#483: Writing Al-Quran with Roman/Latin Letters

Question:

Assalamualaikum w.b.t. What is the ruling of writing al-Quran using Roman or Latin letters? If we see today, there are a lot of people writing, reading and publishing al-Quran using the Roman/Latin letters. Hope for an explanation.

 

Answer:

Waalaikumussalam w.b.t.

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those who follow his footsteps until the Last Day.

Definition of letters / Latin alphabet

According to Kamus Dewan, the alphabet is the letter in a certain language arranged according to a certain order such as A, B, C, D until Z for Roman writing. [1] Letters are a sign in the sound system (language) that from them certain words in writing are formed. Roman letters are roman alphabets used in the Malay language (that are the ABCs). [2]

The Latin alphabet, Latin character, Latin letter, or Roman alphabet is the alphabet that was first used by the Romans to write the Latin language in approximately the 7th century BC. They learned to write from the Etruscans, while the Etruscans learned from the Greeks. The Etruscan alphabet is an adaptation of the Greek alphabet. According to the hypothesis, all the alphabetic characters come from the Phoenician alphabet, and the Phoenician alphabet comes from Egyptian hieroglyphs. Currently, the Latin alphabet is the most widely used character in the world to write various languages. Some countries adopted and modified the Latin alphabet according to the phonology of their language because not all phonemes can be represented by Latin letters. [3]

Definition of al-Quran

According to al-Qamus al-Muhit al-Quran lexically means al-Tanzil (التَّنْزيل) which means revelation. [4] According to al-Mu’jam al-Wasit, al-Quran is a derivative of the word al-Qiraah (القراءة) which means recitation as stated by Allah SWT:

إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ ﴿١٧)‏ فَإِذَا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ

“Indeed, upon Us is its collection [in your heart] and [to make possible] its recitation. So, when We have recited it [through Gabriel], then follow its recitation.” [5]

The word qur’anah (its recitation) in the above verse means qira’atuh (its recitation/ the way it is recited). [6]

Allah SWT states:

وَقُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ ۖ إِنَّ قُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ كَانَ مَشْهُودًا

 “The Qur’an of dawn. Indeed, the recitation of dawn is ever witnessed.” [7]

It is also said that al-Quran is majaz (metaphorically describing/likened) to prayer, the reason for this is the interpretation of the above statement of Allah SWT is about the Fajr prayer and it is named al-Quran because it is a requisite the same as it is named ruku’ and sujud. It is also said that indeed the word al-Quran is also used as the real meaning (true). [8]

In terms of terminology, al-Quran is the words of the God of all the worlds conveyed by the angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH as guidance for all mankind. [9]

While Syeikh Muhammad Ali al-Sobuni defines: al-Quran as the miraculous words of Allah revealed to the last of all prophets and messengers through the angle Gabriel AS that is written on mushafs that is conveyed to us through mutawatir and its recitation is a type of worship that begins with surah al-Fatihah and ends with surah al-Nas. [10]

The meaning of al-Quran that is agreed by Usul scholars, jurists and linguists – al-Quran is the miraculous words revealed to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH on the mushaf that is conveyed through mutawatir and its recitation is a type of worship. [11]

The famous definition of al-Quran in terms of its terminology: The book revealed by Allah SWT through mutawatir to the Prophet PBUH which is a miracle where anyone reciting it will be rewarded starting from surah Fatihah ending with surah al-Nas.

Definition of a translation

We found that this issue is included in the issue of translating al-Quran. We refer to the definition of what a translation is according to the book Manahil al-Irfan fi Ulum al-Quran written by al-Allamah Syeikh Muhammad Abdul Azim al-Zurqani:

التعبير عن معاني ألفاظه العربية ومقاصدها بألفاظ غير عربية مع الوفاء بجميع هذه المعاني والمقاصد

“The verbalizing of the meanings of the words of al-Quran that is originally in Arabic and its purpose with words not from the Arabic language but they are in line with all the meanings and purposes of the Quran.” [12]

We can divide it into three types:

  1. Harfiah translation
  2. Translation of its meaning
  3. Phonetic translation

We will discuss this division one by one so that we can better understand them.

First: Harfiah (word for word) translation

Syeikh al-Zurqani said after defining the translation of al-Quran previously:

إن لاحظ في هذه الترجمة ترتيب ألفاظ القرآن فتلك ترجمة القرآن الحرفية أو اللفظية أو المساوية

“If the translation is done meticulously according to the order of the words of the Quran, then it is considered a harfiah translation of the Quran, literally and the same.”

