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In the Name of God بسم الله

Should I read English or Arabic

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:salam:

My English and Arabic are comparatively equal, however, I oftentimes find myself within a conundrum. For example there are many works Islamic or otherwise which are accessible in both languages, and I don’t know which to choose the Arabic version or the English version.

Should I read the text as it was originally written? (This seems self-explanatory unless someone would like to kindly add on)

The main issue I am having is a book written in a different language such as Greek and then translated to both languages, for example The Republic. Which language should I choose to read when it comes to translated works?

I am not in favor of reading the same book in both languages as it is a bit time consuming and I seek the gist of things, unless it’s a major work such as Tafsir Al-Mizan, would it be a good idea to interchangeably read for example a book in Arabic the next in English? 

I would highly appreciate any advice that I can receive and the most viable approach in your respective opinions. 

Also when it comes to Islamic works even if they are written in Farsi should I always choose the Arabic translation over the English? Such as the works of Ali Shariati, Martyr Muttahari, etc.

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Salaam, 

Always choose the original language in which it is written. In every language, few things cannot be equally translated into other language. When it comes to Qur'an and Ahadith choose Arabic as it was original language. 

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@Sirius_Bright My dear brother thank you for your valued response, just to expound on it when it comes to works such as The Republic, or other works of philosophy is it best to read the translated work of the language that is closest to such original works, or should one always favor arabic?

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This is a major barrier for me about all Abrahamic faith branches because it smacks extremely heavily of cultural/ethnic imperialism & settler-colonialism (the buzzphrase the University Left now uses for anything relating to "white" people being culturally dominant in America). That's something that's always bothered me regardless of wherever it's coming from. For instance, in the George W. Bush era, prior to Christianity essentially disappearing out of American culture, there was a very strong push for young Americans to go to foreign countries "on mission". Going "on mission" was rationalized as "spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations and all peoples" which is very strange considering that a great many of the countries where these missions were taking place already had a rich Christian history. I did some further research on exactly what was going on with this and it all became quite clear: these destination countries already had many Christians, but according to the churches sponsoring the missions, they weren't (proper) Christians-- Latin America was majority Roman Catholic, Eastern Europe was Orthodox, and traditionally Christian nations in Western Europe were Lutheran, Anglican, or some other branch of mainline Protestantism that triggered the evangelical, baptist, and Pentecostal churches sponsoring the missions. You can also factor in the cynical American motivation of wanting to grow their specific affiliation & of course, enrich the church leadership. Upon thinking critically, the actual motivation became clear:

these foreign missions that were heavily pushed between 1996 + 2008 were motivated by an imperialistic desire to spread American right-wing "values" (ha ha ha!) to the rest of the planet, thus ensuring American cultural hegemony which means less opposition to the agenda of America's actual leadership (the permanent ghouls & corporate financial interests) that actually pull the strings of the president & legislature.

 

One of the positive aspects of Christianity is that I can read the scripture in my own native language & pray in the same way, so my spiritual practice is more personal and feels sincere rather than as if I am just going through the motions. Coming from an Eastern Rite Catholic background, I've heard the arguments time and time again that "well, you have to read the bible and say the prayers in Latin/Greek/Slavic/etc" and I can absolutely assure you that this is not true & is in fact a strawman apologetic for this settler-colonialist hegemony. I go to a Ukrainian church and while yes, they do conduct most masses in the mother tongue, they also offer a mass in English on Saturday nights. If I go across town to the Greek Orthodox church for a 4 hour Sunday morning divine liturgy, the order of the service will be in English entirely-- and good luck finding a Roman Catholic church now that does masses in Latin in 2020 (they pretty much gave up after the second Vatican council). If these churches did not offer services in English, or if the Bible hadn't been translated into English, I likely wouldn't even bother with trying to be a part of a faith community at all. The fact of the matter is that God created me to be exactly who I am at this moment (even typing this out in the position I am sitting in, in my mother's home, at this exact date and time). He created me to be an American, to speak/read/write English as my first language-- just like He created every unique human being on this planet to be who they are at this exact moment. He loves variety, it reflects in His creation & if he wanted everyone to be the same culture, speak the same language, dress the same, then there wouldn't be such a beautiful palette of diversity in His masterpiece creation (mankind, who even the angels bowed to but Iblis did not & was punished).

