Saturday, December 21, 2013

Iain M. Banks

I am looking at the first page of the scifi novel Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks. Starts with an epigraph "idolatry is worse than carnage" which is claimed to come from Koran 2:190. This translation is dead wrong. The word fitnah from 2:190 is apparently translated as idolatry, but the correct translation should have said "opression".

So opression is worse than taking a life, not idolatry. The wrong translation (it is claimed) comes from N. J. Dawood translation which at one time was very popular in the West and that's probably where I. M. Banks took it from. I am sure the way Banks uses it fits with the rest of his novel, it completes his story, adds little "mystique", that extra little somethin somethin .. That's fine. But the meaning used is incorrect.

Idolatry translation conceptually makes no sense either, because after 2:190 there are some passages in Koran where it says "to fight idolatry until it is no more".. ??? So brother's gonna look around, see people worshipping, say, to Justin Bieber, and that is so bad right? "Worse than carnage!" so he has to fight it until it is no more.. That's stupid. Using the opression translation things are clearer. People are being opressed, and that is bad (worse than being killed? probably yes), then sure, fight it until it is no more (depending on the nature of the opression of course, please dont go postal).