Harfiah translation of the Quran is prohibited for al-Quran is characteristically from the Arabic language that is mu’jiz (above) in terms of its arrangement and no one will ever be able to present anything comparable to it, regardless of whether it is in Arabic or any other language. Allah SWT states:

قُل لَّئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ الإِنسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَى أَن يَأْتُواْ بِمِثْلِ هَذَا الْقُرْآنِ لاَ يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيرًا

Say, “If mankind and the jinn gathered in order to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like of it, even if they were to each other assistants.” [13]

Allah SWT states:

وَإِنَّهُ لَتَنْزِيلُ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ * نَزَلَ بِهِ الرُّوحُ الْأَمِينُ * عَلَى قَلْبِكَ لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُنْذِرِينَ * بِلِسَانٍ عَرَبِيٍّ مُبِينٍ

“And indeed, the Qur’an is the revelation of the Lord of the worlds. The Trustworthy Spirit has brought it down. Upon your heart, [O Muhammad] – that you may be of the warners – In a clear Arabic language.” [14]

Allah SWT states:

وَكَذَلِكَ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا

“And thus, We have revealed to you an Arabic Qur’an…” [15]

Allah SWT states:

لِسَانُ الَّذِي يُلْحِدُونَ إِلَيْهِ أَعْجَمِيٌّ وَهَذَا لِسَانٌ عَرَبِيٌّ مُبِينٌ

“The tongue of the one they refer to is foreign, and this Qur’an is [in] a clear Arabic language.” [16]

Imam Ibn Kathir explained in his commentary on the answer of the idolators in the above verse: “How can a person (Rasullullah PBUH) which conveys al-Quran when in it contains fluency and balaghah, complete and comprehensive meanings and has the most perfect meaning over all other books or scriptures ever revealed and it is claimed that it is from an ajam (not from the race) Arab. This is only claimed by those who are irrational![17]

The above evidences show that Allah SWT purposely reveals al-Quran in Arabic because of its artful language and arrangement that overcomes all human speech. If it is translated into another language, then its miracles cease and this is what happened to the religion of the Jews and Christians when their abbot changes the words of Allah following their nafs (desires). As a result, various versions of the Bible and Torah aren’t in line with each other after it is translated from Hebrew.

Imam Jalaluddin al-Suyuti wrote in his book al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Quran [18]: “(Imam) Malik was once asked: Is it permissible for the mushaf to be written using hija’iyyah letters that were done by people? He replied: No, except with the first way it is written (that is using the Rasm Uthmai). This statement is narrated by al-Dani in al-Muqni’, then he said: And none contradict this opinion of Imam Malik by any Muslim scholar.

The same is stated by Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haithami in al-Fatawa al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kubra [19], and he further added: When an ijma’ is concluded, as you’ve seen, on the prohibition of those who write the word riba with the letter alif (that is الربا, however in the mushaf of Rasm Uthmani it is written as الربوا) that follows the methodology of the hija’iyyah letters, hence, in the case of writing using the language other than the letters has a stronger prohibition.”

He continued: “and also for the writing of ajam (non-Arabic) letters is an interference in the words of al-Quran that is mu’jiz (the artistry of the incomparable language) making it a al-tahaddi – an attempt to challenge the Quran.

However, the final opinion in madhhab al-Syafie is as recorded in Fath al-Mui’n, where it is stated that writing al-Quran with non-Arabic letters is prohibited even if it doesn’t change its meaning. [20]

Second: Translation based on its meaning

Syeikh al-Zurqani said:

وإن لم يلاحظ فيها هذا الترتيب فتلك ترجمة القرآن التفسيرية أو المعنوية

“And if the translation isn’t done meticulously following the arrangement, then the translation of the Quran is named through its interpretation and meaning.”

This type of translation is permissible and encouraged by syarak. The reason is, in truth, it is a form of the interpretation of the Quran not in Arabic. This should happen on the condition that it follows the muktabar methodologies so that their meanings are protected.

Syeikh Abdul Qadir al-Mandili (died in 1385H) Rahimahullah: “And the verse of the Quran in the syarah (Aqidah Tahawiyyah text) I don’t translate them except that I commented of its interpretation.” In the footnotes it is mentioned, ‘for it is prohibited to translate the Quran.’ [21]

Third: Phonetic translation

This type of translation in the writing of Arabic texts of the Quran in another language is for the purpose of helping non-Arab readers to pronounce the Arabic recitation. Some scholars permitted it. When Imam Syihabuddin al-Ramli was asked if it is prohibited to write al-Quran with the Qalam (writing) of India or others. Hence, he answered that it is not prohibited for the writing show the pronunciation of the Arabic words and there are no changes to the Quran itself. However, translating al-Quran is prohibited except into Arabic because it changes the Quran. [22]

Imam al-Syarwani also stated in his Hasyiah of the book Tuhfah al-Muhtaj [23] when discussing the rulings of holding the mushaf: “And it is permissible to write the Quran, not in Arabic, but it is prohibited to recite it in languages other than the Arabic.” That is to verbally recite it and not just speak it in one’s heart.

In modern language, this method can be said as transliteration. According to the 4th Edition of Kamus Dewan, transliteration means: “Changing of letters (words and others) from the letters it is originally written in (for instance, Arabic) to other letters that have the same sound and others in another letter writing system (such as the Roman letters).

Fatwas from the Body of Authorities

Here, we cite several fatwas from the body of authorities, some of them are:

  1. Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah

Lajnah Fatwa al-Azhar was asked if it is permissible to write the Quran using letters from a language other than Arabic so that other foreigners can recite it. The Lajnah answered: “Undoubtedly, Latin letters known have weaknesses to be appropriate for Arabic, hence this makes the Latin writing isn’t comparable to explain the Arabic writing. If the al-Quran al-Karim is still written with letters using the Arabic system (that is through transliteration), surely, there will be deficiency and deviation in their meaning, where both will be followed by the changing and damaging of their meanings.

