Claim: “People’s needs change in process of time. As it is declared in the Qur’ân, ‘Every day is different.’ To consider the fixed rules derived by the four leaders in the old times as a measure for the everyday needs means not to follow the Qur’ân. The founder of Islam knew that these would happen, so he said that the rules would change in the course of time. It is not compatible with Islam to measure the changing, improving needs with unsuitable rules. The ijtihâd of the four leaders does not mean the religion. As these learned and superior men derived religious rules from the Qur’ân and Hadîth, so every Muslim who has reached the grade of a mujtahid may very well derive new rules from these two sources.”
Answer: The reformer starts with the translation of the Qur’ân al-kerîm. Today, majority of those who say they are Muslims complain that the Qur’ân has not been translated up to now and that the religious knowledge has remained secret. They blame Islamic scholars as if these scholars have prohibited translating the Qur’ân. This complaint is quite wrong. Islamic scholars have not attempted to translate the Qur’ân into another language, for they have thought of themselves as incapable of translating Allâhu ta’âlâ’s Word without spoiling the expression, eloquence and perfection in its own language. However succesful the translation might be, it has been concluded that it is impossible to reach the deep meanings of Allâhu ta’âlâ’s Word. The Qur’ân has deep meanings that do not exist in other holy books. It descended at a time when contests of eloquence took place in Arabia, and it outshone all of them. Translation of such a book must have the same quality, which is impossible. Accomplishing a translation worth the Qur’ân, which has an eloquence above man’s ability, necessitates having ability above the human ability. This is a matter of ability, that is, it is a matter of protecting the superiority of the Qur’ân. Those who want to taste the flavour of eloquence and deep meanings in the Qur’ân have to learn Arabic literature and many a branch of Islamic knowledge such as tafsîr, usûl al-fiqh, and then they can enter the holy presence of the Qur’ân. They must not expect the Qur’ân to come to them.
Writing a Turkish explanation (tafsîr) of the Qur’ân and translating it into Turkish are different. Its translation is more difficult than explanation. It is not true that it has not been translated into or explained in Turkish. It has been, but it has not been liked by connoisseurs of the subject. Religion reformers are wrong in their claim that the first attempt belongs to Russian reformer. If the conscience of Muslims are supposed to escape slavery with a single translation as they say, they should have escaped it with former translations. Moreover, those who accomplished the Turkish explanations such as Mawâkib and Tibyân were not utterly ignorant in ethics and religious knowledge like those who attempt to translate it today are. They were authorized, prominent scholars having a say in each of the twenty main branches of knowledge and in the numerous helping branches of knowledge. Muslims have been reading and utilizing them. Do religion reformers, who do not like those Turkish explanations want a different translation suitable for their own points of view? A translation done by the ignorant who do not know even the Arabic grammar will be forced to be accepted as the Qur’ân by all Muslims, and religion reformers will call a haphazard Turkish translation of the Qur’ân “the Qur’ân” and have the Turks perform salât reciting such a Turkish “Qur’ân”. The real danger endangering one’s being Muslim, probably, is to attempt to recite any translation instead of the Qur’ân in salât, rather than translating the Qur’ân. The Divine Word in the Qur’ân is in its own Arabic words and sentences that are on the peak of eloquence and deep meaning. These words and sentences are not man-made. All of them have been arranged by Allâhu ta’âlâ. Each of them bears various meanings. It cannot be decided in which of these meanings is the Divine Purpose. None of the different translations done according to different meanings can ever be called the Qur’ân.
The âyats of the Qur’ân were given different meanings in different ijtihâds by the religious leaders, and a rule was derived from each of them by each leader, and these rules made up the four madhhabs, while at the same time the original unity of the Qur’ân was maintained. If the Qur’ân were translated according to the rules of each madhhab, what the Hanafîs, for instance, would recite in salât would be different from what the Shâfi’îs would recite, thus, each school of Muslims, each madhhab, would have a different religious book. Islam, like Christianity, would be in utter disorder. Do religion reformers want the Qur’ân to be translated so that Islam will fall into such a state? In order to protect the unity of the Holy Book of Muslims and to keep Allâhu ta’âlâ’s Book away from the smallest doubt, Muslim scholars have declared to preserve the Qur’ân as it came from Rasûlullah (sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam). Moreover, because a few âyats quoted by some of the prominent Sahâbîs, such as Abdullah ibn ’Abbâs, Abdullah ibn Mas’ûd and Hadrat ’Alî (radiy-Allâhu ’anhum) were very slightly different from the Qur’ân which we possess today and which was authorized unanimously by the majority of the Prophet’s companions, they were called qirâ’at shâdhdha (exceptional recitals) and, though they have been documents for the scholars of fiqh and used in explanations of the Qur’ân, they have never been permitted to recite in salât. How could it ever be permissible to recite Turkish or even Arabic translations, which have been done by this person or that and which are liked today and probably will not be liked and will take different shapes tomorrow, instead of the Qur’ân in salât? No Muslim scholar has permitted it. Al-Imâm al-a’zam Abû Hanîfa was reported to have said once that the Qur’ân could be read in Persian in salât, yet Nûh ibn Mariam said that the Imâm had changed this ijtihâd of his and the scholars of usûl were opposed to reciting it even in Persian.
