Many of the ancient scriptures are in several languages. For example, the holy scriptures of the Indian religions in Sanskrit. In addition, the Hebrew scripture is in Hebrew that forms the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. That is the Tanakh, the scriptures of the Jewish faith. One has the New Testament is read by Christians in English currently. Many would be familiar that their Bibles are in English. However, the New Testament is written in Greek. If one is reading scripture that is English, then he or she is reading an English translation.
If one is reading New Testament in English, then it is a translation, either from Hebrew, Arabic, Chaldean, or Greek. It's not very strange that the Quran is in a foreign language from one’s perspective.
Why did God choose to make the holy scriptures in Arabic in the first place? It may contribute to the time, place, and circumstance in which the Quran was revealed. Another possible factor is the development of the Arabic language at the time. God knows best. Yet, it's probably mostly because of the time, place, and circumstance. Since it was revealed to the Arab people. Why did God choose to make the holy scriptures in Arabic in the first place? It may contribute to the time, place, and circumstance in which the Quran was revealed. Another possible factor is the development of the Arabic language at the time. God knows best. Yet, it's probably mostly because of the time, place, and circumstance. Since it was revealed to the Arab people.
Initially, the message had to have a foothold in the land in which it was first revealed. The Quran informs us that God has sent prophets and messengers to all people throughout time. There wasn’t a person that was left without a warner or somebody to give them that message from God. Moreover, the Quran says that when God sends a messenger, he sends the messenger to speak in the language of the people. Naturally, they could understand what God is communicating to them.
In the case of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who lived some 1400 years ago, was born in the year 570 of our common era. He resided in Arabia and the people around him spoke Arabic. He had to convey the message of God to them in their mother tongue, the Arabic language. The Quran stated, “We have sent it down as an Arabic Quran, so that you people may understand.” Quran [12:2].
Secondly, the Quran stated, “A scripture whose verses are made distinct as a Quran in Arabic for people who understand.” Quran [41:3].
In the first place, the message had to take a foothold in that environment. It had to speak in the language of the people so that they could understand the message. They could rally to its call, and they could be enthused to take this message to other people in other lands.
For instance, everyone reads the Bible in English. People don’t think that it was in Hebrew before. In contrast, the Quran is still retained in Arabic, which is the primary language. Likewise, English in the Bible flows nicely. However, the Quran in English doesn’t flow that well. There’s a somewhat feeling of a person that’s getting an inferior interpretation of the Quran when one is reading the English translation.
Truly, this is a problem for translators. Do you translate exactly the way it flows in Arabic? Or do you translate in the way it should flow in English? There's a way that thought flows in English, and what the translators tend to do is that they try to stay literally with the Arabic. If the Arabic has put in the double negative, which is very common in Arabic, then they do the same thing in English, which seems odd to an English listener or reader.
Occasionally, people say things in a double negative in English, especially academics because they want to be very precise in what they're saying. Usually, newspaper articles doesn't have this kind of double negative. For example, “I am not telling you not to do this.” Yet, it is very common in Arabic and Quran.
However, to translate that term, one should have a certain freedom to translate because one’s purpose is to convey the message in a meaningful way to the listener or reader in the target language. One should translate it in a way that makes sense. The translators are trying to stay literally with the Arabic texts. Sometimes, they produce an English reading which is difficult and grating on the ear of the listener.
Is the message more important than the texts? For example, somebody just wants to read the English translation of the Quran. Is that enough? Would one say that this person is being faithful to what God wanted us to do with the Quran?
Yes and no. Yes, the Quran has been revealed as a simple book to give a simple message to all and sundry. Everybody can understand its basic thrusts, that one should only believe in one God, shun all worship of any other God, and one must be a good person, etc. All of these are the basic content of the Quran. To a certain extent, people already understand that even without reading the Quran. Yet, the Quran is going to give more specifics and some rules about daily living, etc. It could be understood by the average person in simple English language. It doesn't have to be complicated. One doesn’t need to go to the original language.
However, with the study of all scriptures, there are people who specialize in studies, people who specialize in the Bible. There are people who specialize in particular books. Some people specialize in the Gospel according to Mark. Some people specialize in the book of Genesis, etc. Specialists must approach the book in its original language. They will even have discussions with each other in the original language. Academics will speak to each other using the original languages. Perhaps in Hebrew. If it's the Arabic Quran, there are people who will know the Arabic language and they're discussing the finer points of the Quranic teaching with reference to the exact Arabic term that is used.
Yes, the average person can read in any language and grasp the message. But, that is not enough because academics need to approach the original text in its original language. Based on what one understands from the original, one tries to put that in translation and further explanations for the masses.
In between, it’s very interesting that the language of the Quran, the Arabic language, has remained quite uniform, at least in the literary expression throughout the Arabic world.
This is the language of newspaper articles, news broadcasts, textbooks, etc. Even though, people may speak a wide variety of colloquial Arabic, to the extent even that sometimes they cannot understand each other from two parts of the Arabic world.
Yet, they use the same literary Arabic. Meaning, the language of the Quran has remained alive among the populous of Muslims today. Indeed, there are many who didn't grow up in an Arabic part of the world. However, we've tried to learn as much of the language because to appreciate the beauty and the wisdom of the teachings of the Quran. That is directly from its source through its original language.
Arabic has remained alive among Muslims.
Many Muslims that are hearing and reading the Quran can grasp its message right from the original source. There's a beauty that one has the sense that we're not depending on somebody who has told us what the Quran means. One can hear the Quran recitation and know the meaning because one knows the language.