June 29-30, 2018 at Institute Building, 162, Jogabai, Jamia Nagar, New Delhi

A two-day workshop on “The Art of Translation: Problems and Possibilities” was organised by the Institute of Objective Studies at its conference hall on June 29 and 30, 2018. The workshop was inaugurated by the Principal, Nadwatul Ulema, Lucknow, Maulana Dr. Saeed ur Rahman Azmi Nadwi.

In his inaugural address, the maulana held that the job of translation was difficult as well as important. It was possible only for a person who was well-versed in both the languages. Translation meant the translation of life; transfer of content from one language to another. Translation was necessary for the transfer of knowledge, works and outlook.

He said that the work of translation in Islam began at the time of the Prophet (PBUH) and grew with the passage of time. The first book was translated in Iran which was rendered in French and English later. He noted that the holy Quran is the most translated book. A large number of people have tried to understand the Quran through its translations. It guided people on how to lead a good life.

The translation of Quran that began some 1400 years ago was still continuing. He said that so many books in Arabic had been translated into Urdu. Maulana Abul A’ala Maududi’s books had been translated into Urdu and several other languages. He stressed that the nicety of the language in which a work was being translated must be fully understood. And then the soul of the text should be transferred to the new language.

In his key-note address, former prof. of Arabic, JMI, Prof. Zubair Ahmed Farooqi, opined that a language could not lay claim to be progressive unless it is translated into other languages. Translation work had begun during the Banu Omaiyyad Caliphate and got further boost during the Abbasid Caliphate. He said that the Prophet (PBUH) had directed his caliphs to learn Persian, Hebrew and other languages of that time. It was Hazrat Salman Farsi (RA) who had translated Surah Fateha into Persian. He maintained that a vast literature in Arabic had been translated into Urdu, adding that Western countries were much ahead in translation. He said that translation was a complete art and worked as a bridge between two civilisations. It also served as a window through which we could peep into the culture of the other country. It had been described by some as a work of studying gems. Thus the value of translation could not be underestimated.

He believed that the re-use of a language gave a new lease of life to it. Tracing the history of translation of the written word, he said that it began with the translation of the classical Iranian language into Arabic. Similarly, Homer’s epic Odyssey was translated into Roman from Greek. It was Caliph Harun al-Rashid who established an institution to undertake translation work. Progress in this field was also made during Caliph Mamun al-Rashid. Currently, Darul Tarjuma, Hyderabad was doing a pioneering job in the field. The second such institution engaged in translation work was Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu. He observed that Maulana Altaf Husain Hali, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi, Dr. Zakir Husain, among others stood out to be the best translators in Urdu.

Categorising the translations under three types, he said that the first was ilmi (intellectual). It was followed by adabi (literary) and sahafati (journalistic). According to him, the best translation was the one which looked like the original and did not sound like a translation. Referring to Europe’s lead in translation, he said that every major book published in English was translated into French within one to five years of its publication.

In his address, the Vice-Chancellor of Maulana Azad University Jodhpur, Prof. Akhtarul Wasey, pointed out that when one language was translated into another, both languages benefit from it. He opined that no translation could be final as it was always amenable to change. It was also not necessary for the translator to fully understand the real intent of the writer. Illustrating the translation of the Quran, he said that different scholars of the same school of thought translated it differently during the same period. This explained the translator’s endeavour to grasp the will of Allah. Nobody could say for sure that his translation was worthy of acceptance by Allah.

Explaining further, he said that both Sheikh ul Hind, Maulana Mahmud Hasan Deobandi and Hakimul Ummat, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi, who belonged the same school of thought (Maulana Thanwi being the disciple of Maulana Mahmud Hasan), came out with different translations of the Quran. This clearly showed that the art of translation offered a wide canvas with each individual doing it according to his capacity. Lauding the role of the IOS in this connection, he said that the process should go on. It was the beauty of translation that sometimes the translation was better than the original text. In this connection, he referred to the translation of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Edward FitzGerald who made it more interesting. When we translate a work, we not only rendered a text into another language, but also interpret a culture and civilisation, he added.

