Namaaz in Urdu Language – G A Parwez – Translated by Prof. Dr. Manzoorul Haque

Being given to know from the newspapers that a movement has been launched in Lahore that proclaims the Namaaz may be offered in Urdu language (instead of Arabic). The question is: what is the validity of this idea from the Quran’s point of view? It is evident that most of whatever is recited in Namaaz consists of the Quran. So this question comes shranked to this point whether the Quran can be recited in Urdu language instead of Arabic. Or in other words: can the translation of the Quran (in Urdu or any other language, even in other words of Arabic itself) be called the Quran? Its open, unbiased, and unambiguous answer is that the Quran, in its own words is Revelation from God. And other words in lieu of its original words whether these are of Arabic language even – can never be denominated as the Quran.

A WRONG CONCEPT

But in this connection, the letters I have received indicate that some people hold this underlying idea that God revealed the exposition of the Quran to the Messenger (S) alone and not the words. Since the Messenger’s first addressed were the Arabs, so he (S) described the exposition of the Quran in their language. So, if those, whose language is not Arabic, give vent to the exposition of the Quran in their own language, it will become the alternate of the Quran. It is this – the very wrong concept – for the putting away of which I thought it imperative to dilate more elaborative discourse on it. Otherwise so far this question is concerned whether or not Namaaz can be offered in Urdu, its answer can be gushed through with a single word i. e. No.

Allama Iqbal has written in his lectures that the discussion whether or not the Quran was verbally revealed to the Messenger of Allah (S) once became a very sensitive issue of hot discussion (in connection with the problem Khalqal-Quran  -the createdness of the Quran) in our history. But, firstly the nature of that issue was rather different at that time, secondly those who have raised the question now are not a traditional class of people – but are modern, educated people. So it is appropriate to converse to them at the level of their own language so that the reality may fully emerge to the fore-view of their intellectual horizon.

REFUSAL OF REVELATION

Included among our modern educated class of people are those who understand that the Quran is a collection of the thoughts and conceptions of the Messenger, the exalted, himself. But since he (S) happened to be a genius, so like a genius he (S) used to understand (God forbid) that

These ideas, weaving a chain of thoughts, come from what’s hid.

Suffice is to say to them that the idea of this inkling is a flat refusal of the Revelation and the Quran; it makes no person a Muslim there-by. The Quran is a revelation from God, having no interference of the personal thoughts and conceptions of the Messenger of Allah (S).

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WORDS AND IDEAS

The second group (as has been mentioned previously) is the class of people who think that the ideas of the Quran used to come by intuitively from God, but the Messenger (S) had described these ideas in his own words. This is the very class of people to whom we address at present and to whom it is essential to make them cognizant as to what the relation between ideas and words is.

Allama Iqbal, in his Zarb-e-Kaleem, under the title of “Psyche and PhysiqueBody and Mind” has written:

Word and concept are inter-related,Like the relation of Psyche with Physique,So is exactly the cinder, the fire, clandestine in the ashesIn this couplet he has amalgamated the philosophical discourse in a concentrated and concise mode by which efforts were put forth to answer this question: what is the mutual relation of word with idea? He has, by the way, also touched upon this question in his lectures (first lecture). In this connection he writes: 

“Inarticulate feeling seeks to fulfils its destiny in idea which in its turn, tends to develop out of itself its own visible garment. It is no mere metaphor to say that idea and word both simultaneously emerge out of the womb of feeling, though logical understanding cannot but take them in a temporal order and thus create its own difficult by regarding them as mutually isolated.” P.18

Dr. R. M. Bucke, regarding the mutual relation between concept and word, writes in his famous book “Cosmic Consciousness”: 

“For every word, there is a concept and the vice versa. Word and concept in isolation can not exist. No new word without depicting a concept can ever be coined, and likewise no now concept can be ingrained till there is simultaneously a new word created for its expression“. P. 27  (Translation is mine)

