God's Mercy is Not Limiterd to Arabic Speakers: Issues of authority and legitimacy in the translation of Islam into local languages

God's Mercy is Not Limiterd to Arabic Speakers: Issues of authority and legitimacy in the translation of Islam into local languages

Wednesday, 27 November 2013 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Venue: 
Deakin Room, Founder’s Building, St Antony’s College
Speaker(s): 
Saiful Umam (Imam Bukhari Visiting Research Fellow, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies)
Chair: 
Dr Matthew Walton
Convenor: 
Dr Matthew Walton
Series: 
Southeast Asia Seminar

There is no doubt that Arabic has a very central position in Islam. Not only was Arabic the language of the Qur’an, the Prophet and his companions, but it was also the standard language for the authoritative texts on branches of Islamic knowledge. Following the expansion of Islam to non-Arabic speaking lands, translation has become necessary in order to make Islam comprehensible among the lay people, although the languages of translation have never been on par with Arabic. In Indonesia, for example, standard texts taught in traditional educational institutions (pesantren) have continuously been in Arabic, and translation is done orally by teachers in front of students.

This talk discusses the works of Muhammad Salih ibn Umar al-Samarani, a Muslim scholar from Central Java, Indonesia, who lived in the 19th century. Salih, unlike other scholars, translated and composed Islamic texts in Javanese and defended their authority and legitimacy as well as their significance, especially in uplifting religious knowledge of the Javanese Muslims. The talk will assess some questions, such as why Salih decided to write in Javanese; how he defended the authority of non- Arabic Islamic texts; and to what extent his works were accepted among Javanese Muslim scholars.