The Corner

Re: Did the United States Navy Pray for Allah to Forgive, Pardon, and Grant Heavenly Blessings to Osama bin Laden?

Andy, while Andrew Bostom is right to question what prayers the U.S. Navy included in Osama bin Laden’s funeral ceremony, it bears noting that the wording of the sura provided by Bostom is only in the Saudi-translated, English language edition, entitled The Noble Koran. The Saudis added the words “such as the Jews” after the Koranic phrase “those who have earned Your anger” and added “such as the Christians” after the Koranic phrase “those who went astray.” These added words are not found in the original language of the Koran. 

Analyst and Muslim convert Stephen Schwartz noted in an article in the September 27, 2004, edition of the Weekly Standard, that there is nothing to indicate to the uninformed reader that the Wahhabi additions are not in the original Arabic. In 2005, the Middle East Quarterly published a review (excerpts below) of various translations of the Koran and reported that the Saudi Noble Koran is the most widely disseminated one in the United States, probably because Saudis give it away free to mosques and Islamic centers and schools, including American public schools. This fact alone increases the probability that the Navy used it. If so, this ranks up there with the practice of Fort Belvoir of sending its troops to the Islamic Saudi Academy in Virginia for Arabic-language training at the same time that that Saudi-government-operated facility taught its students that Islam required them to “spill the blood” of non-Muslims and to wage militant jihad to spread the faith.

Assessing English Translations of the Qur’an (by Khaleel Mohammed, Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2005):

The Noble Qur’an in the English Language.By Muhammad Taqi al-Din al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan. 

Now the most widely disseminated Qur’an in most Islamic bookstores and Sunni mosques throughout the English-speaking world, this new translation … comes with a seal of approval from both the University of Medina and the Saudi Dar al-Ifta Whereas most other translators have tried to render the Qur’an applicable to a modern readership, this Saudi-financed venture tries to impose the commentaries of Tabari (d. 923 C.E.), Qurtubi (d. 1273 C.E.), and Ibn Kathir (d. 1372 C.E.), medievalists who knew nothing of modern concepts of pluralism. The numerous interpolations make this translation particularly problematic, especially for American Muslims who, in the aftermath of 9-11, are struggling to show that Islam is a religion of tolerance.

From the beginning, the Hilali and Muhsin Khan translation reads more like a supremacist Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian polemic than a rendition of the Islamic scripture. In the first sura, for example, verses which are universally accepted as, “Guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom You have favored, not of those who have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray”[43] become, “Guide us to the Straight Way, the way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who have earned Your anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).” What is particularly egregious about this interpolation is that it is followed by an extremely long footnote to justify its hate based on traditions from medieval texts.

Contemporary political disputes also pollute the translation, marring what should be a reflection of timeless religion. Whereas the Qur’an reports Moses’s address to the Israelites as “O my people! Enter the Holy Land that God has assigned unto you,” this Saudi version twists the verse with modern politics, writing, “O my people! Enter the holy land (Palestine).”

The appendix includes a polemical comparison of Jesus and Muhammad, reporting that the former had no claim to divinity.From a Muslim perspective, what Jesus did or did not do should be drawn from the Qur’anic text, not an appendix, and certainly not by Muslim readings of the gospels. In fact, while the Qur’an does take issue with the Christian claims of divinity for Jesus, it views him, along with his mother Mary, as being truly blessed and peaceful, much in concordance with the general Christian belief. Although this Saudi-sponsored effort, undertaken before 9-11, is a serious liability for American Muslims in particular, it still remains present in Sunni mosques, probably because of its free distribution by the Saudi government.

— Nina Shea is Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.


The Latest