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‘Islam and Europe’


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THIS is apropos of the report, ‘Europeans realise we all live on one planet’ (Jan 22), concerning a lecture by me at the University of Karachi on Jan 21. The report accurately reproduces some of my observations. However, there is one, perhaps inadvertent but important, discrepancy about what was actually stated. The report quotes me as having said, ”It was almost 1,000 years after Islam was introduced that it was translated into an European language”.

What I stated was that while the first translation of the Holy Quran into English took place in about 1650 or shortly thereafter, i.e., about 1,000 years after the coming of Islam (derived from a slightly earlier French translation by Du Ruyer published in 1647). The first translation into an European language took place in the 12th century, i.e., more than 500 years after the advent of Islam when a Latin translation was prepared for a monastery in Clugny in 1143.

It was only after the introduction of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century that first the Bible and much later limited numbers of the Holy Quran in European languages began to appear. Whichever the European language, the early mistranslations and distortions were repeated and reinforced.

Regrettably, even another later translation into Latin in 1689 by Maracci continued the predetermined bias against Islam by being titled: “Refutation of the Quran”!

Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s masterful English translation and commentary provides relevant details. Translations into European languages that seek to be accurate and free of bias are of comparatively recent origin in chronological terms.

There is much work to be done in Europe to improve mass public knowledge and perceptions about Islam to remove prejudices ingrained over several centuries by mistranslated, distorted versions. It is commendable that the European Union supports several efforts to promote interfaith dialogue so as to remove misconceptions. Meanwhile, even about some aspects of the improved recent and contemporary translations into English there is a need for reappraisal. The courageous, painstakingly researched version titled, ‘Quran: a reformist translation’ by Edip Yuksel and Layth Saleh al-Shaiban and Martha Schulte-Nafeh, published by Brainbow Press Hundred Fourteen Books, USA., deserves wide reading, in Europe, and across the world.