Prof. W. M. Urban, in his book – Humanity and Deity – has described this topic in detail: what is the mutual relation of intuition with words? Referring Croch, he writes: 

The incarnation of intuition without words is impossible. It is well nigh impossible that a person may first develop a concept of a thing and then he may seek words for the expression of that concept. That concept regulates itself with words. P. 53

Hence intuition can never be segregated from words. P. 53 (Translation is mine)

In this connection, he furthers:  

Whatever the language of religion states, can never be embarked upon in other words or style. (P. 65) 

With this, he has concluded that divine books cannot be translated. In this connection he has presented poetry as an example. It means you, by translating a highly symbolized couplet, can not epitomize the impression its original words enchant.

The research of the contemporary thinkers corroborates the assertion of the Qur’an that the Qur’an is the Qur’an along with it very words. It is the book of Arabic language, revealed from Allah. It means its words are revealed from Allah – its words surpass any equivalents. Each of its word on its own is fortified, undefeasable and unswerving like the Himalayas.

EXPANSION OF ARABIC LANGUAGE

Firstly the Arabic language is so extensive and comprehensive that (according to the research findings of the linguistics) no other language of the world can stand in comparison to it (not in being scientific even). An interesting discussion has been made in Dr. Bucke’s book referred above. (At present this discussion is beyond the scope of our topic. Its detailed discourse will come in my Lexicon of the Quran where this reality will jog on the view that when God selected Bani Israel for Nabuwwah and Governance, this duty (as if) was assigned to Bani Israel: 

Develop Arabic language to such an extent so that it may become an instrument for the expression of God’s last messages). 

QUR’AN CANNOT BE TRANSLATED

It is this Arabic language in the words, which God selected Himself, the Qur’an was revealed. Now take upon yourself: “Can there be other words equivalent to those of the Qur’an?” Sweep aside the possibility of the equivalents, even the literal translation of the Qur’an encompassing its entire exposition is not possible. This is reality, which the non-Muslim researchers have acknowledged. That is why Prof. H. A. R. Gibb writes in this connection: 

“The Koran is essentially untranslatable, in this way that great poetry is untranslatable. The seer can never communicate this vision in ordinary language. He can express himself only in broken in ordinary images, every inflection of which, every nuance and subtlety, has to be long and earnestly studied before their significance breaks upon the reader – images, too, in which the music of the sounds plays an indefinable part in attuning the mind of the hearer to receive the message. To paraphrase them in other words can only be to mutilate them, to substitute clay for fine gold, the plodding of the pedestrian intelligence for the winged flight of intuitive perception . . . . An English translation of the Koran must employ precise and often arbitrary terms for the many-faceted and jewel-like phrases of the Arabic; and the more literal it is, the grayer and more colorless it must be . . . Even in so simple a sentence as 

Inna nahnu nuhyee wanumeetu wa-ilayna almaseeru (50:43) 

“Verily We give life and death and unto Us is the journeying,” it is impossible to present in English (or perhaps any other language) the force of the five-times repeated “We” in the six words of the original.”

(Modern Trends in Islam)

This is the significance and the value of the words of the Qur’an. Just ponder over: if these words are replaced by the words of any other language, can these be the equivalent to the original words of the Qur’an? Or can they crown the purpose, the original words of the Qur’an do? You go through this experience daily. The original words of the Qur’an toss and roll with attractive and passionate impact the heart of Gibb-like non-Muslim.

THE IMPACT OF OUR TRANSLATIONS

But when we, the Muslims go through the translation of this Qur’an, the type of impact it enchants us every one of us is well aware of it; need does not arise to ask for it. For example, take the very verse of Surah Q Gibb has presented. He is hemming in with trance by the force of the five-times repeated “We” in the words of the original. Now you look to its translation. Shah Abdul Qadir’s (R) translation is:

Tehqeeq ham jilaa te hein aur maar te hein aur tarf hamaari hay pher aana.

