Response to Devin Stewart’s 2019 IQSA Presidential Address

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Todd Lawson

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Abstract

Devin Stewart’s discussion of English translation problems in some of the otherwise most successful or respected translations of the Qurʾān offers a timely opportunity to revisit issues that may be thought to have been sleeping for years and influencing, unbeknownst, the reading experience of those for whom the structure of the Book was already difficult enough, let alone the technical vocabulary. Some of the questions raised but not answered by Stewart, such as “Why on earth would anyone translate Noah’s ark as Noah’s ship?,” are left for his reader to contemplate. It is difficult to resist the temptation to see such translation choices as reflecting perhaps culturally determined and perhaps unwitted desires to present the Qurʾān as a text revered by aliens rather than as another stage and text in the unfolding of a specifically and quite familiar Abrahamic religiosity that it so obviously is.

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