Comments (25) Closed

Zain Safi Jan 25, 2013 03:34pm
Hi Sharma, Good questions. While I am no expert on the Quran, I understand there are verses elsewhere in the Quran preaching forgiveness and mercy to those who seek it. We have to remember the way the was the Quran was revealed, not all details relating to a matter are dealt with in one place / surah. Therefore you cannot single out a specific verse to be the final word on a particular issue without considering all other relevant verses on that issue.
karim Jan 25, 2013 03:35pm
well truth on the ground is that World Wars were not fought by Muslims neither did they colonize the whole world by force.
karim Jan 25, 2013 03:34pm
Quran is intrepreted not read literally. You need to find out the context in which these verses were unveiled.
M A Mujeeb Jan 25, 2013 03:13pm
4.89: The full verse reads as follows: "They (the non believers) long that ye (Mohammad) should disbelieve even as they disbelieve, that ye may be upon a level (with them). So choose not friends from them till they forsake their homes in the way of Allah; if they turn back (to enmity) then take them and kill them wherever ye find them, and choose no friend nor helper from among them," The above verse should be read in its historical background. Instead of following the teachings of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), the non believers were trying their best to dissuade him from preaching the truth of Allah's Message. So it was in this context that the verse was revealed that if the unbelievers persist with enmity then they should not be taken as friends but should be killed instead. If your enemy is bent upon destroying you, you do not offer flowers to them, you have to fight. It was a war between "Truth" and "Falsehood".. Verse 47.4 The full verse reads as follows: "So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates. That (shall be so); and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have exacted what is due from them, but that He may try some of you by means of others; and (as for) those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will by no means allow their deeds to perish" Again the verse relates to war between "Truth" and "Falsehood". Hence the divine guidance for Mohammad (PBUH) and his companions as to how they should deal with the enemy. .
Ram Krishan Sharma Jan 25, 2013 09:47am
I have the English translation of the holy book called The Noble Quran. Some of the Jihad verses need clarification . Here are a couple of verses from the sacred volume. " Those who reject islam must be killed. If they turn back from Islam , take hold of them and kill them wherever you find them" SURAH 4: 89 of the Noble Quran " So,when you meet ( in fight-- Jihad in Allah's cause) those who disbelieve , smite their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them , then bind a bond firmly on them and take them as captives" SURAH 47: 4 The Noble Quran. My simple question is , Why a universal God creator of All humanity will give such commands?
george Jan 25, 2013 09:22am
Misinterpretation of Quran does not come from its verses, though after 9/11 some of its verses got wide publicity, but from the action of its followers. It is widely accepted that all religious books were written by man and hence it will reflect the thoughts of those writers at that time. Modern man does have no obligation to follow them in letter and spirit. But most muslims try to follow their holy book in letter and spirit without remembering the time and age they are living in. Some verses in Quran does encourage animosity against other communities and that is the main reason of Islamophobia.
Md Imran Jan 25, 2013 04:57pm
Raika45, your hatred is well known. Pray tell me how peaceful India is where you have divided on caste system even after 5000 years of evolution ( or have you evolved at all ?). You live in abject poverty, but the arab lands you talk about is filled to brim with wealth. Why ? Because of our belief in islam, our sincereity and above all the way Islam and only Islam provides equal justice to all humans. You take isolated incidents and paint a complete picture. But what about Muslim contributions to Europe and US without which they would be nowhere today. Have you ever wondered how the GDP of Europe has grown along with the growth in muslim population there ? It is no coincidence. The best scientists in NASA are muslims. So stop your blinkered approach to all issues.
Md Imran Jan 25, 2013 04:52pm
We muslims believe that there is only one Allah, but different kinds of human beings.
amir Jan 25, 2013 03:20pm
Ram, I really appreciate your interest in trying to understand the holy book of Islam. When you read Qur'an you have to keep one thing in mind that this book has been revealed by the Creator of the heavens and the earth not in a day or a week or a month or even a year. Qur'an was revealed in a period of 23 YEARS. so to understand Qur'an fully you need to look at life of the prophet (pbuh) and the early muslims in those 23 years. do you know that for the first 10 years muslims were forbidden to fight and various verses of Quran revealed in those ten years mention that. But muslims were still going through a lot of torture at hands of the idolators, they were kicked out of their houses, they had to migrate to a different city even then they were not spared, their properties usurped. But they did not fight during those ten years due to the command of Allah SWT even though they had increased their number and could fight. Then after that they were permitted to fight with those who fight with them. But orders were very clear that do not kill those who surrender or women or children. You know when msulims conquered Makkah, the city they were kicked out from, the city where there properties were usurped and their loved ones were killed including the uncle (Hamza) of prophet (pbuh) whom he loved so much. The killing of Hamza was so brutal that after he was killed, the wife of the leader of Quraish, Abu Sufian, cut