In his welcome address, the secretary general of the Institute, Prof. Z.M. Khan, held that the issue had attracted the attention of the institute and efforts were on to inculcate a sense of responsibility among the younger generation. It was high time to remember our rich legacy and see if we could measure up to the expectations of the younger generation. Referring to the art of translation, he said that this required proper standing of form, language and spirit. The institute had a long list of initiatives that could be taken forward by the new generation, he pointed out.

The chairman of the Institute, Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam observed that challenges always created initiatives. The age was susceptible to change and progress. And thus the translation work could not stand still. In order to keep abreast of change, we must use language. IOS was busy finding ways and means to address the issue. In this connection, he said 1,117 publications had been translated. With its limited resources, the institute had produced several publications that addressed issues of today’s world.

Pleading for the use of easily understood language, he said that it was the responsibility of experts to see to it that unintelligible language did not put the students in a disadvantageous position. Spelling out the next plan, he said that important books would be translated into about 12 major languages of the world. He announced that a workshop exclusively for the experts would be organised in the near future where such books had been published over a period of 50 years and influenced people would be identified. He also asked the participants to search a book in Hindi that could have influenced Hindus so that the points raised against Muslims could be countered. Small workshops similar to this would also be organised to keep the interaction among translators going, he said.

Earlier, the workshop got off to a start with the recitation of a verse from the Quran by Hafiz Athar Husain Nadwi with its translation in Urdu.

The HoD, Deptt. of Islamic Studies, MANUU, Hyderabad, Dr. Mohammad Fahim Akhtar Nadwi, conducted the proceedings, and Maulana Khalid Husain Nadwi proposed a vote of thanks. Translators drawn from Nadwa, Lucknow, AMU and MANUU etc. took part in the workshop.

Technical Session-I

The first technical session began the same day in the afternoon with Maulana Abdul Hameed Noumani, General Secretary, All India Majlis Mushawarat, initiating the discussion. Speaking on “The Art of Translation: Importance and Benefits”, he said that since the Muslim Ummah was associated with dawah and tabligh (offer to take to the path of Allah and spread the message of Islam), our responsibilities in excelling in the art of translation had increased. In order to reach out to other communities the knowledge of other languages had become incumbent on us. This was possible only when we were conversant with that language. Thus translation was a vital connect with other communities. Laying stress on the proper knowledge of the subject of translation, he said that the study of literature and the use of dictionaries were necessary. This was a coincidence that the majority of the men of letters came from West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat. He opined that the knowledge of literature would go a long way in perfecting the art of translation.

Director of Academic Research Bureau, Dr. Muzaffar Husain Syed, who spoke on “Main features of translation”, said that translation was a technical job. It was an attempt to transfer one language to the other. In this connection, he quoted scholars like Ale Ahmad Suroor, Prof. Ahmad Husain, Jameel Jalibi and Syed Abid Husain. Terming translation as a new creation, he said that it was like converting gold into silver. Every translator should be an expert of language and must have knowledge of culture, civilisation and history of the subject. While an English translator should possess knowledge of French, a Hindi translator should have knowledge of Sanskrit. A lot of work had been done in the field of translation, still a lot more needed to be done, he insisted.

Prof. Mohammad Ayyub Nadwi, Deptt. of Arabic, JMI, made his presentation on “Fundamental principles of translation”. He said that a translator’s job was to transfer different cultures. He was a text producer who read and comprehended.

Referring to the Arabic language, he said that it was a classical language and belonged to the Semitic family. As far as the structure of Arabic was concerned, verb came first in the sentence followed by subject and object. Sentences in the language were complex and used a passive voice. Describing Arabic as highly sophisticated, he noted that the Quranic text was not easy to translate, adding that the holy Quran is the best sample of eloquence.

