The Qur'an – a European Text. Taking Historical, Literary and Theological Entanglements Seriously

this podcast is brought to you by the School of Advanced Study University of Louisville all of our podcasts are available from our website wwsz co uk dear friends I will allow myself to shift your interest from the meritorious translations and translators we heard about until now to the issue of ambivalence of the ambivalence inherent in translation now in the title of my paper the Quran European texts raises a very ambitious claim isn’t which I hope to support with some evidence in the following 30 minutes it is a claim as I want to show every just as I want to show closely related to the issue of translation I would try to argue my point on three levels the historical the theological and the literary I will first briefly review the Quran not as an Islamic but as a late antique text I look at professor of the Halim and check if he is still with me that is a text emerging from the epoch which is considered formative for what was to become Europe late antiquity as an epoch of translation not least due to the Christian translation movement that rendered the Scriptures into diverse local funiculus why then does the Quran not permit translation as a second step we will turn to the theological implications of the translate ability of Scriptures trying to contextualize the Islamic reservations against translating the Quran with the contemporary Jewish and Christian approaches to their respective scriptures here again the Quranic discourse will prove closely connected to the debates pursued in the neighboring late antique Milus traditions finally a short sample of the Quran as a literary text will be discussed to demonstrate the Quranic claim to be a translation itself a translation sui generis so to speak that person preserves its earlier versions to produce a polyphonic text so to say these earlier versions that the Quran discursive leary friends none other than the textual traditions that we that are imagined as the very basis of our European scriptural K’naan now first history the Quran and Atlantic million we are used to understanding the Quran if the Islamic texts are excellent historically viewed this is however not evident at all the Quran before rising to the ring of the Islamic scripture for more than 20 years was an oral communication its message was not addressed to Muslims yet who would become such only by interior rising the Quran the Quranic communications but was addressed to pre-islamic listeners whom we might best described as late antique educated persons viiay pagans or be they simcha district believers familiar with monotheists tradition western research their approaches the Quran from another angle usually regarding it as Islam sacred book thus interpreting it in a teleological manner as if it’s ultimately acquired significance had been inscribed in it already in spittoon ascending this difference in approach is not a textual historical trifle but a fault line where a principal decision has to be taken should we and I’m not addressing Western scholars in particular should we Western scholars continued to focus the Quranic text in its transmitted shape which reflects a later compiled anthology of unconnected literary units is it enough to relate its origin to select Sierra data on the one hand and to biblical to the biblical heritage on the other without questioning the currents in wisdom scholarship still prevailing – we’re status as the work of the controversial author from the remote Arabian Peninsula this is a self-reproach by the window for are we more ambitious and therefore the Quran

at eye level with our scriptures regarding regarded as originating from a late antique culture of debate this will demand that we respect the historicity of the currents initial constitutive communication by a charismatic proclaimer to his listeners the emerging proto Islamic community a scenario which also would imply the assumption of individuals educated in late antique traditions as participants in the shaping of the text in short we would have to accept the emergence of the Quran not ex nihilo that is through mere revelation in Muslim terms or as oriental scholars would claim through the octo ‘real act of Mohammed but from the very type of interaction process that the foundational documents of Judaism and Christianity equally stem from to regard the Quran as it is usually practiced as a written letter Kobe means to cut it off from those late antique identity documents like the Mishnah and the New Testament that similar to the Quran emerged from a process of probing negotiating and of course superseding earlier traditions to deny the Quran such a normal birth process means to essentialize essentialize it or more explicitly to demote the Quran from its proper rank as a genuine late antique scripture like the Christian in the Jewish as well striving to understand the Quran as it was communicated as a message targeting not yet Muslim listeners but elite antique audience one has of course to give up the usual procedure of reading the Quran through the lens of later composed Islamic commentaries but rather contextualize it with the traditions contemporary to it that is ancient Arabic poetry rabbinic literature patristic writings liturgical texts and pagan philosophical discussions no it is worthwhile noting that the Quran is a process of communication a text stemming from late antiquity is not a Western discovery the bathroom polymers are Java’s already in the ninth century for grounds the current emergence from a particular hermeneutical milieu regarding that that context even instrumental in the quran achievement of a stylistic of stylistic uniqueness he presents the following comparison between prophetic messages cells every prophet is given a sign to manifest his rank as a messenger moses was sent to pharaoh with people excelled in magic to convince them he had to perform a miracle of magic he changed a lot into a snake jesus appeared in an age when the most prestigious art was met him he worked a scientific miracle he resurrected the dead muhammad still later was sent to a people who would no longer be impressed by material exceptionalities but being professionals in rhetoric another demanded more sublime prophetic cosign muhammad therefore presented a linguistic miracle he brought a scripture the quran this review of the prophetic ministries dismissive towards the earlier messages as it maybe does hit on an important point in the perception of the kind of scripture that the quran constitutes it aptly addresses the current claim to both semantics and aesthetic significance a Javas explains that claim in historical terms rooting the quran in an epoch of extraordinary stylistic and rhetorical sensibility bilasa reminding of Peter Browns characterization of late antiquity as an age of rhetoric Angelus valorization would be affirmed by modern scholars such as James Montgomery who has demonstrated the massive ideological impact of ancient Arabic poetry as the manifestation of cultural and even political autonomy even before the emergence of the Quran at the same time aya has expresses an awareness of the current uniqueness that made it as convincing as a miracle whereas the miracles of the previous prophets rely on the power of alt stripping the magic of scientific knowledge preeminent in their respective Mills the prophets miracle outstripped its potential rivals for eclipsing both the knowledge and their rhetorical power

