Qur’an translation of the week #05: The Bosnian translation by Besim Korkut

Among the numerous translations of the Qur’an into Balkan languages, the Bosnian translation by Besim Korkut (1904–1977) may still be the most popular. After finishing at Shariah school in Sarajevo in 1925, Korkut continued his religious education at al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt. Graduating in 1931 and returning home, Besim Korkut started his activities as a lecturer of Arabic, historian and translator. In the times of Socialist Yugoslavia (after 1946), Korkut was affiliated with Philosophical Faculty and Oriental Institute in Sarajevo.

The translation was never published during the author’s lifetime even though the work was complete. The first edition (1977) included, beside the core text and comments, an appendix written by another Bosnian scholar, Sulejman Grozdanić. This contains a general outline of typical hermeneutic problems in translating the Qur’an, mostly in relation to its stylistic features. Further editions also included prefaces by other scholars and some specialized supplements (indices etc.).

Overall, Besim Korkut’s translation is written in very accessible and simple language, suitable for all kinds of readers. It is not overly literal, uses clear idiom and opts for the most common vocabulary. Only in a few places does the translator employ archaic expressions in order to make his text more impressive and eloquent. New editions (including the revised one prepared and published by King Fahd Glorious Qur’an Printing Complex in 1991) contain some light corrections. It may be said that Besim Korkut’s is the first Bosnian Qur’an translation which was produced in the academic context. Short but valuable footnotes, plain language and other features led to its wide appreciation, such that around 20 editions have appeared in print up to this year. This work still ranks as the most popular of its kind and is available in many bookstores and online. Moreover, it has been used for further translations into the Macedonian and Slovakian languages.

Mykhaylo Yakubovych

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