General guidance for the Hans Wehr [A Discussion and Critique of the Translation of Rasheed Barbee]
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
One of the most important things people overlook is the fact that just because someone can put a basic sentence together in Arabic, has completed the Madinah books , or even has some command of the Arabic language, this doesn’t mean that they can translate from Arabic to English, or from Arabic to any other Target Language(TL ) correctly.
Translation is skill that requires training and in order to attain proficiency in its field it’s better and safer to go a structured program or take a course; as with any other form of education. What I want to present here will be a real brief, sharp and straight to the point response. I hope this will help the many self-taught students in West who think they can just pick up the Hans Wehr dictionary and crack open the books from Salaf and translate them without any form of general training in the field, or any meaningful Islamic education in specific.
The first point of reference is translation is subjective as many academic translators around the World agree, so just because you might decide to say it one way and I choose another, this doesn’t necessarily mean one of us is incorrect; unless the meaning is totally lost.
There are basically 8 different methods of translations and unfortunately many of the scarcely educated people today rely totally on the Literal approach or the Word for Word method as it’s the easiest approach for their level of education; either secular , Islamic, or both.
The 8 types of translation are : word-for-word translation, literal translation, faithful translation, semantic translation, adaptive translation, free translation, idiomatic translation, and communicative translation.
- Word For Word translation: SL word order is preserved and the words translated by their most common meanings. Cultural words are translated literally. The main use of this method is either to understand the mechanics of the source language or to construe a difficult text as pre-translation process.
- Literal translation: The SL grammatical constructions are converted to their nearest TL equivalents but the lexical items are again translated out of context. As pre-translation process, it indicates problems to be solved.
- Faithful translation: It attempts to reproduce the precise contextual meaning of the original within the constraints of the TL grammatical structures. It transfers cultural words and preserves the degree of grammatical and lexical deviation from SL norms. It attempts to be completely faithful to the intentions and the text-realisation of the SL writer.
- Semantic translation: It differs from faithful translation only in as far as it must take more account of the aesthetic value of the SL text, compromising on 7meaning where appropriate so that no assonance, word play or repetition jars in the finished version. It does not rely on cultural equivalence and makes very small concessions to the readership. While `faithful’ translation is dogmatic, semantic translation is more flexible.
- Communicative translation: It attempts to render the exact contextual meaning of the original in such a way that both language and content are readily acceptable and comprehensible to the readership.
- Idiomatic translation: It reproduces the message of the original but tends to distort nuances of meaning by preferring colloquialisms and idioms.
- Free translation: It reproduces the matter without the manner, or the content without the form of the original. Usually it is a paraphrase much longer than the original.
- Adaptation: This is the freest form of translation mainly used for plays and poetry: themes/ characters/ plots preserved, SL culture converted to TL culture & text is rewritten.
It’s always good to have examples in order to conceptualize the topic. So today I’ll use a translator for Authentic Statements, Troidca, and the Minhaj Magazine, as a result of this , the readers will be able to get an idea about the quality of the translated material they read or have on their shelves from these publications.
Rasheed Barbee, an Imam from, “The Salafis”, who isn’t a student of knowledge, hasn’t sat with the scholars for a lengthy period of time, however has involved himself in the realm of translation and prefers to search and find the faults of others instead of looking after the dismal situation of his community in North Carolina . Let’s glance briefly at his his attempt to advance to the level of critic.
Auliyah of Allah to mean: Friend of Allah, and insists there is no other way to do so.
The Word Auliyah is mentioned in the Quran 36 times and it’s connected to Allah’s name twice and this is the subject here.
The Aqeedah of Ahlus Sunnah Wal-Jama’ah is ,we only ascribe to Allah what He has ascribed to Himself. Where from the Quran and the Sunnah or the doctrine of the Salaf does it say Allah has friends, what does that mean ? The word used in the Quran for friend of Allah as translated and found in the noble Quran by Shaykh Khan and Shaykh Al-Hilali is the word Khalil.
Allah said : Allah did take Ibrahim (Abraham) as a Khalil (an intimate friend).
004:125 Khan’s Transaltion.
Once again where did you find the word Auliyah to only mean friend when its connected to Allah (أولياء اللهِ ) except in the case of the Jews who pretend to be such.
Allah said: Say (O Muhammad ): “O you Jews! If you pretend that you are friends of Allah, to the exclusion of (all) other mankind, then long for death if you are truthful.”
Let’s stop right here . That’s wordy and is there another way to say it? Of course it is, but I’ll leave that to you. Now me personally, and I’m not saying that my opinion is right, but I feel uncomfortable ascribing to Allah a “Friend “. I have found this to be frequently used in the translations of the Sufi orders. Moreover as Muslims we deny the fact that Allah has a son ,so I find it to be contradictory to deny He has a son ,but He has fiends . Furthermore this could be quite difficult to explain to a Christian. So I prefer to define the word auliyah in its used meaning of the Shariah, which could range from, but isn’t restricted to, Saint, pious, righteous, close to Allah in worship. Reason being ,in English the word “Friend” is just too general and would require further detail when its connected to the Most high. As with any language culture is always closely connected to it. So in English a friend is: a person who you like very much and you spend a lot time with. And this is totally unacceptable to ascribe to the Most High. [ Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English]
The second point is do we accept the translation of the Noble Quran? Yes or No? Do we find Shaykh Khan and Shaykh Al-Hilali using the word friend for Auliya? And in their interpretation and in their definition for the word Auliya is it interchangeable with the word friend in meaning? الله المستعان
Allah said: No doubt! Verily, the Auliya’ of Allah [i.e. those who believe in the Oneness of Allah and fear Allah much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which he has forbidden), and love Allah much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)], no fear shall come upon them nor shall they grieve , [Yunus:62]
Here we find Shaykh Taqideen Al-Hilali and Shaykh Muhsin Khan placed  after Auliya of Allah to define it ,and the word “Friend” wasn’t mentioned. So is he wrong? Is the translation of the noble Quran incorrect now?
