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THE FIRST TRANSLATIONS OF THE QURʾAN IN MODERN TURKEY (1924–38)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2009

Extract

The debut of Turkish-language translations of the Qurʾan in the newly founded Republic of Turkey sparked lively debates over whether Qurʾan translation was possible or desirable, who should engage in interpretation of the text, and what characteristics a Turkish-language rendering of the Qurʾan should have. Whereas the abolition of the Islamic caliphate, closure of the medreses, and prohibition of the Sufi orders have received considerable attention in histories of early republican Turkey, the state-sponsored translation of the Qurʾan into Turkish remains both neglected and misunderstood. Muhammad Rashid Rida, who was highly influential in shaping opinion in the Muslim world, portrayed the state-sponsored project as a long-term plot to displace the Arabic Qurʾan. Other accounts misrepresent the involvement of President Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) in the promotion of Qurʾan translation by anachronistically suggesting that he sparked the initiative and led a “campaign” in support of it. Mustafa Kemal had no hand in the composition of Turkish Qurʾan translations published in 1924, other than helping create the political context in which they could be published. Their composition began well before the foundation of the Turkish republic, and their inspiration emerged from the intellectual milieu of the late Ottoman public sphere.

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References

Author's note: Special thanks go to Amit Bein, Johann Büssow, Susan Gunasti, Charles Kurzman, Bruce Lawrence, Ebrahim Moosa, Zeynep Türkyılmaz, the Duke–UNC Islam Reading group, and the anonymous reviewers for their invaluable feedback on various aspects of this essay. I also thank the Institute of Turkish Studies and the Duke University Center for International Studies for their support.

1 Qurʾan 26:195.

2 Rida, Muhammad Rashid, “Tarjama al-Qurʾan wa-Tahrif Tarjama lahu wa-l-Tashkik fihi,” Al-Manar 25 (1924): 794Google Scholar.

3 Although a few Turkish scholars have devoted considerable attention to the subject, Euro-American scholarship and mainstream Turkish historiography have neglected the topic. Turkish-language studies include Altuntaş, Halil, Kurʾan'ın Tercümesi ve Tercüme ile Namaz Meselesi (Istanbul: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı Yayınları, 2001)Google Scholar; Cündioğlu, Dücane, Bir Kurʾan Şairi, 2nd ed. (Istanbul: Gelenek, 2004)Google Scholar; idem, Kurʾan Çevirilerinin Dünyası (Istanbul: Kaknüs, 2005); idem, Türkçe'de İbadet (Istanbul: Kitabevi, 1999); idem, Türkçe Kurʾan ve Cumhuriyet İdeolojisi (Istanbul: Kitabevi, 1998); Ergin, Osman Nuri, Türkiye Maarif Tarihi, vol. V (Istanbul: Osman Bey Matbaası, 1943), 1606–38Google Scholar. In English, no book-length study exists on Turkish-language translations in this period. For partial glimpses of the issue, see Berkes, Niyazi, The Development of Secularism in Turkey (New York: Routledge, 1998), 486–90Google Scholar; Birge, John Kingsley, “Turkish Translations of the Koran,” The Moslem World 28 (1938): 394–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar; MacCallum, F. Lyman, “Turkey Discovers the Koran,” The Moslem World 23 (1933): 2428CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Zwemer, S. M., “Translations of the Koran,” The Moslem World 5 (1915): 244–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Bernard Lewis briefly mentions the translation project, but, contrary to his account, the project was actually completed, albeit not by the initial translator: Lewis, Bernard, The Emergence of Modern Turkey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), 415Google Scholar.

4 Berkes, Development, 487; Bozkurt, Mahmut Esat, Atatürk İhtilali (Istanbul: Burhaneddin Matbaası, 1940), 313Google Scholar; Sherrill, Charles H., A Year's Embassy to Mustafa Kemal (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1934), 193–96Google Scholar.

5 Bein, Amit, “A ‘Young Turk’ Islamic Intellectual: Filibeli Ahmed Hilmi and the Diverse Intellectual Legacies of the Late Ottoman Empire,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 39 (2007): 607–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 See Madigan, Daniel, The Qurʾan's Self-Image (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001), 353Google Scholar; also refer to the excellent collection of essays Self-Referentiality in the Qurʾan, ed. Stephan Wild (Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 2006).

7 Qurʾan 12:2.

8 Reinhart, Kevin, “Jurisprudence,” in The Blackwell Companion to the Qurʾān, ed. Rippen, Andrew (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2006), 437Google Scholar.

9 Qurʾan 10:31, 17:88, 52:33–34.

10 See this excellent article on the subject: Richard C. Martin, “Inimitability,” in Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān, http://www.brillonline.nl/subscriber/entry?entry=q3_COM-00093 (accessed 23 March 2009).

