Comparative Quranic Stylistics

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Comparative Quranic Stylistics

Postby dralmenoar2006 » Wed Oct 28, 2009 3:05 am

ABSTRACT

This paper is an attempt to create an awareness of the linguistic features present in the English language translations of the meaning of the Quran. A comparative stylistics analysis was done to two of the same Medinan (sixty-first)surah, As-Saff, from two versions of the English translated versions of the Quran : The Message of the Quran- by Muhammad Asad and The Holy Quran- by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.

INTRODUCTION

This writer will highlight the differences and similarities of the sixty-first surah from The Message of the Quran -English language translation of the meaning of the Quran by Muhammad Asad and The Holy Quran -English language translation of the meaning of the Quran by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.
Each verse translated by each translator is put one after another. Each verse from the sixty-first surah, As-Saff, translated by Muhammad Asad is marked (A) by MA and is put first, followed by the same verse translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali which is marked (A) by AYA. This writer then looks closely at each translator’s style of translating the same original text (the Quran) while examining the language features.
The first noticeable thing that this writer came across is that Muhammad Asad begins his book on the left with pages running from the left side to the right side of his book whereas Abdullah Yusuf Ali begins his book from the right with pages running from the right side to the left side of his book. It is a known fact that any book written in Arabic, including the Quran in its original text, has its pages running from the right to the left side of the book as The Holy Quran -English language translation of the meaning of the Quran by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.

THE STYLISTIC ANALYSIS OF THE SIXTY-FIRST SURAH, AS-SAFF BY MUHAMMAD ASAD AND ABDULLAH YUSUF ALI

The title of the sixty-first surah is As-Saff. However, Muhammad Asad translates the title of this surah to be "The Ranks" and Abdullah Yusuf Ali translates the title of this surah to be "Battle Array".
(A) by MA
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MOST GRACIOUS, THE DISPENSER OF GRACE:

(A) by AYA
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.


Analysis: The word "God" used by Muhammad Asad has been specifically put as "Allah" by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. "Allah" has been used throughout Abdullah Yusuf Ali's book.
(A) by MA
(1) ALL THAT IS in the heavens and all that is on earth extols God's limitless glory : for He alone is almighty, truly wise!

(A) by AYA
1. Whatever is
In the heavens and
On earth, declares
The Praises and Glory
Of Allah : for He is
The Exalted in Might,
The Wise.


Analysis: Verse one begins this surah with "ALL THAT IS " capitalized in Muhammad Asad's versions. Abdullah Yusuf Ali numbers the first verse. "All that is" is repeated in verse one of Muhammad Asad's version - "All that is in the heavens and all that is on earth" whereas Abdullah Yusuf Ali uses "Whatever" once - "Whatever is in the heavens and on earth". The same prepositions are used - " in the heavens" and "on earth". Verse one of both versions do not differ much in meaning. They contain praises towards Allah which illustrate the theme further for unshaken or firm belief.
(A) by MA
(2) O YOU who have attained to faith! Why do you say one thing and do another? (3) Most loathsome is it in the sight of God that you say what you do not do!

(A) by AYA
2. O ye who believe!
Why say ye that
Which ye do not?
3. Grievously hateful is it
In the sight of Allah
That ye say that
Which ye do not.


Analysis: Verse two begins a new section and the words "O YOU" are capitalized in Muhammad Asad's version. Verses two and three appear in one paragraph in Muhammad Asad's version whereas Abdullah Yusuf Ali puts the verses numbered one after another. Both translated versions address the believers but in different ways - "O you who have attained to faith!" by Muhammad Asad and " O ye who believe!" by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. "You" is used to refer to the believers in Muhammad Asad's version and "ye" is used in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version. Verse two of both versions do not differ much in meaning. They are basically addressing believers who claim to be willing to live up to anything for Allah's sake and yet fail to back up their words with the firmness of action. Verse three of both translated versions use different words - "Most loathsome" by Muhammad Asad and "Grievously hateful" by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. Verse three of both versions do not differ much in meaning. They are reminding believers that when their deeds do not measure up to their words, their conduct is most hateful in Allah's sight.
(A) by MA
(4) Verily, God loves [only] those who fight in His cause in [solid] ranks, as though they were a building firm and compact.

(A) by AYA
4. Truly Allah loves those
Who fight in His Cause
In battle array, as if
They were a solid
Cemented structure.