out his liver and chewed in her mouth. we can not even imagine this cruelty with an enemy but this was done to the beloved uncle of the prophet pbuh and his right hand. But when muslims conduered Makkah, not a single drop of blood was spilled and the house of the very leader of Quraish (Abu Sufian) was declared a sanctuary that any one who goes into his house would not be harmed even after his wife had done the most atrocious thing. so my friend my objective is not give you an assay on early Islamic history. I wanted to make a point that how did the prophet and early muslims understood the message of Quran and implemented it. So to understand a verse of Quran we need to look very carefully on the circumstances and situation when it was revealed. Finally verses related to Wars and fights are in every religious text. you will find more verses related to violence in Gita, Maha Baharat and Ramayan. Even Bible has more war and violence related verses than Quran. I hope that will InshAllah clarify some of the misunderstanding. May Allah guide all of us to His straight path...Ameen.
raika45 Jan 24, 2013 01:22pm
In this present world of the internet and so forth,the ORDINARY person seldom reads written words.What happens in action as the on going muslim upheaval and territorial usurpation in not only the middle east but now in Somalia and Mali and not forgetting the goings on in Afghanistan and Pakistan is what the people dwell on.It does not paint a pretty picture regarding the muslims and Islam Now throw in the recent beheading of a Sri Lankan female house -help without adequate proof in Saudi Arabia. The seat of your religion.I think you get the point
Dr Khan Jan 24, 2013 04:53pm
Thanks God we still have have intellectuals like Javed Jabbar in Pakistan.
Rocky Jan 24, 2013 05:56pm
You can write books all day for clarifications and interpretation and history of Islam but can't hide the truth on the ground.
rav Jan 25, 2013 11:34am
I think it is time to follow Islam. All people believing in Islam should start contributing to humanity. There is so much poverty in the world which can be solved by charity especially by Islamic follower because they belong to the best religion so it should be proved by their noble action. Arabs and other Muslims have so much spare money please donates it. I think that is real teaching of Islam.
pathanoo Jan 24, 2013 07:19pm
Javed, Can you site any Muslim country which ever held an interfaith summit where any Muslim scholar unequivocally declared that ALL religions are good and that Muslims who believe they are superior to others just because they are Muslims are wrong. You guys don't get it. Do You? No wonder the nations of the world are wary of Muslims.
Allaisa Jan 25, 2013 03:59pm
How dare you, Sir! Other religious books might have been written by man, but Quran was the word of Allah (SWT) given to his last Prophet (PBUH).
shirin Jan 25, 2013 03:36pm
of course this is not a proper venue for Islamic discussions, but I would like to point out some very simple facts. This verse, and all similar verses, were revealed during early days of Islam, at the time when Muslims were only a handful in number, living amidst an extremely intolerant and tyrannical people that denied them the right to practice their faith, the right to conduct trade, and in fact the right to just live (yes, exactly what we Muslims are doing to our Muslim and non-Muslim minority today). So at the time when Muslims feared for their lives, and laying low was much more desirable, God instruct Muslims to fight tyranny and fight back against those who drive you away from your homes and deny you your livelihood. If you read the Torah, you will find even more "harsh" language use. The thing to remember is that the Quran (and Torah) is always speaking of Muslims not as a race, but as one who rejects tyranny. But during the latter parts of Islam, when Muslims are in majority, and wars are now more desirable as victory is certain, God is repeatedly demanding Muslims to submit to peace treaties and refrain from war, or else they be the tyrants . In all of Quran, the word Jihad is NEVER once used against people of any faith. Only against Kufr (meaning lie) because all forms of tyranny are based on kufr or lies. Kafir can be anyone, including Muslims.
M A Mujeeb Jan 25, 2013 03:16pm
The Quran was not written by men. It was revealed to Prophet Mohammad through Arch Angel Gabrial. So Quran is divine and not human.
Allaisa Jan 25, 2013 03:57pm
When the writer says 'Bible and much later limited numbers of the Holy Quran' you know how biased he is!
karim Jan 25, 2013 03:37pm
So with rape being such a problem in India should we use your standards as consider Hinduism an anti-woman religion then ?
Ram Krishan Sharma Jan 25, 2013 11:48am
Holy war in the Quran means fighting unbelievers ( Jews , christians , Hindus , Budhists and Sikhs ) until they are subdued ie ALL the infidels. How then can you bring peace in the world ?. You say Islam stands for peace. Please correct me if I am wrong.
Nauman Jan 25, 2013 12:54pm
In a good way you mean or a touch of sarcasm is implied in the comment.
Gerry D'Cunha Jan 25, 2013 12:33pm
muslims should project islam with other inter faith religions, then only will islam be respected by others.
infidel Jan 25, 2013 02:29am
i think how muslims act in europe would be the best possible advert for islam.
jen Jan 25, 2013 05:20am
Muslims should start reading religious texts of other faiths as well. This would definitely help them to understand the world better.
raika45 Jan 25, 2013 02:13pm
Is it true what you said? If so then the muslim Allah as stated by the muslims to be benevolent and tolerant of other beliefs is nothing but a put on?So who is taking whom for a ride here? This Islam thing is getting more confusing day by day.That is why I admire Sikhism and .Buddhism . They stick to their religion and do not go around creating trouble as far as religion is concerned.The only two religions at peace with not only oneself but the world at large.