I apologize if this was long-winded, but I'm not into the idea of cultural hegemony at all.

 

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If you don't understand the original language (e.g greek) then select the best translation (doesn't necessarily have to be arabic). The more familiar the translator is with the subject the higher chance that their translation will capture the essence of the text better. 

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@GD41586 Thank you my dear brother for your valued response it was very insightful and I am appreciative of you sharing your own personal anecdotes while also including important history pertaining to the Church and the transitions that had occurred

2 hours ago, GD41586 said:

This is a major barrier for me about all Abrahamic faith branches because it smacks extremely heavily of cultural/ethnic imperialism & settler-colonialism

I am saddened to say that this indeed is an evident reality of the Abrahamic faiths, however, it is not inclusive of the justice of God and the wisdom of his divine hand when introducing these faiths and the gradual progression which led to Islam. Rather it is deviation from the true Orthodox position pertaining to these divine religions.

For example we see the opinion within Judaism that when an individual examines it through their own respective criteria a person cannot be considered a true Jew unless they also meet the ethnic conditions, as for Christianity I am confident that you are very well versed in its regard and are well informed towards the personal interests and shifts which stemmed from a worldly realm and not a divine one which were the cause of its alteration or in some cases deviation from the divine realm, and finally when it comes to Islam I believe the very heavy cultural influence and backward nature of such influences have lead to the stagnation of its true all inclusive progression in the eyes of many.

2 hours ago, GD41586 said:

One of the positive aspects of Christianity is that I can read the scripture in my own native language & pray in the same way, so my spiritual practice is more personal and feels sincere rather than as if I am just going through the motions.

I can definitely understand where you are coming from here and the issue you're raising when it comes to a deep connection with God and the importance in your eyes to be able to cultivate that connection through your own respective language, however, Islam offers such an avenue abundantly in the sense that you can gain closeness through God through a plethora of means, and God has stated in the Quran that all such means refer back to the intention of the individual, therefore any prayers uttered or avenues taken in the cultural, personal, linguistic sense that fall in accordance to the Islamic jurisdiction are not only permissible but also encouraged.

However, the matter in which no other language then Arabic can suffice is that which pertains to the five daily prayers (or other recommended prayers offered to their similitude) is one which although seemingly biased towards the Arabs by choosing their language and we also see a form of cultural superiority or boasting arising from certain individuals who believe that since their language has been chosen they are in a way superior in one way or another. Which is against the teachings of the Quran where God states that,  Yusuf Ali: O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).

With our diversity in language, culture, etc when the time of prayer arises we all subscribe to one unified means and declaration which is There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger. Allowing us all with our plurality of variety to come under one banner and call which no matter where we may be in the world is recognized by every Muslim/Muslima and through further recognition that in the same sense that the Quran cannot be truly conceptualized without apprehension of its original text as it will evidently lead to confusion or separation in the same sense prayer cannot be offered except through one strict and organized means to preserve and unite.

An example of the inability to truly conceptualize the Quran through translation can be Surah 4:34 where many see this as a clear cut declaration to hit/strike ones wife, mainly due to reading the seemingly unanimous translations that allude to such acts, however, if one considers that such English translations were derived not through the context of the classical Arabic used in the Quran, but rather the Modern Arabic they would quickly realize that such a word in the verse is not saying to strike/hit, but rather to move away/travel as also shown and translated to be as such in other verses of surahs in the Quran which speak of traveling using the same word, but in a different context. Hence the necessity of maintaining one strict language and unified means of prayer lest others interpret things based on their own translations which can be and have been problematic. We would witness the same issues that Christianity is facing in regards to the Trinity or Unitarianism.

As for prayer the same logic of preserving one means that unifies us all follows through with the similar logic of preservation when it comes to the Quran and to further expound on prayer in a very concise yet informative matter could be read in this beneficial article  https://www.al-islam.org/articles/why-pray-arabic-ahmed-h-sheriff

Other many means of developing a connection with God can be done through every language and can also be unique to the individual as long as such means do not contradict the fundamental teachings of the Quran. We see not only humans, but also the animals, trees, and other living entities praising God and developing their own personal connection with the Lord in their own pluralistic ways.

