When Anti-Muslim Websites Use Bogus Translations…and Then Try to Cover it Up!

When Anti-Muslim Websites Use Bogus Translations…and Then Try to Cover it Up!

by: Dawood and Danios

The Translating-Jihad site is one of the newest additions to the anti-Muslim blogosphere.  Its creator,Al-Mutarjim (The Translator), defines his site’s goal as translating Arabic documents into English in order to “expose this darkness” of Islam and to “to open the eyes of those already enslaved by Islam.”

The fact that Islamophobes routinely use bogus translations and out-of-context quotes is well-known.  But as if only to prove our case, the Translating-Jihad website challenged us to “refute this translation”, referring to an Arabic fatwa that he “translated” on his website. We accepted this challenge and exposed his “translation” as completely bogus.  Al-Mutarjim had completely mistranslated words and purposefully neglected to translate 4/5ths of the fatwa, including the mufti’s conclusion–a conclusion which directly contradicts what Al-Mutarjim claimed the fatwa said (and which he incidentally chose as the title of his article!).

Eventually, Al-Mutarjim was forced to reply to our site.  Instead of admitting fault, he issued an “updated” translation in which he attempted to “explain away” his academic dishonesty.  Al-Mutarjim whined:

First of all, I have no desire or need to take anything about Islam out of context. This is the tired old accusation that CAIR-types like to drag out whenever anybody in the West points out some of the objectionable material inherent in Islam.

Both Al-Mutarjim and his anti-Muslim colleague Staring at the View (SATV) use “whenever” and “anybody” arguments quite frequently.  Whenever anybody in the West…”  LoonWatch is not talking about “anybody”.  We’re talking about one particular person and one particular site here: Al-Mutarjimspecifically and his site specifically.

Just as Al-Mutarjim quite stupidly chose to use a bogus translation when he challenged us to “refute this translation”, once again he quite stupidly validates “the tired old accusation” –namely, that Islamophobes take Islamic texts out of context.  Think, McFly, think! Al-Mutarjim ends up unknowingly validating the “the tired old accusation” by “translating” a fatwa completely out of context, which is evident for everyone to see!

Nikah as “Sexual Intercourse” or “Betrothal/Marriage”?

Al-Mutarjim mistranslated the following:

فيؤخذ من الآية جواز نكاح البنت قبل البلوغ”

As this:

we can take from this verse that it is permissible to have sexual intercourse with a prepubescent girl.

When it actually translates as:

and from this verse we take the permissibility of betrothal/marriage (nikah) with pre-pubescent girls.

In Al-Mutarjim’s response, he bumbles:

That being said, Loonwatch is being dishonest when they say that the Arabic wordnikah, which they translated as ‘marriage/betrothal’, “does not mean sexual intercourse at all.” The truth is, nikah can mean either ‘sexual intercourse’ or ‘marriage.’ (Need proof? Plug نكاح into Google Translate.)

Al-Mutarjim accusing LoonWatch of being dishonest? How rich!  Once again, Al-Mutarjim is guilty of “half-quoting”, splicing up quotes to support his argument.  In fact, what LoonWatch actually said was (emphasis added):

The word nikah here does not mean “sexual intercourse” at all.

Notice the key word “here”, which Al-Mutarjim leaves out.  Even if–for argument’s sake only–we conceded that “nikah” could sometimes mean “sexual intercourse”, can this meaning work in the sentence above?  For example, the English word “sex” can refer to intimate relations in one sentence, but gender in another.  The meaning “intimate relations” cannot be used to explain the meaning of sex in the following sentence:

Please state your name, sex, and age.

Would Al-Mutarjim have a case if he were to claim that the word “sex” above could also mean “intimate relations”?  Of course not.  And neither does he have a leg to stand on when he claims that “nikah” means “sex” in the sentence reproduced from the fatwa.  Even his primary “academic” proof–Google Translator–does not back his claim: when we enter the entire Arabic sentence into it, here’s what Google says:

We are of course not surprised that Al-Mutarjim invoked “Google Translator” since we have long since suspected–based on noticeable similarities–that Al-Mutarjim’s and Robert Spencer’s translations are simply “cleaned up” versions of Google Translator.  Again, this speaks to the profound academic qualifications of the self-appointed experts of Islam.  Perhaps The Translator ought to change his name to The Google Translator.

