Qur’an translation of the week #166: Generoso Corano by Sheikh Othman

There are over ten complete translations of the Qur’an into Italian, however Islamic publishers such as the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs and the King Fahd Qur’an Printing Complex usually rely on Hamza Roberto Piccardo’s interpretation, which was first published in 1994. Relatively recently, however, a new Muslim-authored translation into Italian has been published, by Sheikh Othman. Not much is known about the translator, apart from the fact he is affiliated with the Islamic Cultural Center in the city of Fondi (which is located in the Lazio region of Italy) and has already published translations of other Arabic texts, including a complete translation of Riyāḍ al-Ṣāliḥīn’s collection of ḥadīth (published under the title I Giardini Dei Giusti, or ‘The Gardens of the Righteous’). His translation of the Qur’an, Generoso Corano (‘The Generous Qur’an’), first appeared in 2015; a second edition was prepared in 2018 and published in 2020 by the Conveying Islamic Message Society (CIMS) of Alexandria, Egypt. Some Italian Islamic websites have presented the second edition as being ‘authorized by al-Azhar’, and one can find a letter at the very end of the edition, in Arabic, from al-Azhar’s General Department for Research, Writing, and Translation. The letter does not provide any details about the translator, but says that the book is a revised ‘translation of the meanings of the Glorious Qur’an into the Italian language without the Arabic text’, and includes an official stamp and a couple of signatures dated to ‘2010-6-6’. This raises some questions: according to the brief introduction to the first edition, the translation was finalized on 19 September 2015 (‘oggi … 19 settembre 2015, abbiamo portato a termine questa traduzione’; ‘today … on September 19, 2015, we have completed this translation’), but if this is the case, then how could the translation have been approved before it had actually come into existence? If the letter, which states that the book ‘does not contradict the Islamic doctrine and can be published without any objections,’ is authentic, it has probably been taken from another Italian-language Qur’an translation project. It seems most likely that this would be the above-mentioned Italian translation by Hamza Roberto Piccardo, as this was published by CIMS a few years before, around 2011 or 2012. However, it remains unclear whether Piccardo’s translation actually received any kind of authorization from al-Azhar.

            The copy of Generoso Corano under review here was acquired from a bookshelf of free Islamic literature in the famous Mosque of Ibn Tulun, a very popular tourist site in Cairo. The translation itself does not provide much information in terms of the translatorial approach taken: the later edition does not contain any introduction at all, and the introduction to the first edition does not say anything informative about Sheikh Othman’s translation strategy. However, it does include some material that can shed an indirect light on this: according to the title, this translation is based on ‘versione Hafs’ (i.e., the Hafs variant reading). The translation itself is written in modern Italian, with no archaisms, and seems to be a grammatical interpretation as it is mostly literal, with some commentary provided in footnotes. The wording is generally not so eloquent as Piccardo’s, although it is, like his,  very accessible to a wide readership. One aspect that seems to be rather innovative in comparison with other Italian translations is the usage of Arabic words in the target text, especially when it comes to the proper names of prophets, nations, etc. For example, every time the prophet Ibrāhīm is mentioned, the text gives the original Arabic in parenthesis.

According to the introduction, the translator intended the translation to be as faithful to the Arabic source text as possible, and this includes aspects such as the actual extent: the translation comes to 604 pages as do most printed Arabic muṣḥafs, and includes the signs for prostrations (sujūd) as well as dividing the Qur’an into rubʿ al-ḥizb (the traditional 120 subdivisions of the text). In addition, some other texts are reproduced from the Arabic original: for instance, in Q. 55 the repeating phrase Fa bi-ayyi ālāʾi rabbikumā tukadhdhibāni (quali grazie del vostro Dio negate? ‘Which favors of your Lord do you both reject?’) is located at the very end of pages 532 and 533 (Q. 55:40, 67). The reasoning behind this approach seems to reflect not simply a desire to produce an Italian text that parallels the Arabic (even though the edition comprises only the translation), but an attempt to to reproduce the formal aspects of the Arabic original: this is also why many of the specific terms used reference the original Arabic, such as, for example, al-masjid al-ḥarām. The same is true for the entire of Q. 11, since the text in Arabic provided here as well. It looks as if at some stage the intention is that the translation will be published alongside the Arabic text, which would mean that it could be a good general manual for Italians learning Qur’anic Arabic, especially in primary Muslim religious education. An edition in pocket format with an additional authorization from al-Azhar (which is even more disputable since it probably addresses another work) which is suitable for Muslim missionary activity also exists.

Mykhaylo Yakubovych

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