What Needs to Be Known about the Meanings of the Arabic Versions of Verses and Accuracy of Interpretations

Care needs to be taken over various elements if an Arabic text is to be properly understood, or accurately translated into other languages:

1- Care over the Use of Words in Arabic

One subject requiring attention if the criteria involving women covering their body parts is to be properly understood is how the word “cover” is used in Arabic.

The word “cover” is generally used in Arabic together with an emphasis on the object to be covered up. For example, when the word table is used alongside the word to cover, the result is a tablecloth. In the same way, the use of the word "to cover" ("khimar") alongside the word "head" ("ra'as") gives the word “khimaru-ra'as” meaning “head covering.” If the Qur'an commanded women to cover their heads, one of the expressions that need to be used would have to be “khimaru-ra'as.” However, no such statement appears.

In verse 6 of Surat al-Ma'ida, which is about ritual purification before prayer, the word head is expressed with the word “ra's.”

You who believe! When you get up to perform your prayer, wash your faces and your hands and your arms to the elbows, and wipe over your heads, and your feet to the ankles. (Qur'an, 5:6)

Arabic transliteration: ya ayyuha allatheena amanoo itha qumtum ila alssalati faighsiloo wujoohakum waaydiyakum ila almarafiqi waimsahoo biruoosikum

It is clear that had God commanded women to cover their heads, that command would have been set out explicitly and unequivocally in the Qur'an. However, examination of the verses regarding women's clothing contains no such emphasis regarding the head.

2- Examination of Words in the Qur'an Through Other Verses

In examining the Qur'an, one needs to look at how a particular word is used with other words in the verse and in other verses.

The word used alongside the word “khimar” (“cover”) in verse 31 of Surat an-Nur and which emphasizes the subject is “juyub.” As we have seen above, this word is used to refer to the bosom region in all the other verses in which it appears. The area that needs to be covered up according to the verse is therefore the bosom, not the head.

3- Care Being Taken over Ascribing Meaning to Arabic Words in Parenthesis

Arabic has a much larger vocabulary than many other languages, and it is exceedingly rich in terms of meanings: Much can be said with few words, and a word can have very different uses, and therefore meanings. Therefore, many interpretations are added in parenthesis even though the meaning of the verse is quite clear; additions are made and meanings are shaped according to the individual interpretations of the translator.

Let us recall here that since the people who translate the Qur'an generally have traditional conceptions of Islam, which regard hadiths as the foundation of the faith, and since these people's translations are generally highly esteemed, individual interpretations emerging in translations of verses are generally traditional and shaped in the light of fabricated hadiths. Such translators who add remarks in parenthesis have a tendency, conscious or otherwise, to alter the meaning of verses in line with that of such false hadiths.

When we look at the translations of verse 31 of Surat an-Nur, we see that although the word “head-covering” appears nowhere in it, the word is used by commentators either directly in the text or else in parenthesis. Although the word “head” or “ra'as” does not appear in the verse, and the word “bosom” is used in combination with the word “cover,” meaning that the area to be covered up is clearly the bosom, the word “khimar,” meaning “any covering,” is translated as “head-covering.” The instruction in the verse is thus altered; this altered meaning has been made widespread and become the traditional interpretation, and the conclusion is thus drawn that women need to cover their heads.

When this interpretation that was added only later by commentators is done away with, however, it is clear that the verse is explicitly referring to the covering up of the bosom. Anyone reading the verse will encounter that meaning alone. Parenthesis

2015-02-25 18:00:29

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