Lecture Tangier Global Forum Lecture Series
Lawrence will explore the saga of the Arabic Qur'an beyond the Arab world. It is an untold, complex and engaging story. In 1900 there were but 5 translations into English; now, less than 120 years later, there are more than 115, almost one a year, including an illustrated American Quran (2015). It is South Asian Muslims, most converts and not Qur'an scholars, who have produced the best known Koran translations. Why do they labor to transform rhythmic Arabic into often prosaic English? Can a book revealed in Arabic convey its sacred sounds and lofty meanings in English? The task is daunting. It poses a dilemma best etched by Ibrahim Abu Nab: "Its verses cannot be translated but they must be translated." This talk provides a roadmap to those valiant explorers of the path that winds from the Arabic Qur'an to the English Koran.
Bruce B. Lawrence taught at Duke for 40 years until he retired in 2011 as Marcus Family Humanities Professor of Religion. He is also Professor of Islamic Studies Emeritus, specializing in premodern Islam, South Asian Sufism, and Islamicate cosmopolitans. He is currently Adjunct Professor at the Alliance of Civilizations Institute, Istanbul. He received his Ph.D. in History of Religions at Yale University. Among his nineteen books are two recent monographs: Who is Allah? (UNC Press, 2015) and The Koran in English (Princeton University Press, 2017). With Vincent J. Cornell (Emory), he is co-editing The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Islamic Spirituality (forthcoming, 2019).