Analysis: The word "solid" is used in verse four of both translated versions but at different junctions of the verse. Muhammad Asad uses "solid" to describe “[solid] ranks" and Abdullah Yusuf Ali uses "solid" to describe "solid cemented structure". The title of this surah is mentioned in this verse. "In [solid] ranks" by Muhammad Asad and "In battle array" by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. Muhammad Asad puts the word “solid” in [ ] because the word “ranks” that stands beside the former word does not connect or one word is not helpful in the description of the other word. Thus, [solid] tells one that other words and further explanation are needed for a clearer description of ranks. Both translated version describe the arrangement of soldiers in warfare - "as though they were a building firm and compact." by Muhammad Asad and "as if they were a solid cemented structure" by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. Both translated versions use similar conjunctions "as though" and "as if". Because of the word ‘as’ in both these conjunctions, they become synonymous. However, ‘though’ and ‘if’ are not synonymous. Verse four of both versions do not differ much in meaning. They tell the moral and spiritual necessity of having our deeds corresponding to our assertions of faith in order to win Allah's love. Both versions use the arrangement of soldiers in warfare to describe the strength of belief in Islam.
(A) by MA
(5)Now when Moses spoke to his people, [it was this same truth that he had in mind:] "O my people! Why do you cause me grief, the while you know that I am an apostle of God sent unto you?"
And so, when they swerved from the right way, God let their hearts swerve from the truth: for God does not bestow His guidance upon iniquitous folk.

(A) by AYA
5. And remember, Moses said
To his people: "O my people!
Why do ye vex and insult
Me, though ye know
That I am the Messenger
Of Allah (sent) to you?"
Then when they went wrong,
Allah let their hearts go wrong.
For Allah guides not those
Who are rebellious transgressors.


Analysis: Verse five in Muhammad Asad's version carries two paragraphs. Verse five contains the speech of Prophet Moses to the children of Israel who saddened Prophet Moses when they disbelieved him. In Prophet Moses' speech, different words are used - "cause me grief" by Muhammad Asad and " vex and insult me" by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. Muhammad Asad describes Prophet Moses as feeling only grief whereas Abdullah Yusuf Ali describes the emotions of Prophet Moses more explicitly as having felt both extreme anger and insulted. "You" is used to refer to the children of Israel in Muhammad Asad's version and "ye" is used to refer to the children of Israel in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version, the former adhering to Modern English and the latter adhering to Classical English. The second paragraph of verse five begins with the conjunction "and so" in Muhammad Asad's version and "then" in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version. Muhammad Asad uses "Swerved from the right way" and Abdullah Yusuf Ali uses "went wrong". Muhammad Asad uses more explanation indicating the turning towards the wrong direction whereas Abdullah Yusuf Ali translates it literally. Muhammad Asad continues with "God let their hearts swerve from the truth" and Abdullah Yusuf Ali continues with "Allah lets their hearts go wrong". Different expressions are used to describe the disbelieving children of Israel - "iniquitous folk" by Muhammad Asad and "rebellious transgressors" by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. According to the dictionary, iniquitous means wicked and carries a streak of cruelty in the meaning whereas rebellious transgressors means those who break the law. Verse five of both versions do not differ much in meaning. They explain that the sinner's own will strays from the right path and does wrong.
(A) by MA
(6) And [this happened, too,] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said: "O children of Israel! Behold, I am an apostle of God unto you, [sent] to confirm the truth of whatever there still remains of the Torah, and to give [you] the glad tiding of an apostle who shall come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad."
But when he [whose coming Jesus had foretold] came unto them with all evidence of the truth, they said: "this [alleged message of his] is [nothing but] spellbinding eloquence!"

(A) by AYA
6. And remember, Jesus,
The son of Mary, said:
" O Children of Israel!
I am the messenger of Allah
(Sent) to you, confirming
The Taurat (which came)
Before me, and giving
Glad Tidings of a messenger
To come after me,
Whose name shall be Ahmad"
But when he came to them
With Clear Signs,
They said, "This is
Evident sorcery !"


Analysis: Verse six uses "and" conjunction to begin in both translated versions. Prophet Jesus addresses "O children of Israel!" in both translated versions. Verse six contains Prophet Jesus' speech to the children of Israel. Both translated versions use "Ahmad" to refer to Prophet Muhammad. The second part of verse six begins with the conjunction "But" and contains the speech of the disbelieving children of Israel. Both translated versions describe the message that Prophet Jesus brings in different expressions - "spellbinding eloquence" by Muhammad Asad and "Evident sorcery" by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. Verse six of both versions do not differ much in meaning. They contain the fact that Prophet Jesus had foretold the children of Israel of the coming of Prophet Muhammad but they disbelieved Prophet Jesus.
(A) by MA
(7) And who could be more wicked than one who invents [such] a lie about [a message from] God, seeing that he is [but] being called to self-surrender unto Him?
But God does not bestow His guidance upon evil-doing folk. (8) They aim to extinguish God's light with their utterances: but God has willed to spread His light in all its fullness, however hateful that may be to all who deny the truth.

