Some Questions for Arabic-Speaking Christians

I've posted this to several Christian communities on-line because I'm trying to get as wide an opinion as possible on something I have little expertise in so that I can learn. I hope I am not breaking rules in posting this in more than one area of your community. If so, feel free to merge threads or something.  :)

It is often claimed by Muslims that the Quran's unsurpassing beauty and inimitability as well as its poetic superiority over all the sixteen genres of classical Arabic poetry constitute, in and of itself, a miraculous sign of Muhammad's prophethood and proof of Divine inspiration. Now, I know you're all Christians - as am I - but I'm interested in genuinely and honestly confronting this claim in an intellectual manner. So I prepared a few questions about for you that can understand, speak, read or write classical Arabic, al-fusha. You can answer some or all of the questions here depending on how they apply to you or how much knowledge you have on the subject.

1. What are your impressions of Qur'anic Arabic? Do you find it beautiful? Is it the poetry of the language, the melody of the recitation or the meaning of the words that you find beautiful? Would you consider it to be so hauntingly beautiful as to be miraculous in and of itself?

2. If you do not find it beautiful, what is it that you find unpleasant? Is it the poetry of the language (old-fashioned grammar, literary devices etc.), the melody (you prefer Western music, etc.) or the meaning of the words (strong doctrinal disagreement).... or a combination of any of these?

3. I was told that the Van Dyke translation of the Bible into fusha Arabic was translated by Protestant scholars wishing to replace older, awkward translations that did not appeal to the native Arabic speaker's ear. I've been told it's a clear, yet slightly archaic translation of the Bible. Have you heard it read it or heard it chanted? What is your impression of it? Do you find it beautiful or not? What is it about the text's poetry, recitation melody or meaning do you find beautiful or not beautiful?

3. What denomination of Christianity do you identify with (Coptic, Maronite, Greek Orthodox, RC, Chaldean, Syriac, Assyrian, Armenian, Protestant)? Which translation of the Bible into Arabic is most commonly used in your worship and liturgies? If the liturgical language is not Arabic but your community speaks Arabic, which translation is used for devotional reading?

4. If you are Catholic and Orthodox and your community uses the Van Dyke translation, are you ever worried about Protestant influence (Masoretic vs. Septuagint)? What translation is used when your community's lectionary has a reading from the Deuterocanon? 

5. I was told that the Jesuit translation of the Arabic Bible is in a fusha that is even more heightened? Do you find it beautiful or not? How does it differ from the Van Dyke (beauty, textual differences, level of scholarship? If you are Protestant and your community uses the Jesuit translation, are you ever worried about Catholic influence? 

6. Over all, does your preferred translation have a style that you feel is superior, inferior or equal to the Arabic of the Quran? 

7. Would you support a new translation of the Bible into Arabic, for the purposes of having an ecumenical and united Christian witness to Arabic speakers, or do you feel that frequent re-translations would only further strengthen Islamic accusations of tahrif (a People of the Book corrupting and changing their own Scriptures)?

8. Do you understand Arabic? Do you speak Arabic? Do you read Arabic literature (websites, books, newspaper)? Do you ever write in Arabic?


  • I'm not an Arabic speaker but re #7 absolutely not! True ecumenism starts with complete doctrinal unity, and therefore I would only support a pan-Orthodox translation. A 'non-denominational' translation is simply just code for Protestant.
  • I don't find Quranic Arabic particularly beautiful. The reason is its full of gibberish. I mean no offence by saying this, but it is so non sensical. Its like the ramblings of someone who needs a good night's sleep.

    Arabic is generally a beautiful language. Its beautiful because there are words, not phrases, but WORDS, that are poetic. Listen to any Om Khalsoum song, or Abdel Halim Hafez song:

    Ahwak, watmana laow ansak, wansa ro7hee wa-yak, wanda3it teba fadak lauwe tensanee. 

    Or Om Khalsoum:

    When she sings Amal Hayatee. its all very poetic, but some of this stuff you can't even translate it in English otherwise you dilute its beauty: for example:

    Amalee, hayatee, 3inaya, ya aghla menee, ya aghla menee 3alaya. 

    How on EARTH do you translate that without doing disservice to its meaning???

    you cannot translate it, and its meaning, its sense is in Arabic. The only way you'll ever understand this verse, or the words of this song, is if your mother or father had ever used any of these words with you.

    The quran is so much full of violence, that it doesn't tend to use words that are full of love. Muslims aren't sons of God, but "slaves" to God. Go figure what kind of language you can expect to find. 
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