no surprise then that we will find find a job among the Paragons of the 9th century dogma of the in imitability of the Quran Arase Quran to which I come back will come back later no second theology translated translating sacred texts in late antiquity the verdict of the untranslatable ‘ti of the Quran principle more implicit is an explicitly maintained an Islamic tradition is in Western research often perceived as one of the numerous excesses in the Muslim veneration of the Quran but not only are there no early explicit statements forbidding the translation of the Quran they are also traces of actual attempt at rendering the Quran into individual vernaculars of the Islamic world hardware Putin has alerted us to traces of the Persian translations existing since the 11th century and translations of entire any commentaries dating back to the 10th century the age of the re-emergence of local new Eastern languages as media of national literature’s in addition the Koran seems to have been codified with interlinear renderings of isolated words in diverse languages through the ages yet it is true that according to boxing it is only from the 18th century onwards that complete translations into Persian and Ordo have been transmitted which seem to have been composed to replace the original text enrages education until today Islamic translations in general at best complement at best complement the Arabic text whereas pure translations are published mainly in the West the Islamic practice of refraining from translating the Quran or more precisely from raising translations to the level of full-fledged representations of Scripture has found diverse explanations stefan built german scholar has lately proposed to relate it to two basic principles the currents in imitability al jazeera which which considers to be an intrinsic feature of the quran on the one hand and to the later established dogma of its and creativeness on the other it is true that a number of verses the so called challenge versus IATA Totti claim that the quran cannot be matched by anyone elses speech to quote one example surah 1788 says if men and jinn banded together to produce the like of this Quran they would never produce it’s like not so they backed one another yet a historic reading of the Quran would not assigned so much weight to the middle in late mekin quranic surf references as to its imitable inimitable status this claim rather seems to be part of a an occasional of occasional arguments brought forward in a debate it is anyway not exploited theologically in the later Quranic texts nor should the occasional Quranic references to the Arabic language of the recitation be given unduly high attention statements like 1222 or 12 – we sent it down as an Arabic recitation that you might become thoughtful in their proper context rather serve the pragmatic function – of underscoring the easy-to-understand quality of the message both claims become crucial only in later C ology what is more relevant within the Quran is a theological claim which lid touches a phone in with his second argument the qur’an’s enormous standing as on par with creation as cleft in a science system like creation and as the text occasionally suggests as having been existent before creation in short its rank as what we would call logos this ring is developed in the Quranic text itself and therefore established beyond controversy it does not require explanation then that attacks representing the divine logos is – is understood as sacrosanct and hems to be preserved in the form it was transmitted in from the beginning this attitude is looked upon from the contextual vantage point of other late antique models this attitude is more natural than surprising

