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The Biblical Reference Frameworks of Contemporary Dutch Translators of the Quran

Tijani Boulaouali
2021 / 3 / 23

This is the summary of the dissertation that I defended at the KU University of Leuven in Belgium, which with I obtained my PhD degree in the Arabic and Islamic Studies, on October 28, 2019. This work is written in the Dutch language, because it is originally centered on the contemporary translations of the Holy Quran into Dutch. It should be noted that this dissertation was supervised by Professor Abd Alrahman Alswlaiman from the Faculty of Arts and Professor Pierre Van Hecke from the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies.
This dissertation investigates the role that Biblical reference frameworks have played in the creation of the three modern Dutch Quran translations of Johannes Kramers (1956), Fred Leemhuis (1989) and Eduard Verhoef (2015). The research consists on the one hand of a theoretical part in which a number of themes (religious translation, Arabic translation tradition, Qur’an translation, inimitability of the Qur’an, etc.) are treated from a historical and theological point of view. On the other hand, a translation analysis of the research corpus is performed, in which forty-four Quranic concepts are examined etymologically, terminologically, theologically, exegetically and comparatively.
This research aims to contribute to the study of the Qur’an as the essence of the Islamic religion. Understanding the Qur’an depends on the nature of the Qur’an translations produced. How can the translator translate the Qur’an text correctly, how can he bring the original meaning of the Qur’an closer to the reader. This research is aimed at different target audiences: Muslims and non-Muslims, teachers and students, consultants and imams and others. The forty-four examined Quranic concepts are carefully selected. They cover all kinds of aspects of Islamic theology and jurisprudence that ordinary (non-) Muslims need to understand the truth of the Qur an, which is indispensable for interfaith dialogue.
This research is not-limit-ed to a certain discipline. In principle, the intention is to analyze the possible impact of the Biblical reference frameworks on the three Qur’an translators mentioned above, but the nature of the research body requires combining elements from different disciplines. It is impossible to approach the research question from a single angle. In addition to translation studies, there are linguistics, theology, exegesis and history. The boundaries between these disciplines are blurring. There are no visible lines in between in this study. You start with history and you end with theology. You deal with translation studies and you suddenly find yourself in exegesis. This theoretical and thematic inter- and multidisciplinary approach requires a multidimensional methodology. In addition to establishing a corpus-based qualitative approach, qualitative literature research is also conducted, using de-script-ive, analytical and comparative methods.
This study reveals that the Dutch translations of the Qur’an made by modern Arabists have undergone an apparent shift from a purely apologetic instrument to defend their own (Christian) faith to an intellectual mechanism with the aim of getting to know Islam. These translators have the same Christian background. The Biblical reference framework that is rooted in their upbringing and thinking, will normally also be present in their translation of the Qur’an, but not in the apologetic sense of their predecessors. That is, they were fully aware of "the importance" of the Bible in approaching the Qur an, because both writings are of the same monotheistic origin, and have various narrative, ritual, moral, and eschatological parallels.




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