In English, Gibb’s own translation is:

Verily We give life and death and unto Us is the journeying.

The translations of Marmaduke Pickthal, Mohammed Ali Lahori and Yousuf Ali are of the similar ilk. You just dilate upon: do these translations inculcate the very impact, which the original verse charmed Gibb’s heart with?

Its reason is not our own  -slackened endowments or narrowed  -apron of language but it is the exaltedness and grandioseness of the succulent fruit of the Quran. It was with the difficulty that when I initiated work on “Mafhum-ul Qur’an” after “Lughat-ul-Qur’an.” I did not translate the verses of the Qur’an, but simply developed their exposition. Neither can this exposition be equivalent to the original nor can it perpetuate its permanent position. When the level of knowledge vehemently augments, this exposition will not be apportioned to the tone and tenor of time. If the translation of any time is accorded a patent grant of permanence, the dilemmas it will so generate are quite evident. In this connection, (renowned historian) Dr. Toynbee writes in his book A Historian’s Approach to Religion: 

“This is what happened to Christianity and Islam as a consequence of the attempts to translate them into terms of Hellenic metaphysics.   This intellectual ‘processing’ took the life out of them even for the small minority of philosophically educated people in the Graeco-Roman World who thought in the particular terms of Hellenic metaphysics; and these Hellenic terms have become a greater and greater stumbling-block as the progress of Science has travelled farther and farther away from the local and temporary formulation of scientific truth in the blue-print of Hellenic metaphysics.  This ‘dating’ of the translation of a Prophetic Vision into the scientific language of Metaphysics has been inevitable; but the ‘dating’ of a translation that is bound to have been a mistranslation does not impugn the original, since the mistranslated gospel is, in its original poetry, a kind of truth that is timeless”. (p. 129)

So the exposition of the Qur’an, taken up at any interval of time, can be temporal in nature; it cannot be eternal. Only the words of the Qur’an crown the authority of eternity. That is why I am antagonist its translation without its content. The translation can never replace the content.

These illustrations make it clear that the verses of the Qur’an ought to be come by in Namaaz (or any other place where these ought to be) – no other words, the equivalents (whether those be of Arabic even) can be wrought. And since the Qur’an is recited in Namaaz, no other language in Namaaz can make it sound.

It is said that the people (with a few exceptions) do not understand the meanings of the words recited in Namaaz offered today. And the people go on repeating these words as such. What is the value of this Namaaz? Hence why not to use the words we understand?

REPETITION OF WORDS UNDERSTOOD

There is no why in the matter that the Namaaz, without grasping the meanings, is a Namaaz, purposeless and soul-less. The Qur’an has encumbered offering such a type of Namaaz. Says the Qur’an in Surah Nisa:

Ya ayyuha allatheena amanoo la taqraboo alssalata waantum sukara hatta taAAlamoo ma taqooloona (4:43)

O Believers, do not draw near to the Salaat when you are drunken or in the state of sleep, until you know what you are saying.

In this verse – Hatta ta’la moo naa la ta qoloona – the-why-of-it comes to the view. It means Salaat is sound only when the-one-offering Salaat knows what he is saying. It is evident if any one over-powered by drunkenness or sleep reaches a mindset where he does not know what he is saying or there may be such a stance due to ignorance – the order would be the same for both these states. It goes without saying – there is little need to add any thing to its description – that repeating the words without understanding their meanings does not serve any purpose.* This is the unraveled, the brightened up, teaching of the Qur’an. So Salaat can only serve the purpose when the human understands its meanings.

But it does not mean if we do not understand the meanings of what-we-recite-in-the- Namaaz, then why not to utter the relevant Urdu words instead?   