it is only our peculiar Christian gaze at scripture that suggests translation as a self understood endeavor indeed Christian theology owes its success widely to translation and thus created what Wolfgang Reinhart has coined a Western culture of translation miss Elsa has lately shown that in their appropriation of the Jewish Scriptures the Christians had had given up one element of scriptures which until then had been universally considered to be essential namely their language in ancient cultures and I’m now a paraphrasing of his father’s thoughts in ancient cultures it had been a postulate and as such in no need of retinol specific legitimation that foundational texts had to be preserved in the very language in which they had been first written this language was considered to be hallowed indulge with a divine quality and could not be equalled and remained in imitable a conception later reflected in the Islamic concept of the errors occur on a canonical text should be preserved read and memorized in the original tongue in which it had been redacted or revealed this perception changed with Christianity to quote stools are the divine inspiration attributed to the Septuagint of the Greek translation of the Old Testament was enough for the Christians and dispensed them from going back to the original text the fact that the Jews read the revealed text of the Old Testament in their original language was in no way considered a warrant of its correct understanding but the Hebrew text was rather seen as wrong and he need to be processed it was not only the spiritual blindness of the Jews which prevents them from developing a proper understanding of their own scriptures but equally they are clinging to the original language one can even go so far as saying that according to this logic Scriptures must be translated the idea of translate ability of the Scriptures was thus an essential element of Christian theology the revelation first offered to Israel in its own was first offered first offer to Israeli ins all language had now been opened up to the whole of mankind for most questions the very idea of a sacred tongue in which the divine revelation was coach had become obsolete the idea of a privileged tongue or encounter to the missionary character of their faith translation was the essential means in the process of disowning and dispossessing the jews theologically end of quote in contrast the quran establishes a new a kamini in in its own language it made translations superfluous or when these were achieved at a later time it completely integrated the foreign texts in its own into its own linguistic rearm in the Islamic cleric cultural state the individual vernaculars were soon given up in favor of the hegemonic Arabic language at least until the 10th century in the era when translations were made the Quran which had integrated crucial biblical and Hellenistic knowledge itself came to constitute a comprehensive translation of extant knowledge a new Bible so to say embedded in its own sacred language this consummate mould is at stake in our debate with Muslim partners today one should be wary of imposing purported historical formula of success on to our Muslim colleagues and take the Quran E is a Christian step of the desacralization of language for granted this position is a hermeneutical barrier which is still to be negotiated what lies at the roots of the perception of the untranslatable ‘ti of the Quran then is its status as the logos so to say it’s essential manifestation with which matches incarnation in is a Christian frame not revelation and which therefore cannot simply be recycled in another linguistic guys its embodiment inaudible recitation cannot be exchanged for some else it is not it it is not the Christian but rather the Jewish paradigm of cultural sacredness that the Quran is that the Quranic community subscribes to

now finally literature let us finally return to the literary Quran which I have claimed as a sort of translation in itself as is what as is well known the Quran displays a rather reiterative character easy to explain in view of its oral communication where the listeners where listeners expectation was subject to constant change as a result the Quranic communication had to be continually accommodated within the horizons of the listeners comprehension the proclaimer of the Quran himself seems to have been aware of the necessity of the constant rephrasing of already communicated messages in terms of newly gained theological insights of positions this strategy strategy is debated in a polemical context where the proclaimer as a prophet is reproached for not provide providing one complete Scripture in writing in 25:32 it says why was the Quran not sent down as a single complete pronouncement Rome Latin Wafaa gotten the answer given in several places in the Quran is rather triumphal stressing they have a neuticle potential implicit in the consecutive communications in 1024 says God Allah confer final ayat Lee common yet of a Karuna thus we constantly expound or even rephrase the communications in the verses for people willing to think Nikola Cena has pointed out that the situatedness of the communications at this point obviously was viewed by the audience as a deficiency that set them apart from conventional manifestations of the Word of God whooping shape of a complete book the proclaimer however insists on the advantage behind the con secure the flow of the communication of the message which allows for continuous rephrasing or as I would say tire room ization one has to remember that the rendering of the torah in jewish tradition where its recitation was accompanied by a translation had for some time taken the shape of a triangle that is an exegetical rephrasing the aramaic of auxiliary versions of the Hebrew Bible are documents of an actualization of the text its accommodation in the horizons of the expectation of the readers and listeners of a later time the Quran in itself presents such a continuous ceramic rereading of its earlier thoughts the trumped organization introduced here seems to be legitimate in view of the double presence of the text the earlier communicated versions and the revised once the earlier ones are in no way deleted but remain extent within the corpus of texts for recitation to quote one simple example if surah 103 2 to 3 where verse 3 is a term you make extension it says surely men is in the way of laws in aliens on Allah focus save those who believe and do righteous deeds and counter each other until the truth encounter each other to be steadfast this modifies and we phrases the term in the Sun as a general statement and presents a new image of men that needed to be implemented so we have what is in sir generally the man is in a way of loss and the the rephrasing such men except for the group of so-and-so is in a way of loss the kind of firm of a rephrasing within the text now sarcomas ation and now I would graphic no I know it yeah but organization does not only apply to in Traktor anak developments what is most significantly translated into the Quran in turmeric shape our external that is biblical and pulse biblical texts the most striking example is saw at 112 it reads for who Allahu Ahad a lot of Samad Lamia literally Muller dwellin Yahoo Yahoo who won a HUD say he has got one what the absolute the firm he did not forget nor is He begotten and there is none like him now it is hard to miss the effect that verse one say he has got one Allahu Ahad across the Jewish cradle

