Qur’an translation of the week #03: Bridges’ Translation of the Ten Qira’at of the Noble Qur’an

This week we peek inside probably the most recent English translation to be published: Bridges’ Translation of the Ten Qira’at of the Noble Qur’an. It was released in 2020 by its lead translator, Mr Fadel Soliman, an Egyptian based in London. As well as Soliman, the credits inside the book include translator Dr Hala Muhammad, qira’at reviewers Imam Yousef Wahb & Dr Mustafa Khattab (known also for The Clear Quran translation) and various linguistic consultants.

Though the book’s title draws attention to its novel incorporation of canonical reading variants (qira’at), the primary approach of this translation is hidden in that Arabic calligraphy – that it was designed “that they may ponder” (Q 38:28). While many translations aim at indigenisation, this one adopts an explicit foreignising strategy concerning “the Qur’anic phenomenon of grammatical shifts, whether in verb tenses, numbers, or pronouns” which are “a great source of pondering for the reader” (from the blurb).

The rendering is therefore more literal than most (and less smooth), as the aim is to retain as many features of the source wording as possible. The reader is expected to pause for thought upon encountering any surprising turns of phrase (as they would do with the Arabic Qur’an). The work is therefore novel in approach and could be seen as a tool for study circles. It would be interesting to research how individual readers or groups respond to this approach.

The title reflects the fact that this is the first complete attempt to capture the meanings of the Ten Canonical Readings of the Qur’an القراءات العشر المتواترة in translation (at least in English). There is an introduction in this regard which lacks scholarly rigour and conflates ahruf, dialects and qira’at. It argues that divergent meanings (where they occur) are a “source of enrichment” and “an unprecedented linguistic tool intended by the Creator”. Theory aside, the methodology of translating these variants could be criticised from several angles. E.g. the Hafs sub-reading is given prominence in the main Arabic text and translation, whereas variants are given in footnotes without the Arabic text to compare.

The Bridges Translation is certainly worth pondering(!) and it is positive to see that an Android app has already been released to accompany the printed book.

Sohaib Saeed

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