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Understand Translation — as a fortiori translation of sacred texts which are all-important for a man — should, above all, convey ‘the meaning, the whole meaning, and nothing but the meaning’ of the original text for social good. This means that in general, the translation should be as literal as possible. It should try to keep the word order as close to that of the Arabic as possible and, more important perhaps, try to consistently use the same translation for the same word in different places in order to convey something of the system of inner architecture and allusions of the Arabic text. However, when the literal meaning in the translated language does not convey the exact sense of the original, it should depart from the literal words and give as precise a translation of the meaning as possible. Indeed, this is perhaps the most common mistake of translation, as most people do not realize that the meaning of words, when used in an idiom, is often slightly different from their literal meaning, and conversely that an idiom may be used to translate something whose literal meaning does not suggest it. Obviously, however, literal translations should also beware of not quite making sense in the language into which the text is translated, and of being grammatically incorrect. On the other hand, even worse are translations which, in the attempt to use ‘good English’ (or whatever the translated language is) or ‘poetic language’ take the license with the literal text or its meaning. Thus translation must, as it were, steer a ‘middle course’ between meaning and language — between, in a sense, ‘science’ and ‘art’— but leaning always on the side of meaning when the two diverge. This requires three major qualities in a translator: that (1) he or she knows the language of the original text perfectly; that (2) he or she knows the language into which the text is being translated perfectly, and (3) that he or she fully understands at least the literal meaning of the text they are translating.

With the Holy Qur’an, which is the Word of God who is Omniscient, fully understanding the sacred\text — and consequently understanding all its meanings — is humanly impossible. The translation is thus with the Holy Qur’an itself always only a question of interpretation of the Qur’an’s immediate, ‘surface’ meaning with little if any of its linguistic beauty, mystery, holiness, miraculous nature, depth, and symbolic resonances, and layers of meaning. Nevertheless, this interpretation is a vital endeavor since the majority of Muslims in the world do not know Arabic. Moreover, Tafsīr itself — having human authors who are not omniscient and who therefore mean a finite amount of things with their words — is much easier to translate (when it is not actually quoting the Holy Qur’an) than the sacred text itself and therefore can be accurate if not rendered into another language.


In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.


Praise be to God, is a predicate of a nominal clause, the content of which is intended to extol God [by stating that]: He possesses the praise of all creatures, or that He [alone] deserves their praise. God is a proper noun for the One truly worthy of worship; Lord of all Worlds, that is, [He is] the One Who owns all of creation: humans, jinn, angels, animals, and others as well, each of which may be referred to as a ‘world’; one says ‘the world of men’, or ‘world of the jinn’ etc. This plural form with the yā’ and the nūn [sc. ‘ālamīn] is used to denote, predominantly, cognizant beings (ūlū ‘ilm). The expression [‘ālamīn] relates to [the term] ‘sign’ (‘alāma), since it is an indication of the One that created it.


The Compassionate, the Merciful: that is to say, the One who possesses ‘mercy’, which means to want what is good for those who deserve it.


Master of the Day of Judgement: that is, [the day of] requite, the Day of Resurrection. The reason for the specific mention [of the Day of Judgement] is that the mastery of none shall appear on that Day except that of God, may He be exalted, as is indicated by [God’s words] ‘Whose is the Kingdom today?’ ‘God’s’ [Q. 40:16] (if one reads it mālik [as opposed to malik], then this signifies that He has possession of the entire affair on the Day of Resurrection, or else that He is ever described by this [expression], in the same way as [He is described as] ‘Forgiver of sin’ (ghāfir al-dhanb). Thus, one can validly take it as an adjective of a definite noun).


You [alone] we worship, and You [alone] we ask for help: that is to say, we reserve worship for You [alone] by way of acknowledging Your Oneness (tawhīd) and so on, and we ask for [Your] assistance in worship and in other things.


Guide us to the straight path: that is, ‘show us the way to it’. This is substituted by:


The path of those whom You have favored, with guidance (from alladhīna together with its relative clause is substituted by [ghayri l-maghdūbi ‘alayhim]) not [the path] of those against whom there is wrath, namely, the Jews, and nor of those who are astray, namely, the Christians. The subtle meaning implied by this substitution is that the guided ones are neither the Jews nor the Christians. But God knows best what is right, and to Him is the Return and the [final] Resort. May God bless our master Muhammad (s), his family, and Companions and grant them everlasting peace. Sufficient is God for us;  an excellent Guardian is He. There is no power and no strength save in God, the High, the Tremendous.


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