)
(A:Â Hanbalis hold that circumcision of women is not obligatory but sunna, while Hanafis consider it a mere courtesy to the husband.)”
The English version falsely translates bazr as ‘prepuce ‘ of the clitoris!! This is an addition by the translator.
The Arabic word bazr does not mean “prepuce of the clitoris”, it means the clitoris itself (cf. the entry in the Arabic-English Dictionary).Â The deceptive translation by Nuh Hah Mim Keller which claims the ‘prepuce’ of the clitoris hides the true Arabic instructions which require excising the clitoris. This is made for Western consumption and obscures the Shafi’i law, given by ‘Umdat al-Salik, thatÂ circumcision of girls by excision of the clitoris is mandatory. This particular form of female circumcision is widely practiced in Egypt, where the Shafi’i school of Sunni law is followed and has spread around the world with Islam.
Mohammad himself endorsed the practice by telling a clitoris-cutter to continue (*Abu-DawudÂ Â Book 41, No.Â 525).Â Several hadith refer to the circumcised male organ and the circumcised female organÂ suggesting it was a common practice amongst Mohammad’s group( articles by Circe on clitoridectomy or FGM this site).
Tawaffa translated as DIE/ died EXCEPT when applied to Isa (false Jesus)
The normal Arabic word ‘he died’ is twaffa.Â ItÂ is used manyÂ times in the Qur’an: 2:234,Â 2:240;Â Â 3:193;Â Â 4:15, 4:97; 6:60,Â 6:61;Â Â 7:37, 7:126;Â Â Â 8:50;Â Â 10:46,Â Â 10:104;Â Â 12:101;Â Â 13:40;Â Â 16:28,Â 16:32,Â 16:70;Â Â 19:15;Â 19:33,Â Â 22:5;Â Â 39:39-42 (multiple references); 40:67,Â 40:77;Â Â 47:27 and translated as …died/die.
Note 19:15 refers supposedly to John (Yahua) while 19:33 refers to Isa/fake Jesus with a virtually identical phrase eg
*KoranÂ 19.33 Peace on me (him)Â the day I (he) was born, and the day I (he) die, and the day I (he) shall be raised alive!
Amazingly in the case of Jesus/Isa,Â when allah took him directly from earth into paradise,Â Â twaffa is said to mean “make you sleep”or “take or gather thee” or “terminate the period of your stay” in various translations ofÂ 3.55Â or “take you to myself”Â in 5:117 (see two translations below).
*Koran 3.55 And when Allah said: O Isa, I am going toÂ make you sleep andÂ raise you to Myself and purify you of those who disbelieve and make those who follow you above those who disbelieve to the day of resurrection; then to Me shall be your return, so l will decide between you concerning that in which you differed.
*Koran 5.117 PICKTHAL: …..I was a witness of them while I dwelt among them, and when ThouÂ tookest me up Thou wast the Watcher over them. Thou art Witness over all things.
SHAKIR: …..I was a witness of them so long as I was among them, but whenÂ Thou didst cause me to die, Thou wert the watcher over them, and Thou art witness of all things.Â Â (http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/005.qmt.html)
The text in 3.55 is more accurately, literally translated asÂ Â Â “Behold! Allah said: O Jesus! I will cause thee to die and raise thee to Myself and clear thee..”
In K5.117 it becomes ‘you caused me to die’Â NOT you took me up!
Why should the same word have a different meaning only in relation to Isa/fake Jesus?Â Are ‘translators’ trying to hide the fact that even the koran says Isa/fake Jesus DIED and was then RISEN or taken to paradise confirming Christian text??
Many Muslim koran commentators allowed for a real death and resurrection of Isa/fake Jesus as a legitimate interpretation of the koranic text (thanks B see Circe 2008)
Mohammad is dead in the ground and doesn’t know what will become of himself (*Koran 46.9) so why follow Mohammad rather thanÂ Isa who is favoured, risen and with allah waiting to return to earth again to slaughter all the Christians so the only religion will be Islam?Â (Isa is clearly NOT the Christian Jesus who didn’t kill anyone and would not destroy his followers)
*Abu Dawud Book37, Number 4310: Narrated AbuHurayrah:Â Â The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: There is no prophet between me and him, that is,Â Jesus (peace_be_upon_him).Â He will descend (to the earth). ………Â He will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill swine, and abolish jizyah. Allah will perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy the Antichrist and will live on the earth for forty years and then he will die. The Muslims will pray over him.
Words that cannot be translated at all.