Second day of the workshop

Second Technical Session

The second technical session was chaired by Dr. Mohammad Fahim Akhtar Nadwi, who dwelt at length on “Problems of translation and the common mistakes in it”. He said that Allah gave us a language to reach out to people through translation. It was the migration of people from one place to the other and the contact with the ulema that kept the information on the works of the scholars flowing. This could be followed with more intensity today as communication channels had expanded. He said that translation was a means to reach the maximum number of people. Our younger generation could do well to concentrate on translation and transfer the outcome of research on knowledge by way of translation. He also asked the translators to factor in the changes that were taking place in Arabic as it was a source language. Giving tips for a good translation, he said that every translation should be properly vetted. The translators should thoroughly go through the style of the language of translation.

Similarly, it was necessary to understand the intention of the author. A translator should roughly go through a paragraph before setting to work on translation. It was also necessary to grasp the subject and understand what the author wanted to communicate to the reader. He categorised translation as lafzi tarjuma (literal translation), azad tarjuma (free translation) and darmiyani tarjuma (translation in between the two). While choosing the word for translation, the interest of the reader should be taken into account. As far as possible, the language should be easy to understand, he observed.

Third Technical Session

The third technical session was chaired by Prof. Habibullah Khan, HoD, Deptt. of Arabic, JMI. He spoke on “Modern intellectual aid”. He said that translation was the need of man and the art of translation was as old as humanity itself. Formal translation had been in existence for the last five thousand years. There were as many as 1.24 lakh ways (referring to 1.24 lakh words contained in the Oxford Concise English dictionary) of translation. He said that translation was of two types: one, verbal translation and two, written translation. While verbal translation was not strictly governed by rules of grammar, the written translation was. Written translation was of four types: interpretative, simultaneous, whispering and visual. Today there was an explosion of knowledge and the younger generation had a treasure of resources at its disposal. Internet had made it possible to access as much material as one could do.

He said that today, every subject had as many as 10,000 books and if one read 100 books he would reach to top. He also held that the purpose of translation was to transfer knowledge of one language to another.

A practical exercise in translation was also organised during the session. Participants were divided into two groups and were given a piece each in Arabic for translation into Urdu.

Maulana Alauddin Nadwi, Vakil, Kulliyatullugha, Nadwa, presented his paper on “Translation of literary text and its requirements”. He described the Quran as a living literature and said that for Muslims nothing could be more sacrosanct than the Word of Allah. Literary translation was a vast field, but a problem cropped up when it came to using idioms. Referring to Urdu, he said that it was a sweet and sophisticated language associated with saner people. Terming knowledge as the fodder of the intellect, he said that literature was meant for those who appreciated it. He advised the participants to read modern literary figures in order to keep themselves abreast of the latest trends in literature.

Fourth Technical Session

The fourth technical session began with the presentation of Maulana Dr. Mohammad Raziul Islam Nadwi, Secretary, Tasnifi Academy, Jamaat-i-Islami Hind. He spoke on “Translation of intellectual and research works and their requirements”. In his presentation, the maulana said that the translator should be proficient in both the languages. Similarly, he must know the art of translation. Referring to translation from Arabic to Urdu, he pointed out that it could be classified as Ilm-i-Hadith (knowledge of Hadith), Ilm-i-Fiqh (knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence) and Ilm-i-Tibb (knowledge of Tibbi system of medicine). He also laid emphasis on revision of the translated text.

Prof. Mohammad Sanaullah Nadwi of the Arabic Deptt., AMU, spoke on “Philosophical translations”. He observed that translation was not just rendering of the text from one language into the other, but the exchange of culture.

Describing translation as a complete discipline, he remarked that it had a linguistic element. He drew a difference between tarjuma (translation) and tarjumani (interpretation). There was no place for a flowery language in philosophical translation. He advised translators to go through the book to be translated from beginning to the end before embarking on translation.

