Errors in English Translations of the Quran


Should Skeptics Hang Themselves to the Ceiling?

The traditional rendering of verse 22:15 is so bad that it becomes an absurdity, a joke. The amazing thing is that anyone who studies the Quran should easily understand its meaning, since the expressions are used in other verses and contexts. Instead of first looking at the usage of words and expression in other parts of the Quran, the traditional translators look for inspiration from the early commentators who mostly relied heavily on hadith hearsay. Regardless of the source, with the exception of a few, such as Muhammad Asad, Muhammad Ali, and Rashad Khalifa, many translations have duplicated the bizarre and absurd traditional rendering.

! Disputed passage: Traditional translations insert non-existing words and produce a myriad of absurd and hilarious challenges.

Yusuf Ali Pickthall Shakir Reformist
If any think that Allah will not help him (His Messenger) in this world and the Hereafter, let him stretch out a rope to the ceiling and cut (himself) off: then let him see whether his plan will remove that which enrages (him)! (22:15). Whoso is wont to think (through envy) that Allah will not give him (Muhammad) victory in the world and the Hereafter (and is enraged at the thought of his victory), let him stretch a rope up to the roof (of his dwelling), and let him hang himself. Then let him see whether his strategy dispelleth that whereat he rageth! (22:15). Whoever thinks that Allah will not assist him in this life and the hereafter, let him stretch a rope to the ceiling, then let him cut (it) off, then let him see if his struggle will take away that at which he is enraged. (22:15).
Whosoever thinks that God will not help him in this world and the Hereafter, let him extend (his request) by a mean to the heaven, then let him cut off (his dependence on anyone else) and see whether this action has removed the cause of his anger. (22:15)




Reading the verse within the immediate context of the Quran alone is sufficient to shed light on its meaning. For instance, just four verses before, verse 22:11 reminds us of the importance of unconditional trust in God:

“And from the people there is he who serves God in alteration. So if good comes to him, he is content with it; and if an ordeal comes to him, he makes an about-face. He has lost this world and the Hereafter. Such is the clear loss.” (22:11)

The following verse informs us that those people who oscillate in their service to God depending on the circumstances, associate others as partners to God.

“He calls upon besides God what will not harm him and what will not benefit him. Such is the far straying.” (22:12)
We learn from the Quran that most polytheists are in denial (6:23), though they hope for the intercession of prophets and saints (72:21 and 7:188; 10:49; 13:16; 48:11). The following verse expresses the reality of idolatrous people:
“He calls on those who harm him more than they benefit him. What a miserable patron, and what a miserable companion.” (22:13).
Verse 14 mentions God’s blessing on those who do not pollute their acknowledgement of monotheistic message through polytheistic ideas and practices:
“God admits those who acknowledge and do good works to gardens with rivers flowing beneath them. God does as He wishes.” (22:14)
And the following verse, 22:15, shows them a way: try to reach God through prayer or charity and cut off all of your dependence and hope from other things besides God. You should cut off your dependence to gods or holy people other than God, since you will do so in the hereafter (2:166). In other words, if you are able to remove all the idolatrous ideas and dedicate yourself to God alone, you will witness God’s help and victory. Those who mix monotheism with idolatry are not of those who acknowledge truth, even if they think so (49:14; 6:23).
Thus, starting from verse 11, when we reach verse 15, the theological relationship among the verses becomes evident, and the meaning of verse 15 shines clearly. The message of 22:15 is identical to the message given in 6:41.
Unfortunately, many translations and commentaries ignore the context of the verse and the usage of certain words in the Quran, and copy the traditional false inferences and references inside the parentheses.
After reading these absurd and ridiculous translations and misleading parentheses, if an investigating person read the following verse, 22:16, he or she would be repelled from the Quran, since it asserts that the revelation of the Quran is clear!
  • Many add Muhammad’s name in the parenthesis, though the verse does NOT mention Muhammad and the context is not about Muhammad, but about God alone.
  • Many insert the word “ceiling,” though sama does not mean “ceiling,” but rather means “heaven”; “ceiling” in Arabic is saqf (43:33; 21:32).
  • Many insert a “rope,” though the verse does not mention “rope,” which is habl (111:5; 3:103).
The insertion, twisting, and distortion are not limited to the three examples above. The prominent Pakistani radical scholar Mawdudi, in his commentary, Tafhim al-Quran (Towards the Understanding of the Quran), lists six alternative views of previous commentators on this verse:

1. Whoever thinks that God would not help Muhammad (pbuh), should hang himself to a ceiling?
2. Whoever thinks that God would not help Muhammad (pbuh), should climb to the sky with a rope and try to stop God’s help.
3. Whoever thinks that God would not help Muhammad (pbuh), should ascend to the sky and stop God’s revelation.
4. Whoever thinks that God would not help Muhammad (pbuh), should ascend to the sky and stop God’s blessings to him.
5. Whoever thinks that God would not help Muhammad (pbuh), should hang himself to the ceiling of his home.
6. Whoever thinks that God would not help Muhammad (pbuh), should ascend to sky to ask for help.
Mawdudi finds the first four comments to be meaningless in their context, since he rightly argues that the pronoun “he” cannot be referring to Muhammad, but instead refers to a person who has doubt about God’s help. Though Mawdudi concedes that the last two renditions fit the flow, he finds them to be far from reflecting the meaning of the verse. After rejecting all these alternative interpretations, Mawdudi presents his own version:

“Whosoever fancies that Allah will not help him in this world and in the Hereafter, let him reach out to heaven through a rope, and then make a hole in the sky and see whether his device can avert that which enrages him.”

Well, Mawdudi too disappoints; even more than the others. He asks the doubtful person to get a rope, climb to the sky, and open a hole in the sky to peep through! However, Mawdudi’s understanding is better than others who nicely ask the opponents of Muhammad to commit suicide by hanging themselves to the sky and THEN think about their feelings and doubts!

Now it is time to challenge all those scholars, mewlahums, commentators, translators, and their admirers, who missed the obvious and simple meaning of the verse:

If they think that our reformed translation is wrong, then they should extend a rope to the sky and hang themselves, and then think whether this trick of theirs would remove the cause of their anger!

If the above challenge is a meaningful and wise challenge, then they should take it! No, if it is an absurd and silly challenge, then they should expunge from their translations the Muhammad, the rope, the ceiling, the climbing, the hanging, the committing suicide, the thinking after killing self, and the opening of a peephole in the sky.