The translated Qur’an has linguistic errors, says southeastern scholars
The errors are minimal, shall be corrected – Translator
+ The untold story about the Friday, July 1, launching
When Ustadh Muhammad Muritala Chukwuemeka on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 led the Igbo Muslims Da’wah Group to the head office of Daily Trust in Abuja to announce plans to launch the first Holy Qur’an translated into Igbo language, many Muslims were happy with and expressed eagerness to witness such ingenuity, just as they took to various media platforms to celebrate the translator.
Ustadh Muritala, a renowned Comparative Religious scholar, told his host that the task of translating Qur’an into Igbo language took him five years to complete, noting that he and his team decided to spread Allah’s message to their Igbo Brothers through the translated Qur’an.
The Imo-born scholar scheduled the formal launching for Friday, July 1, 2022 at Ansar-Ud-Deen Mosque, Maitama, Abuja, calling on well-meaning Nigerians to attend and support mass production of the holy Book in order to spread Allah’s peaceful message to the Igbos in the South East and other parts of Nigeria.
“It took me not less than five years before completing the translation. We are calling on well-to-do Nigerians to assist in mass production of the holy Book. Presently, we have printed 500 copies and 100 copies have already been sent to the South East,” he said, as quoted by Daily Trust.
Concerns over ‘linguistic errors’
However, as the D-Day was being anticipated, a number of Igbo Muslim scholars and personalities have started raising concerns about the translated Qur’an. They observed some linguistic dissonance right from the cover of the Holy Qur’an, thereby suggesting that the printing be halted and launching suspended.
The concerned Igbo Muslims also alleged the translator, Ustadh Muritala, a native of Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State, of not carrying relevant stakeholders and respected Muslim leaders along in such a huge task.
The first Igbo translation of Quran has been published in Nigeria.
— BBC News Africa (@BBCAfrica) July 2, 2022
The spokesperson of the South Eastern Muslims Organisation of Nigeria (SEMON), Yahya Faruq Abugu, while reacting to the development, said the publication came as a surprise to him because many Igbo Muslim scholars and leaders were also not aware of the development.
According to him, “The Shaykh (Ustadh Muritala) is unknown to us. We have a lot of renowned scholars of both Arabic and Igbo languages. An example is Professor Ilyas Usman of Arabic Department, Nasarawa State University. We have Dr. Amaechi Bn Ali with National Open University. We have Barr. Haroun Eze of National Mosque to mention but a few. None of these mentioned above know this translator. He never consulted them to seek input or scholarly advice before going ahead with the huge task.”
Nso Koran or Qur’an Nso
While commending the effort, Abugu identified linguistic errors on the cover page of the translated Qur’an, noting, if the translator had consulted properly such mistakes would have been avoided.
He, however, clarified that his comment was not to condemn Ustadh Muritala Chukwuemeka, but to ensure things are done rightly because all Muslims have a stake in the Qur’an.
“For instance, on that cover page alone, we have observed some key errors. Nso, has many meanings in Igbo language; the easiest meaning that can be read to that caption, ‘Nso Koran’ means what Qur’an forbids’ followed closely by ‘What the Qur’an sees as sacrilege’. No Igbo person will readily read Nso Koran to mean Holy Qur’an. Holy Qur’an in Igbo language should be ‘Qur’an Nso’.
Okwu Igbo or Asusu Igbo/Olu Igbo
Speaking further, Abugu said the ‘Okwu Igbo’ as written on the cover of the translated Qur’an does not mean Igbo language. Igbo language should have been written as ‘olu Igbo’ or ‘asusu Igbo’ and not ‘Okwu Igbo’.
“Changing Qur’an to ‘Koran’ is also wrong. Qur’an is the name and should have been allowed to remain so,” he added.
The SEMON Spokesperson, however, said the identified errors would have been avoided if the translator had made extensive research and consulted scholars of languages widely, especially those who are both versatile in Arabic and Igbo languages.
“If he had consulted widely and carried a few more scholars along, these are avoidable mistakes. Now, we the Igbo Ummah are being careful, if only on the cover there are conspicuous errors like this, what will be the case inside? This is not a condemnation but to put things in proper perspective. We will do our best to call him and encourage him to consult other scholars who understand Igbo and Arabic grammar very well, with the aim of having a review before the copies get to the public.”
Why translated Qur’an is difficult to read
Also reacting, Acting Chairman of SEMON, Dr. Sulayman Afikpo said it was commendable that a brother (Mallam Chukwuemeka) invested his time and resources to see to the pressing need of the community.
Breaking News : Mallam Chukwuemeka Murtala Muhammad begins the distribution of Igbo translation of the Holy Quran in Ansarudeen Masjid ,Abuja today . Thousands of copies will be distributed in the SouthEast in the coming days. May Allah Reward Mallam Chukwuemeka Bountifully. pic.twitter.com/9ONxNTq3Md
— ᴏnowvo_ᴏᴍᴀsᴏʀᴏ ᴀʟɪ ᴏᴠɪᴇ ™☤🇳🇬 (@OvieNews) July 1, 2022
He, however, added that whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well, as the publication should be thoroughly reviewed before any launch to protect the image of the Igbo Muslim community.