How about we rely on some real academic sources, instead of Google Translator?  Here’s what Al-Mawrid, arguably the most commonly used Arabic-to-English and English-to-Arabic lexicon, says:

As can be clearly seen above, the highlighted areas dealing both with nikah and nakaha (the verb/root nikah comes from), all relate to marriage. In fact, the compiler of the dictionary equates nikah with zawaj, which Al-Mutarjim himself translates as “marriage” in the fatwa.  Similarly, the verb nakaha is equated to tazawwaj, which means “to be married”.

The authoritative Hans Wehr dictionary, regarded as an essential tool for the English-speaking student of Arabic, says:

Notice that every single word the dictionary gives from the root letters “n k h”–including nikah–all refer to marriage.

When we look at Al-Mu‘jam al-Wasit, which is an established and popular Arabic-Arabic dictionary (similar to the Oxford English Dictionary in English, for example), we find likewise:

The underlines within the red box show the word zawaj (marriage) as being synonymous to nikah–and in fact to all the various words from the root “n k h”. In other words, all refer to marriage, marrying and the procedure of marriage.

Nowhere do we see the meaning of “sexual intercourse” in any of these dictionaries!  It is the reader’s decision whether to rely on Google Translator in its beta form or to refer to actual academic sources.

Al-Mutarjim whines:

I concede that the Mufti could have meant marriage, but he also could have meant sexual intercourse.

No, he couldn’t have.  If Al-Mutarjim had not used ellipses (…) everywhere to mask the fatwa’s real meaning, he would have noted this immediately above:

ومن المهم كذلك أن نعرف أن الفقهاء وإن أجازوا تزويج الصغيرة فإنهم منعوا زوجها أن يطأها حتى تطيق الوطء ، وهذا يختلف باختلاف الأزمنة والأمكنة والبيئات.

And it is important for us to know that even though the jurists approved betrothing a child, they prevented her husband from having intercourse with her until she could bear it [lit. intercourse], which can differ according to the time, place and environment.

What is amazing is that Al-Mutarjim himself–in his updated version–is forced to translate the passage above, which he renders as:

It is also important that we understand that the scholars, while they permitted marrying off young girls, they forbade her husband from having intercourse with her until she could bear it…

This sentence in and of itself completely invalidates his “translation” of the sentence (“we can take from this verse that it is permissible to have sexual intercourse with a prepubescent girl”) as well as the title given to his article (“It Is Permissible to Have Sexual Intercourse with a Prepubescent Girl”).  This is the case even using his own translation!  The Mufti could not possibly mean “sexual intercourse” in the sentence translated, since he clearly states that the jurists forbade/prevented it.

What the mufti was saying, quite clearly, was:

(1) Betrothal/marriage of young (prepubescent) girls is technically permitted.

(2) However, this does not mean that sexual intercourse may take place.

(3) Later on in the fatwa, he states that the ruling permitting such early betrothals/marriages is archaic and does not apply to today’s situation.

Al-Mutarjim’s deceitful manipulation of the fatwa changed (1) above to say that sexual intercourse is permitted, and completely omitted points (2) and (3).  If this is not academic dishonesty, then what is?

Yet, Al-Mutarjim says:

Translation is an art, not a science, and translators can and do argue over the correct translation of certain words and phrases.

In this case, the only art that Al-Mutarjim has mastered is the art of deception!  (Yet another example of how the Islamophobes are guilty of projection when they cry about taqiyya.)

Al-Mutarjim continues to build a case against himself, explaining why he chose “sexual intercourse” instead of “betrothal/marriage”:

In this case, I went with ‘sexual intercourse’ because from the context, it seems clear to me that the Mufti is not just talking about signing a marriage contract without consummating it. Right after that statement he talks about how Muhammad not only married ‘A’isha but then had sex with her when she was only nine years old, i.e. a prepubescent girl.

