The Construction and Reconstruction of the Qur’an’s Meaning Through Translation

Johanna Pink, GloQur, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany
IQSA International Conference 2021 “Giorgio La Pira” Library, Palermo, Italy
Panel 8. Qur’an Translation and its Exegetical Dimension: Transfers and Transformations

Translation is often understood as the transfer of meaning from one language to another. In reality, though, it can be more aptly described as an attempt to reconstruct the source text’s meaning in a different linguistic, historical, and cultural context. In the case of the Qur’an, the gap between the milieus of source text and target language is so big that quite frequently, the translator is led to construct new meaning – building on exegetical traditions, interpretive intent, or the perceived needs of the target audience. This paper aims to conceptualize the process of meaning-creation in Qur’an translation, based on a range of case studies from translations in different languages. It shows how Qur’an translations may narrow down the source text’s meaning, expand it, or transform it, and what rationales inform their choices. Particular attention will be paid to the use of interpretive sources from the fields of lexicography and exegesis, setting the stage for the subsequent presentations.