Feb 26, 2011

Quran Translation needs Your Help.

I understand that the text here might seem a little long and boring, but please bear with me. This is important. If you must skim, please read the last few paragraphs.

About an year ago, I grew frustrated with the lack of a readily usable version of the Quran translation in Dhivehi. Back then, I wanted to be able to use the Dhivehi translation with Zekr; a free (as in freedom) versatile open source Quranic study tool that came standard with a multitude of translations, recitations, localizations and so forth. I wished that the Dhivehi translation was also included among these for everyone to benefit from. For this, I needed a standards compliant plaintext UNICODE version of the translation which, needless to say was not available.

I searched high and low to find such a text. The PDF's available on Presidency Maldives where just that. PDF's from which - despited many hours spent trying - nothing "useful" could be extracted. All the while, interest in the efforts grew, and a few of my friends (Bunyameen, his brothers, Nisham, Nadheem and so on to name a few) volunteered to help.

We approached the Islamic Ministry, the Presidents Office, and all our friends in nooks and crannies of the government trying to obtain in the very least, an MS Word document that we could work with. None of these people were willing to part with anything useful - officially stating the reason that the subject of the Quran Translation was too "volatile" for them to release it. That there were people looking for commercial/political/religious/social/etc gain from the text.




After it became apparent that this avenue was futile, we decided that the best and most "politically stable" way to go would be to type the whole thing out all over again. So we began this tall task not knowing if we'd ever be able to finish it. God willing, our small group, along with help from the impressing juggernaut that is Maldives Open Source Society were able to compile a usable enough package. Some of it was typed. Some of it was copy-pasted from various sources here and there.

We reviewed the whole thing best as we could, and contributed it to the Zekr and Tanzil (the de-facto hub for collecting all such translations). Malik (who played an instrumental role in the success of this project) and I (as MOSS) approached the islamic ministry, hoping they would review the text for errors. It took them a few months to tell us that they in fact, could not help us. We would have to approach the Presidents Office because they held the rights to it.

We then approached the Presidents Office for review and permission to make the text available for the public. Free of cost. After much negotiations and a meeting with those involved in the project, and press secretary Mohamed Zuhair it was agreed that we could release it as long as it met the following conditions:

  1. The text should not be used for commercial purposes.
  2. The text should be released as is in the official publication, without modifications.
  3. Presidents Office should be cited as THE SOURCE of the translation.
We had no problems with these terms. So we were happy. Our mission - for the most part - had been accomplished. We were promised a formal document in writing. The paperwork was put in - and as with all things related to a bureaucracy - soon lost and forgotten. Perhaps someday it will be found again and finalized. 

The text turned out to be a blessing for many and began to be used widely. I myself put the text in an iphone app and with Afxal's help, distributed it to the public. From the server stats, I can confidently say that a very significant portion of the Maldivian iPhone wielding populace are using it. I am told by a very good source that the former president Maumoon himself reviewed it, and was pleased to see his lifetimes work being put to good use.

The text is also now freely viewable on Tanzil.info, and is also downloadable for use with Zekr from their website.

Soon after we released the text (a week at most) , we saw a local website crop up utilizing the text. quran.mv was designed to be a scholarly research tool, with particular empasis on being easy to search - A job that it does very well. We approached the developers of quran.mv and decided to collaborate on improving,updating and maintaining the text. This collaboration is still ongoing. *note: The developer of the site told us that they had built the site ages ago, but could not launch it because they too didn't have anything usable.

We were also approached by a group of independent software developers who informed us that they had been working on a Quran software for some years now. They're agenda however was completely different from ours. While we wished a free to use, free to share, pure, verified and properly credited text - they wanted a commercialized version with their name on it. The debate was long and hard, but in the end we decided to both go our own ways. While I do not discourage business ventures like this, I do not agree that these things should be monopolized.

Now this is all very well. However, there is, a downside to this story. While all of this was going on, we became increasingly aware that the text contained some typographical errors, and that SOME ayat's translations were still in the "Old" (much controversial) version. 

So we began work to update the text and correct the mistakes we found. Our brothers Hamid and Mohsen from tanzil and zekr projects (resp). were a great help. Meanwhile, we once tried again to obtain a soft copy from the Presidents Office. We were soon horrified to learn however, that the Presidents office only had a Adobe InDesign document - in which they made the corrections directly. They were naturally unwilling to part with this. I must note here however, that our principal liason with the presidents office was extremely helpful and sympathetic to our cause. In all honesty, there was so much he could also do for us. It was out of his hands.

We approached a few scholars who might have been able to help us. Some refused to, some could not give us the time and some did the best they could. We are only a group of individuals working on these things in our free time. We do not have the resources to launch a one off project to rectify all these errors in one go, even though that would be truly wonderful.

So now we come to point of all this. It is a simple plea to all of you out there. Please, help us proof read and update the text. If you happen to be reading through quran.mv, or tanzil.info and come across any typo's or aayat's with old translations, please email them to me at quran@kudanai.com in the following format:

Surah:Ayah
[CORRECTED TEXT]

Please note the following things BEFORE emailing a correction.
  1. We are not interested in what you THINK is the correct meaning of the aayat. We only want what's written in the official publication. Word for word, fili for fili.
  2. Keep the arabic phrases in arabic. DO NOT transliterate them. That is a job for another time.
  3. If you see an Aayat with  a "-" for a translation, it is NOT MISSING. It simply means that that aayat and the ones after it have a combined translation.
  4. There is no political or monetary agenda here. Only the free and open distribution of knowledge. That is all

Thank you all.
Salaam.

8 Comments:

ÎĦΣçҜәѓ™ said...

I will Insha ﷲ Gladly help to extent I can help! Because I love Quran! :D

SoE said...

Thank you. It is much appreciated.

mohamed malik said...

Recently i spoke to a person regarding this...he said why dont you talk to zakee.....president of MDP's religious council......i told him that is not political...and please dont drag this into politics.....

i believe they do not want to give permission and the original version of the translation for political reasons...however i am much more confident about another issue here...it seems that adaalath party would be releasing there version of the translation very soon, according to my source they are currently proof reading and editing...i think it would be much easier for us to approach them and get there version when it comes out....

SoE said...

They did say they would let us digitize it afterall..

Anonymous said...

Insha Allah your efforts will not be in vain.

Anonymous said...

So are u gonna wait for adaalath's version or correct the typos of the existing version?

SoE said...

Both. From where I stand I feel that it is important for all versions are available for public viewing. in case there are major differences between these versions, a reader should be able to easily compare them and derive his/her own conclusions about it. In case yet another version comes out, I believe that THAT should be made available as well.

Anonymous said...

Pls add 4.3 support

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