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FEBRUARY 2001

MONTHLY    *    Vol 15-02 No:170    *   FEBRUARY 2001 / ZIL-HIJJA 1421H
  email: editor@islamicvoice.com

UNDERSTANDING QURAN


Divine Rites Must Not be Tampered With
Translations of the Quran in European Langauages

Divine Rites Must Not be Tampered With

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

Believers, be true to your contracts. Lawful to you are the quadrupeds of the class of cattle, except that which is announced to you herein. But you are not allowed to hunt while you are in the state of consecration (Ihram). Allah decrees what He wills.

Believers, do not offend against the rites of Allah, or the sacred month, or the offerings or the garlands, or against those who repair the Sacred House, seeking Allah's grace and pleasure. Only when you have released yourselves from consecration you may hunt.

Do not let ill-will towards people who would debar you from the Sacred Mosque lead you into transgression; but rather help one another in furthering piety and righteousness, and do not help one another in furthering evil and transgression. Have fear of Allah, for Allah is severe in retribution. (The Repast, Al-Ma'idah: 5:1-2)

Commentary by Sayyid Qutb
Translation: A. A. Salahi and S. A. Shamsi


THE verses we are discussing are the first two in the fifth Surah which derives its title, “The Repast”, or Al Ma’idah, from the story reported at its conclusion when the disciples of Jesus requested him to pray Allah to give them a heavenly repast. “Believers, be true to your contracts.” The first contract human beings make with Allah is that of faith. All other contracts are based on it and derive their enforceability from it. As we read on in the Surah, we find plenty of statements either prohibiting or making lawful certain slaughtered animals, or certain species and restricting certain places and times. All this is part of the “contracts” which the believers must fulfill. It is part of the contract of faith that those who are a party to it, i.e., the believers, must receive their instructions regarding what is lawful and what is unlawful only from Allah. In this respect, they recognize no authority other than His. Hence, they are addressed as believers at the outset of this detailed explanation of what they may have and what is forbidden to them.

“Lawful to you are the quadrupeds of the class of cattle, except that which is announced to you herein.” Only because of this permission by Allah, not through any other authority it is lawful and permissible to you to eat the flesh of whatever is included under the term “quadrupeds or the class of cattle” whether slaughtered or hunted, with the exception of the prohibitions that will follow. Such prohibitions can either be temporary, or restricted to certain places. Quadruped cattle include camels, cows and sheep and added to these are the undomesticated types like the zebra, deer, bull and buffalo.

A believer is warned against amending rites ordained by Allah according to his own whims and fancies in the backdrop of pagan practice of changing the calendar to prepone or postpone the sacred months

After this, exceptions are detailed. The first thing is hunting when believers are in the state of consecration (Ihram): “But you are not allowed to hunt while you are in the state of consecration (Ihram).” The prohibition here applies to the whole business of hunting.

When one enters into the state of consecration as one starts pilgimage or Umrah, one turns to Allah with one’s whole being, turning his back to familiar life practices which are a source of entertainment and pleasure. He finds himself in the Sacred House which Allah has endowed with a feeling of security which applies to all those who enter it. Hence, it is necessary that when we are there, we do not stretch our hands to kill any living thing. Thus man experiences in this period a necessary feeling which enhances the bond of life between all living things created by Allah, the giver of life. All creatures are thus safe from aggression. The necessities of life, for which game and hunting has been allowed for eating, are thus reduced in order to impart to man a sense of elevation above what is familiar to him in ordinary days.

Before proceeding to add more details of what has been excepted from the initial ruling of general permission, this contract is linked to the overall contract of faith. The believers are also reminded of the source of that covenant: “Allah decrees what He wills.” His will is absolute and He gives His commandments as He wishes, No one may have a say in what He decrees and no one can abrogate or overrule His judgement. What He outlines in this Surah is His verdict on what is lawful and what is forbidden to us.

The address is again made to the believers to emphasize that they are not allowed to violate what Allah has restricted: “Believers do not offend against the rites of Allah or the sacred month, or the offerings or the garlands.” The first thing that springs to mind regarding the meaning of “the rites of Allah” is that it is a reference to the rites of pilgrimage and Umrah, and the restrictions that apply to everyone who enters into the state of consecration when he starts his pilgrimage or Umrah and remain in force until the main part of the pilgrimage is over when animals intended for sacrifice are slaughtered. During the state of consecration, a pilgrim does not violate these restrictions, because such an offence represents a desecration of the sanctity imparted to them by Allah. The surah describes these rites as “the rites of Allah” in order to emphasize their sanctity and to warn against their desecration.

The term “the sacred month” as it occurs in the Quranic verse refers to the four months of sanctity in the lunar calendar which are: Rajab, Zil-Qaidah, Zil-Hajjah and Muharram. Allah has forbidden fighting in these four months, which used to be given special sanctity by Arabian tribes prior to Islam. However, they manipulated them as they wished, delaying certain months according to a ruling given by certain monks or decrees issued by the chiefs of powerful tribes. When Islam was revealed, their sanctity has been endorsed by Allah’s legislation. The sanctity is based on a divine order made when Allah created heavens and earth, as mentioned in surah 9, entitled “Repentance”: “In Allah’s view the number of months has been 12 months by Allah’s ordinance since the day. He created the heavens and the earth. Of these four are sacred.” (9:36) The Quran also states that delaying the sacred months and manipulating them is an indication of compounded disbelief. Thus the correct order has been re-established according to Allah’s ordinance. These months remain sacred unless aggression is waged during them against the Muslims, when they are permitted to repel such aggression, without giving the aggressor a chance to escape, making use of the sanctity of these months which they do not recognize. The Islamic view of fighting in these months is mentioned in surah 2, entitled “The Cow,” to which reference was made earlier in these columns.

