(Un)Translatability of the Qur’ān: A Theoretical Perspective

Ali Yunis Aldahesh


This article provides a general overview of untranslatability as a key concept in the realm of translation studies and addresses, in elaborate detail, the question of the Qur’ān’s untranslatability. It falls into three parts. The first part investigates the notion of untranslatability as dealt with by linguists and translation theorists; the second part surveys the different views proposed by Muslim intellectuals with regard to the question of the Qur’ān’s untranslatability; and the third part scrutinises the views, in relation to that question, expressed by a number of leading translators of the Qur’ān into English. The main aim here is to advance our understanding of the notion of untranslatability in general and the untranslatability of the Qur’ān in particular. Another aim is to examine aspects of the untranslatability of the Qur’ān and the possible reasons for these aspects as expressed by both Muslim intellectuals and Qur’ān translators.The article demonstrates that for both Muslim intellectuals and Qur’ān translators there exist three types of untranslatability when it comes to translating the Qur’an. These are linguistic, cultural and theological untranslatability. It also demonstrates that while both the Muslim intellectuals and translators of the Qur’ān agree upon the fact that the Qur’ān-specific linguistic and cultural aspects are untranslatable, they vary in the ways they prioritise them, and, on the part of the translators, the ways in which they deal with them. However, both groups confirm the possibility of rendering the meanings of the Qur’ān into other languages and affirm the inevitability of this process. Moreover, the article argues that the notion of Qur’ān’s translatability—rather than untranslatability—needs to be the main concern of stakeholders.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijl.v6i6.6497

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International Journal of Linguistics  ISSN 1948-5425  Email: ijl@macrothink.org

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