TREATMENT OF THE HEADACHE

It does not mean that treatment of headache is to amputate the head itself. The treatment of headache is not to amputate it, but it is to eradicate the very cause, which causes the ache in the head i e. to nip the bud of ignorance due to which the meanings of what-is-recited-in-Namaaz are little grasped. On account of this, the assignment to be accomplished is this:

1.      We may emphasize the Government to make Primary Education free and compulsory. **

2.      In Primary Education the exposition of the words recited in Namaaz be taught and got cognized.

3.      From Secondary Education to Higher Education, Arabic language be made compulsory.

This will not let the Namaaz be meaningless. And the Qur’an will also grow to the years of discretion of the recites.

ARABIC – URDU NAMAAZ

It is also said: why not to arrange a way in which Urdu translation along with Arabic words is also repeated in Namaaz. This proposed is defective as well as dangerous. Harangue to the following arguments:

1.      Besides offering individually, Namaaz is also offered with congregation today. Even in Namaaz with congregation, the remaining Namaaz – besides Farz – is offered individually. You can do it in the congregation of Namaaz that you may go on articulation Urdu words along with the Arabic recitation of the Imam. But what form will it take in Individual Namaaz?

2.      But in that Namaaz or Farz in which the recitation is not in loud voice, how will you manage for the Urdu translation? Or for those words not articulated loudly in any case, what will be the predicament of their translation? Would it be possible that the Imam may articulate the Arabic words in a very low tone and Urdu translation in high pitch?

3.      These examples project the pragmatic implications of this proposal. But the implicit danger in it is that you will add to it a new sect in the Ummah with this additional form of Namaaz.

NEW NAMAAZ

It will be such a (heinous) crime, which will devour all these (speculative) benefits for which you want to opt for this innovation. Always remember: ‘factionalism is polytheism – ascribing plurality to the Deity – from the vantage point of the Qur’an, and the polytheism is the heinous crime. Every new Namaaz lays the foundation stone of a new faction. Have you not visualized every faction is recognized by the mode of Namaaz it offers and is very much intensive on orchestrating its details as these are. It is because if the details of its Namaaz, which keep it distinctive of the Namaaz of other outfits, the very existence of this faction is meddled with. That is why wherever has the Qur’an adjudicated factionalism as polytheism, it has, then and there, made a mention of harmony in Salaat (Wahdat-e-Salaat). In Surah Al-rome, says the Qur’an:

waaqeemoo alssalata wala takoonoo mina almushrikeena Mina allatheena farraqoo deenahum wakanoo shiyaAAan kullu hizbin bima ladayhim farihoona

(30:31-32)

Establish Salaat and (after being Momin, then) be not of the polytheists i.e. among those who created factions in Deen and became themselves separate sects. And then their predicament was that every sect rejoiced in with what their own beliefs were.”

MY PRECEPT

That is why (along with invigorating the need of making Namaaz meaningful), I have been strongly, right from the beginning, emphasizing that no one is authorized to bring about any variety and change in each and every mode of the various factions offering Namaaz up till now. Such a type of variety and change will not imbibe any kind of harmony in the present Namaaz of the various factions. But yes, of course, there will definitely be marshalling of a new faction. *** The harmony in Salaat and Ummah is complimentary and supplementary to each other. Only the Islamic system can ingrain harmony in Ummah. So unless Islamic system is established in the Ummah, inculcating any sort of innovation in Namaaz is the inculcating of further factionalism in the Ummah. And insinuation of factionalism is such a heinous crime that even Hazart Aaron submitted to cope with calf-worships of Bani Israeel for the time being. (Please consult 20: 96 of the Qur’an for this purpose). So the people, bringing about innovations of mine days fasting, three prayers – Namaazein – or Namaaz-in-Urdu or Urdu-Arabic Namaaz, are not serving any purpose of Deen or Ummah. On the contrary they are putting it to a big loss. The need of the day is to diagnose the root cause of the disease of the Ummah and then to put forth all the potential for its remedy. Splashing water over the leaves of a tree, dried up of its roots, are nothing more than the wastes of the water itself!