The offerings mentioned in the surah is a reference to the sacrificial animals which pilgrims slaughter during pilgrimage as part of its rites. This may be a camel, or a cow or a sheep. To offend against these is to slaughter them for any reason other than the one for which they have been consecrated. Nor are they slaughtered until the day of sacrifice during pilgrimage or after the end of Umrah. The major part of sacrificial animals is distributed to the poor of the Haram area. Those who offer it are discouraged to partake of it.

The term “the garlands” mentioned in the surah refers to cattle which are adorned with garlands to denote that they have been pledged for sacrifice. They are then left alone to graze as they wish until the day when the pledge falls due when they are sacrificed. Included among these are the cattle intended for sacrifice during pilgrimage and which are given a special sign to indicate the purpose for which they have been pledged. Once such cattle is adorned with garlands, they are no longer available for ordinary slaughter. They are slaughtered only for the purpose for which they have been pledged. 

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Translations of the Quran in European Langauages

Latin :

  • 1143 : Robertus Retanensus in manuscript for the Monastery of Clugny
  • 1500 : The first published Latin translation is by Robert of Chester
  • 1543 : The manuscript translation of 1143 was published at Basle by Bibliander. This Latin version was translated into Italian, German and Dutch
  • 1680 : Father Lud Marach, Padva. The most widely known translation with objectionable commentaries and twisting of the meanings of Quran to discredit Islam

French :

  • 1647 : Andre Duryer, Paris
  • 1783 : Savary
  • 1840 : Kasimirski (Several Editions)
  • 1859 : Noel Deke
  • 1925 : E. Montet
  • 1934 : Ahmadiyya Anjuman of Lahore
  • 1936 : O. Pesle et A. Tidjani
  • 1947 : R. Blachere (Several Editions) One of the Latest Translation by Prof. Hamidullah

German :

  • 1616 : Schweigger, Nuremberg (Bavaria)
  • 1773 : Boysen
  • 1828 : Wahl
  • 1840 : E. Ulmann
  • 1888 : R. Ruckert
  • 1890 : Klamroth
  • 1890 : L.Goldschmidt (Partial translation)
  • 1901 : M.Henning, Leipzig
  • 1916 : L. Goldshmidt
  • 1934 : Ahmadiyya Anjuman of Lahore

Italian :

  • 1914 : A. Fracasi, Milan
  • 1929 : L.Bonelli, Milan
  • Dutch: Schoegar

Swedish :

  • 1917 : Zittersteen
  • 1937 : A. Fischer

Danish :

  • 1921 : Fr. Buhl (a selection chronologically arranged)

Russian :

  • 1776 : Published at St. Petersburg
  • Greek: Nassitocky
  • Roman : Equvelkal

English :

  • 1650 : Alexander Ross was the first English translation but it is nothing but a translation of the first French translation of Du Ruyer of 1647.
  • 1734 : George Sale, was based on Maracci’s and frequently Latin version, including his notes and since preliminary discourse was included in Chandos Classics.
  • 1861 : Rev. J.M.Rodwell, in a rough and subsequently chronological order.
  • 1876 : Rof. Edward Henry Pal. It was a 1880 slipshod translation but got included in and reprints World’s Classics and now replaced by Arthur J. Arberry’s The Koran Interpreted
  • 1900 : Mirza Abul Fazl, Allahabad, Chronologically arranged
  • 1905 : Dr. Mohammad Abdul Hakim Khan of Patiala
  • 1919 : Mirza Hairat of Delhi , A portion by Nawab Imad-ul-Mulk Saiyid Hussain Bilgrami of Hyderabad, Deccan
  • 1915 : Ahmadiyya Anjuman of Qadian, Punjab First Sipara (India)
  • 1917 : Moulvi Mohammad Ali of Ahmadiyya several editions Anjuman, Lahore
  • 1929 : Hafiz Ghulam Sarwar
  • 1930 : Mohammad Marmaduke Pickthall, an English Muslim published at Lahore and London
  • 1934 : Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Lahore A stupendous work, widely known throughout the world because of its distinguishing characteristics, such as a highly elegant style, a choice of words close to the original text and meanings, scholarly notes, commentaries, appendices and an elaborate index and refutations of the Biblical stories and dogmas.
  • 1937-39 : Dr. Richard Bell, with a critical rearrangement of the Surahs.
  • 1962 : Arthur J.Arberry with a clear and unmannered English, avoiding the archaic and pseudo-Biblical style, with rhythmic patterns and sequence-groupings in correspondence with Arabic original. Now included in World’s Classics, replacing Palmer’s N.J.Dawood, an Iraqi Jew Mohammad Asad, an Austrian Jewish convert to Islam, who has translated the Quran in a very scientific light, adding scholarly notes.
  • 1985 : Dr. Mohammad Taqi-ud-din Al-Hilali and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, a summarised version of Al-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir with comments from Sahih Al-Bukhari
  • 1985 : Four Committees of scholars under the “Presidency of Islamic Research, IFTA, Call and Guidance” of Saudi Govt. based mostly on Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s work.
  • One of the latest : M.A.Shair, published by Tarike Tarsile Translation Quran, Corona, New York.

Compiled by V. Muhammed Meeran

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