Translations of the Qur'án and Introductory Books on the Bahá'í Faith, Recommendations Concerning
by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice2002-08-19
The Research Department has studied the questions on the above-mentioned subjects raised by Mr. ___ in his email message of 8 June 2002 to the Universal House of Justice. We provide the following comments.
Mr. ___ explains that he is aware of Shoghi Effendi’s statements concerning the positive features of the early English translations of the Qur’án by Rodwell and Sale. He indicates that, since the Sale translation has long been out of print, he has contemplated typing the Sale translation of the text and the accompanying notes to make them available online. Before embarking on such a project, Mr. ___ seeks guidance as to whether the Rodwell and Sale translations may have been superseded by more recent translations of the Qur’án.
The Research Department has not been able to locate any specific guidance of the Universal House of Justice concerning the use of more recent translations of the Qur’án. It is interesting to note that in relation to the use of more recent renderings of the Bible1 the Universal House of Justice, in the letter written on its behalf to a National Spiritual Assembly on 2 December 1987, affirms that “there is nothing in statements made by Shoghi Effendi to indicate that the friends may not use other translations of the Bible”, and in response to an inquiry from the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia concerning the permissibility of using other versions of the Bible for readings in the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, the letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice stated:
...there do not appear to be any grounds for limiting selected readings from the
Bible to the Authorized Version only [and] the decision is left entirely to your discretion. (13 November 1974)
In the light of the guidance from the Universal House of Justice concerning the Bible, and in the absence of specific authoritative statements concerning new translations of the Qur’án, it seems reasonable to assume that individuals are free to exercise their discretion when choosing which translation of the Qur’án to use.
As to translations of the Qur’án, it is the view of the Research Department that there are a number of very good translations, in addition to those done by Sale and Rodwell. To some extent, the choice of a particular translation is dictated by the specific needs and purpose of the reader–some translations have helpful notes, others number each verse, others include both the
Arabic and English texts, some project the approach of the particular sect of Islám they support, some are literary, etc.
Introductory Books on the Bahá’í Faith
Aware of the Guardian’s praise of J. E. Esslemont’s “Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era”, Mr. ___ enquires whether the Universal House of Justice “would recommend any more recent introductions to the Bahá’í Faith”. As suggested by Mr. ___, in the years since Esslemont’s book was first published, the range and scope of Bahá’í literature has been greatly enhanced. While “Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era” continues to be an invaluable textbook on the Faith, it is now possible to select Bahá’í literature appropriate to the needs and interests of specific audiences. We provide below the short list of “Introductory Works”, prepared by the Bahá’í Office of Public Information, which appears in “The Bahá’í World, 2000-2001”:
Bahá’í International Community, Office of Public Information, 1991.
A brief statement detailing Bahá’u’lláh’s life and work issued on the occasion of
the centenary of His passing.
John Esslemont. 5th rev. paper ed. (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1980)2.
The first comprehensive account of the Bahá’í Faith, written in 1923 and updated for subsequent editions.
William S. Hatcher and J. Douglas Martin. rev. ed. (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing
Textbook providing an overview of Bahá’í history, teachings, administrative structure, and community life.
“All Things Made New”
John Ferraby. 2d rev. ed. (London: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1987).
A comprehensive outline of the Bahá’í Faith.
2 Extensive corrections were made to the 1987 printing of the 1980 5th revised paper edition.