ENCOUNTER 19: Interpreting Islamic Discourse

Transcript Details

Event Name: ENCOUNTER 19: Interpreting Islamic Discourse
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 10/27/2021
Transcript Version: 1

Transcript Text

you know that for instance uh uh allah


in the 22nd surah in hajj


so one puts it in the active and the

other puts it in the passive

um and both meanings are sound

you know permission is granted to those

who are fighting in other words minute

muslim means

those who have been aggressed upon that

they they're they have a license to

defend themselves so

though those you know i mean i i i think

people who translate the quran have to

be aware of the

and that's a place for footnotes um

uh but in terms of in tunis you



was in his dialect so it's in the it's

in the quraishi dialect

and and imam malik preferred it over all

the other he preferred nephi

so did um he actually malik considered

sunnah and ahmed muhammad was


you know and it's it's uh it's it became


because um the abbasids adopted it you

know the

and was of awesome

so it became very popular but is a


it's it's more difficult it's the one i

use um

it's more difficult to learn the medus

are are longer also because the

the uh you know the you have the six

harder cuts

um so if you're reciting it it's

it it takes longer to recite it than it

does uh

house you know so i i would just say

that um

iran is just something you you with fear

and trouble

nation you should have a humility with

the quran

and one of the things that the people of


say is that you always when you quote a

hadith and i forget to do this but you


should do it uh you end it by saying oh


on you

is factual it's as solid as any ayah in

the quran

so you know and i heard one of them

was a great scholar from mauritania felt


that anybody who has land in

transmitting these might fall in uh

because uh you're the prophet never

had lan so it's like and

kind of in arabic is very interesting


when the muhammad it doesn't necessarily

mean that he was intentionally a liar

what it meant is that he just

transmitted everything he heard

without ascertaining because of the

hadith that it's enough to call a man a

liar who transmits everything he hears

so if you're not if there's no tether


and to help on what's being said then

you can end up being a liar

yes thank you sheikh for these very

insightful explanations

on language and synonyms and so on

but i'm going to ask a question about uh

the context

not the verbal and the strict context of

words synonymy

exactly the broader context

and the importance of contextualization

and this is one tool in the hands of

translators they cannot transmit a


or convey something without

contextualizing it

in the first place and here

i'm not speaking about the sacred text

or the hadith but even

any classical text like

the text or the book by imam al-ghazali


i think in one of your books i think it

is the

vision of islam something like that you

said that it is very dangerous

to read a book by imam al-ghazali and

not understand that

imam al-ghazali was working in sixth

sixth century eastern islam

you are fortunate to know

sheikh binbaya to know you know him and

and you can

engage in a discussion with him to infer

the right

meaning from his uh what he has

said and the interpretation but

you cannot engage in a dialogue with uh

imam al-ghazali

because he lived in a different era

so and you cannot invoke the elements of


properly what to do in this case to be


to the philosophy of

a great writer like

okay well first of all i'd say you're

you're talking about context in two

different ways

and so in in the first sense everything

is embedded uh you know words are


in a context like for instance the

context of this discussion

is about me

speaking with a group of translators

about my own experiences in translating

and maybe helping

these students uh navigate something

that at my age now i've been navigating

for a long time and i can pass

so that's the context of this discussion

and and

and and that's why the subjects that

we're talking about

are contextualized in the context of


subject but now you're also talking

about historical context

so so language is embedded in the

context with which

it it emerges so for instance

uh in surat which comes after al-anfal

and some of the unum collapsed the two

together so there's no basmata

but others said no the basmallah is

absent because of the context

of the surah that it wasn't appropriate

because in belarus they say


it should correspond to the the context

that's literally what it means

and so so it's not appropriate in the


of the opening of toba to have bismillah

because it's talking about basically

warfare so

uh that that's an example of

context embedded uh language in context

historical context is a completely other


and that is and and where we have to


and and as philosophically as an


i would argue that ghazali

is a man for all times in many things

and in some things he's a man for his


so women that read sometimes find

ouches in ghazali's writings because

sometimes he's he's really seems like

he's a man of his time

and in the way he talks about women

um but does that mean we throw him out

because he has some statements that in


sensibilities would be considered sexist

you know i would argue that so sorry can

you give us an example on

on ghazali's view to to women

well if you read babanyika if you read

for instance

you know that uh you know things like um

you know making the remark that uh