(A) by AYA
7. Who doth greater wrong
Than one who forges
Falsehood against Allah,
Ever as he is being invited
To Islam? And Allah
Guides not those
Who do wrong.
8. Their intention is
To extinguish Allah's Light
[By blowing] with their Mouths:
But Allah will complete
His Light,
Even though the Unbelievers
May detest (it).


Analysis: Verses seven and eight in Muhammad Asad's version are arranged in two paragraphs. Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version has them numbered one after another. The last sentence of verse seven begins a new paragraph in Muhammad Asad's version. Verse seven of both translated versions describe the disbelievers in different words - "one who invents [such] a lie about [a message from] God, " by Muhammad Asad and " one who forges falsehood against Allah" by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. Verse eight of both translated versions talk of the disbelievers trying to extinguish God's or Allah's Light "with their utterances" (in Muhammad Asad's version) and "(by blowing) with their mouths" (in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version). Both translated versions do not differ much in meaning. They try to put across how the disbelievers put down the messages of God brought by Prophet Jesus in verse six. Verses seven and eight of both versions do not differ much in meaning. They carry the point that Allah sends or shines His guidance or His light freely but withdraws His grace from those who wilfully do not follow His guidance. The more the disbelievers try to blow out or extinguish His light, the clearer His light shines, to shame the disbelievers.
(A) by MA
(9)He it is who has sent forth His Apostle with [the task of] spreading guidance and the religion of truth, to the end that He make it prevail over all [false] religion, however hateful this may be to those who ascribe divinity to aught but God.

(A) by AYA
9. It is He Who has sent
His Messenger with Guidance
And the Religion of Truth.
That He make it prevail
Over all religion,
Even though the Pagans
May detest (it).


Analysis: Verse nine in Muhammad Asad's version begins with "He it is" and in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version with "It is He". This gives a more Classical English effect in Muhammad Asad’s version with its deviation via inversion and more Modern English effect in Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s version its way that it normally appears. "He" is used to refer to God. Different conjunctions are used towards the end of verse nine - "however" in Muhammad Asad's version and "even though" in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version providing cohesion to proceed further. "Pagans" in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version is described as "those who ascribe divinity to aught but God" in Muhammad Asad's version, the former being a more literal translation while the latter giving the readers more of an interpretation. Verse nine of both versions do not differ much in meaning. They tell that the disbelievers will not prevail in their disbelief and that the Truth (Islam) will prevail.
(A) by MA
(10) O YOU who have attained to faith! Shall I point out to you a bargain that will save you from grievous suffering [in this world and in the life to come]?"

(A) by AYA
SECTION 2
10. O ye who believe!
Shall I lead you
To a bargain that will
Save you from
A grievous Chastisement?


Analysis: Verse ten marks a new section with the words "O YOU" capitalized in Muhammad Asad's version - Abdullah Yusuf Ali marks "SECTION 2 " with verse ten. Both translated versions address the believers as in verse two. "You" is used to refer to the believers in Muhammad Asad's version and "ye" is used to refer to the believers in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version. The ‘ye’ gives the Classical English effect and the ‘you’ gives a more Modern English effect. This writer notices that the effect of Modern and Classical English in both translators’ books is not consistent. There are instances where both translators have reverted back and forth with regard to the effect of Modern and Classical English. However, it is generally noted that Muhammad Asad adheres to Modern English and Abdullah Yusuf Ali adheres to Classical English. Both translated versions use "bargain" but use different words for "suffering" in Muhammad Asad's version and "Chastisement" in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version. Verse ten of both versions do not differ much in meaning. They mention "a bargain" of giving so little and getting so much in return. This writer feels the word ‘bargain’ is appropriate in a sense that the word is straightforward and makes one eager to know more about this ‘bargain’.
(A) by MA
(11)You are to believe in God and His Apostle, and to strive hard in God's cause with your possessions and your lives! this is for your own good - if you but knew it!

(A) by AYA
11. That ye believe in Allah
And His Messenger, and that
Ye strive (your utmost)
In the Cause of Allah,
With your wealth
And your persons:
That will be best for you,
If ye but knew!


