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I read this verse and found that the last part of the verse is translated wrong by almost all translators. What is the correct translation of

ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَلَّا تَعُولُوا

According to google it has a translation of

"The lowest not count"

which makes sense but almost all translators skip this part. My questions are

  1. What is the correct literal meaning of the above text
  2. If google translator is correct, does that means this verse was translated wrong by almost all well known translators?
  3. What is the contextual meaning of this part of the verse?

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Translation of 4/3 by major translators

Sahih International

And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].

Muhsin Khan

And if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphan-girls, then marry (other) women of your choice, two or three, or four but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one or (the captives and the slaves) that your right hands possess. That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice.

Pickthall

And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess. Thus it is more likely that ye will not do injustice.

Yusuf Ali

If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.

Shakir

And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice (between them), then (marry) only one or what your right hands possess; this is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course.

Dr. Ghali

And, in case you fear that you will not act equitably towards the orphans, then marry such women as is good to you, two, three, four, (Literally: in twos and threes and fours) then, in case you fear that you will not do justice, then one (only), or what your right hands possess. That (way) is likelier you will not be in want (Or: you will have too many dependents).

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I am not sure, but I don't think Google Translate translates verses at all. Even standard Arabic seems to be wide of the mark most of the time. The translation you enfolded in your question doesn't seem to be standard grammatical English either. –  Noah Nov 21 '12 at 10:59
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2 Answers

Your answer is inside your question: Most of the translations listed in the question provide a good attention to this part. These are the sections of the listed translations that belong to ذلک ادنی الا تعولوا

  • That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice]
  • That is nearer to prevent you from doing injustice.
  • Thus it is more likely that ye will not do injustice.
  • That will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.
  • This is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course.
  • That (way) is likelier you will not be in want (Or: you will have too many dependents).

تعولوا comes from عول that means oppression, injustice, incline or aberrance.

ادنی comes from دنی and means closer or nearer.

ذلک refers to فَوَاحِدَةً أَوْ مَا مَلَکَتْ أَیْمَانُکُمْ that means a single [marriage] or [the captives and the slaves] that your right hands possess

Google translator is useful for basic translation, but for a technical translation like the holy Quran it's better to use this website.

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can you provide online arabic dictionary that I can use for reference. My check says ذَٰلِكَ this أَدْنَىٰ inferior أَلَّاno تَعُولُو count. Thanks –  muslim1 Nov 21 '12 at 13:02
    
@Thecrocodilehunter Updated the answer. –  Ali Nov 21 '12 at 14:55
    
can you give me the correct literal meaning of this text (first part of my question), I agree with the rest of your answer. In other word, regard of it is mention in Quran, what is it meaning as you would understand in everyday arabic. Thanks –  muslim1 Nov 22 '12 at 18:33
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I'd like to add to @Ali's answer that the word "تعولوا" can have two different meanings in Arabic:

  • To be in need because of having too many dependents, or
  • To be unjust

Most interpretations confirm that in this Ayah it refers to injustice. Ibn Kathir discused it in his interpretation:

That is nearer to prevent you from Ta`ulu,

meaning, from doing injustice.

Ibn Abi Hatim, Ibn Marduwyah and Abu Hatim Ibn Hibban, in his Sahih, recorded that Aishah said that,

ذَلِكَ أَدْنَى أَلاَّ تَعُولُواْ (That is nearer to prevent you from Ta`ulu, means, from doing injustice.

Ibn Abi Hatim reported from Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Abu Malik, Abu Razin, An-Nakhai, Ash-Sha`bi, Ad-Dahhak, Ata Al-Khurasani, Qatadah, As-Suddi and Muqatil bin Hayyan that;

Ta`ulu means to deviate (from justice).

(Arabic source, English source)

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