Translating Qur’anic and Prophetic Allusions: A Study on Three Translations of Osama bin Laden’s Hortatory Discourse on Jihad

Ali Badeen Mohammed Al-Rikaby, Tengku Sepora Tengku Mahadi, Debbita Tan Ai Lin, Yousra Hussein Ali Al-Lami


Among wordplays, religious allusions are likely to be problematic for many translators. The problem may be attributed to two major reasons: the implicitness of religious allusions and the fact that readers are expected to be acquainted with the sacred orientations of these allusions. Allusive elements are naturally culture-bound and the extent to which they are comprehensible across cultures and language barriers varies greatly. Therein lies the import of translation and consequently, the significance of researching the translation strategies and ethics employed in tackling culture-bound allusions. The present study focuses on the Qur’anic and prophetic allusions in Osama bin Laden’s hortatory discourse on jihad, as well as their translated versions
– by Howarth (2005), Mansfield (2006), and Ibrahim (2007). The allusions were extracted and analyzed to determine the most frequently used translation strategies. Subsequently, one sample from each strategy was nominated and ten raters appraised them based on the taxonomy of strategies proposed by Leppihalme (1997). On the whole, results reveal the most preferred strategy to be retention of the given name in the case of proper names whereas for key phrase allusions, the preferred method was literal translation with minimal alterations. In essence, it can be concluded that the translators largely operated foreignization strategies, a concept in which adherence to and emphasis on the source text are central.


Hortatory Discourse, Jihad, Religious Allusions, Proper Names, Key Phrases, Translation Strategies, Domestication, Foreignization

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