Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies
Over the course of the past two centuries, the central text of Islam has undergone twin revolutions. Around the globe, Muslim communities have embraced the printing and translating of the Qur'an, transforming the scribal text into a modern book that can be read in virtually any language.
What began with the sparse and often contentious publication of vernacular commentaries and translations in South Asia and the Ottoman Empire evolved, by the late twentieth century, into widespread Qur’anic translation and publishing efforts in all quarters of the Muslim world, including Arabic-speaking countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This is remarkable given that at the dawn of the twentieth century many Muslims considered Qur’an translations to be impermissible and unviable.
Nevertheless, printed and translated versions of the Qur’an have gained widespread acceptance by Muslim communities, and now play a central, and in some quarters, a leading role in how the Qur'an is read and understood in the modern world. Focusing on the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, and following the debates to Russia, Egypt, Indonesia, and India, this book tries to answer the question of how this revolution in Qur’anic book culture occurred, considering both intellectual history as well the processes by which the Qur’an became a modern book that could be mechanically reproduced and widely owned.
1. ‘The Mother of Civilisation’: The Printing Press and Illegal Copies of the Qur’an
2. Ottoman Editions of the Qur’an (1870–1890)
3. Vernacular Commentaries and the New Intellectuals
4. Politicisation: Neo-Arabism, Missionaries and the Young Turks (1908–1919)
5. Translation and the Nation
6. Caliph and Qur’an: English Translations, Egypt and the Search for a Centre
7. The Elusive Turkish Qur’an
8. An Ubiquitous Book
Index of Qur’anic Citations
‘Translating the Qur’an takes the reader through the intricate debates, historical moments, and personages centrally involved in the production of the Turkish Qur’an.’
– Micah Hughes, Marginalia
‘Brett Wilson’s book is a timely contribution to a field that is only just starting to emerge . . . highly recommended.'
– Johanna Pink, Review of Qur'anic Research
‘The research is impeccable and the presentation excellent. This book wonderfully addresses one of the most important religious and cultural issues of the time.’
– Ali Abd al-Malik, The Islamic Quarterly
‘Translating the Qur’an is a fascinating addition to the study of Islam in late Ottoman and early republican Turkey.’
– Guy Burak, Journal of Islamic Studies
‘Translating the Qur’an is a rich book offering vivid accounts of Muslims’ engagement with the Qur’an in modern times. It is a major accomplishment that provides a compelling perspective on how the theological, literary, social and economic aspects of Qur’an translation come into play in modernity. Wilson also offers a wide array of suggestions for further research and thinking, demonstrating that the question of translation offers unique and important tools for thinking about local and translocal manifestations of Islam in the global world.’
– Yunus Dogan Telliel, The Journal of Ottoman Studies
'Wilson’s book is a rare example of scholarship in which the fields of Islamic Studies and Ottoman/Turkish intellectual history converge together. His use of archival sources, publications, and texts in Turkish and Arabic enables the author to link Ottoman/Turkish intellectual history with that of the larger Islamic world . . . Translating the Qur’an is a must-read for those who want to explore the issue of the "Turkish Qur’an" in its wider context, as well as related debates about the need for Islamic reform as a necessary element of modernisation and progress in the Muslim world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.'
– Umut Azak, Journal of Qur’anic Studies
‘It is more than a little surprising that this topic has been largely neglected in Western European languages . . . This is not just the story of Qur’anic translation into Turkish but an important analysis of vernacularisation in Islamdom in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries . . . It will be seen as a basic text in the new generation of studies focused on “contemporary Islamic history”.’
– A. Kevin Reinhart, Associate Professor of Religion, Dartmouth College
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 Eastern Studies, Comparative Islamic Studies, and The Encyclopaedia of Women in Islamic Cultures.