you know a baron a sejada

in the corner of your house is better

than sleeping with a barren wife

i mean that's a pretty

it you know that's a that's a harsh

statement um

even though it's attributed to uh to uh

one of the sahaba i won't mention the

name but the point

the point of that statement is is that

abandon you know is is

that a lot of the olia saw

sexuality as as uh as procreation that

like the catholics that you went with

the nia of

procreation even audrey for instance

saw it as a very highly spiritual thing

and so

he would say with the right intention

sleeping with your spouse is actually an

act of ibadah

so you know i'm just using that as an

you asked for an example so

excuse me for the the explicit nature of

the example but

um you know and other things i mean you

just find things that

that are just i think uh

you know they're they're just a little

difficult but overall

he's he's universal far more than he is

particular to his time and place and in

that way

i think his words can be communicated

over time and this is why

you can take a work like uh like the the

20th chapter

of the on the prophet's fallation that

work is

is for all time and we can translate it


and we know what those words mean or or

we can

we can take kitab and

and that's speaking to us today or


or steven mode the 40th book i mean

i think that historical context is

important to understand

but we also have to recognize much of

what our islamic tradition

uh is grappling with our universals that

are true for every time and place

and so in some ways you know there if

you look at him even tamiya

even tamiya was living at a time when

the muslim world was under

siege so he has a siege mentality

his his mentality is very different from

somebody who

is living at a time when the muslims

were uh

in the full height of their power um

if you look for instance a lot of the

things about christians and jews in our


were said at a time when the christians

and jews

were completely uh in a state of

subjugation to to the muslims and so

they didn't feel any need to uh hide

their feelings

about this that or the other we're

living in a time which is

is the absolute opposite and so it's


that you know that we follow closer to

the earlier

tradition of just the prophet sam was

very conciliatory

um he did not offend people he did not

want to offend people but when people

are in power they tend to forget those


and so there's a lot of things in our

tradition that are very

ugly and um and they need to be

contextualized in their historical truth

i'll give you one example

if you look at the hadith in sahih

bukhari that

a the prophet stood for the jew uh

who was being taken to his field and

they said that it's a yahood

he said nafsa isn't it a soul

in the country and you can see this

a great scholar in the commentary some

of the ulama said

he was standing because of the foulness

of the stench

like how do you get that interpretation

out of that

you get it because of the

particularities of the time

you know they really had a low opinion

of other religions and of other peoples

that i don't think is the spirit of

islam allah says

let us

we have made every ummah think what that

what they're doing is good

like allah says he did that so

just like don't curse the idols of other

like hindu we're not supposed to curse

their idols

because we want to reach people and

share and

if you don't show respect for other

people why should they show respect for


yeah thank you sheikh uh i'm aware of

time now it is

almost five uh to uh

nine hour time and five to one pm your


i'm not uh sure if we can

add some a few minutes ten minutes

perhaps because i can see

so many requests on the floor so

uh would you accommodate ten or more

you very much uh

professor mohammed masoor you have the

floor please

i think you are muted professor muhammad

uh yes can you hear me now we can yes

can you hear me now

we can hear you quite well yes okay fine


thanks for this uh opportunity dr salvi

and good evening to our speaker

and to the attendees i'd like also to

thank the speaker for highlighting the

the fact that poetry is a language

charged to the maximum

and also thanks for insisting on nuances

as related to prepositions i know

someone who wrote a

full phd dissertation on the meaning of


uh why would uh

in in the language and

about synonymy also this is a this is an

important issue

maybe in in in the

you have synonymy but i don't think you

have synonymy

in three verse in free verse a poet


not sacrifice the meaning

for just a word that rhymes

and i have you know read this poetry and

i have discussed it

and i don't see in free verse

uh you know that pursuit of the

musical word or the word that rhymes at

the cost of

of the precise meaning

so maybe poetry is the place to start

to really know more about nuances of


as you said somebody called this in a

previous presentation as

full now to my query

i once started a project in which i was


trying to you know show

the favor that

uh speakers of the language owe

to translated works that is

there are verses of the quran

i i you know i went to a quranic school

and i

really got trained uh fully trained i


in in a quranic school but still there

are passages in the text

which i can grasp better in translation

that is in the english language not only

because those people

mastered the language but also because

they read

different exigencies of the of the text

and and and and kind of add different

kind of ethics

now my query is

