Sunday, October 09, 2016

A Lesson in the Translation of Arabic Muslim Terms

Yigal Carmon
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In the MEMRI Daily Brief No. 106 (October 7, 2016), Yigal Carmon has published his article "Lost In Translation In The U.S. Media - Part I: 'Allahu Akbar,' 'La Ilaha Illa Allah,' 'Istishhad'," in which he corrects the routine mistranslation of Arabic Muslim terminology in the media:
Allahu Akbar, la ilaha illa Allah, and istishhad are routinely mistranslated in the American media.

[The] word istishhad ["martyrdom," "death of a martyr," or "heroic death"] . . . [denotes] a religious act of faith in which a believer strives to kill as many perceived enemies as he can, at the price of his own life as a means of getting closer to Allah, with the prophets, the righteous, and the martyrs in Paradise. The goal of this act of faith is to make Allah's religion supreme on Earth, in what the perpetrator believes to be an imitation of the battles of early formative Islam of the time of the Prophet Muhammad and the four righteous caliphs. This is often recklessly and inaccurately translated as "suicide," which is an act motivated by personal desperation, and for which a different word – intihar – is reserved in Arabic.

Allahu Akbar and la ilaha illa Allah – both statements of faith that embody the religious concept of the supremacy of Islam and of Allah – are mistranslated . . . . [The] rendering of Allahu Akbar in the U.S. media as "God is great" omits the aspect of superiority in the word Akbar (which . . . means "greater" or "greatest," not merely "great") and blurs the specific reference to Allah rather than to another deity. In the same vein, la illaha illa Allah is often translated in the U.S. media as "There is no god but God" (rather than "There is no god but Allah"). Omitting the supremacy of Allah over all other deities is a mistranslation.
Thanks are due to Carmon for these translations. I was aware of the true meaning of Allahu Akbar and la ilaha illa Allah, but istishhad was new to me, in that I didn't  know the Arabic term.

Anyway, Western media should take note - or better, take notes, as this is some necessary schooling for them.

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At 8:10 AM, Blogger TheBigHenry said...

"..., or better, take notes, ..."

Bet they won't, though.

At 8:19 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, well, note-taking is so old school . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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