M. Brett WilsonApr 6, 2015
Translating the Qur'an in an Age of Nationalism
Print Culture and Modern Islam in Turkey
University Press 2014
Muslim debates regarding the translation of the Qur'an are very old. However, during the modern period they became heated because local communities around the globe were rethinking their relationship to scripture in new social and political settings. M. Brett Wilson, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Macalester College, provides a rich history of how this conversation unfolding with the late Ottoman period and Republic of Turkey in Translating the Qur'an in an Age of Nationalism: Print Culture and Modern Islam in Turkey (Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2014). The Qur'an's translatability is contested from various perspectives (both old and new) but emerging print technologies, shifting political authority, and changing economies of knowledge production offer contemporary challenges that mark the demand for Turkish translations. Wilson narrates the production of vernacular interpretations and commentaries, unofficial translations, and a state-sponsored project. In many cases, translation was viewed as a tool of progress, modernization, and Turkish nationalism. For others, it led to vernacular ritual practice and the disharmony of the global Muslim community. He also investigates the role of religious authorities, lay community members, publishers, calligraphers, Protestant missionaries, Arab neighbors, and the government in the creation and rejection of Turkish translations of the Qur'an. In our conversation we discuss print technologies, vernacular commentaries, shipping and trade, Ottoman politics, secularism, Arab nationalism, everyday ritual worship, and arguments about the Qur'an's translatability.