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Qur'an for Dessert

Updated: May 10

When I used to run a banquet and event hall, many customers took advantage of our in-house catering. Over the years, I baked thousands of biscotti, baklava, butter cookies, and more. After so much practice, I still know these recipes by heart. If one day I should meet a customer with a dairy allergy, I would need to replace the butter with something more suitable. But swapping butter for a plant-based spread would change the percentage of liquid and fat in the recipe, so I may have to compensate by adjusting other ingredients. In the end, I’m sure we could come up with a scrumptious treat, but it would be different than the original.

So it goes with reworking the translation of the Qur’an. Once a change is made, I must ask myself, what does this imply for the remainder of the verse? for the remainder of the chapter? for how this theme presents itself throughout the text? It is a delicate process executed with the help of many reference materials. But, it is so exciting. Some of the changes I am seeing have major domino effects on how we can understand the Qur’an’s messages and directives.

Perhaps it is because I am currently focusing on this topic, but I feel that one of the most significant points of transition between the conventional and the new is the area of relationships in society, specifically gender roles. As we saw in last week’s post, the Qur’an does not specifically discuss men and women. Instead, we are talking about different categories of people in society or in a community. Eliminating the idea of gender and replacing it with this fresh concept of “more advanced” versus “less developed” (be it in areas of knowledge, skill, faith, etc.) demands that we rexamine critically controversial verses such as Chapter al-Nisa’ verse 34, commonly referred to as “the wife-beating verse,” as well as others conventionally understood to treat issues of inheritance, modest dress, domestic responsibilities, and more. Now that we’ve swapped out the butter—what other ingredients need modification to uphold the recipe’s integrity?

As a matter of course, I propose we stop at nothing and no word to reveal the most beautiful message we can. Every word and grammatical construct must be carefully considered, so that the final product is as true to its nature as it can be. After all, “even if” it’s vegan and gluten-free, a cookie remains a delicious dessert. In some ways, it may even be healthier than its conventional counterpart.

I look forward to sharing more freshly-baked translations of the Qur’an with you soon.

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