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Tahmasebian, Kayvan and Gould, Rebecca Ruth (2024) 'Hyper-exegesis in Persian Translations of the Qur’an: On the Disjointed Letters as Translational Challenges.' International Journal of Middle East Studies, 56 (1). pp. 38-54.

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Although translation and commentary are often treated as distinct, separable activities in literary and intellectual history, the Persian tradition of Qur'an exegesis demonstrates that they are best understood in relation to each other. Introducing the concept of hyper-exegesis as a mode of interpretation that approximates translation, we examine the dialectical relationship between translation and commentary by focusing on how Persian exegetes have dealt with the so-called “disjointed letters” (ḥurūf muqaṭaʿāt). The disjointed letters inaugurate twenty-nine chapters (sūras) of the Qur'an. We show how six Persian translator-exegetes (the anonymous author of Tarjama-yi Tafsir-I Tabari, Isfarayini, Surabadi, Nasafi, Maybudi, and Razi) used commentary in response to their understanding of the Qur'an's inimitability. Persian translators’ confrontation with the disjointed letters are presented here as a case study of the ways in which translatability and commentary overlap and enrich each other. As a contribution to translation studies and literary theory, this research reveals how untranslatability is situated at the core of the translational enterprise, and how commentary functions as a mode of translating the ineffable.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics > Department of Linguistics
ISSN: 00207438
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 04 Mar 2024 09:13
Funders: European Union

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