Here, Al-Mutarjim’s lack of educational qualifications and profound ignorance of Islam come to the fore!  Here’s what the fatwa said, which he refers to:

وقد صح أن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم عقد على عائشة وهي بنت ست سنين إلا أنه لم يدخل بها إلا وهي بنت تسع سنين، رواه البخاري.

And it is verified that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had contracted with Aisha when she was six years old, but he did not have intercourse with her, until she was 9 years old, as narrated by Bukhari.

Does he not see that this is a great proof against his claim!?  The mufti is saying that Aisha was betrothed/married to the Prophet Muhammad at the age of six, but sexual intercourse did not take place for three years.  This three year delay supports the idea that the mufti was permitting betrothal/marriage of prepubescent girls (hence, the marriage at the age of six) but forbidding sexual intercourse (for three years in this case), until the girl was able to bear it without harm coming to her, which he says is “the age of puberty.”

Although many reformist Muslims question the age of Aisha, the traditionalist opinion has been that Aisha had passed through puberty at the age of nine, which is why sexual intercourse was–according to this opinion–permissible.  Clearly, the mufti’s invocation of Aisha is wholly consistent with the idea that betrothal/marriage was permitted before puberty, but sexual intercourse allowed only after it.  Traditionalists believe that Aisha was betrothed before puberty, and that the marriage was consummated after puberty.

“Sexual Intercourse” is a “Tropical Meaning”

The primary, well-known, and common meaning of nikah is “betrothal/marriage”.  This is the meaning that any competent Arabic translator would know to use.  As for the meaning of “sexual intercourse”, this is considered an unusual translation of the word.  In fact, Lane’s Lexicon–widely considered the best classical Arabic-English dictionary in the world–notes that such usage is a “tropical expression”, something outside the normal range of meaning. [Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon (1968), Vol. 8, p. 2848]

This fact is something very easily verifiable by simply asking any (neutral) Arabic speaker.  And this is certainly confirmed by the images of the dictionary pages we have reproduced above, where we do not even see the meaning given!  That is how obscure that definition is!

Furthermore, using the translation “sexual intercourse” is even stranger in the context of a fatwa (religious verdict).  It is well-known that fatwas use Islamic legalese.  Religious terms that are used in Islamic law have very specific meanings.  Words like halalharamcaliphimamzinasahih, etc…These are all religious terms that even non-Arabic speaking Muslims will know, because they have special religious significance.  The word nikah is most definitely one such “religious term”, used for example even by Pakistani Muslims who don’t usually speak Arabic.

The well-known religious meaning of the word is found in the Quran itself.  Prof. Joseph Schacht, who is considered by many to be the pioneer of Islamic legal studies in the West, notes in theEncyclopedia of Islam (2nd Edition) that while “sexual intercourse” is a meaning, “in the Kur’an [it is] used exclusively for the contract of marriage.”  Wherever the word nikah is used in the Quran, it means the contract of betrothal/marriage–not sexual intercourse.  (For the record, Prof. Schacht is hardly known to be sympathic towards Islam, and his work is routinely cited by the Islamphobic polemicist Ibn Warraq.)

This trend is found in the books of hadith and the Islamic legal literature as well. For example, the hadith collection known as Sahih al-Muslim has a chapter entitled “Book of Marriage (Kitab al-Nikah)”–in it are sayings regarding marriage, i.e. who should marry, who one can marry, who one can propose marriage to, conditions of marriage, etc. etc.  Nary a soul would dare claim it is the Book of Sex, since its topics are far more wide-ranging than that.

As for Islamic legal literature, we can cite a book that Islamophobes love to cite, The Reliance of the Traveler, that also has in it a “Book of Marriage (Kitab al-Nikah)”–which cannot possibly be understood to be the Book of Sex.  The examples we could cite are numerous.

