Wednesday, September 03, 2008

blogging the blog

I've been following Robert Spencer's Blogging the Qur'an which, up until recently, was shown at HotAir with a repeat at the JihadWatch site itself. I'd not been commenting since the main student-style questions arose at HotAir and I've not been able to register there. With the move, I decided to take up a student role and ask some questions relating to the entry on Suras 41, “Explained in Detail,” and 42, “Consultation”. I've received patient but, at times, somewhat defensive replies from Robert Spencer.

Basically, I've questioned Spencer's scholarship and impartiality in relation to his paraphrasing of verse 42:41 which arises out of the context of the previous verse. Ten translations of these two verses are given below, followed by Spencer's paraphrase:
Koran 42:40-41

Pickthall: The guerdon of an ill-deed is an ill the like thereof. But whosoever pardoneth and amendeth, his wage is the affair of Allah. Lo! He loveth not wrong-doers. And whoso defendeth himself after he hath suffered wrong - for such, there is no way (of blame) against them.

Yusuf Ali: The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God: for (God) loveth not those who do wrong. But indeed if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong (done) to them, against such there is no cause of blame.

Hilali-Khan: The recompense for an evil is an evil like thereof, but whoever forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah. Verily, He likes not the Zalimun (oppressors, polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.). And indeed whosoever takes revenge after he has suffered wrong, for such there is no way (of blame) against them.

Shakir: And the recompense of evil is punishment like it, but whoever forgives and amends, he shall have his reward from Allah; surely He does not love the unjust. And whoever defends himself after his being oppressed, these it is against whom there is no way (to blame).

Sher Ali: Remember that the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof; but whoso forgives and thereby brings about an improvement, his reward is with ALLAH. Surely, HE loves not the wrongdoers. There is no blame on those who defend themselves after they have been wronged.

Khalifa: Although the just requital for an injustice is an equivalent retribution, those who pardon and maintain righteousness are rewarded by GOD. He does not love the unjust. Certainly, those who stand up for their rights, when injustice befalls them, are not committing any error.

Arberry: and the recompense of evil is evil the like of it; but whoso pardons and puts things right, his wage falls upon God; surely He loves not the evildoers. And whosoever helps himself after he has been wronged -- against them there is no way.

Palmer: For the recompence of evil is evil like unto it; but he who pardons and does well, then his reward is with God; verily, He loves not the unjust. And he who helps himself after he has been wronged, for these - there is no way against them.

Rodwell: - Yet let the recompense of evil be only a like evil but he who forgiveth and is reconciled, shall be rewarded by God himself; for He loveth not those who act unjustly. And there shall be no way open against those who, after being wronged, avenge themselves;

Sale: - And the retaliation of evil [ought to be] an evil proportionate thereto: - But he who forgiveth, and is reconciled [unto his enemy], shall receive his reward from God; for he loveth not the unjust doers. And whoso shall avenge himself, after he hath been injured; as to these, it is not lawful to punish them [for it]:


Robert Spencer: Then v. 40 says that an equal injury should be inflicted in retaliation for an injury – but Allah will reward those who forgive. However, taking revenge is not sinful (v. 41).

I've discussed this matter further with my son who has never read any of the Koran. Reading those above translations and Spencer's paraphrasing he immediately concluded that Spencer had indeed misrepresented the verses and even more so than I had questioned him over. In my son's view verse 40 suggests than an evil deed deserves a proportionate evil deed, not that such "equal injury should be inflicted in retaliation" as Spencer has it. The next part - "Lo! He loveth not wrong-doers" - is pretty clear in saying that Allah would prefer that the conflict end amicably and no further evil deeds be committed. Finally, if attempts at forgiveness and reconciliation fail, then and only then is a forthright self-defense advised and this is without blame since it has presumably followed the earlier efforts. So, rather than being a whitewash of mere revenge as Spencer's paraphrase suggests, the Koran is demanding an approach to conflict resolution which is, in fact, quite modern.

It's a pity that Spencer missed this opportunity to give a fairer reading of the Koran and reveal some of its inherent merits, at least in these purer or more directly revelatory Meccan verses.

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