Monday, November 21, 2022

Arabic media is filled with dozens of mentions of this story:
Dr. Mohamed Mukhtar Gomaa, Minister of Awqaf, confirmed that the ministry has finished translating 20 chapters of the Holy Qur’an into Hebrew, and added that the aim of the translation into Hebrew is that there are Jewish orientalists who translated the Qur’an and there are big mistakes that lead to deviation in the meaning, so it was necessary to translate into Hebrew..
It is interesting that even though the story is widely reported, I am not seeing anyone accusing the Egyptian Waqf of "normalizing" with Israel because of this translation. Islamic scholars are especially sensitive to any misrepresentations of the Quran.

The most famous translation of the Quran into Hebrew was by Professor Uri Rubin, who was a scholar at the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Tel Aviv University. This abstract of an Iranian paper about his Quranic translations would explain why the Muslims might respect Rubin's scholarship but would not accept it as a translation that they would trust:

The Hebrew translation of the Quran by Uri Rubin, (1944-2021) was first published in 2005.  In 2016, the translator after 11 years, published its edited version. The importance of this translation, regardless of linguistic debates, is the existence of a lot of footnotes under the verses; the content of some of them will definitely help interpretive- Intertextuality discussions, but in some cases the footnotes have conflict with the Muslim views. In fact, the final text is something beyond translation, but a commentary.

The content of the footnotes can be categorized in four main parts: I. Purely explanatory texts for literal explanation of the meanings of verses; II. Referring to exegetical views and disagreements of commentators; III. Referral to similar verses in the text of the Qur'an; IV. Referring to the similar concepts in Torah, and Midrash. The present article focuses on this new version and its changes in two subjects of basic issues and its references to pre-Islamic texts.
At any rate, it is clear that traditionalist Muslim scholars cannot allow any Quranic translation that includes commentary showing how it corrupted earlier Jewish texts to be considered an accurate translation, and why they would want to counter it.

Among other things, Rubin specialized in finding Jewish sources for Quranic episodes. It is well known that nearly all Quranic descriptions of Biblical events are based on Talmudic and Midrashic sources.

I looked up one of Rubin's papers about the famous Quranic story of sinning Jews, who gathered fish on the Sabbath, turning into apes and pigs. Rubin attempts (not very convincingly, IMHO) to tie the "apes" story with Midrashic interpretations of the Biblical story of God punishing the children of Israel with excessive amounts of quail, claiming that the description of the meat coming out of the sinners' noses is akin to turning them into animals, even though their sin had nothing to do with the Sabbath. (Since the quail came from the sea, and the Jews complained about a lack of meat and fish, he links the quail to the fish in the Quranic story.)

One of his footnotes, to a 1902 German paper on the topic, seems a little more likely an explanation to me:
Hartwig Hirschfeld, New Researches into the Composition and Exegesis of the Qoran (London, 1902), 108. Cf. Reynolds, The Qurʾān and Its Biblical Subtext, 114 n. 339. According to Hirschfeld, the Quranic story is “a mistaken rendition” of the biblical episode about the manna that became worms after the Children of Israel had disobeyed Moses by saving it for the morrow (Exodus 16:20). Hirschfeld posits that in the Quranic version, the people who left the manna overnight became insects themselves – qirāda (vermin). He maintains that the compilers of the Quran eventually preferred qirada (apes) to qirāda

I did find another Hebrew translation of the Quran online, I do not know if it is based on Rubin or on another; there have been Jordanian and Saudi translations in recent years. 

The earliest Hebrew translation of the Quran was published in 1857 by a German scholar. I was surprised to see that the lengthy introduction was written in "Rashi" script, I was unaware that this script was ever used for anything non-sacred. 

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