It is quite telling that Al-Mutarjim invoked a “tropical definition” to a term that Arabic speakers–even non-Arabic speaking Muslims–know immediately as meaning “betrothal/marriage.”  Additionally, the mufti uses three different words to clearly refer to sexual intercourse:

يدخل عليها (he enters into her)
الوطء (mounting)
الجماع (coming together)

There is no ambiguity here.  But to top off the absurdity of using a “tropical meaning” is the fact that the context of the fatwa itself–as noted in the above section–would completely negate such an unusual usage.  The desire to do so can only be born out of a specific agenda.

Conclusion

We must reiterate here that we do not agree with the IslamOnline fatwa.  Therefore, we do not see the need to defend its substance.  (Future articles will tackle the dispute about Aisha’s age, the minimum age of marriage in Islam [although it was briefly discussed here], etc.)  The focus here ought to be Al-Mutarjim’s misleading and dishonest translations. Our readers simply need to compare the original “translation” he provided to the updated translation he was forced to publish after we exposed his original. The dramatic difference–between his own initial translation and the new one we forced him to provide–speaks volumes!

Al-Mutarjim argues:

Regardless of whatever personal (and vague) advice the Mufti gives much later in his fatwa, the case is already closed per the Qur’an and Sunnah.

We are not going to argue what the Quran and Sunna say regarding the matter, as that is another topic altogether.  The fact that the mufti himself does not understand the Quran and Sunna to imply what al-Mutarjim states it implies, is itself telling. The issue here is that Al-Mutarjim translated a fatwa from an IslamOnline mufti, making it seem as if the mufti was perfectly fine with sexual intercourse with prepubescent girls.  But here is what Al-Mutarjim purposefully excluded from his “translation”:

(1) The mufti forbade sexual intercourse before puberty, arguing that “at the very least” puberty should be the minimum age for marriage.

(2) The mufti noted that sexual intercourse with prepubescent girls should be prevented because it can cause severe “negative physical and emotional ramifications that would stay with her for the rest of her life.”

(3) Betrothal/marriage of prepubescent girls is, according to the mufti, a thing of the past and no longer applicable.

All of this was hidden in those ever so strategic ellipses.  Al-Mutarjim’s response seems to imply that our criticism of his translation revolved solely around that one word (nikah) and that one sentence. 

Yet, even if we pretend, for argument’s sake only, that he translated it correctly (which he didn’t), this does not change the fact that he has produced a highly misleading and dishonest translation.  He purposefully deleted all three points above (and 4/5ths of the fatwa), a deception that is even greater than simply mistranslating one sentence.

The fact that Al-Mutarjim and his defenders are trying to make it all about one word and one sentence indicates their desire to obfuscate the issue.  So let’s be very clear: Al-Mutarjim’s translation is fraudulent not just because of one sentence but because he purposefully omitted key information from the fatwa.

This begs the question: why?  Why did Al-Mutarjim hide these very important points?  Why did he neglect to translate 4/5th’s of the fatwa?  Why was there even a need for an “updated version” of the translation, which magically only appeared when we criticized his first one?  Had his first translation been an honest one, why the need for an update?  We think the reasons for this are patently obvious.

To conclude: Al-Mutarjim had “translated” a fatwa making it seem as if it permitted sexual intercourse with prepubescent girls, even though it said the exact opposite–namely, that the age of puberty is to be considered the minimum age “at the very least.”  Using ellipses, the Translating-Jihad site manipulates texts…kind of like if we rendered Al-Mutarjim’s words like so:

I previously produced an excerpted translation…deliberately taking things out of context…

My goal…is being dishonest.

Addendum I:

SATV’s dishonesty can be gauged by his conciliatory comment on our site:

I believe that much of your response to Translating-Jihad was also quite good. I won’t speak for him, but I agreed with much of your grammatical analysis. Where I disagree is your assumption that people critical of Islam deliberately mistranslate Arabic.

and his completely opposite attitude on his blog.  Would SATV like to be honest and state on his blog that he agrees with our grammatical analysis of Al-Mutarjim’s “translation”?

Also, note here the invocation of a “whenever” and “anybody” argument once again: “your assumption that people critical of Islam deliberately mistranslate Arabic“.  Here, we are talking about oneparticular person and one particular site.  Each stands on its own merits. Al-Mutarjim specifically and Translating-Jihad specifically are deliberately mistranslating and obfuscating Arabic.  The evidence speaks for itself, and SATV’s refusal to admit this speaks to his own dishonesty.