In the koran that’s so clear for all to understand, there is text that cannot be translated at all because no-one knows what the text means and attached to this text in sura after sura we find this absurd comment â€“
‘these letters are one of theÂ miracles of the koran and none but allah (alone) knows their meaning’
It would seem that no Muslim has asked why allah would send down untranslatable, incomprehensible gibberish no human can understand!Â Out of 114 suras, 29 begin with gibberish of some kind as verse 1 while sura 42 has gibberish as its first and second verse. eg—
*Alif-Lam-Mim in Sura 2 verse 1;Â Sura 3 verse 1;Â Sura 29 verse 1 ;Â Sura 30 verse 1;Â Sura 31 verse 1 ; Sura 32 verse 1
*Â Alif-Lam-Mim-Sad in Sura 7 verse 1
*Â Alif-Lam-Ra in Sura 10 verse 1 (start);Â Â Sura 11 verse 1 (start)Â while Sura 12 verse 1 also adds ‘these are the verses of the CLEAR book.’Â Also in Sura 14 verse 1 (start)Â and Sura 15 verse 1Â which adds ‘These are the verses of the book and a PLAIN Koran.’
*Â Alifâ€“Lam-Mim-Ra in Sura 13 verse 1 (start)
*Â Kaf-Ha-Ya-‘Ain-Sad inÂ Sura 19 verse 1
*Â Ta-Ha in Sura 20 verse 1
*Â Ta-Sin-Mim in Sura 26 verse 1Â and Sura 28 verse 1
*Â Ta-Sin in Sura 27 verse 1Â which adds ‘These are the verses of the koran and (it is) a book (that makes things) CLEAR.’
*Â Ya-Sin in Sura 36 verse 1
*Â Sad in Sura 38 verse 1 (start)
*Â Ha.Â Mim orÂ Â Ha-Mim in Sura 40 verse 1 ; Sura 41 verse 1;Â Sura 42 verse 1 ;Â Sura 43 verse 1;Â Sura 44 verse 1;Â Â Sura 45 verse 1;Â Â Â Sura 46 verse 1
*‘Ain-Sin-Qaf in Sura 42 verse 2 â€“ (see verse 1 above â€“both verses accompanied byÂ ‘these letters areÂ one of the miracles of the koran and none but allah (alone) knows their meaning’
*Â Qaf in Sura 50 verse 1
*Â Nun in Sura 68 verse 1 (start)
Excuse me if I have missed one butÂ isn’t this insane! There are other untranslatable words.
Remember the text you are reading may be aÂ deliberate mistranslation or anÂ inadequate or deficient translationthat simply FAILS to convey the real meaning behind the (classical) Arabic text and this tricks us into a false sense of security while the real horror and threat of Islam is hidden.Â We do NOT understand the deadly danger to our freedom that Islam really is and are tricked with words that mean different things to us and them (eg ‘peace’) and by lies and dissimulation.
Despite the fact that I had read Islamic text (koran , hadith, sira, books of law) many times I found it tremendously helpful to attend classes by Dr Durie and BP (Arabic speaker who lived 25 years in the Arab/Islamic world) as they gave me insights only people deeply familiar with Arabic and Islam can give and I thank them for their past and no doubt future help.
1)Â Â CirceÂ Â ‘Mohammad hit child wife Aisha hard’Â Â 2009
2)Â Â Circe;Â ‘Jesus vs. Isa Part1’ – 26-12-08
3)Â Durie, Mark.Â Â 2011 ‘On the Difficulty of Reading the Quran, Part A: from the Amman Letter to Yusuf Ali’
Sunday, April 24.Â Â Â http//markdurie.com
4)Â Durie,Â Mark.Â 2011Â ‘On the Difficulty of Reading the Quran, Part B: Fighting and Killing’
Sunday, April 24.Â Â Â Â Â http//markdurie.com
5)Â Durie, Mark.Â ‘The third choice:Â Islam, dhimmitude and freedom.’Â Ingram Book Group.Â 2010.
6)Â Â Durie, Mark.Â ‘Response to: “A Common Word”Â Â Â Â Saturday, 09 February 2008
7)Â Â Spencer, Robert:Â Â Dartmouth Muslim student spreads falsehoods about Qur’an, Spencer:Â Â October 30, 2007
8)Â Warraq, Ibn.Â ‘Why I am not a Muslim’.Â Prometheus Books 1995.
*Al-Misri, Ahmad ibn Naqib;Â Reliance of the Traveler:Â A classic manual of Islamic sacred law.Â Â In Arabic with facing English Text, commentary and appendices edited and translated by Nuh Ha Mim KellerÂ amana publicationsÂ Maryland USA 1994
*Ishaq, Ibn: Sirat Rusulallah by Ibn IshaqÂ Translated by A. Guillaume. Fifteenth Impression, 2001 Published by Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan. .
* The Noble Quran:Â Â endowment for allah’s sake from the custodian of the two holy mosques……King Fahd Complex.Â Â Supplied free from the government of Saudi Arabia.
*ALIM CDrom for Tirmidi