11 For a review of legal opinions, see Ayoub, Mahmoud, “Translating the Meanings of the Qurʾan: Traditional Opinions and Modern Debates,” Afkar/Inquiry 3, no. 5 (1986): 3439Google Scholar.

12 İzmirli, İsmail Hakkı, Maʿani-yi Kurʾan: Kurʾan-ı Kerim'in Türkçe Tercümesi (Istanbul: Kitaphane-yi Hilmi Milli Matbaa, 1927), 34Google Scholar.

13 Togan, Zeki Velidi, “The Earliest Translation of the Qurʾan into Turkish,” in İslam Tetkikleri Enstitüsü Dergisi IV (1964): 119Google Scholar. Several Turkic translations have been published in transliteration, including Karabacak, Esra, Eski Anadolu Türkçesi Satır-Arası Kurʾan Tercümesi: Giriş, Metin, Sözlük ve Tıpkıbasim (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 1994)Google Scholar, and Hamza, Mehmet bin, XV. Yüzyıl Başlarında Yapılmış Satır-Arası Kurʾan Tercümesi, ed. Topaloğlu, Ahmet, 2 vols. (Istanbul: Devlet Kitaplari, 1976)Google Scholar.

14 For example, Manuscript Yazma Bağışlar 4845, Süleymaniye Library, Istanbul.

15 There are some interlinear translations with vowel markings, such as Manuscript Özel 123, Süleymaniye Library, Istanbul.

16 Midhat, Ahmet, Beşair-i Sıdk-ı Nübüvet-i Muhammediye (Istanbul: Kirk Anbar Matbaasi, 1894), 9798Google Scholar.

17 Cündioğlu, Türkçe'de İbadet, 27.

18 Bereketzade, İsmail Hakkı, “Necaib-i Kurʾaniye,” Sırat-ı Müstakim 1, no. 2 (1908): 2326Google Scholar.

19 Bigiev, Musa, Halk Nazarına bir Niçe Mesele (Kazan: Mahmud ʿAlim Efendi Maqsudov, 1912), 93Google Scholar.

20 Hakkı, Kılıçzade İsmail, “Pek Uyanık Bir Uyku,” İctihad 4, no. 55 (1913): 1227Google Scholar; idem, “Pek Uyanık Bir Uyku,” İctihad 4, no. 57 (1913): 1263. For an English translation of this text, see Hanioğlu, M. Şükrü, “Garbcılar: Their Attitudes toward Religion and Their Impact on the Official Ideology of the Turkish Republic: Appendix,” Studia Islamica 86 (1997): 150–58Google Scholar.

21 Efgani, Ubeydullah, Kavm-i Cedid (Istanbul: Şems Matbaası, 1915), 1516Google Scholar.

22 Nasuhi, Ömer, “Nasaih-i KurʾaniyeHayrʾül-Kelam 1, no. 4 (1913): 2729Google Scholar.

23 Translation is my own. Gökalp, Ziya, Ziya Gökalp Külliyatı: I. Şiirler Ve Halk Masalları, ed. Tansel, Fevziye Abdullah (Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevi, 1952), 113Google Scholar.

24 Milaslı, İsmail Hakkı, “Kur'an-ı Kerim Tercüme Olunabilir Mi?” (Can the Noble Qur'an Be Translated?), Sebilürreşad 15, no. 390 (1919): 447Google Scholar.

25 Bereketzade, İsmail Hakkı, Tefsir-i Şerif Envar-ı Kurʾan (Istanbul: Selanik Matbaası, 1915)Google Scholar; Kazım, Musa, Safvetʾül-Beyan fi Tefsirʾil-Kurʾan (Istanbul: Matbaa-i Amire, 1919)Google Scholar.

26 Kurʾan-ı Kerim Tercüme ve Tefsiri (Istanbul: İbrahim Hilmi, 1914).

27 Şirani, Ahmet, “Kurʾan-ı Kerim Tercümesi Hakkında,” Hayrʾül-Kelam 1, no. 17 (1914): 136Google Scholar.

28 Amit Bein, “The Ulema, Their Institutions, and Politics in the Late Ottoman Empire (1876–1924)” (PhD diss., Princeton University, 2006), 282–85.

29 Ibid., 222–23.

31 Edip, Eşref, “Kurʾan-ı Kerim'in Tercümesi,” Sebilürreşad 23, no. 597 (1924): 386Google Scholar.

32 Tevfik's translation was also released in the same year under the titles Zübdetʾül-Beyan and Kurʾan-ı Kerim'in Tercüme ve Tefsiri.