2 hours ago, GD41586 said:

I'm not into the idea of cultural hegemony at all.

Neither is Islam and I thank and praise God for sending his Prophet Muhammad not as a mercy to one culture or ethnic group, but rather to mankind.

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7 hours ago, Mohammad313Ali said:

works of Ali Shariati, Martyr Muttahari, etc.

Salam original  works of Ali Shariati are in Farsi that translated to Arabic & other languages also majority of works of Martyr Mutahhari are in Farsi that mixed with Arabic but Farsi has greater share in his original books.

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The original language of a writing captures it best, assuming of course, your understanding of the language is at that level. For myself, though I know that the greatest beauty of the Qur'an lies in reading and understanding it in Arabic, my level of arabic only allows me to have a basic understanding in arabic, and to be able to get into the depths, i have to rely on English tafasir.

 

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14 hours ago, Mohammad313Ali said:

one which although seemingly biased towards the Arabs by choosing their language and we also see a form of cultural superiority or boasting arising from certain individuals who believe that since their language has been chosen they are in a way superior in one way or another. Which is against the teachings of the Quran

thank you so very much for being patient with me.

I understand that I am not easy, and this issue has been one that cuts deep to my soul because of some issues in my own family history (namely, my rejection by my father. He petitioned the Roman Catholic church for an annulment from my mother so he could marry another woman in the church a few years ago and as a result, he completely denies that my sister & I are his children... to the point of using the exact words "You aren't my kids. You never were. Leave me alone and stay the #!$& out of my life!). So I always felt like "God made me who I am, but he doesn't want me... just like my own father" and that's always been a major barrier to me along with the concept of "How can I make a valid prayer when I'm just repeating words in Arabic and either not knowing what they mean or be internally translating the words into my native tongue the entire time I am praying?", so therefore my mind is not fully centered on my prayers and therefore they would be invalid by my understanding from some (likely) Sunni manuals/texts I was given almost sixteen years ago (yes, that's how long I've had contact with Islam in my community). I credit the renowned folk musician Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens for my willingness to "go and see!", as prior to learning that he converted to Islam after almost drowning in Malibu, I like many other American millennials, understood a "Muslim" as "an angry, violent theocrat that crashes jet liners into New York City skyscrapers because he hates you and your culture"... and then I met someone with a beautiful soul in my English class named Massomeh (she was from Tehran & dismantled my bigotries & presuppositions).

 

 

14 hours ago, Mohammad313Ali said:

in the same sense that the Quran cannot be truly conceptualized without apprehension of its original text as it will evidently lead to confusion or separation

Very glad that you mentioned this, because I am on Amazon right now and I could use a little help. See, when my personal items were being brought back to my mother's house before I was released from jail (mental health issue), apparently the translation of the Qur'an that I JUST BOUGHT TWO MONTHS AGO was "donated" because "You aren't a Muslim and I don't want that in my house if police are going to be coming here to check on you" (they aren't, I miraculously got away without supervision visits). She later apologized and said "Yeah, I'm sorry. I thought that you had bought that to be weird, I didn't know that you actually wanted to read it like you're doing with the Bible"; so here's my question for you and any other brothers or sisters who are willing to help me out here:

1. Should I buy another Qur'an? My mother seems a little funny about me owning one or even looking into Islam at all, and I know that we are supposed to honor our parents (especially our mothers, as "heaven lies under her feet" and because "in pain did she bear us and give us life" [paraphrase] not to mention that our mothers should be our "first three" good companions). I prefer to read physical books because they don't hurt my eyes when I am reading them for hours at a time.

2. If I should buy another Qur'an translation, which one should I buy? Or should I buy one with parallel texts (english & arabic)?

3. Christians have study bibles. These are bibles that come with many annotations and notes so that the reader can draw deeper into the scripture and understand the message better (I own three of these: The NKJV, ESV, and NIV). Are there such things as a "study qur'an" with annotations and notes from scholars? this would be a blessing for an English speaking American who is on the autism spectrum & easily becomes fascinated with subjects that he is studying. If anyone could recommend a specific one to me, that would be wonderful.


