Muslim for a Month

I teach Social Studies in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area at a very diverse high school. In an attempt to better understand a significant portion of the student population, I have undertaken the idea to become "Muslim for a Month"; hence the title for this blog.

Location: Fairfax County, VA, United States

Friday, September 22, 2006

On Religion and Interpretation of Texts

Having just finished teaching a unit on “Renaissance and Reformation” I was pondering the translation of religious texts into various languages. Having been raised Catholic (and born after the switch from Latin masses), I have only ever read and listened to excerpts from the Bible in English. Part of me believes this to be a wonderful thing. I can understand and read the religious text of my parents and ancestors in my everyday language, one of which I have a strong grasp; and I feel that I have Martin Luther to thank for that, since he took a risk by criticizing practices of the Catholic Church, including not really allowing people to read the Bible for themselves, and having it only available in Latin. But then I think that things get lost in translation. Different editions of the Bible have different phrasing for very important concepts, potentially leading to misunderstandings of what God passed down, or to disagreements between sincere believers. And although the Qur'an is only supposed to be quoted in prayer in the original Arabic, the words of Allah are still just as open to misinterpretation, as we have seen recently in the situation begun by the current Pope, who seems to have one understanding of what Allah meant by “jihad”, which is in complete contrast to what Muslims I have talked to believe Allah intended. I fear that if our religious and secular leaders seem to take such little interest in truly understanding one another, what can the laity do to help improve communication and consideration between religions that, in my mind, have much more in common than not?