33 M. Sabri Koz, “Mehmed Tevfik ve Süleyman Tevfik,” Müteferrika Kış, no. 4 (1994): 51.

34 Ibid., 52–58, for a bibliography of Tevfik's works.

35 Dücane Cündioğlu, “Türkçe Kurʾan Çevirilerinin Siyasî Bağlamında Bir Kurʾan Mütercimi: Süleyman Tevfik,” Müteferrika Yaz, no. 13 (1998): 22.

36 Naci Kasım's advertisement appeared in several newspapers: İleri, 7 April 1924; İkdam, 7 April 1924; İleri, 10 April 1924. See Cündioğlu, “Süleyman Tevfik,” 33.

37 Ibid., 32–33.

38 Ibid., 33.

39 Edip, Eşref, “Kurʾan-ı Kerim Tercümeleri Hakkında,” Sebilürreşad 24, no. 599 (1924): 11Google Scholar.

42 Edip, Eşref, “Kurʾan-ı Kerim'in Tercümesi,” Sebilürreşad 23, no. 596 (1924): 377Google Scholar.

43 İbrahim Hilmi, “Nurʾul-Beyan,” Vatan, 17 Nisan 1924, 5 (advertisement).

44 Hüseyin Kazım Kadri, Meşrutiyet'ten Cumhuriyet'e Hatıralarım, ed. İsmail Kara (Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 1991), 7.

45 Ibid., 8.

46 Ibid., 24.

47 Ibid., 12, n. 5.

48 Ibid., 15.

49 Ibid., 16–17.

50 Hüseyin Kazım Kadri under the pen name Fani, Şeyh Muhsin-i, Nurʾul-Beyan: Kurʾan-i Kerim'nin Türkçe Tercümesi (İstanbul: Matbaa-ı Amire, 1924), iiiGoogle Scholar.

53 The two most commonly cited Turkish language tefsir works of the period are Antebi, Mehmet Debbagzade, Tefsir-i Tıbyan (Cairo: Bulaq, 1842)Google Scholar and ʿAli, Husayn b. (Waʾiz) al-Kashifi, Tefsir-i Mevakib Tercüme-i Tefsir-i Mevahib, trans. Ferruh, İsmail (Istanbul: Matbaa-ı Amire, 1865)Google Scholar.

54 Fani, Şeyh Muhsin-i (Hüseyin Kazım Kadri), “Hazret Şeyhʾin Sebil'e İlk ve Son Cevabı,” reprinted in “Kurʾan-ı Kerim Tercümeleri Hakkında,” Sebilürreşad 24, no. 599 (1924): 8Google Scholar.

55 Edip, “Kurʾan-ı Kerim'in Tercümesi,” 386–89; idem, “Kurʾan-ı Kerim Tercümeleri Hakkında,” Sebilürreşad 24, no. 599 (1924): 8–11; “Kurʾan Tercümelerindeki Hatalar,” Sebilürreşad 24, no. 601 (1924): 35–37.

56 Rifat (Börekçi), , “Beyan-ı Hakikat Müslümanlara,” Sebilürreşad 24, no. 599 (1924): 78Google Scholar.

57 Ibid., 8.

58 See his response to the Directorate of Religious Affairs: Şeyh Muhsin-i Fani, “Bazı İzahat-ı Mühimme,” in Nurʾ ul-Beyan, Appendix, 2–7.

59 Sait (Dikel), Cemil, “Bir Kurʾan Mutercimi Cemil Said'in Kendi Kaleminden Özgeçmişi,” ed. Cündioğlu, Dücane, Dergah, IX, no. 100 (1998): 46Google Scholar.

61 Cemil Sait (Dikel), Kurʾan-ı Kerim Tercümesi (Istanbul: n.p., 1924), 3.

62 Ibid., 4.

63 Ibid., 5.

64 Akseki, Ahmet Hamdi, “Türkçe Kurʾan Namındaki Kitabın Sahibi Cemil Said'e,” Sebilürreşad 24, no. 624 (1924): 404Google Scholar.

65 This popular French translation was de Biberstein-Kazimirski, Albert, Le Koran (Paris: Charpentier, 1832)Google Scholar. It was reprinted subsequently in sundry editions.

66 Sait, “Bir Kurʾan Mutercimi Cemil Said'in Kendi Kaleminden Özgeçmişi,” 47.

67 Aksekili, “Türkçe Kurʾan,” 404.

68 Rifat (Börekçi), , “İkaz,” Sebilürreşad 24, no. 620 (1924), 349Google Scholar.

69 Kazım, Şeref, “Yeni Neşriyat: Kurʾan Tercümeleri,” Mihrab 1, no. 1 (1924): 352Google Scholar.

70 “Yeni Tefsircilerden Müslümanların Ricası,” Sebilürreşad 24, no. 602 (1924): 64.

