Can the Quran Only be Understood in Arabic?... Part 1 of 2 - Granite Grok

Can the Quran Only be Understood in Arabic?… Part 1 of 2

So You Want to Submit to Islam
The Game:

The Quran is only understood in Arabic and one cannot criticize Islam without knowing Arabic.

The Truth:

Muslims often tell critics of Islam to read the Quran. When the listener acts on the advice Muslims are usually not ready for what happens. An honest translation of Islam’s most sacred book generally reinforces negative opinion. The fallback then becomes a claim that the Quran can only be understood in Arabic.

This popular effort to shield Islam from intellectual critique isn’t well thought out. The Quran was translated from Arabic by Arabic speakers. They were or are devout Muslims. Their linguistic expertise far exceeds that of the armchair apologist.

Especially those pretending to know better. If anything, these translators err by subjectively toning down the literalism. The idea that they would deliberately mangle an interpretation to cast Islam in an unflattering light is highly unlikely.

Think about it this way

It is fundamentally impossible for anyone to learn a language that cannot be translated into the only one they do know. That means the apologists insisting you must learn Arabic to understand the Quran are refuting their own premise. If Arabic can be learned, then it can be translated. If it can be translated, then there is no need to learn it.

Every language has its nuances. How is it that Arabic is the only one that supposedly has words and phrases that are literally untranslatable? Why in the world would Allah choose to communicate his one true “universal” religion for all people in the only language that cannot be translated for all people? Even the vast majority of Muslims and their imams do not speak Arabic. What’s up with that?

Isn’t it curious

How suspicious is it that this linguistic “discovery” was made only recently? Isn’t it curious that it coincides with contemporary rejection of Islamic practices. Practices that were considered acceptable up until Islam’s recent collision with classic Western liberalism.

The argument is there are hidden and alternate meanings to unflattering Quranic passages. The assertion corresponds with the embarrassment that modern scholars have about such verses being in the Quran. Verses e.g. justifying slavery, the inferior status of women, sexual gluttony, holy warfare, wife-beating, and religious discrimination.

Islam: The only religion claiming to be understood in one language.

Neither is the same level of effort required to explain away primary messages. The Bible is generally distributed as is by various Christian groups. It is rare to find a Quran that does not include voluminous and highly subjective commentary. The commentary is deemed necessary to mitigate politically-incorrect passages.

Apologists want to have it both ways. On the one hand they declare that the “perfect book” can’t be translated. That Allah’s perfect religion cannot be understood by most of humanity. At least not without a battery of intercessors and interpreters.

Then they turn around and blame the reality of Islamic terrorism on this same necessary chain of intermediaries. They claim the Osama bin Ladens of the world have simply gotten bad clerical advice. That, you see, is causing them to misunderstand the true meaning of Islam.