Who taught you translation Mr Barbee? As for myself then I participated in translation seminars at Ahmed bin Mohammed Military College in Doha, Qatar several times over the years .
The Words Auliyah –LITERALLY means Friend , so its understood why a person would take the meaning right away and apply it in the word-word for translation. A safer technique for translating is to rely on the Shariah terminology as explained by Allah, His messenger, the companions, and so forth before jumping the gun to a definition that can be probmatic in the area of Aqeedah. And similar errors have occurred with the word ” Iman ”
This is the problem with the mis-education of many people today in the West caught in this trending movement . They hold a low opinion of academic Islamic education, and the study of English -their mother tongue- to the end of high school. The word ,Yet, is a conjunction that means the same as ,but and nevertheless. So to end this real quickly.
His translation reads:
Don’t be a friend of Allah the Exalted in public and His enemy in private.
How does a friend of Allah behave? is he pious , is he righteous, is he quiet, does he keep a miswak in his right ear, or does he praise “The Salafis” or what ?
“His enemy in private” What’s the description of an Enemy of Allah? Does he sin a little or a lot, is he a kafir, two-faced , a hypocrite , or does he criticize “The Salafis”, or what?
“Don’t be a friend of Allah the Exalted in public and His enemy in private,” is this a Salafi Translation used among the “The Salafis” and is it fully understood in the English language ?
Enemy of Allah is mentioned twice in the Quran and explained through its context.
Allah said:”Whoever is an enemy to Allah, His Angels, His Messengers, Jibrael (Gabriel) and Mikael (Michael), then verily, Allah is an enemy to the disbelievers.”[2:98]
Allah said: And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artillery, etc.) to threaten the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides whom, you may not know but whom Allah does know. And whatever you shall spend in the Cause of Allah shall be repaid unto you, and you shall not be treated unjustly.[8:60]
Now my translation was “ Don’t act holier than thou in public,yet sin massively in private”
Does that require any explanation since the topic was about hypocrisy?
Holier than thou also means to act pious and it’s clear the speaker Bilal ibn Sa’d is referring to hypocrisy.
لا تكن وليا لله في العلانية وعدوه في السر
His speech in Arabic implies avoid acting pious in front of the people and in private you act completely different. Why did I choose holier than thou? For the reason that it implies a hypocritical virtue and that was the topic being addressed from the book the “The Description of the Hypocrites”.
To try an insinuate I’m teaching the Christian doctrine by saying Holier than thou came from the King James version of the Bible after a Google search only further proves that this brother is not only deficient in Arabic translation, but also in the English Language. This phrase is a synonym for a person who is hypocritical, pietistic, sanctimonious and self-righteous. Therefore it isn’t only restricted to your quick Google search. Refer to Collins- Paperback Thesaurus- the ultimate word finder. Why cherry-pick ? These feeble attempts to try an discredit anyone not with them were dealt with in detail in “Propaganda Pundits Masquerading the Salafi Dawah”
The third and final point is that many of the self-educated Duat in the West and the Social media translators neglect the task that translation is a process coupled with a strategy .We must be mindful when translating a text to cover ;
Source Text (ST) the text requiring translation
Target Text (TT) the text which is a translation of the ST.
Source Language (SL) The language in which the ST is to be translated
Target Language (TL) The language into which the ST is to be translated.
Strategy. The translator’s overall game plan which consists of a set of strategic decisions taken after an initial reading of the ST,but before starting a detailed translation. This is a long drawn out topic and it requires hours of explanation and detail and I am not qualified enough to explain it.
When it comes to translation ,then the most important principle is to make sure the idea is conveyed; and that doesn’t always require a word to word translation of even a literal one, except with the Quran. Nonetheless, there are many ways to do it and all experts in this field agree that there is some freedom for the translators. For instance
يوم لك و يوم عليك
Which literally translates as “ a day for you and a day against you”. Pausing here for a minute the reader could get the gist of what’s intended in this phrase. Now there is another area in translation known as equivalence and this falls into two categories. The translator’s task here is to find a phrase equally in the (TL) :Target language. For the Phrase
يوم لك و يوم عليك
It could also be translated “ You win some and lose some” and this probably is more effective in meaning to the a Native speaker of English and the list could go and on and on.
Below I have attached some books that my colleagues,who hold degrees in translation from recognized institutions have studied .I intend to share these books for reference points with my brothers and sisters around the World in hopes that they will benefit from them the same way they have benefited me and perfection belongs solely to Allah.
Endorsements from ” The Salafis ” for our brother Rasheed Barbee’s findings
Your Brother in Islam,
Abu Aaliyah Abdullah ibn Dwight Battle
Academic/Khateeb in Qatar ©
 • (From A Textbook of Translation by P. Newmark)