Proof that Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch.org Relies on Bogus Translations

Robert Spencer

Translating-Jihad is one of the newer anti-Muslim blogs to make its debut to the world wide web.  The site’s creator, Al-Mutarjim, fancies himself as a professional Arabic translator and states that his objective is to translate Arabic texts into English in order “to expose [the] darkness [of Islam].”

Robert Spencer, director of JihadWatch.org (arguably the internet’s most popular anti-Muslim website), was absolutely delighted by the emergence of Translating-Jihad.  Spencer gushed about Al-Mutarjim:

You are great. I love your work… Thank you so much for doing what you’re doing.

On January 14th of 2011, Al-Mutarjim posted a supposed translation of an Arabic fatwa on his website; he entitled his translation as follows: Fatwa: “It is Permissible to Have Sexual Intercourse with a Prepubescent Girl”.  Guess who reproduced this “translation” on his website?  None other than Robert Spencer.  See JihadWatch.org: Fatwa: “It is Permissible to Have Sexual Intercourse with a Prepubescent Girl”.  Spencer opined:

Here is evidence that mainstream Muslims…consider child marriage to be completely justified by the Sharia.

This “translation” by Al-Mutarjim’s Translating-Jihad blog was the “evidence” that the fake scholar Robert Spencer gives to justify his claims.

We here at LoonWatch investigated the matter and discovered that Translating-Jihad’s “translation” was utterly bogus.  Read our expose: Translating-Jihad’s Completely Fraudulent Translations.  To summarize, Al-Mutarjim claimed that the fatwa says: “It is permissible to have sexual intercourse with a prepubescent girl”, when in fact the fatwa says the exact opposite. The fatwa forbids sexual intercourse with prepubescent girls, and warns:

It is clear that the marriage of children has health concerns, because their reproductive organs are not ready for sexual intercourse yet, nor are they emotionally prepared for sexual intercourse, especially the female child who will most likely be physically damaged. This is especially if her husband is an old man! Sexual intercourse might cause negative physical and emotional ramifications that would stay with her for the rest of her life and affect her sexual future!

Not only did Al-Mutarjim not translate the above (all tactfully hidden in those ever so strategic ellipses), but he also purposefully omitted to translate the fatwa’s conclusion: “In view of medical grounds, we admonish againstmarriage before puberty at the very least.”

Translating-Jihad’s translation is the epitome of academic dishonesty,  and Al-Mutarjim is a fraud, cheat, and liar.  But, Robert Spencer has no problem with that, so long as Al-Mutarjim is anti-Muslim.  Not only does Al-Mutarjim get high praises from Spencer, but the bogus “sex with prepubescent girls” translation was reproduced on JihadWatch.  It can still be found here.  As of yet, Spencer has not removed it or issued a correction of any sort.

There can be only a few reasons why Robert Spencer reproduced such a bogus translation on his website:

(1)  Robert Spencer is lying when he claims the ability to read and understand Arabic fluently.  In that case, maybe he couldn’t understand the fatwa.  If that is the case, then he is a liar for falsely pretending to read the language.  How can anyone rely on a liar as a credible source?

(2)  If #1 is not the case, then maybe Spencer reproduced the translation without bothering to click the link to the original fatwa.  If that is the case (which is highly unlikely), then what kind of editorial standards and vetting process does JihadWatch.org have!?  What kind of a “scholar” would reproduce something like that without bothering to check the original (which is just a click away)?  How reliable can a site be that just believes anything on the internet?

(3) But the most likely explanation is that Robert Spencer is completely dishonest and has absolutely no problems reproducing bogus translations to further his anti-Muslim agenda.  Would you really rely on such a guy for your knowledge of Islam?

