Klatt defends his interpretation of the Quran

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Re: “Heinz Klatt looking for reasons to decry the Quran”
Oct. 30, 2007

To the editor:
Newspapers, being what they are " disseminators of news rather than purveyors of debates " allow only minimum space to express coherent arguments. Misunderstandings are the necessary consequence. For this reason, I am grateful to the editor for allowing me to clarify some issues.

First of all, it should be said that virtually all public debates on Islam that I know of suffer from the ignorance of at least some participants. If a debater such as Mohd lumps the Old and new Testaments together (“the Bible”) and does not see, regarding the promotion of violence, that the Quran and the New Testament are at opposite extremes, then it is obvious that he does not know either one. What can he contribute besides ignorant judgments and trendy accusations (“Islamophobic”)?

Bakhtiar’s translation of the Quran is touted as “woman friendly” and as being from a “woman’s perspective.” Considering the dogma that the original Quran was deposited by Allah on tablets in heaven before the creation of the world, i.e., before the existence of women, and in Arabic before the Arabic language existed, such a “translation” is problematic.

For me as a psycholinguist, translations with any kind of “perspective” raise great concern.

I wholeheartedly agree with my critics that wherever the text allows, a non-violent translation should be sought. We all would benefit. If, however, the claim is made we are dealing with a translation rather than a commentary, then clear limits have to be respected. Good intentions have to be matched by integrity.

One particular point of contention is K4:34: “Those women from whom you fear disloyalty, admonish them, refuse to share their beds, scourge (beat) them” (Fr.: frappez-les; G: schlagt sie; Sp.: golpeadlas). Note that wives do not even have to be disloyal to deserve the whip.

Bakhtiar gives four reasons for her idiosyncratic translation of K4:34 “go away.”

1. Mohammad “was a model for humanity”;
2. Mohammad never beat women, therefore the classical translation of “beating them” cannot be correct;
3. Beating women “goes against both the legal and moral principles of the Quran;”
4. “To beat ... contradicts another verse” in the Quran.

One particular event in Mohammad’s life destroys all her and my critics’ arguments:

Asma bint Marwan was a poetess who wrote couplets deriding her contemporaries for trusting Mohammad.

According to the earliest Muslim sources, Mohammad asked: “Will no one rid me of this daughter of Marwan?” Umayr complied and, at night, broke into the woman’s chamber where she slept surrounded by her children with one of them at her breast. Umayr removed the suckling baby and pierced the mother with his sword. Next morning, in the mosque at prayer, Mohammad asked Umayr:

“Have you murdered the daughter of Marwan?”

“Yes, but tell me now, is there cause for apprehension?”

“None,” said Mohammad, “a couple of goats will hardly knock their heads together for it.”

Mohammad praised him for his services to God and his Prophet. The rest of the family was forced to accept Islam, which reflected Mohammad’s interpretation of the Quranic injunction: K2:256 “Let there be no compulsion in religion.”

It is obvious that Islam needs other reforms than feminist translations of the Quran.
"Heinz Klatt
Professor Emeritus of Psychology

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette