ENCOUNTER 19 - Interpreting Islamic Discourse

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Event Name: ENCOUNTER 19 - Interpreting Islamic Discourse
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Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 10/1/2020
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i have a couple teachers from tunisia in the past Shaykh Dan dabagh?
Shaykh uthman al houmadi?
i also knew binta chelabi i met her dad too, in the 80's.  i visited tunisia and libya and then i was in emirates, then i was in medina. I lived both in mecca and medina, studying with some scholars there

originally was just church true africa

is

uh was was tunis was tunisia yeah

yeah so we gave the name

uh to the whole continent yeah but even

now in tunisia

the uh idea of identity is

uh subject to heated debate yes

some argue that we are africans

and more africans some argue that we are

more arabs

and some others they will argue

i think the dna is pretty much confirmed

that

you're more african because the

the persians are more arab than most of

the north africans

that's true you know they did the

national geographic did a study

and i think persians on average had

about almost 50 percent arab

air blood whereas in in places like

tunisia it was very

low uh there's a lot of berber

uh uh libya i think was like 17

and you know so i mean

you know everybody mixed and the uh this

idea of purity is a total illusion

true yeah i mean even if you went into

deep arabia today

i think you probably could find some

pretty

um you know just arab

but the arabs are mixed with africa and

with indian

you know the yemenis have a lot of

mixture with indian

yeah so so this is you know this is the

world

but some people are fanatic about their

identity and they have exaggerated pride

which should not be the case because as

you said

there is no pure race uh well also pride

is

pride should be in in your own

accomplishments

true i mean to be proud about what you

are and typical

uh

i mean people are judged by their

actions you know but whereas we

we take this false pride in uh

in things yeah you know i always i

always marvel

like people when they compliment you on

clothes

though that's a really nice sadrilla you

have on and

and then i always feel like you know i

should thank the tailor

[Laughter]

