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Sunday, April 24, 2011

On the Difficulty of Reading the Quran, Part A: from the Amman Letter to Yusuf Ali

This post has been moved. It can be read here.


  1. A most enlightening read – thank you.

    What do you make of another possible variation, that introduced by Muhammad Asad, whose respected translation (at least by some Islamic scholars) renders the first part of 29:46 as

    And do not argue with the followers of earlier revelation otherwise than in a most kindly manner...?

    Leaving aside his departure from the usual ‘People of the Book’, Asad’s phrase ‘a most kindly manner’ carries very little connotation of freedom from partiality or bias, nor of the better, best or beauty options.

    If it is a tenable translation, then the Amman Letter’s choice of ‘in the fairest way’ avoids the pitfall inherent in Asad of appearing to be talking down to People of the Book, as if children, in a paternalistic tone.

  2. Hi Mark - 'kindly' is a poor translation. It is exuberant - adding a lot to the meaning. Also the commentaries make clear that the point of this is to cause non-Muslims to convert to Islam. As As-Suyuti said, if they won't accept Islam, or surrender to Islam, then argue with them using the sword until they do. I don't think he understood the word as meaning 'kindly'.
    The most accurate translation is just 'best' or 'better'.


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