This is the horrendous aspect of this movement. Therefore, this is not the work to be done. The work to be done is that whatever has been pointed out in the above mentioned paragraph is to accomplish it with i.e. take practical steps for eradicating the ignorance of the nation and for prevailing upon the nation to bring it nearer and nearer to the Qur’an.

This is the only cure of the chromic disease of the nations. (June, 1957)

——————————————————————————————————-

*.       I’ll digress from my topic otherwise I would have explained as to where from was this concept created that repeating words without understanding their meanings does create an impact. It will be suffice to say here that this is absolutely a non-Qura’nic concept.

**.      In the Qur’anic Social Order, the education will be free to the last rung of educational enterprise. But to begin with, if Primary Education is simply made free, one of our steps will move to the right direction.

***.      You’ll be taken aback to know that despite my repeated emphasis and stress on this point, the antagonists are flashing this propaganda every where that this person imparts the teaching of three prayers (Namaazein) – and that too of a queer nature. This makes their purpose clear that unless and until they go on giving vent to their own say   -that this person is inventing a new type of Namaaz   -how can they camouflage their prevailing upon the people that he is creating a new faction?


In the previous issue of Tolu-e-Islam Magazine an article on the above mentioned topic was published. It was mentioned in this article that a new innovation is being created: Namaaz be offered in Urdu, or a translator may go on articulating in high pitch its Urdu translation along with what the Imam recites in Arabic language. This all is not appropriate. As a reaction to it we got a few letters from the protagonists of this innovation where they laid stress that their objections be answered. We put forth a collective answer to their objections, in lieu of responding to them individually.

  1. All these letters have been founded on this objection: the ignorant Muslims, like parrot, memorize the words of Namaaz; if under these circumstance, a group of people with profusely good intention has took the initiative to familiarize a majority of the people in a group with the meanings and exposition of the Arabic passage recited in Namaaz, you consider it as if it would be a big crime liable to let benefits -for which this very innovation is being opted – sink down deep the abyss.

You would have contemplated that this objection, without studying deeply the article of Tolu-e-Islam Magazine, has been raised out of sheer anger. Tolu-e-Islam, not from today but from the last twenty years, has been continually and consistently harping upon this stark fact that reciting the Qur’an without understanding is all in vein. This type of its recitation merits no reward – Sawaab. The words are meant to understand and never to repeat meaninglessly. Even the Namaaz in which the human does not grasp its exposition is not sound. In our previous article, we have elaborated it completely. But in spite of it these people are proclaiming that Tolu-e-Islam is opposing the efforts of making the ignorant understand the meanings of Qur’an or whatever is being recited in Namaaz.

Tolu-e-Islam is not opposing as to why the ignorant are being exposed to the exposition of Namaaz. It is opposing the very mode through which efforts are being made to let the masses understand the exposition of Namaaz i. e. whatever the Imam articulates loudly a person may go on repeating its translation. We had vividly elaborated the underlying defects of this mode and are repeating once again:

DEFECTS

  1. Firstly take, out of the 5 prayers, 2 raka of morning, 2 of sunset, 2 of esha where the recitation is carried out loudly. In the remaining raka, Imam and the followers offer the entire Namaaz silently. Now it is evident that this mode (method of grasping and sharp-witting of the exposition can be accomplished in six rak’a only.
  2. In the Namaaz with congregation, only Surah Al-Hamad and one more Surah is recited loudly. The remaining entire Namaaz is offered silently. So under this method the expositions of Surah Fateh and one more Surah can be described only. Whatever-other-than-that is recited in Namaaz, can never get any flurry of opportunity for the description of its expositions.

If, before offering Namaaz, those-offering-Namaaz are told the very meanings of Namaz, then contemplate thoroughly whether or not this method would be better than that the one mentioned above.