in relation to

instances in the text where we have


and other instances where we have imra

and then instances where we find nissa

as a generic term any any any thoughts

on this

professor so yeah i

i think um the the great just on the


i think that the truly great masters of


would never arabic is so vast in its


that they would never have to

lose the meaning in search of uh of a


word or so i mean there's that what

they're working with the the the corpus

the body

of of uh of language that they're

working with

is it's amazing i mean arabic has more

vocabulary than any other

language in the world so

and and as you know the great poets use

words that

we've never heard of we have to look

them up and one of the things i love

about the humility

of arab texts is that they will often um

explain the words at the bottom i wish i

wish english texts did that because

when you read really difficult writers

they often use words that you have to

look up

whereas the arabs put them down at the

bottom because they know

that this is a fast language and not

everybody has that vocabulary

in terms of of uh the only woman

mentioned in the quran is maryam

all of the other there's no other woman

mentioned by name in the quran

you know the imra you know

uh so luke's wife we don't know the

names we don't know imato aziz

which is uh some say it's you know

in in in the top seers uh the reason

that mufasa don't give

is that um they say that

for the arab it was bad adam to mention

a woman by name who was not your

sahiba or your own and because of

maryam's special

with allah she is law

and one of the very intriguing aspects

of in arabic

is that and

is an incredible subject

but isa is is

and if you look it ha it it doesn't drop

the alif

in the rasam so that it's actually

so isa is it's it's really a bit

a battle right it's not an a

it's like isa even um like

jesus the son of maryam as like a

it's like he's not just isa

he's the son of maryam and so

she has that special makaam that she's

the only one mentioned

in terms of the the other words i mean

nissa is

is is a is a generic uh plural you know

and arabic i mean there's a debate is

there in santa

in santa tune fatanitum you know they

they are

talk about that insane is more like

mensch in uh in german you know it's the

human being

um and and and arabs tend to

arabic when it when there's no ambiguity

it uses

the masculine form for the feminine so

for instance

a woman who's pregnant she's the only

one that can get pregnant she's

not called hamilton she's hammond and

which proves to you

that is arabic is not a sexist language

in that way

that it's it's it it's only using

uh you know the the the the the

masculine to

include both but when it when there's no

ambiguity it uses the masculine for the


even though it's a effect and sometimes

it uses the feminine for the masculine

you know like chimps or or uh

and on and on so so um i think

uh those nuances are are are

very often brought out in some of the

great commentators

uh of the quran um one if you're

interested in a really

interesting modern uh rhetorical i mean

kashaf is the is the great source for a

lot of this

but a samurai is who's an iraqi scholar

who wrote

a tapsir albayani um is a

really interesting four volumes but he

really gets into

the nuances of the of the different


uh in arabic yeah thank you chef we are

going to take a last

question and yeah

you are uh the luckiest to be the

last to ask question to so

um i i'm seeing the names are there is

this a multinational because

it seems like egyptian names yes yes

my name is in this context i'm

and it's not a question in fact i'm very

i'm very excited

and it's an honor really to to be able

to listen to you

uh virtually thank you hamuda thank you


jazakallahu in fact

i'll give you a very brief background

i'm born in saudi arabia

i used to offer the quran uh

i'm graduate of al-azhar university and

i have it foreign

and regardless of that my first job

opportunity was

islamic it was the highest

highest institute and and i was like no


i'm scared i can't i cannot

it's not me guys i'm running away of

this civil

service and you know i need to we have

to have a civil serve

to be civil servants as a kind of

let's say security and i rejected that i

escaped it after

almost 15 years i was invited to


in a conference of adien

it was a terrifying experience

and i'm i was like no way this is one of

the most difficult fields i've ever

can deal with and that's why i decided

guys you are heroes

and i will never be able to do what you

do the more you talk like i said

that i'm ignorant guys i'm ignorant


that i'm just an interpreter


thank you so much

perhaps i will be ending this talk in


by way of summarizing in a couple of


what has been discussed in this very


and memorable uh discussion with the


scholar sheikh

you are really you've taken us

into a journey








the thing i'm most proud of in terms of


is uh the prayer of the oppressed

and this took me a really long time


i i took a poem that was in the regis


and i put it in a

hexameter which is very similar

to the regis meter so

if you look at it they're both metered

so if you say yeah

o you whose mercy is a refuge for all


in dire need who flee to you


whose pardon is so near you answer all

in need they know that you do here

we beg for your relief redeemer of the


you are enough for us both humble then

so meek

so uh that's that's what i'm most proud

of in my

translation work is

intercultural communications