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Often I have came across translations of Quran and the translation is totally different between two interpreters. Why is it so when the Quran itself is very clear? As an example

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Note here, beautified the nearest heaven with stars

In another more correct version, it is correctly translated as follows

067.005 YUSUFALI: And we have, (from of old), adorned the lowest heaven with Lamps, and We have made such (Lamps) (as) missiles to drive away the Evil Ones, and have prepared for them the Penalty of the Blazing Fire.

PICKTHAL: And verily We have beautified the world's heaven with lamps, and We have made them missiles for the devils, and for them We have prepared the doom of flame.

SHAKIR: And certainly We have adorned this lower heaven with lamps and We have made these missiles for the Shaitans, and We have prepared for them the chastisement of burning.

I did some investigation weather start (Najam) is the correct word or Lamp (Misbah). They are clearly different words. After google search, I found

مصباح lamp, bulb, floodlight, glow-lamp

star = نجمة, النجمة

My question is why scholars utterly change the meaning of the verse, provide totally different translations when the verse itself is very clear?

Note: This is not just one verse, there are many. You may put the question in a better form, provide it does not loose its meaning.

  • It can be done, when the meaning isn't changed by the translation. And know that, Same Arabic word can have many meanings. Google search, In my opinion, isn't a great source of researching Arabic words. – Anwar Aug 5 '12 at 7:22
  • @AnwarShah it is not just inane google search. I have some insight into arabic and can make sense of words. – muslim1 Aug 5 '12 at 7:42
  • I am very interested, is there some sort of original that I can get? Not a translation that is, but in the original Arabic language. Please excuse my ignorance, I am really very new to this, and the internet is really a rather confusing place when you search for these matters. You don't quite know what you will come across. – user27792 Jun 28 '18 at 10:37
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First to know is that Quran translations are not considered translations, they are considered translated simple-interpretations, i.e, Quran interpreted so simply and then the interpretation is translated.

Why is that?

Because it's impossible to give the meaning of Quran in any language other than Arabic. You shouldn't think of a translation as a real translation, but only like an interpretation, a simple one particularly.

Now about differences among translations, it's sad that there is no translation that was adopted by any recognized Muslim Organization around the world (at least as far as I know), all these translations are individual tries (JazaAllah Khair who made these tries, their work is appreciated if they did it for the sake of Islam). And, as I said above, they are simple interpretations of Quran rather than perfect translation. And like there are differences among major tafseers (such as Al-Razi, Ibn Katheer, Tabari, etc...), there is difference between simple interpretations.

However, I for one prefer the as-literal-as-possible translations. Because they (1) prevent incorrect understanding and (2) will not be clear when ayat are not entirely clear (there are such ayat in Quran, by the way), so one will try to understand by looking into a more detailed one, which is better I believe.

For your particular example, all you say is correct, the literal translation is "lamps", and I prefer it. And it's good that you've mentioned that very example because in it, Sahih international may really have given an incorrect meaning, because what Allah means by "lamps" is not likely to be "stars", but rather falling stars (Shihab شهاب), these two ayat confirm that understanding 1, 2, (don't forget to see translations other that Sahih International!).

As an Arabic man and always read Quran in Arabic, I often find translations I don't agree to in Sahih International, but since everybody in the site use it, I do so.

  • Agree with you for the most part except 'Arabic cannot be perfectly translated into other languages'. As the example shows, it can be. I personally think Pikthal and shakir are the most valid interpretations (as it does not play with meaning of words), interestingly they are not the most popular ones. – muslim1 Aug 5 '12 at 9:10
  • @Thecrocodilehunter: It can't, there are several example questions across the site that shows that like this and this (which I'm still researching and finding amazing results). Also the translation of the mentioned example is NOT perfect I can assure, as the word "prepared" is identical to اعددنا but not اعتدنا which may have a more deeper meaning. – Tamer Shlash Aug 5 '12 at 9:24
  • There is no special feature of Arabic which makes it less translatable than other languages. All translations are a matter of compromise, which is why translation is far more of an art than a science. – TRiG Jun 4 '14 at 20:25
  • @TRiG No offense, but you should be a native Arabic speaker and reader to decide that :) – Tamer Shlash Jun 4 '14 at 20:32
  • @TamerShlash special pleading requires special evidence. Is there any research you know of that makes Arabic special? More special than Chinese (and it's multifarious dialects) or Hungarian, or English or Sanskrit? – iain Jan 25 '16 at 18:06
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There have been many mistranslations or NO translations at all. We have completely missed the concept presented by the Quran by not translating the words al-lah, muslim and islam. Most translation do not translate these words at all therefore we believe that 'allah' is the name of an Arabic deity. We say "Ya Allah" all the time but it is gramatically incorrect. Arabic speakers can verify that.

We are told 'muslim' means submitter and 'islam' means submission but this is also incorrect.

From the root word and following the paradigm of 'fa'aal' and 'muf'il' it should be: Root word fa'aal mufil Salaam (peace) muslim ( peacemaker) islam (making peace) other examples: Salaah (goodness) muslih (maker of goodness) islah (making good) najaah (success) munjih (maker of success) injah (making success) fasad (corruption) mufsid (maker of corruption) ifsad (making corruption)

and so on. But much has lost in translation.

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Assalamu alaikum dear brothers and sisters, yes indeed there are difference in not the words but meanings and interpretation s as well. The best answer I think is that since the Quran is come to remain the best proof that can provide proofs after proofs till the last day. In order to be the best always you must hide something from others or else others will copy and become equal to you. The same logic goes to Qur'an , Allah had said whatever he wanted to but he hide his meaning in way that can be interpreted but would be turned out even better afterwards.

This is just my opinion, what I think. May Allah grant us wisdom to solve this mystery.

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