Following the release of Kurdish translation of the Quran, Kurds are now calling for printing Kurdish Tafsir by the state religious affairs body
By Servet Gunerigok
ANKARA – Months after the first official translation of the Quran in Kurdish language was released in Turkey, Kurds are now hoping the state-run religious affairs body, Diyanet would also launch translations of Tafsir books in their language.
Tafsirs are basically interpretations and commentaries on the Quran by leading Islamic scholars.
Like most Kurds in Turkey, Mahfuz Acikgoz, an imam at a mosque in eastern Bitlis province, was full of praise for the release of the official Kurdish translation of Quran in May.
“It was a significant, but a delayed action,” Acikgoz said.
But he said that Diyanet needed to do more. “Just Quran translation is not enough, we also ask for translation of the Tafsir [books],” he said.
There are thousands of Tafsirs around the world, including many published by Turkish religious scholars. People like Acikgoz say the Turkish body could start with a translation of any Tafsir it believed was most authentic.
Mahmut Caduk, an academic at the Ankara-based Yildirim Beyazit University’s Persian Language and Literature Department, also agreed on the need for a Tafsir translation.
“Kurdish translation of a Tafsir will also contribute to understanding of the translation of the Quran,” Caduk said.
Zahir Ertekin, an academic at the Bingol University’s Kurdish Language and Literature Department, said that while the official Kurdish translation of the Quran had added a “huge richness” to the Kurdish literature, its current readability was lower than expected since the Quran itself was not a simple text to understand without the Tafsirs.
Ertekin said that the Kurdish people would not be able to read it unless they fully understand the Latin alphabet of Kurdish languages.
In May, Diyanet printed 10,000 copies of the Kurdish translation of Quran in Turkey. At least, 5,000 of these copies had both the Arabic Quranic text and Kurdish translation side-by-side. Diyanet now plans to release 20,000 more such Kurdish translations in the near future.
Although this was the first time that Turkey’s state institution had launched a Kurdish translation of Islam’s holiest book, there have been other Kurdish translations in the market.
Acikgoz said that the first such known translation was published by Abdullah Varli in 1994. He believed that the newly-released official Kurdish translation would soon surpass other less authentic works in the market and people like him would have the peace of mind that it was translated by authentic experts.
Zubeyir Aslan, who lives in southeastern Mardin province, also said that other Kurdish translations of the Quran had been available for more than 20 years.
“[However,] this [state-body released] translation is kind of a revolution for the Kurds in Turkey,” Aslan said.
Although the official Kurdish translation was a massive improvement on the previous works, translators admit there is still some room for improvement.
Huseyin Gunduz, one of the two translators of the official Kurdish Quran, said that while the translation mostly prompted positive reactions, there were also some reservations expressed about certain choice of words in the Kurdish translated text.
“Some said the language was too heavy to understand and some raised their reactions over a word they did not know,” Gunduz said.
Gunduz, who lives in southeastern Batman province, said that future editions would consider the feedback received. About the process of working on the translation, he said that experts with vast knowledge of Kurdish and Arabic had worked on the project.
“We worked like a commission; we also got editing support from experts in Kurdish language,” Gunduz said.
Caduk said that constructive criticism always helped such projects. “Constructive criticism of the Kurdish translation will contribute into efforts of translation works of the Quran,” he said.
He also pointed out there was a critical shortage in Kurdish translation of the religious books apart from the Quran and called on Turkey’s top religious body to fill the gap of Kurdish translation in Islamic literature such as basics of religion for children.
Kurdish belongs to a northwestern Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. It is accepted as the fourth most spoken language in the Middle East, after Arabic, Persian and Turkish.
Turkey’s religious affairs directorate has accelerated the translation of Quran into different languages in the last decade, with plans to publish in dozens of languages, including German, English, French and Russian.