We wouldn’t be surprised, however, if Spencer comes up with one of his classic explanations about how someone else logged into his user name and posted it, without him first taking a look, yadda yadda yadda.  This sort of explanation–which Spencer has used in the past (remember the whole “I got tricked into joining a genocidal facebook group” thing?)–is just about as believable as the teenage kid telling his mom that the marijuana or porn under his bed is really his friends.

Whatever the case, will Robert Spencer have at least the academic honesty to issue a correction?  Will he take back his glowing praise of Al-Mutajim and the Translating-Jihad blog? We sincerely doubt it.

It is troublesome to think that Robert Spencer is considered an “expert” on Islam, when clearly he is merely a pro-Christian anti-Muslim fanatic–just like Al-Mutarjim of Translating-Jihad is a religious wing nut.  It is frightening to think that Spencer–who has no problems using absolutely bogus translations to further his Islam-bashing ideology–was even used to educate the FBI.  No wonder the FBI is completely misguided in its “war on terror”.  This country is in trouble when it relies on complete frauds and liars to learn about the world’s second largest religion.

Epic Arabic 101 Fail: “Translating-Jihad” Arabic Translator Can’t Translate the Word “Translator”

By: Dawood (guest contributor) and Danios (Read the full piece at Loonwatch)

So-called “experts and acclaimed scholars of Islam” rely on Arabic 101 level translator for their “anti-Jihad” work.

Translating-Jihad, a new blog purporting to expose “Islamic totalitarianism and intolerance by translating it from Arabic into English”, has recently appeared online. The site has received glowing praise from such Islamophobic luminaries as Robert Spencer, Nonie Darwish, and Andrew Bostom. The site’s creator, Al-Mutarajjam (more regarding this choice of name later), boasts on one anti-Muslim website:

[M]y blog is already regularly read by experts on Islam such as Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, and Dr. Andrew Bostom, and nearly half of my translations have been featured on the highly-popular website jihadwatch.org

The controversial blog aims to become the premier translation wing of the so-called “anti-jihad” movement, and was created by someone who openly states that he works as a professional Arabic translator. As always, the anti-Islam bloggers seek to portray themselves as bona fide experts of the field. But is Al-Mutarajjam, the site’s creator, really an expert in the Arabic language?

The evidence suggests otherwise. His Arabic language abilities are consistent with the level of an Arabic 101 student. (Arabic 101 is the introductory class to the language.)  His “epic Arabic 101 fail” speaks to that: he chose his pseudonym to be “Al-Mutarajjam”.  When he chose this alias, he thought it meant “The Translator.” It doesn’t. It means: “The Translated.”

The word Al-Mutarajjam is the passive participle (ism maf3ul) and means the object translated (see Hans Wehr, p. 93)—not “translator” (which would be al-mutarjim). This is an issue of very basic Arabic grammar, something learned very early on in Arabic language study. To understand how truly basic this is, we see that it is one of the very first words learned in the near-standard text used in American universities to teach Arabic:Al-Kitaab fii Ta’allum al-‘Arabiyya.  That’s an Arabic 101 textbook.

The word “mutarjim” (translator) on p. 19 of standard Arabic 101 textbook (Al-Kitaab fii Ta’allum al-’Arabiyya)

When this error was pointed out to the blog’s creator [by Dawood], he responded to this critique with “so what?” The “so what” is of course that it’s a huge mistake, understood best if we give an English equivalent. Just imagine if a Chinese immigrant applied to be a fifth grade English teacher in Texas and if he stated that “I was official translated at other school I work for.” Immediately the employer would know that this applicant has very poor English and would not be appropriate for the position of English teacher. If this is the case for an elementary school position, shouldn’t the standard be at least as high for the official “translation wing” for so-called “experts and acclaimed scholars of Islam”?

The difference between “the writer” and “the written” is clear, as is the difference between “the translator” and “the translated”. Calling yourself “the written” or “the translated” instead of “the writer” or “the translator” is almost something worthy of being featured on Engrish.com (a website that documents humorous English language gaffes in Asian countries). For someone attempting to portray himself as a competent Arabic translator, this is a huge mistake. It certainly calls into question the credentials of a person who has taken on such a lofty role as anti-Jihad translator extraordinaire.