frank why should i say you know nice

to do with it you know the credit has to

do to go to the tailor yes you're right

for his accomplishment so we take credit

for a lot of things we have nothing to

do with

true true excellent so thank you very

much for this

very nice chat this is informal and

perhaps this is the aim of this

encounter

it's to engage in informal

discussion on areas related to

translation language and here in this uh

meeting uh of course to islamic

discourse

so how about if we start the meeting

now i don't like to start it very

officially

but just for the recording

we are going to start from where we

should start

and i am still i still see some people

in the waiting room

coming and it is sometimes very

difficult to strike a balance between

facilitating in the traditional sense

and

dealing with the technology on the other

accepting

and having an eye here and an eye over

there

excellent so assalamu alaikum

good evening and good morning ladies and

gentlemen

dear students dear colleagues dear

scholars

my name is hamuda salhi and i am

the director of the masters program

in translation and interpreting at the

university of tunis

today we are very delighted

to be able to host another online

keynote

lecture a lecture that is falling

and a series of uh talks

and other online events uh entitled

encounters

at the shores of translation oh

encounter translated here as hadith

because the encounter is

but the liquor or the encounter

should have the element of hadith well

hadith and hadith in

in arabic and especially in islamic

tradition

has so many meanings like the hadith

which is a whole discipline

and some of the texts are part of the

hadith

so in

this series of talks and online

uh events we have invited a large number

of

uh prominent scholars and practitioners

in translation and interpreting

uh who have

uh accepted our invitation

and they are being invited to speak

about

language about translation about culture

about interpreting and interpretation

interpreting as the act of interpreting

an interpreter

and interpretation in the sense of wheel

so uh each one

is speaking from his or her own

background his or her own perspective

of translation and i always uh

portray translation as a temple or a

mosque

with various gates and doors

and these doors they do welcome people

with different backgrounds different

perspectives

so it is

my singular honor and great privilege

today to introduce you to this evening's

guest speaker sheikh hamza yusuf

you know him all i assume he is a

prominent

and distinguished scholar of islam

sheikh hamza yousef

is a an american convert to islam

and his full name is hamza yusef hansen

he currently services serves

as president of zaituna college in

berkeley

california perhaps it was named

in honor of the great al zaituna mosque

or al zaituna university in tunis not

far away

from where i'm sitting now zaituna

college

was the first accredited muslim liberal

arts college

in the united states which with both

bachelor's and master's degree programs

he was ranked by the muslim 500

as the 23rd most influential muslim

worldwide a leading proponent of

classical learning

the traditional liberal arts and great

books education

in both the western and muslim

traditions

he has translated authored and

co-authored

numerous publications including

scholarly books

and articles as well as papers on

major current areas of ethical concern

he serves as vice president

of the uae based forum for

promoting peace in muslim societies he

is

co-president of religions for peace

and served on the ethics in action

for sustainable and integral development

development initiative

which is a collaboration between

religious for peace

the vatican the united nations and other

organizations

he is a member of the jordanian royal

academy

for islamic studies and has worked with

prince razi bin mohammed on key

initiatives

promoting peace between muslims and

christians

he works closely with sheikh abdullah

binbaya

the architect of the marak declaration a

ground-breaking document in defense of

the rights of non-muslims

in muslim majority societies or

communities

translating it into english and

promoting it

globally he holds traditional advanced

degrees

in islamic law and theology as well as

a ba in religious studies san jose

state university and a phd

from the university of california at

berkeley graduate

theological union

personally speaking i have been

following the works

talks and even the friday sermons

of shaykh hamza yusuf for a long time

now

together with my mother and sometimes i

translate

some of his talks and sermons into

arabic tunisia arabic

to my mother and my mother is fascinated

with his genius

i have also become fascinated by the

encyclopedic knowledge and his promotion

of an authentically moderate

and contemporary discourse of islam

and when i started looking for

speakers and scholars from translation

related

disciplines my thoughts went immediately

to theology and sheikh hamza yusuf in

particular

why because i have a firm belief that

sheikh hamza

would give an exceptional lecture on any

subject

he is invited to speak on

including translation so i invited him

and i was extremely delighted

when he accepted my invitation to speak

to my students

and colleagues on translation and

interpreting or interpretation

sheikh hamza will be speaking now

about how to best interpret the

discourse of islam

or islam related texts

and discourses to non-arabs

so sheikh this is the format perhaps or

the structure of this

encounter sheikh hamza will first take

the flow

to make some opening remarks

in which perhaps he will be framing the

discussion

um he will be taking some 10 or

15 minutes then i will be

very glad to host a question and answer

session

but i

have to say or i should say that i

should mention that

sheikh hamza has kindly agreed to extend

the time of this

session because i can see that

the participants who

are invited and are in the room are

numerous

and i can expect that the discussion

will be

very rich with that number

uh so uh it will be taking

uh time as much as we agree both uh

or the three of us in a way so

i will hand it over to you hamza thank

you again

for accepting our invitation and i am

really

uh humbled and touched by your modesty

you have the floor shaykh thank you um

um thank you for thinking of me

