Qur’an translation of the week #35: Translation of the Qur’an into Macedonian by Dr. Hasan Dzilo

The 1997 translation of the Qur’an into Macedonian (since republished twice) comprises the first, and so far only, translation of the Qur’an into a Balkan language to be published by the King Fahd Glorious Qur’an Printing Complex (two others, into Bosnian and Albanian, were published independently before this). Its author, Dr. Hasan Dzilo, is a leading North Macedonian scholar of Islamic and Qur’anic Studies who graduated first from the Gazi Husrev Beg medrese, and then from the Faculty of Islamic Studies (Sarajevo). Dzilo has authored numerous books and articles on the history of Islamic philosophy, Islam in North Macedonia, and Islam and modernity, and has recently become affiliated with the Faculty of Islamic Studies of the Islamic Religious Union in Skopje, North Macedonia.

As well as including the translation of the entire Qur’anic text, translation of the Qur’an into Macedonian also includes a short dictionary of Arabic terms and names and a thematic index. The translation itself is more literal than explanatory, and Hasan Dzilo replicates Qur’anic ellipses and favours the use of short sentences. This literality, however, does not lead to textual clarity; rather it mostly replicates the Arabic wording of the Qur’an in translation, meaning that it renders the Arabic into quite an unequivocal text with definitive meanings, rather than conveying any textual ambiguity. Dzilo’s approach, however, is successful when it comes to conveying the style of the Qur’an: his translation often delivers not only the meaning, but also the emotional impact of the Qur’anic verses.

When it comes to the more linguistic aspects of his translation, Hasan Dzilo adopts the full spectrum of Islamic terms of Arabic and Turkish origin that are used in the religious practice of Macedonian Muslims (some of the Divine Names are transliterated rather translated – such as al-Qadīr, for example). In some places, Dzilo tends to show a preference for the Western dialects of the Macedonian language, which is widely spoken by the Slavic Muslims of Macedonia (the Torbesh). There are no commentaries or exegetical additions in this translation, however it is obvious that the author has worked with the most authoritative Sunni tafsirs, especially while when it comes to his handling of doctrinal issues. One of the first impressions one gets when reading this translation is that the translator has used Muslim religious style in dealing with the target text. In accordance with this, many Arabic words are rendered through transliteration rather than translation, for example halal (ḥalāl), haram (ḥarām), hasret (ḥasrah), selam (salām), zekat (zakāt), sadaka (ṣadaqah), ‘rsk (rizq), mihrab (miḥrāb), miraz (mirāth). The supplement, however, contains a list of these terms with their explanations, which helps to make the translation accessible for non-Muslim audiences. Likewise, the names of all prophets and other characters are rendered in accordance with the Arabic pronunciation, though the later editions provide a table with the corresponding Christian names. (Firʿawn is rightly rendered as just a title (written with a lowercase letter) and not as a name.) Having said that, some key concepts are actually given in translation (muslimūn, for example, is translated as Poslušni, “the obedient ones”, and the term rasūl is translated by the Turkish loan-word Pejgamber, which is widely used by Bosnian, Macedonian and Bulgarian Muslims). Some purely stylistic features are preserved in the translation as well. For example, in some Makkan surahs Hasan Dzilo uses endrhyme in order to reflect the style of the original: thus in surah Al-ʿĀdiyāt he opts for the ending -at: ‘ržat (ḍabḥā), iskrat (qadḥā), napagaat (ṣubḥā), digaat (naqʿā), vleguvaat (jamʿā).

Following the publication of the first (1997) edition of this translation in Madinah, translation of the Qur’an into Macedonian has been reprinted twice in North Macedonia, along with an introduction and short commentaries (the most recent edition is dated as 2011). In addition to these three print editions, the text is also accessible online on many Islamic websites, as well as as a standalone app. Both of the locally printed editions are available in the greatest Macedonian libraries and are widely used by local Muslim communities. The translation is also widely referenced in Islamic books and academic studies in the Macedonian language.

Mykhaylo Yakubovych

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