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Why Reading A Quran Translation Is Not Enough

The translation of the Quran has done immense contributions with regard to conveying the message of the Quran. What can’t be translated is the amazing linguistic miracles that come with it. It is the linguistic style and presentation that demonstrates the linguistic superpowers of the Quran which can never be emulated. 

So much so that went it was recited in Makkah the disbelievers either put their fingers in their ears, make loud noises or ran away. Simply because if they listen to the recitation they would be overcome by it. The answer is if they listen to the Quran they will be overcome by it.  It would turn them from disbelievers into believers. This is the superpower or of the Quran that is lost. It is still there, but it can no longer be felt or seen because we rely on the translation of the Quran.  

As a student of the Quran, this fact has changed how I think about the Quran. Like many many  Muslims, I too inherited an unquestionable acceptance that the Quran is divine. Living in a Muslim majority country they are some questions that you asked because the response is going to be something like this “Astaghfirullah you don’t believe the Quran is from Allah what is wrong with you” 

After embarking on a self-study on classical  Arabic guided by several teachers, my ‘unquestionable acceptance’ has to turn into an unwavering conviction that the Quran can only come from God. Now, I find it amusing when people argued that the Quran is anything less than superhuman. 

The Quran is Unique 

You don’t need to go into the Quran and analysed its composition to see why the Quran can never be translated fully. Let’s take the composition of the Quran which is  made of two components which is Surah and Ayah. An Ayah which is often translated as verse can never give you the true picture of its meaning. All it gives you us a glimpse of what an Ayah could mean 

A verse gives you the impression of short parts of a poem or a holy book. The Cambridge definition is one of the series of short parts that the writing of a holy book is divided into. Ayah in the Quran clearly does not fit this definition, simply because the operative word in the definition of a  verse is short.

Why Read The Quran In Arabic?

Let’s take the word Ayah and see whether it fit this definition? One ayah in the Quran can consist of ten sentences like in Ayatul Kursi, 3 alphabets as in Surah Al Baqarah or just one word as the first Ayah in Surah Ar-Rahman . So it can be misleading to call an ayah a verse. The difference in length is only one aspect of how these two words are not similar. 

So it is nothing like a verse, the word verse has been used by translators of the Quran to drive association for people like me and you who are, secularly educated and oblivious to the message that was sent down us and how it has been unrivaled in presentation, in content, delivery, and eloquence.  

This is just be comparing the word verse and Ayah in terms of length and versatility. If you go the meaning of the word Ayah it is even more fascinating. At the very least the word Ayah carries 9 different meanings.  In the Quran, the word Ayah has been used to refer to the sun, moon, events, experiences, and much much more. 

What does the word ‘Ayah’ mean?

The word Ayah int the Quran has been used to mean:

  1. Something Valuable -The word ayah refers to something that you would keep and would not leave behind because it is of significant value to you.  Imagine you go on a, you would not bring back everything that you found on your trip. You’ll just bring back things that you want to keep, things are of value to you. That is one of the meanings of  Ayah. 
  2. Reflection –  It also means something that inspires the curiosity in you. Not like the kind of curiosity that killed the cat but it is the kind that awakens your desire to reflect and ponder on things. The kind of pondering that results in depth and wisdom. Something that is seriously lacking in today’s world. 
  3. Direction– It also means something that points to a direction and a direction that is definite. It is not like direction like towards Malaysia because  Malaysia is huge,it could be Putrajaya, Bangsar or even Sarawak. If we combine this literary meaning with the Quran it gives even greater precision. Every Ayah must point to a direction and that direction is Allah. If it does not triggers the remembrance of Allah than it can’t possibly an Ayah.    
  4. Amazing– Ayah also refers to something that is amazing but what does amazing really means, the word has been so overused in the English language that it has become a ‘cliche. An Ayah refers to something that is so astonishing that it causes you to wonder and be mesmerized by it. This is so true when you think about the disbelievers who would run when they hear the recitation of the Quran. Simply because of the amazing transformational quality of an ayah.  
  5. Grabs attention – Picking up from the word amazing an ayah is also something that worthy to make everybody stops doing what they are doing no matter how important it is and give their focus and attention to it. That is the quality and substance of an Ayah. What is really sad is when you look at the current situation, we treat every Ayah with indifference when every ayah is calling them to get their attention. 
  6. Certainty – The word Ayah is it something that gives you certainty with conviction. The closest example in English is ‘absolutely yes’. An ayah is something that gives you conviction. Every ayah in the Quran is enough to give you conviction that there is no other possible explanation other than it comes from God.  
  7. Meaning– It also means meaning but what do we actually mean by meaning? Meaning always refers to something that gives you the motivation to keep doing it or pursuing it. In a literal sense, it means something that pushes you forward no matter what happens. It may be your family or your passion but remember this an ayah in the Quran is more meaningful than everything in your life. 
  8. Purpose– Ayah also means purpose which many of us lack today, millions of today are void of a purpose, we go to our work toil day and night to make somebody else looks good. So if we go back and look for the gems in the Quran which only will show itself to those who really really want it. The Quran is a source of the purpose of both mankind as a whole and at an individual level. 
  9. Sign – An Ayah is a sign for you to draw lessons from and this is commonly used. A sign or alamah is really all of the above meaning compressed into a single word.  An in the Quran everything in created in this world is a sign of the existence of God.  There is a perfection in everything that, there is no other  explanation that there is a creator of everything in the universe

Appreciating the Arabic Quran

We just look at one word in the Quran, it is so rich in meaning and substance. Just this one word ‘Ayah’ can never be translated. You can take all the translation of the Quran but they would not come close. The only way for you to appreciate the Quran is to understand it in Arabic. 

 

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