and inviting me uh tunis's uh country

that

um i grew to love early when

from first

uh traveling and being some of the

dollars that i met

and generally just the people i i was

always struck

by the yeah you know the flowers that

the people would walk around

i i thought as a place you know there's

a kind of gentleness in the soul of the

tunisians that i think comes from their

deeply dyed spirituality

so in terms of what we're talking about

i first of all to really express my

admiration this first time meeting dr

but i just want to express my uh

admiration for

uh your own ability with english

language it's it's like all languages

mastery is very difficult

and uh i'm just very impressed with uh

your introductory remarks and uh the

eloquence with which they were

uh expressed so in terms of translation

uh translation i've done a lot of

translating

i don't consider myself

um a a master translator it's

it's an extraordinarily difficult um

uh thing to do to translate because

you're attempting to take uh the ideas

or the concepts or the expressions

of someone or something

from one language to another language

now sometimes

that that process is actually relatively

easy for instance if you go from

french to spanish or spanish to french

or italian to spanish

because these are languages that share

really the same source they're all latin

slang

and because of that it's much easier to

to to translate when you take a language

uh if you go from french to english it

gets a little bit harder but there's

there's many shared words but english is

a germanic

uh language that has influences from

primarily um french

and uh from latin obviously in greek and

then

from french and a little bit from

spanish even even a little bit from

arabic

uh because of the the influence that the

arab civilization had

on western europe in particular so

when you go from a language like chinese

to english

then you're in a completely different

category of translation because these

are two

very very different languages and yet

because they are languages they're very

similar

so that's that's paradoxical but

it's the truth when when you have a

language like arabic

you're you're going to

because it's a language and because

human beings um

are our thinking creatures and we think

with the same

apparatus which is the the intellect and

and

and because of that we we are going to

have

the same concepts and and if if you get

into uh

metaphysical understanding in

traditional metaphysics this is not

true anymore in modern philosophy but in

traditional metaphysics

concepts precede language so thought

actually precedes language language

becomes a vehicle for

thought and and this is adam alayhi

salam was given

so he was he was taught how to name

but the concepts he had to have

understood they preceded the naming

so when he saw a camel he could he could

see

the universal in the particular and so

language is a is a a profoundly

spiritual

um it is the single most

spiritual expression of our of our

nature

because we are as the arabs say

you know they didn't say aka like they

say in greek

they actually chose to say not that we

are

the speaking animal as opposed to the

rational animal i mean they obviously

met rational but the fact that they

chose

speaking to express the rationality

is quite extraordinary and so

if you take a word like um too far

if i say to you too far

uh the concept comes to your mind my

just my

mere saying tufa evokes uh the concept

of a tufa

in your mind and now it might be a red

apple it might be a green apple it might

be

um a pink pearl apple from italy

if you if you know what that is so but

but apple will come to your mind the

particular is not important it's the

universal concept into fact

now if i say uh poem

uh if i say uh for instance

uh uh uh apple

in english or ringo in japanese for a

japanese person they hear

ringo and their the apple will come to

mind

it's the same apple but if i said to

and they didn't know arabic nothing

would come to mind so the concept

precedes the actual vehicle

by which the concept is expressed so

translation is an attempt to

take the concept embedded in that

vehicle

and translate it in a in other words you

your ability means to to translate

so it's taking it's it's it's the other

you know there's a there's a bara

there's a

there's a and this is why arabic

they're the people of iran

and so the translator is translating

concepts so if i'm if we're speaking

arabic

but if i take that and those same

ideas now i speak to you in the english

language and you can understand it

because i'm speaking english

and you're english speakers so i can say

the same things

in these different languages or

esposible siablo and espanol

so any language you can

you can the the mere fact

that that it's the concepts that are

being

expressed through the vehicle of

language

we can communicate we can even

communicate

uh despite the differences of our

tongues

and and the quran in surah rome makes it

clear

that that in our our complexions

you know in you know

these are signs of god and and the fact

that he uses

ayats because language is a

it's a sign that's exactly what it is

and

color is a sign because a sign indicates

something else so if i see you

as a darker person then that's a sign

that you're from a southern hemisphere

generally

if i see you as a light-skinned person

it's a sign that you're from

a a northern hemisphere at least

originally

and maybe if you're in that middle area

although you have very light-skinned

berbers

that you're from that middle area so

language is also a sign

so it it it tells us it indicates

something and we're signifiers so

so to get to translation

in a really deep sense is very difficult

and

and i can tell you as somebody who's

been at the united nations

and and actually uh did translations

that i gave to the translators to use

i know for a fact that even at the u.n

the translations are

often atrocious i don't know they're

probably better in french and english

but when the arabs speak

s does not speak political

arabic he doesn't speak you know

which is what those translators are

trying to translate

he speaks in a so when i was there he

was talking about

uh so

they translated madahim as

differing sex s-e-c-t-s

that's not the appropriate translation

in that context he was talking about

schools of thought