I had wanted to spend my time in jail reading the bible and quran cover to cover, but the county I live in is quite rednecky and "old fashioned Southern" (they still display signs at a so-called museum that says "Whites Only" and "Colored":angry:), so they refused to give me one to read, but I was able to access a digital copy on my jail tablet but it would either crash after five minutes (how convenient!) or the battery would be completely drained after 45min & I couldn't even get through Surah 2). I cannot go the bookstore because of COVID19 lockdown, so I will have to order on Amazon.

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12 hours ago, Mohammad313Ali said:

An example of the inability to truly conceptualize the Quran through translation can be Surah 4:34 where many see this as a clear cut declaration to hit/strike ones wife, mainly due to reading the seemingly unanimous translations that allude to such acts

But it's the scholars (Arabic speakers) that put this meaning on it for the longest time. 

I think what you are getting at is that the preserved Classical Arabic text let's us return to the text for exegetical work and/or a general understanding, whereas a translation is static or fixed. It's dependent on what the translator had in mind, what the translator chose. 

 

Anyways, it's intuitively obvious that the Quran is only properly understood at any academic level in it's original words/language.

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2 hours ago, GD41586 said:

thank you so very much for being patient with me.

I am at your service my dear brother 

 

2 hours ago, GD41586 said:

"How can I make a valid prayer when I'm just repeating words in Arabic and either not knowing what they mean or be internally translating the words into my native tongue the entire time I am praying?"

I believe this boils down to essentially understanding what you are proclaiming in Arabic within your prayers in regards to what is fundamentally being stated, such as the oneness of God, the prophet hood of Muhammad (saww) and the divine attributes of God. Through apprehension of what you are proclaiming it is then necessary to reach a conclusion in such statements, as in is God truly one and is Muhammad his messenger. After further endeavor when one is able to reach a conclusion pertaining to what they have understood fundamentally to what is being said in prayer they then are ready to become a fortified Muslim in their belief, and as for the prayer being stated only in Arabic the necessity of such is addressed above, and otherwise we can all gain closeness to the creator in our unique diversity in which Islam is all inclusive to.

As for your struggles I pray that God may and will recompense you for what you have patiently endured, and know that as a Muslim all grievances/transgressions against God willingly or unwillingly will be forgiven as God is the eternally mercifully all encompassing with his mercy. All such trials and tribulations will remain in your slate of good deeds. 

2 hours ago, GD41586 said:

Should I buy another Qur'an? My mother seems a little funny about me owning one or even looking into Islam at all

It is very remarkable and considerate of you to ask such an important and thoughtful question as Islam carries a great significance for our mothers irrespective of the theological conclusions they may have reached and the differing nature of them to Islam. I believe that for the reason you mentioned it is indeed best to purchase a tangible copy of the Qur'an, as God states, 

(31:15) But if they press you to associate others with Me in My Divinity, (to associate) those regarding whom you have no knowledge24 (that they are My associates), do not obey them. And yet treat them well in this world, and follow the way of him who turns to Me in devotion. Eventually it is to Me that all of you shall return,25 and I shall then tell you all that you did.”26 

The interpreters with consideration of the historical context of the verse state:  

''This verse was sent down in respect of Saad bin Abi Waqqas. He was 18 or 19 years old when he embraced Islam. When his mother, Hamnah, daughter of Sufyan bin Umayyah (neice of Abu Sufyan), came to know that her son had become a Muslim, she said, “I will neither eat nor drink nor sit in shade unless you disown Muhammad. The rights of the mother are superior even according to Allah’s command. Therefore if you disobey me, you will be disobeying Allah too.” Saad was perplexed and came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and told this entire story. At that, this verse was revealed. Possibly other young men who embraced Islam in the initial stage at Makkah were also confronted with similar situations. Therefore, the same theme has been repeated in (Surah Luqman: Ayat 15)

 