Syarak evidences has set the obligation of protecting al-Quran al-Karim from anything that attacks it to change and deviate it. Previous and contemporary Muslim scholars have agreed that anything that is changed in al-Quran al-Karim will lead to deviation of its words and changing of its meaning, then it is prohibited and haram for sure.[24]

  1. The National Muzakarah Fatwa Committee for Islam Religious Affairs Malaysia

The 24th National Muzakarah Committee for Islam Religious Affairs Malaysia which convened on 5th – 6th June 1989 discussed the Writing of Quran Verses with Roman Letters. The Muzakarah decided that it is prohibited to write or use any parts from the verse of the Quran that is written with writing other than the Arabic letters or not the writing of the Quran.

  1. The Negeri Sembilan Muzakarah Fatwa Committee

After analyzing every opinion of the muzakarah member and the arguments presented, the Negeri Sembilan Muzakarah Fatwa Committee No. 07/2016-1437H which convened on 25th August 2016 or 22nd Zulkaedah 1437H agreed with the decision of the 24th National Muzakarah Committee for Islam Religious Affairs Malaysia regarding the Ruling of the Writing of the Verses of al-Quran with Roman or Latin Letters with the following sighah:

  1. Every Muslim is obligated to learn al-Quran in the Rasm Uthmani Arabic.
  2. It is prohibited to write or used in any part from the verses of al-Quran with the writing of non-Arabic letters or non-al-Quran writings except:
  3. Academic writing (quotation/phrase) that uses the correct transliteration of the Quran and follows standard methods.
  4. For the purpose of attracting people to read the Qur’an and for the purpose of learning (تعليم) in a temporary period. The text of the Quran must be included.
  5. It is prohibited to publish and sell interpretations and translations of the Qur’an without accompanying the original text.

Conclusion

After analyzing the above statements, in our opinion, the ruling of writing al-Quran using Roman letters is originally prohibited. The reason is scholars of all time, salaf and khalaf agreed that al-Quran must be written using the Rasmm Uthmani. This is to prevent any deficiency and deviation of the words that will lead to change and affect the meanings for the characteristic of al-Quran is it is revealed in Arabic that has its own miracle.

However, there are several situations when such writing is permissible. Syeikh Muhammad Abdul Azim al-Zurqani said: “Our scholars prohibit writing al-Quran with letters, not from the Arabic language. With this rule, it is obligatory for a person who is translating al-Quran into another language to always include the original Arabic text in Arabic so that there isn’t any decrease and deviation to the words that will lead to changes and damage its meaning.”[25]

We state below several dhawabit or principles for this:

  • The original Quranic text should be included together with the Roman text.
  • The transliteration method used must be acknowledged by academicians and understood by the locals.
  • One should believe that the writing is only a wasilah (facilitation) for the learning of al-Quran and not the main purpose.
  • This wasilah is temporary and not permanent. It means that it is a teaching aid for mubtadi (a person that is just beginning to learn) and not permanent after one managed to master the correct Quranic recitation method.
  • Books, makalah or publication that contains these transliteration sentences is not considered mushaf al-Quran according to the famous opinion.

If all of these principles are considered, then writing al-Quran in Roman letters is permissible.

May all the Muslim ummah able to learn al-Quran and maintain and protect it the best they can, and that this effort will make them successful in this world and the hereafter. Amin.

Wallahu a’lam.

[1] https://prpm.dbp.gov.my/cari1?keyword=abjad

[2] https://prpm.dbp.gov.my/Cari1?keyword=huruf

[3] https://id.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfabet_Latin

[4] See al-Qamus al-Muhit, 1/49

[5] Surah al-Qiyamah: 17-18

[6] See al-Mu’jam al-Wasit, 2/722

[7] Surah al-Isra’: 78

[8] See Mu’jam Alfaz al-Quran al-Karim, 2/197-198

[9] See al-Quran wa I’jazuhu al-‘Ilm, pg. 2

[10] See al-Tibyan fi ‘Ulum al-Quran, pg. 8

[11] See Mabahith fi Ulum al-Quran, pg 21

[12] See Manahil al-Irfan fi Ulum al-Quran, 2/144

[13] Surah al-Isra’: 88

[14] Surah al-Syu`ara’: 192-195

[15] Surah al-Syura: 7

[16] Surah al-Nahl: 103

[17] See Tafsir al-Quran al-Azim, 4/603

[18] See al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Quran (4/168)

[19] See al-Fatawa al-Fiqhiyyah al-Kubra, 1/38

[20] See I`anah al-Talibin (1/83).

[21] See Perisai Bagi Sekalian Mukallaf, pg. 4

[22] See Fatawa al-Ramli, 1/23

[23] See Tuhfah al-Muhtaj, 1/154

[24] See al-Majallah al-Azhar, 7/45

[25] See Manahil al-Irfan fi Ulum al-Quran, 2/134

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