Analysis: Verse eleven of both translated versions are quite similar except for a few different words used: "possessions" in Muhammad Asad's version and "wealth" in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version. Taking into consideration of the context of this surah, possessions and wealth mean everything one has worked for and own so far in one’s life. "Your lives" in Muhammad Asad's version and "your persons" in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version. These words basically mean one’s life as well as the lives of the people one is responsible for. Given this, the experts commented that both Muhammad Asad and Abdullah Yusuf Ali have not given a complete interpretation of these words. "You" is used to refer to the believers in Muhammad Asad's version and "ye" is used to refer to the believers in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version, the former adhering to Modern English and the latter adhering to Classical English. Verse eleven of both versions do not differ much in meaning. They tell that Allah has bought from the believers their lives and possessions promising them paradise in return. This would indeed be a wonderful bargain if we only knew and understood the comparative value of things.
(A) by MA
(12) [If you do so,] He will forgive you your sins, and [in the life to come] will admit you into gardens through which running waters flow, and into goodly mansions in [those] gardens of perpetual bliss: that [will be] the triumph supreme!

(A) by AYA
12. He will forgive you
Your sins, and admit you
To Gardens beneath which
Rivers flow, and to beautiful
Mansions in Gardens
Of Eternity : that is indeed
The supreme Triumph.


Analysis: Verse twelve has descriptions of Paradise. Both translated versions use basically similar words of description - "running waters flow" in Muhammad Asad's version and "rivers flow" in AbdullahYusuf Ali's version. "Gardens of perpetual bliss" in Muhammad Asad's version and "Gardens of Eternity" in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version. These gardens are a paraphrase of “ the supreme triumph”. Verse twelve of both versions do not differ much in meaning. They mention "the supreme triumph" (paradise) as a promise of spiritual victory of the Quranic message.
(A) by MA
(13)And [withal, He will grant you] yet another thing that you dearly love: succour from God [in this world], and a victory soon to come: and [thereof, O Prophet,] give thou a glad tiding to all who believe.

(A) by AYA
13. And another (favour
Will He bestow), which ye
Do love, - help from Allah
And a speedy victory.
So give the Glad Tidings
To the Believers.


Analysis: The conjunction "and" begins verse thirteen in both translated versions. "Succour from God" in Muhammad Asad's version and "help from Allah" in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version. According to the dictionary, succour means relief in time of need. Thus, help is used as a broad term. Verse thirteen of both versions do not differ much in meaning. They assure victory for those who strive in Allah's cause.
(A) by MA
(14) O YOU who have attained to faith! Be helpers [in the cause of God - even as Jesus, the son of Mary, said unto the white-garbed ones,] "Who will be my helpers in God's cause?"- whereupon the white-garbed [disciples] replied, "We shall be [thy] helpers [in the cause] of God!"
And so [it happened that] some of the children of Israel came to believe [ in the apostleship of Jesus] whereas others denied the truth. But [now] We have given strength against their foes unto those who have [truly] attained to faith: and they have become the ones that shall prevail.

(A) by AYA
14. O ye who believe!
Be ye helpers of Allah:
As said Jesus the son of Mary
To the Disciples, "who will be
My helpers to (the work
Of) Allah?" Said the Disciples,
"We are Allah's helpers!"
Then a portion of the Children
Of Israel believed, and
A portion disbelieved:
But we gave power
To those who believed
Against their enemies,
And they became
The ones that prevailed.


Analysis: Verse fourteen is the last verse of this surah. Verse fourteen marks a new section, the words, "O YOU" are capitalized and verse fourteen carries two paragraphs in Muhammad Asad's version. Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version has verse fourteen numbered as the last verse. Verse fourteen of both translated versions address the believers the same way as verses two and ten. The first part of the verse contains the speech of Prophet Jesus to his disciples and also the speech of his disciples to Prophet Jesus. The disciples of Prophet Jesus are termed as "the white-garbed ones" in Muhammad Asad 's version and as "the Disciples" in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version. Different expressions are used "given strength against their foes" in Muhammad Asad's version and "given power against their enemies” in Abdullah Yusuf Ali's version. Verse fourteen of both versions do not differ much in meaning. They recall the teaching of Prophet Jesus and the disbelieving children of Israel. Believers are reminded to adhere to the Truth if the believers are to prevail.

