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BIK01 - Biblical Investigations of the Koran
A Ministry Course on Biblical Content in the Koran
UNIT 02 - INNER LIMITS: Comparing the Bible and the Koran as BOOKS

042 - DIFFERENCE 3: The Status of Translations of Bible and Koran

The reason Muslims did not translate their Koran into Christian languages in the early history of Islam is important: for conservative Muslims a Koran is only truly a Koran in its original language Arabic; a translation of the Koran into another language is not really a Koran, rather only a questionable interpretation of the Koran. Only under the pressure of Muslim sects (specifically the Ahmadiyya movement) did conservative Muslims start to translate their Koran into various languages at the beginning of the 20th century. However, even then they often indicate that their translation is not really a Koran by giving the translation of the Koran a title like the following two: The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an (by Abdullah Yusuf Ali) or English Translation of the Meanings of the Qur'an (by Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan). In other words, for strict Muslims a translation of the Koran is not a real Koran, but only an inferior interpretation of the Koran. This is why Muslims the world over are required to perform their ritual prayers exclusively in the Arabic language. For during the repeated prayer cycles, they mostly recite passages of the Koran, and since translations of the Koran are not really Koran, they have to recite them in the Arabic original, even though most of them don't understand what they are saying. Less than 20% of Muslims worldwide speak Arabic as their native language, therefore most Muslims do not understand what they are reciting, when they recite the Koran in Arabic.

NOTE: On Muslim websites you sometimes find the claim that the Koran is available in all languages of the world. However, this claim is qualified with the statement "in-sha'a-llah" (i.e. if Allah so wills). Practically it is possible to get the full Koran in less than 100 languages and verses or portions of the Koran in a total of less than 150 languages.

Here Christians differ markedly from Muslims. For Christians translations of the Bible into other than the original languages are not inferior interpretations of biblical content, rather they are regarded as real and complete Bibles and are used as such. In fact, the Gospels in the New Testament convey the message and life events of Jesus Christ not in the language that Christ himself used (Hebrew and Aramaic), but in a translation (Greek). The reason, why Christians do not hesitate to translate their Bible into other languages is based on the message of the Bible itself: In Genesis 11:1-9 we learn that the origin of different languages among humans goes back to God's judgment over those who were building the tower of Babel, and at Pentecost we read in Acts 2:1-13 that under the power of the Holy Spirit the apostles spoke in such a way that they could be understood by people from many different native tongues: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians (i.e. Aramaic speaking), Judaeans, people from Asia Minor (Cappadocia, Pontus, Phrygia, Pamphylia), Egyptians, Libyans, Romans, Cretes and Arabians. So since God brought about the confusion of human languages and since he can speak in such a way that people from many different tongues can understand him, he is also able to guide translators through his Holy Spirit in such a way, that the translation of his word of the Bible is not compromised through the translation.

NOTE: As a result of this spiritual reality the Bible or parts of it has been translated into 3,312 languages (the full Bible was translated into 670 languages, the New Testament alone into 1,521 additional languages and portions of the Bible or Bible stories have been translated into an additional 1,121 languages. Status: August 2018, Source: wikipedia. New translations of the Bible are being continuously added.) The total number of living languages on earth today is assumed to be around 7,100 languages. However, around 25% of these living languages have less than 1000 speakers each.

So this difference between the Bible and the Koran here is not directly related to the two books themselves, but to their understanding und usage by their respective adherents: For Muslims translations of the Koran are not really a Koran, but for Christians translations of the Bible are real and genuine Bibles.

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