Reading the Qur’ân even without understanding its meaning will be given thawâb. This is for protecting the Qur’ân, which stands for Islam’s constitution, from being altered. Turkish explanations or translations of the Qur’ân can be and have been written, and Islamic scholars have not forbidden this, yet it can neither bear the eloquence of the Qur’ân nor convey the Divine Purpose. Muslims who want to understand the Qur’ân and the subtleties in it and to taste the flavour of its eloquence should read it in its own language and they should not be reluctant to learn the knowledge necessary to enjoy its pleasure. As it is necessary to learn English, French and Arabic languages and literatures in order to understand and enjoy the delicacies in the poems of Shakespeare, Victor Hugo and Mahmûd Bâqî, so it is very wrong to attempt to understand the eloquence and subtleties of Allah’s Word without taking pains to learn the necessary knowledge to understand it. Reading anything, even if in Arabic, other than those words which Archangel Jabrâ’îl (’alaihi ’s-salâm) brought to our Prophet (sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sallam) never means reading the Qur’ân. Reading the Qur’ân when one is junub, for example, is harâm, though reading others is not harâm.
Religion reformers say that one should understand what one recites and what one asks from Allâhu ta’âlâ in salât. Such words indicate that they have not comprehended what ’ibâda means; the salât that man has to perform was not prescribed by man himself but by Allâhu ta’âlâ, who has declared to His Prophet (’alaihi ’s-salâm) how salât and the other kinds of ’ibâdât are to be performed and what is to be recited during performance. Hadrat Prophet (’alaihi ’s-salâm) himself performed them and told them to his companions exactly as he had been taught. Even Hadrat Prophet (’alaihi ’s-salâm) was not allowed to change the fard, wâjib and harâm, which he never did. Our religious leaders understood all of these by seeing and hearing them from the Prophet’s companions (radiy-Allâhu ’anhum), and they wrote them in their books. As these profoundly learned scholars reported, the Qur’ân al-kerîm to be recited in salât has to be in Allâhu ta’âlâ’s Word. The duty will have been done only in this way. Those who want to understand the meanings of what they recite in salât can learn their meanings beforehand easily by studying a little. Why should not they study for this while they study for many years, learn many a branch of knowledge and many a foreign language for worldly advantages? Outside of salât, a Muslim can pray to Allâhu ta’âlâ in his own language. He can learn the meaning of the âyats he recites in salât from the books of the Ahl as-Sunna scholars. Those who attempt to learn from books of the enemies of Islam and of the religion reformers will learn wrong, false, loathsome things and their toil will have been wasted.
In order to learn and teach the meanings in the Qur’ân and with pleasure, the religious knowledge correctly and to perform salât easily and Muslims all over the world use Arabic as the religious language. Muslim men have to perform the five daily prayers of salât in congregation in mosque. If everybody performed it with his own language, Muslims who are of various nationalities and speak different languages would not be able to perform salât together. The same danger arises if the khutba is translated. If it is read in various languages, Muslims will part into separate mosques for salât on Fridays and ’Iyd days, which will result in the danger of the breaking of the unity of Muslims.
Reformers try to eliminate the ijtihâds of our madhhab leaders in order to distort Islam. It is not right, neither for a reasonable friend nor for even an ignorant, slanderous enemy, to say, or even to think, that Islam was spoilt in the time of the Prophet’s companions. How would it ever be possible today to find the real shape of a religion if it had been spoilt one thousand three hundred years ago? If it had been spoilt, these reformers’ efforts to correct the religion, to make “true” ijtihâds, would have been in vain. If the basic knowledge of Islam had not been correctly available for the madhhab leaders, not even the name or sign of that knowledge would have remained for today’s religion reformers. They pretend to make ijtihâd under their masks not by depending on the Qur’ân and Hadîth but by making up false ideas with their own defective mind and short sight as they please. They say that the right and truth cannot be broken but at the same time they try to belittle the four madhhabs by saying, “How could all the four be right?” Further, their idea that ijtihâd should be free, that modern people, too, can make ijtihâd, is an attempt to break the truth into pieces. While each of them likes what he himself understands or thinks and blames others’ conclusions, and while they try to open the gate of ijtihâd, they do not even notice that they close it. Contrary to their nonsense, Islam has not limited the right and authority of making ijtihâd to four people. Each of the Prophet’s companions made ijtihâd, yet, because we do not possess today the collections of their ijtihâds, their madhhabs have been forgotten. Only the books of four madhhabs survived. Ijtihâd, like commentating or translating the Qur’ân, is a subject of specialization and ability. It is obvious that these reformers, who are unable even to distinguish things that cause disbelief and polytheism, do not possess this specialization and ability.