Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lost in Translation

There's a great Article on Salafi Cleric Yasir Qadhi. in the New York times. We need to make distinctions between acceptance, respect, and tolerance. I could never accept Salafi views about lifestyle and values, especially in the light of recent developments in Western Feminism. Ultimately I think feminism will make its way into the Islamic world slowly, as it did in the Western World. (Women couldn't vote in France until the 1940s). But in the meantime I can tolerate, and to some degree even respect this man, as long as he continues to actively campaign against Islamoid terrorism.

A poster on the New York times comment page for this article, aptly named Rambo, writes: "Do you know the first line of Islamic prayer - La ilaha illallah! means "There is no God but Allah". Simply right, well not if you consider that it is as much a denial of other faiths as the confession of their own."

This illustrates perfectly the problems of relying on translations. The most accurate translation of this passage is "there is no God but God". The word "Allah" is used to refer to God by both Christian and Muslim Arabs. In other words, this passage is just saying there is only one God. This is the most common interpretation of the phrase I have heard Muslims give. This is what happens when someone superimposes their prejudices on a text and assume that this is the only possible interpretation.

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