February 28, 2019 No.

Egyptian Researcher: Hebrew Translations Of The Quran By Jews Are Distorted; Muslims Must Produce An Alternative 'Islamic' Translation As An Act Of 'Academic Resistance'

In an article he posted on the Arabic website, Egyptian journalist and academic Ahmad Al-Bahnasi, a researcher of Jewish studies and Israeli Orientalism,[1] called on Islamic institutes to publish an "Islamic" Hebrew translation of the Quran. This is necessary, he said, because the existing Hebrew translations of the Quran, produced by Jews, are riddled with errors as well as deliberate omissions and distortions. It is also important due to the interest in Islam and the Quran among Jews and Israelis, which has been growing recently, and in light of the growing number of Jewish Israelis converting to Islam, he explained. Al-Bahnasi added that an accurate translation of the Quran would constitute a form of "academic resistance" (muqawama 'ilmiyya) to Israel and help in spreading Islam among Jews. He proposed to involve Israeli Arabs in this project, including the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Raed Salah, since they know Hebrew well and are familiar with Israeli and Jewish culture.

Ahmad Al-Bahnasi (source:, December 31, 2016)

The following are excerpts from his article:

"Translating the Quran into Hebrew is of great academic and pedagogical importance. It requires deep knowledge in many fields and a command of many tools, so as to produce a correct and objective translation free of any errors or vagueness. This is a very serious and sensitive matter, for two reasons. First, due to the central place of the Quran in the hearts of Muslims worldwide, of all schools and all sects; second, because of the tradition of hostility and mutual hatred between the Arabs and Muslims [on the one hand] and the Jews and the state of Israel as a political entity [on the other].

"Jewish scholars, translators and Orientalists were the first to produce Hebrew translations of the Quran, either partial or full. [They did so] for various reasons, some (if not all) of which were related to the religious and political aspects of the conflict [between the Jews] and the Muslims and the ideological and political struggle between them.

"The earliest Hebrew translations of the Quran, produced during the Middle Ages, when Andalusia was under Islamic rule, included [only] a few verses and were written by the [10th century] Jewish philosopher Sa'adia Al-Fayyoumi [Saadia Gaon] and the [11th century] Jewish poet Solomon ibn Gabirol. The first translation of an entire Quranic surah was by the [13th century] Jewish scholar Abraham Hasdai in his translation of the book Mizan al-'Amal by [prominent 11th century Muslim philosopher and theologian Abu Hamid] Al-Ghazali.

"As for full Hebrew translations of the Quran, they fall into two categories: manuscripts and printed books. The first manuscript, which was never published, was produced in the 16th century [sic] by the Jewish scholar Jacob ben Israel Halevy[2] and it is kept in the eastern archeology hall at the British Museum. The second translation, produced in the 18th century by an unnamed translator, is kept at the British Library in London. The third is kept at the U.S. Library of Congress and there are no details about it.

"As for printed translations, the first, published in Leipzig, Germany in 1857, was translated by the [Jewish writer, historian and linguist] Haim Hermann Reckendorf; the second was published in Palestine in 1937 by Israeli Orientalist Yosef Rivlin; the third, published in Israel in 1971 was by the Israeli writer and translator Aharon ben Shemesh, and the latest translation, published in 2005 by the University of Tel Aviv, is by the Israeli professor Uri Rubin, a lecturer on Islamic exegesis and Quranic studies... at this university.

"None of these translations by Jews reflect the real meaning of the Quranic verses. They are full of errors, distortions and omissions [due to] ideological and political [reasons]. That is why it is paramount to publish a [Hebrew] translation of the Quran that can be called Islamic.

"In light of the above, it behooves us to take an action that can be termed 'academic resistance' by proposing a comprehensive project of preparing and publishing a Hebrew translation of the Quran that can be called Islamic and will amend the mistakes in the Jewish Hebrew translations of the Quran and provide a correct and genuine reflection of the Muslims' holy book...

"This is an urgent necessity, for a number of reasons. [First, because] the (Jewish) Hebrew translations of the Quran, from various historic and political periods, are full of errors and distortions in both form and content, and even in terms of the ideas [conveyed] and the numbering of the Quranic verses. [Moreover], there are no alternative Islamic translations, except for one translation by an Israeli Arab named Subhi 'Adawi, published in 2016 by the Bayinat Center for Quranic Studies in Amman, Jordan. The King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Quran in Medina, [Saudi Arabia], is about to complete another translation, which has not yet been printed. [Furthermore,] Jewish and Israeli interest in Islam and in its primary sources, chiefly the Quran, has been growing recently, especially since 9/11 and the events and developments that followed it. The Israeli professor Uri Rubin noted this explicitly in the Preface to his Hebrew translation of the Quran... It should also be noted that the number of Jewish Israelis who convert to Islam is growing from year to year. According to official statistics [published] by the Israeli Interior Ministry and Ministry of Religious Affairs, some 100 Jews officially convert every year. This is in addition to the converts who are not recorded, according to a March 2017 [report] in the Israeli paper Maariv, which also noted that this figure is steadily growing. Hence, a correct and undistorted Islamic translation of the Quran into Hebrew serves the goal of Islamic preaching aimed at these Jews and others.

"How can an Islamic translation of the Quran into Hebrew be published?... We can promote this idea by alerting those listed below, who have the ability to carry out this project. [First of all,] the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, based in Rabat, capital of Morocco. As an Islamic institution that is involved in important academic, pedagogical and cultural projects, it may have the ability and means to carry out a project of this sort and to recruit elements, research centers and translation centers from across the Arab and Islamic world in order to accomplish it. However, there will be need to involve others in the project as well, chiefly Arabs of 1948, i.e., Israeli Arabs, especially the Muslims among them – because they [the Israeli Arabs] are closest to the [Jewish] Israeli society and have the best understanding of it. They know its language, characteristics, circumstances and developments, and their ramifications, and will therefore be able to produce translations that will appeal to the ordinary folks in Israel and influence them. Therefore, I recommend to involve the Islamic Movement in Israel, headed by Sheikh Raed Salah, and its academic and educational institutions, in projects like these.

"In addition, it is paramount to involve serious scholars in the fields of Islamic exegesis and Quranic studies, for it is impossible to produce an academically objective and accurate translation of the Quran without possessing a full and accurate understanding of the interpretation of every verse, every word and even every letter of the Quran. In this respect, we can rely on the Tafsir Center for Quranic Studies in Riyadh, which has plenty of knowledge in the field [of Quranic exegesis]. In addition, we must not forgo the involvement of the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Quran [in Medina], considering its extensive experience in foreign translations... I am certain it will have much to contribute to a project like this, whether by selecting experts or by forming committees to check and proof [the translation]... It wouldn't hurt for the Language and Translation Faculty at Al-Azhar to be involved in the project as well, for it has a Hebrew department, whose experts are well versed in both Hebrew... and Quranic exegesis..."


[1] Al-Bahnasi is the author of numerous publications and translations, including a translation of Ze'ev Drori's publication Between Faith and Military Service: The Haredi Nahal Battalion (Jerusalem: The Floersheimer Institute of Policy Studies, 2005), and a 2014 critical study titled "The Quran and Information about It in the Jewish Encyclopedias – A Critical Study."

[2] Jacob ben Israel Halevy translated the Quran from Italian to Hebrew in 1636.