Korans for Jihadists

(Abridged version of What translation of the Koran are you reading?)

Would it surprise you to learn that Islamic studies programs at such prestigious universities as Harvard, the University of Edinburgh, Georgetown and Cambridge are funded by Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal?

Saudi funding, whether it be for mosques, madrassas – anywhere the Koran is taught – usually comes with one large string attached: the recipients of the Kingdom’s largesse will preach the somewhat virulent Wahhabi dogma, the creed of the Saudi Royal Family of which Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal is of course a member.

Preaching the Wahhabi doctrine usually entails using the Saudi approved translations of the Koran by Abdullah Yusuf 'Ali and/or Muhammad Muhsin Khan.

Following is an assessment of each translation by Khaleel Mohammed an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at San Diego State University

The Holy Qur'an: Translation and Commentary by Abdullah Yusuf 'Ali.

Among those Qur'an translations which found Saudi favor and, therefore, wide distribution, was the Abdullah Yusuf 'Ali (1872-1952) rendition that, from its first appearance in 1934 until very recently, was the most popular English version among Muslims … While his rendering of the text is not bad, there are serious problems in his copious footnotes; in many cases, he reproduces the exegetical material from medieval texts without making any effort at contextualization. Writing at a time both of growing Arab animosity toward Zionism and in a milieu that condoned anti-Semitism, Yusuf 'Ali constructed his oeuvre as a polemic against Jews.

... In 1989, Saudi Arabia's Ar-Rajhi banking company financed the U.S.-based Amana Corporation's project to revise the translation to reflect an interpretation more in conjunction with the line of Islamic thought followed in Saudi Arabia. Ar-Rahji offered the resulting version for free to mosques, schools, and libraries throughout the world. The footnoted commentary about Jews remained so egregious that, in April 2002, the Los Angeles school district banned its use at local schools.

The Noble Qur'an in the English Language by Muhammad Taqi al-Din al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan.

Now the most widely disseminated Qur'an in most Islamic bookstores and Sunni mosques throughout the English-speaking world, this new translation is meant to replace the Yusuf 'Ali edition and comes with a seal of approval from both the University of Medina and the Saudi Dar al-Ifta ...

From the beginning, the Hilali and Muhsin Khan translation reads more like a supremacist Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian polemic than a rendition of the Islamic scripture …

Although this Saudi-sponsored effort, undertaken before 9-11, is a serious liability for American Muslims in particular, it still remains present in Sunni mosques, probably because of its free distribution by the Saudi government.

Pain, Pleasure and Prejudice is based on native Arabic speaker Majid Fakhry’s balanced, accessible, easy to comprehend translation.

Khaleel Mohammed dismisses Fakhry’s English Translation of the Meanings as having no future because of lack of Saudi backing. That, in itself, should be an endorsement.

Bernard Payeur, May 20, 2013