here Israel the Lord our God is one sure – Kyle Adam a glory no other night a hunt it is striking that the Jewish Jewish text remains audible in the Quranic version which against dramatic rule norms adopts the Hebrew sounding known a hunt instead of the more pertinent adjectives who are hot for the rhyme this ungrammaticality cannot go unnoticed I’m referring here to the notion analyzed by the Fatiha meaning the awkwardness of a textual moment that semiotic Allah points to another text which provides a key to its decoding this other text in our case is the Jewish cradle the striking TransLink were quotation is part of the Quranic Nicosia negotiation strategy which strives to appropriate to integrate the Jewish cradle so in the Quranic transcript the cradle is altered being universalized having not exclusively Israel but any believer in general addressed it could it continues through its sustained sound presence don’t confer its pristine authority on the Koran but there is still another cradle involved he did not beget nor is He begotten let me a little amulet is a reverse a crow of the Nicene Creed it rejects the emphatic affirmation of Christ’s sonship begotten not made can attenti for attenti by no less emphatic double negation the negative theology expressed here is summed up in verse 4 and there is none like him while I’m – ooh-hoo-hoo for one a heart that worse not only inverts the Nicene formula of Christ’s being one of one substance with God homoousios tapa tree but moreover forbids want to think of any being equal in substance with God’s let alone asami also these verses negate the essential statement of the Nicene Creed they yet translate the weak or certain intertext adopting its with a rhetorical strategy of intensification theology is modified rhetoric is maintained now they come to the conclusion whereas Islamic theology reflects close relations to late antique discourses the Quranic Proclamation is among Muslim intellectuals will easily recognize is shaped by an ongoing process of translation or of earlier communications Quranic communications let alone earlier extract Quranic traditions one important reason is a widespread tendency to devaluate see for proceeding Islam which in a conservative surfaces today still labelled as the age of ignorance of jahiliya the verdict enshrined in this concept has too small no small degree contributed to the systematic arisia of pre-islamic history from popular memory nobody has expressed that more urgently than the Lebanese historian Samir Kosir who claims that in currently Eastern perceptions of history a self exclusion from pre Islamic culture is at in the myth of origin that identifies the beginning of significant history with the Ministry of the Prophet reduces the previous history to an era of almost exclusively nomadic culture as here go suffice to claim a quote one can hardly overestimate the Copernican turn in worldview that would occur once the golden age before the golden age is recognized has his demand of an intellectual self liberation from teleological constraints fulfills however only half of the revision required the Near Eastern self exclusion from European history is matched not only by a very similar perception of pre-islamic Arabia among Western for an explorer’s but moreover by a teleological understanding of earlier early Islam in Western scholarship as such Western scholars still exclude the Quran from the usual paradigm of the history of religions that what heuristic Allah assumed the genesis of a scripture from a process of communal and transform no interaction instead the Western gaze at the Quran is epitomized in the highly political notion that the Quran is a text fundamentally Eliam to European culture while other writings from the same

geographical area in standing in the same line of tradition most prominently biblical and post biblical literature assimilated as founding documents of European identity what our project and we are talking about the project that I’m directing the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences what our project advocates is the reading of the Quran as part of a shared Near Eastern European heritage joining in the P voiced by some new eastern scholars and intellectuals we understand our project not least as a contribution to cultural critique as a rethinking of those Borderlands that hunter today tend to polarize the historically inseparable cultures of the nearest end of Europe thank you