News story

New Qur’anic Studies Publication Explores Translations of the Qu’ran in Turkey

20th November 2014

The IIS is pleased to announce the publication of M. Brett Wilson’s book Translating the Qur’an in an Age of Nationalism: Print Culture and Modern Islam in Turkey,the eleventh in the Qur’anic Studies SeriesThe book focuses on the emergence of translations and printings of the Qur’aninfo-icon in a period comprising the end of the Ottoman Empire to the emergence of the new Republic of Turkey, roughly between 1840 and 1940. It is the first historical survey of how the Qur’an became a ‘modern book’, that is, one which was mechanically reproduced, widely owned and read in a vernacular language (Turkish in this case).

The Ottoman printings of the Qur’an set new precedents for the text’s mass production in the Muslim world and beyond. Moreover, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the use of Turkish-language translations in Muslim rituals and in nation-building within the Turkish Republic shaped the general thinking about the function of translations in modern Muslim communities. During the period surveyed in the book, the taboos against translating and printing the Qur’an were broken. Muslims around the world came to understand the translation of the Qur’an as an important component for education and for disseminating teachings to Europe and America.

Professor Wilson combines Turkish History and Islamic Studies in this book, displaying new avenues of research that have come about by the cross-fertilisation of these two fields. His work draws extensively upon previously untapped material from the Ottoman archives, and from newspapers, memoirs and journals in both Turkish and Arabic. His research, therefore, bridges the gap between the Arabic and Turkish debates on religious modernisation and provides a new perspective on the transition process from empire to republic. The book also contains a number of seminal images, including an invaluable map, that lend vibrancy to Professor Wilson’s arguments providing a sense of time, place and context. Professor Wilson will give a lecture entitled The Making of Turkey: Printing and Translating the Qur’an as part of his book launch event on 8 December 2014 at the Institute.

Professor M. Brett Wilson is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Macalester College. He holds a PhD in Religion with a specialisation in Islamic Studies from Duke University. His scholarship has appeared in the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Comparative Islamic Studies and the Encyclopaedia of Women in Islamic Cultures. In the days prior to the Lecture/Book Launch, Professor Wilson will deliver a paper entitled Caliphinfo-icon and Qur’an: Re-imagining Religious Identity Across the Mediterranean (1919-1939) at the First Gingko Conference on The First World War and its Aftermath: The Shaping of the Middle East at the Gingko Library in London.