CONCLUSION

In this paper, the two sets of Medinan surah from the two versions of the English language translations of the meaning of the Quran by Muhammad Asad and Abdullah Yusuf Ali were compared.The sixty-first surah, As-Saff translated by Muhammad Asad and Abdullah Yusuf Ali was marked (A) by MA and (A) by AYA respectively. Similarities and differences were found.
With regards to language and style variation, the language of the set of Medinan surah from The Message of the Quran - English language translation of the meaning of the Quran by Muhammad Asad is generally found to be Modern English, adult, religious - class, educated language. The language of the same set of Medinan surah from The Holy Quran - English language translation of the meaning of the Quran by Abdullah Yusuf Ali is generally found to be Classical English, adult, religious- class, educated language. For example, in verse seven of surah As-Saff,
(A) by MA
(7) And who could be more wicked than one who invents [such] a lie about [a message from] God, seeing that he is [but] being called to self-surrender unto Him?
But God does not bestow His guidance upon evil-doing folk.

(A) by AYA
7. Who doth greater wrong
Than one who forges
Falsehood against Allah,
Ever as he is being invited
To Islam? And Allah
Guides not those
Who do wrong.
The use of “doth” in verse seven in (A) by AYA gives the Classical English effect.
The medium of the two sets of Medinan surah from the two versions of the English language translations of the meaning of the Quran is written language but they contain some representations of spoken language. For example, in verse six of surah As-Saff,
(A) by MA
(6) And [this happened, too,] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said: "O children of Israel ! Behold, I am an apostle of God unto you, [sent] to confirm the truth of whatever there still remains of the Torah, and to give [you] the glad tiding of an apostle who shall come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad."
But when he [whose coming Jesus had foretold] came unto them with all evidence of the truth, they said: "this [alleged message of his] is [nothing but] spellbinding eloquence!"

(A) by AYA
6. And remember, Jesus,
The son of Mary, said:
" O Children of Israel!
I am the messenger of Allah
(Sent) to you, confirming
The Taurat (which came)
Before me, and giving
Glad Tidings of a messenger
To come after me,
Whose name shall be Ahmad"
But when he came to them
With Clear Signs,
They said, "This is
Evident sorcery !"

Verse six contains the speeches of Prophet Jesus and the children of Israel .
The tenor of the two sets of surah from the two versions is generally formal. However, there were instances where the tenor became informal, impolite. For example, in verse six of surah As-Saff,
(A) by MA
(6) And [this happened, too,] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said: "O children of Israel ! Behold, I am an apostle of God unto you, [sent] to confirm the truth of whatever there still remains of the Torah, and to give [you] the glad tiding of an apostle who shall come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad."
But when he [whose coming Jesus had foretold] came unto them with all evidence of the truth, they said: "this [alleged message of his] is [nothing but] spellbinding eloquence!"

(A) by AYA
6. And remember, Jesus,
The son of Mary, said:
" O Children of Israel!
I am the messenger of Allah
(Sent) to you, confirming
The Taurat (which came)
Before me, and giving
Glad Tidings of a messenger
To come after me,
Whose name shall be Ahmad"
But when he came to them
With Clear Signs,
They said, "This is
Evident sorcery !"

The children of Israel called the message that Prophet Jesus had brought to be “spellbinding eloquence” in (A) by MA and “evident sorcery” in (A) by AYA. In this instance, the tenor becomes informal, impolite.
The domain is generally the language of instruction calling out for all to believe in Allah, His Messengers and the Day of Judgement. For example, in verse eleven of surah As-Saff,
(A) by MA
(11)You are to believe in God and His Apostle, and to strive hard in God's cause with your possessions and your lives! this is for your own good - if you but knew it!

(A) by AYA
11. That ye believe in Allah
And His Messenger, and that
Ye strive (your utmost)
In the Cause of Allah,
With your wealth
And your persons:
That will be best for you,
If ye but knew!

Verse eleven of surah As-Saff carries the language of instruction.
In both versions, there is accessibility in the language used especially in the descriptions of Paradise and Hell. For example, in verse twelve of surah As-Saff,
(A) by MA
(12)[If you do so,] He will forgive you your sins, and [in the life to come] will admit you into gardens through which running waters flow, and into goodly mansions in [those] gardens of perpetual bliss: that [will be] the triumph supreme!

(A) by AYA
12. He will forgive you
Your sins, and admit you
To Gardens beneath which
Rivers flow, and to beautiful
Mansions in Gardens
Of Eternity : that is indeed
The supreme Triumph.

The words used in verse twelve of surah As-Saff to describe Paradise in both versions are accessible to the reader and are familiar to the reader to help create a clear picture of Paradise.

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