“A quick look at the cover of the book shows the translation was a direct rendering of English translations of Qur’an into Igbo language and as such, distorted the meanings of some Arabic words. E.g: Nso means holy in Igbo language and could as well mean unholy or forbidden things, it depends on application. Fronting Nso before the Koran (Nso Koran) gives it a different meaning away from HOLINESS. The brother should be advised,” Afikpo noted.
He added: “Igbo language is read with the help of dots (ntupo) to differentiate u fron ụ, o from ọ etc. The book was printed devoid of such by the printers and reviewers, which makes reading and understanding of the detail meaning a cumbersome exercise. Such should be taken care of before any launch.
“There are numerous typographical errors that commenced from Suratul Fatiha all through the book. Definitely, there was no proof-reading before final printing. The significance and diligence of the proof-readers and reviewers as listed in the book should be called to question. The book quotes; HRH, Sheikh Fatai Emetumah, Ustadh Amin Igwegbe, Suleiman Okenwa and Barr. Yusuf Sulaimon Njoku. I suggest they go back to the pages and do the needed job and recall the already printed copies due to numerous errors.
“While these are just surface observations, the book calls for urgent review from the community before any launch. The reputation of the reviewers and collective reputation of the community are indeed at stake, if neglected.”
Meanwhile, Muslim News findings revealed that it was actually Professor Jumbo Ugoji who pioneered the Qur’an to be translated into Igbo language. Sources claim that the Professor achieved the feat in 1984 — five years before Chukwuemeka accepted Islam.
The credit for the first Qur’an to be translated into Igbo Language goes to Professor Jumbo Ugoji in 1984, according to his daughter, Ngozi Ugoji, who shared the cover and some pages of the publication with Daily Times Publisher, Jaafar Jaafar.
Ustadh Muritala reacts…
Responding to the development, the translator, Ustadh Muritala said the launching was not outrightly canceled, but said the event was still-birthed because people didn’t show up despite social media publicity.
“We were at the venue on that Friday. We were there for the launch. However, we didn’t see people at all. People didn’t turn up, despite the publicity. It was disappointing”, he said.
Ustadh Chukwuemeka dismissed the insinuation that the launch was boycotted due to the controversy surrounding the translation.
“It was due to poor planning. We didn’t send invites out on time. In fact, there were people we gave invitation letters that very day. Besides, there was a nikkah ceremony in the Ansar-Ud-Deen mosque on the same day. That’s why it wasn’t held again but we are planning to have another launching at the National Mosque, Abuja after Eid-el-Adha celebration, in shaa Allah.”
I remember in 2018, when this man came to our plaza mosque at the lagos airport, met with the bureau the change leaders explaining this plan, they have really put in a lot of work, May Allah bless them abundantly. #IgboQuran translation. pic.twitter.com/h6UHADFuuT
— Engr Yasir Arafat Jubril🏗🏢🌉🛤🛣 (@oil_shaeikh) July 1, 2022
On the linguistic errors, the Imo-born scholar admitted there were mistakes, saying they were minimal and shall be corrected in the revised edition.
According to him, “The error was minimal and I am working on some corrections in the Qur’an which will be effected in the updated version. There are some places that have “o” with dot under which are not meant to be. We’ll correct it. Correction is an ongoing process. We shall make necessary updates.
Providing insight into the debate over “Nso Koran” and “Qur’an Nso”, Ustadh Muritala Chukwuemeka said, while speaking with Muslim News on Sunday, “Actually, there is nothing wrong with Koran Nso. I spoke with some of them (the critics) yesterday, and explained it to them. Nso in Igbo Language means ‘Holy’. It should be ‘Holy Qur’an’ not “Qur’an Nso”, which means, ‘Qur’an Holy’.
Ustadh Chukwuemeka, however, maintained he is the first translator of the Igbo Qur’an, saying the translation of Prof. Ugoji had been rejected by the Igbo Muslim community a long time ago.
According to him, “The initial translation they are talking about was initiated by the Ahmadiyyah people. The Igbo Muslim community had condemned it. There is a general Igbo that everyone understands. That’s what I used in my own translation while Prof. Ugoji used Enugu Igbo in his own translation.
“There are some parts of Enugu Igbo that other Igbo speakers may not understand. It is just like Yoruba. If you are speaking Ondo Yoruba, an average Yoruba man may not understand. That’s the case with Enugu Igbo too.
“For my own translation, I adopted a simpler Igbo that could be understood by every speaker,” the comparative religion scholar said.
On not consulting Igbo Muslim scholars for guidance and professional input, he dismissed the insinuation, saying, “It is not true that I didn’t consult people. I did consultation with the likes of Mallam Sulaiman Okenwa, an Igbo scholar and others who are not so prominent though.
“For those criticising the work, their problem is that the feat didn’t emanate from them. They knew all this while that we needed such translation, but they did not attempt it,” he added.
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