Prof. Mohsin Usmani Nadwi, former professor and Dean, School of Foreign Languages, The English and Foreign Languages Univesity, Hyderabad, focused on “Arabic translation of Urdu poetry”. He compared translation with the reflection of an image in the mirror. He described Maulana Kausar Niyazi as one of the most acclaimed Urdu translators.

Valedictory Session

Speaking at the valedictory session, Prof. ZM Khan expressed happiness over the two-day successful workshop. It was a matter of joy that so many aspects of translation were discussed. Emphasising the need for communication among Muslims at the national and international level, he said that it was high time to know why and what conspiracies were being hatched against us. The answer to this question lay in communication and the communication was possible through translation.

He observed that translation could also become a common ground for all schools of thought. Translation had become a compulsion for us. Technology had afforded us an opportunity to fully utilise it, but with care. He reiterated IOS’s commitment to expand the area of translation and invited participants to share their ideas with it.

Prof. Shafique Ahmad Khan, Professor Emeritus, Deptt. of Arabic, JMI described the workshop as fruitful. He shared finer points of translation with participants.

In his presidential address, Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam outlined the IOS policy of translation saying that an expert body was in place to critically examine the translated text. In a globalising world, intellect was needed to be fast-tracked in order to catch up with the fast-changing scenario. This could become a distinct possibility if translation was available.

He said that a large number of books had been published since 1958 and some of them were posing a challenge to us. We must identify such books as had influenced society negatively and be prepared to provide rejoinders to them. He informed that such books would be translated into Urdu, Hindi and English. The IOS had embarked upon a programme to publish these books which would not contain more than 30 pages each. These books were expected to fill the intellectual vacuum.

Efforts would also be made to make these books available to the maximum number of people. He also informed that so far about 80 translated books had been published by the IOS whereas 30-40 books were in the pipeline.

Efforts were on to contact experts for suggestion for the books to be translated. Thereafter, another workshop would be organised. He said that certain books would be translated into 7-8 Indian languages, as well as into Arabic. Translations into Tamil and Telugu had already begun. He sought suggestions from the participants for a book on the freedom movement in Urdu. He warned against the intellectual war being waged against the Muslims worldwide and asked the younger generation to prove themselves equal to the task.

Earlier, a 6-point resolution unanimously adopted at the session was read out by Shah Ajmal Farooq Nadwi, in-charge of translation department of the IOS. The resolution read as follows:

1. Participants in the workshop feel that the art of translation has assumed prime importance in the present times. It is a matter of joy that, besides other intellectual and conceptual works, translation has been undertaken by the IOS. Participants in the workshop are appreciative of this work and recommend that the translation work be given more scope.

2. Participants of the workshop feel that in order to impart practical training to new translators and acquaint them with the niceties of translation, such workshops should be routinely organised.

3. Participants in the workshop associated with different institutions and organisations are urged to take the initiative in organising such workshops.

4. A comprehensive book on the issues and difficulties arising out of the act of translation be published under arrangement with the IOS. Valuable lectures presented during the workshop could be put into written form. This could prove beneficial. It is also easy to accomplish.

5. The issue of translation of phraseology was raised several times at the workshop. Therefore, participants in the workshop feel that a regular workshop of experts on phraseology and its translation be organised.

6. Certain steps could be taken to ensure that the translators associated with the IOS and the revisers remain in constant touch with each other. The translation wing of the IOS could post all the translators associated with the Institute of the contents of the translated books published by it. It may also be ensured that two or three lectures on translation per year are organised. Such steps could make it sure that the translators are constantly connected to each other.

A view of group discussion

A view of audience

On this occasion, Dr. Mohammad Fahim Akhtar Nadwi presented a brief report on the proceedings of the two-day workshop. The proceedings of the valedictory session were conducted by head of Arabic wing, Dr. Nakhat Husain Nadwi.


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