AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, Volume 5, Number 2. May   2021                                Pp.139 -155

Translation and the Individual Talent: Ambiguity in the Qurʾanic Text and the Role of the Translator

Department of Languages and Translation
Taibah University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia



This article examines the impact of traditional Tafsīr, the exegesis of the Qur’an, on the translation of the Qurʾanic text into English. Caught between the authority of tradition and the sensitivity of translating a sacred text, many translators refrain from practicing interpretation as an integral part of the translation process, whereas others defiantly dismiss the authority of tradition en masse. The significance of the study lies in undermining over-reliance on explanatory texts yields semantically dogmatic interpretations recurrently manifest in the various English renditions of the Qurʾan. The article questions what is called the etic translation that involves translation from the perspective of one who remains an outsider and does not participate in the interpretation. The finding of the study lead to the conclusion that many translations of the Qurʾan disregard possible interpretations because of rehashing interpretations handed down from traditional exegeses. The article also argues that translators have an active, interpretative role in the translation of the Qurʾan. Compatibility with tradition does not mean being constricted exclusively by Tafsīr. Tradition is a frame of reference, a point of departure for new horizons of interpretation where interpretation is viewed as an augmentation to tradition, not sedition.

Cite as:

Qassas, R. A. (2021). Translation and the Individual Talent: Ambiguity in the Qurʾanic Text and the Role of the Translator. Arab World English Journal for Translation & Literary Studies 5 (2) 139 -155.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24093/awejtls/vol5no2.11


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Raed A. Qassas is currently an assistant professor of English Literature at Taibah University (KSA). He has taught several courses on British and American literature, in addition to courses on Postcolonialism, Literary Theory, and Translation. His main research area is literary theory and interpretation, which he formalized in his PhD (2016). He published a book entitled Resolution and the Briefest End: Suicide in Shakespeare’s Tragedies in 2011. His more recent publication in 2020 is an article titled “Reading and Writing: Narrative Motifs of Sexual and Epistemic Violence in Waiting for the Barbarians.”  ORCiD ID https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3824-2553