72 Börekçi, “İkaz,” 349.

73 Börekçi, “Beyan-ı Hakikat,” 8.

74 Edip, “Kurʾan-ı Kerim'in,” 599: 11.

75 Börekçi, “Beyan-ı Hakikat,” 8.

76 Edip, “Kurʾan-ı Kerim'in,” 599: 11.

77 Edip, “Kurʾan-ı Kerim'in,” 597: 386.

78 Edip, “Kurʾan Tercümelerindeki,” 601: 37.

79 “Yeni Tefsircilerden,” 64.

80 Börekçi, “Beyan-ı Hakikat,” 7.

81 ʿAli, Muhammad, The Holy Qurʾan: Containing Arabic Text with English Translation and Commentary (Woking, U.K.: Islamic Review Office, 1917)Google Scholar.

82 Edip, “Kurʾan-ı Kerim'in,” 597: 387.

83 Cündioğlu, Bir Kurʾan, 107.

84 Türk Büyük Millet Meclisi Zabıt Ceridesi, II. İntihab Devresi, İkinci İctima Celse, 2 February 1925 (Ankara: T.B.M.M. Matbaası), 210–27.

85 Fergan, Eşref Edip, Mehmed Akif: Hayati-Eserleri ve 70 Muharririn Yazıları (Istanbul: Asari İlmiye Kütüphanesi Neşriyatı, 1938), 187Google Scholar. Emphasis added.

86 Ertuğrul Düzdağ and M. Orhan Okay, “Mehmed Akif Ersoy,” in Türk Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi, 432–34.

88 Fergan, Mehmet Akif, 190.

89 Ibid., 201.

90 Sağdıç, Ruhi Naci, “Kurʾan Tercemeleri Münasebetiyle Mehmed Akif Merhum Hakkında Hatıralar,” Sebilürreşad 11, no. 2 (1958): 281–83Google Scholar.

91 Cündioğlu, Akif, 129–30.

92 Düzdağ and Okay, “Mehmet Akif Ersoy,” 434.

93 Fergan, Mehmet Akif, 186–205. Cündioğlu has compiled translations of verses that Akif published in various works, but these are not synonymous with the complete translation that was reportedly burned: Cündioğlu, Dücane, Mehmed Akif'in Kur'an Tercümeleri (Istanbul: Kaknüs, 2005)Google Scholar.

94 Bein, “The Ulema,” 209.

95 Yusuf Şevki Yavuz, “Elmalılı Muhammed Hamdi,” in Türk Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi, 57–58. Very little has been written on Elmalılı in English. On Elmalılı's understanding of the concept “religion,” see Karamustafa, Ahmet, “Elmalılı Muhammed Hamdi Yazır's Philosophy of Religion (1848–1946),” Archivum Ottomanicum, 19 (2001): 273–79Google Scholar. Susan Gunasti's doctoral dissertation in progress (Princeton University) on Elmalılı's commentary will provide a much needed study of Elmalılı, his magnum opus, and late Ottoman tefsir works.

96 Yazır, Elmalılı Muhammed Hamdi, Hak Dini Kurʾan Dili: Yeni Mealli Türkçe Tefsir (Istanbul: Matbaa-ı Ebüzziya, 1935), 9Google Scholar. The translation is my own. I have altered the original format in order to accentuate the rhyme pattern.

97 Ibid., 8–9.

99 Ibid., 9.

100 Ibid.

101 Barnstone, Willis, Poetics of Translation (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993), 16Google Scholar.

102 Elmalılı, Hak Dini, 12.

103 Ibid., 12.

104 Ibid., 15.

105 Ibid. Emphasis added.

106 Cündioğlu's Türkçe Kurʾan ve Cumhuriyet İdeolojisi describes this campaign in detail.

107 Elmalılı, Hak Dini, 15; Cündioğlu, Türkçe Kurʾan, 65.

108 Elmalılı, Hak Dini, 16.

109 Cündioğlu, Türkçe Kurʾan, 65.

110 Elmalılı, Hak Dini, 15.

111 Nearly all recent printings of Hak Dini Kurʾan Dili translate the work into contemporary Turkish through the process of “simplification” (sadeleştirme) to facilitate the language for contemporary readers. For example, see Yazır, Elmalili M. Hamdi, Hak Dini Kurʾan Dili: Meâli, ed. Kılıç, Sadık and Cebeci, Lütfullah (Ankara: Akçag, 2006)Google Scholar.

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