What the verse means to impress is this: The rights of the parents, among the creation of Allah, are to be held as the supreme, but even if the parents force a person to adopt shirk, they should not be obeyed. The words, “And if they strive with you to make you join with Me” imply that a lesser pressure, or a pressure by either of them, deserves to be set aside much more promptly. The next sentence, “Of which you have no knowledge (as such)” is also noteworthy. This gives a sound reason for not obeying the parents in this regard. The parents certainly have the right that the children should serve them, respect them, and obey them in lawful things. But they do not have the right that one should obey them blindly against one’s knowledge of the reality. Therefore, there is no reason why a person should go on following his parents’ religion just because it is their religion. If the children come to know that their parents are following a false religion, they should give it up and adopt the right religion, and should not follow the wrong way whose falsehood has become clear to them even if the parents use every kind of pressure for it. When this is so in the case of even the parents, it should be so with every other person, too. No one deserves to be followed and obeyed unless one is sure that the person being followed is on the right path.''

That being said I believe that in regards to the Qur'an you may possess in the future it is best to keep it hidden or concealed so as to not cause a greater form of unnecessary confrontation and tension within your respective household, and surely the plight you shall endure has its reward with God. 

2 hours ago, GD41586 said:

If I should buy another Qur'an translation, which one should I buy? Or should I buy one with parallel texts (english & arabic)?

I think it varies depending on what type of translation a person prefers over another, in a sense they all fundamentally relay an equal message in their translation, to better choose which translation is more befitting for you I recommend visiting a Qur'an website which show a variety of translations to a specific verse and the translator which you see if more befitting for you to read and understand should be the type of translation you purchase.

As for a version with parallel text I would recommend buying one with the translation and transliteration as it will aid you in the future to learn the language of the Quran and the pronunciation of the original text, however, it is for now a bonus and it suffices to have the translation.

2 hours ago, GD41586 said:

Are there such things as a "study qur'an" with annotations and notes from scholars?

Not many years ago a very great work was finished titled, 'The Study Quran' which contains exactly that, a detailed explanation towards the text of the Quran through use of a variety of sources from varying schools (ecumenical) of thought in an attempt to appeal and be more easily conceptualized by the modern reader.  

Here is the link to buy it from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Study-Quran-New-Translation-Commentary-ebook/dp/B007XJ77QG/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3LCZ1P4RNVZL6&dchild=1&keywords=study+quran&qid=1588272724&s=books&sprefix=study+q%2Cstripbooks%2C182&sr=1-1

It is a very heavy work as it contains 2,048 pages, but will no doubt aid you in your research. 

May God bless and aid you in your search for the truth I pray that you consider me a brother and friend of yours, anything that you need or would like to discuss we are all here for you :) 

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1 hour ago, AmirioTheMuzzy said:

But it's the scholars (Arabic speakers) that put this meaning on it for the longest time. 

Many scholars did not need to go too deep into this issue in earlier times as such an issue was not very prevalent, however, nowadays with the rise of feminism many questions as such are being raised and it is important to refer back to the Quran as it is a timeless book for every era. Inshallah this thread can be of benefit to you my brother.

 

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3 hours ago, Mohammad313Ali said:

Not many years ago a very great work was finished titled, 'The Study Quran' which contains exactly that, a detailed explanation towards the text of the Quran through use of a variety of sources from varying schools (ecumenical) of thought in an attempt to appeal and be more easily conceptualized by the modern reader.  

That's the one I was looking at on Amazon before you answered my question, so I just placed an order for it (hardcover). It is surprisingly less expensive than the ESV study bible that I bought a few years ago, but I am excited to get my hands on that and finally be able to make more sense of the words I am reading, their cultural/historical context, and so forth.

I mean legitimately excited. I love books, I love reading, and I love God.

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6 minutes ago, GD41586 said:

That's the one I was looking at on Amazon before you answered my question, so I just placed an order for it (hardcover). It is surprisingly less expensive than the ESV study bible that I bought a few years ago, but I am excited to get my hands on that and finally be able to make more sense of the words I am reading, their cultural/historical context, and so forth.

I mean legitimately excited. I love books, I love reading, and I love God.

You may also want to get a copy of Ali Quli Qarai's translation whih does a phrase by phrase translation, as opposed to sentence or word based translation. 

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