  1. For this innovation the greatest danger we pointed to was that it would create one more faction. It is because the difference in Namaaz is a distinguishing feature among the varying factions.

In response to it, it was said when Tolu-e-Islam is enduring the present day factions of the Muslims, if one more faction is added to them, no hill of the row it will make!

Who will tell these fellows that Tolu-e-Islam is enduring these factions because it wields no power to vaporize them? To it factionalism is polytheism. So when it perceives that a new addition is being made in this polytheism, then is straining its voice against it a crime or a misdemour? It is a matter of consternation: what type of things the people give vent to in a miasma of anger!

It has also been said: when Tolu-e-Islam says that the factions may continue offering Namaaz on the modes these are offering today, then why is objection raised on the addition of one more type of Namaaz?

Tolu-e-Islam says to the different sects: do not gild mutual carnage and massacre under the garb of their differences. If they are not so bold to rise up above the bane of factionalism by synchronizing the Qur’an, they may, at least, live in mutual peace till the caliphate-at-the-pattern-of-Messengerhood is established. And it then transforms these sects into a well-knit unified Ummah in line with the one it was at the time of the Messenger of Allah (S). That is the very reason by virtue of which Tolu-e-Islam shudders even at the very concept of a new type of Namaaz and a de novo faction.

How can I conceive the goblet and bowl broken

Even the rubble of the bubble in the river fades my color away

  1. Some one says: “What a strange phenomenon have we jotted down that the Qur’an can not even be translated?”

THE QUR’AN CANNOT BE TRANSLATED

It means we can not even make any non-Muslim, whose language is not Arabic, understand the Qur’an. This brother of ours has not even endeavored to comprehend as to what it meant when we said, “The Qur’an can not be translated.” We had said (and we repeat it here) that any translation can not inculcate what the original words of the Qur’an originate. So no translation of the Qur’an can be an equivalent to the original. The Qur’an is too exalted an entity. Translate any couplet in any other language, it will devastate what it was in the original. Goethe’s Foust, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Nietzche’s Baqoul Zurtusht (though it is a book of prose) have been translated in numerous languages. But the people conversant with the original languages, after going through these translations, involuntarily speak out, these translations can not depict the original. The same holds true with the English translations of Iqbal”s poetry.

It was what we had said. And what we had emphasized for it was that the Muslims should definitely learn the language of the Qur’an so that they may have direct access to it. But for others, the translations of the Qur’an are a must. It is because we can not compel them to have know-how of the Arabic language. We have to proselytize Islam to them. So we, anyhow, would have to converse to them in the mode of their language. Similarly the Muslims, who are not yet conversant with the Arabic language, can also be made to comprehend the Quran by means of translations. But that would all be just by way of dissemination of knowledge alone. These translations can not replace the original nor can they embed what the original words of the Qur’an can.

SACREDNESS OF THE ARABIC LANGUAGE

  1. Some one has written: We narrate this entity on the “false saunctite of the Arabic language.” With due apology we have the honor to communicate to him: We are not obsessed with the sacredness of the Arabic language, but do acknowledge the significance of the Arabic language. And it is because the Qur’an (which we call as the ultimate aim of our life) is in the Arabic language. Had the Qur’an been in Chinese language, the same would have been the value of Chinese language to us.
  1. Some one has tauntingly articulated, “It means when we pray for in Punjabi language, God would have become angry with us.”

We have no remedy to put forth for the taunting. We can only request that we have never written anywhere that pray for should always be in Arabic language. To us pray for is only the expression of human’s intense longings and hankerings. And it is evident that this expression would be in ones own language (with the exception that you have command in Arabic or any other language to such an extent that you may burgeon thinking in that language too). To Allah, every language occupies equal status and value. He, therefore, does never mire those praying for in Punjabi language. Nor He is bittered with wrath on the Urdu translation of the Qur’an. The only entity worth keeping pace with is that the words of any other language can never be the equivalent of the original words of the Qur’an.

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