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The essence of Thirukkural in Arabic

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K.M.A. Ahamed Zubair examines translations, which convey the couplets’ universal and Islamic relevance

The ethical values of Islam are universal. The immortal ethical values of Thirukkural have similar principles and guidance for all human beings. Written more than 2,000 years ago, Thirukkural is still relevant in this era of globalisation. The text is ancient but content is contemporary.

The first translation of Thirukkural was in Latin. Prof. Mohammed Yousuf Kokan and Prof. A. Jahir Hussain were the pioneers in translating the Tamil masterpiece into Arabic. But their work was in prose form. Three others followed suit. “The characteristics and artistic features that distinguish Thirukkural are the very characteristics that defy translation. As words in a poem designate more than plain meanings. As such the harmony between sense and sound in the poetic words have to be maintained.”

Dr K.M.A. Ahamed Zubair while teaching Arabic Poetry and conducting a workshop, spent hours labouring over lesson plans, grading essays and editing manuscripts.

The essence of Thirukkural in Arabic

Finally working on his own project (about Arabic translations of Thirukkural), he inferred that no two translators can produce the same version as poetry itself is untranslatable and only creative transposition is possible — either intra-lingual (from one poetic shape into another), or interlingual or inter-semitic transposition. “In the past, be it phonetic, literal or metrical, the methods distorted the original sense of the work thus making the translated version a deficient one. The artistic features should not be lost or diluted,” he says.

The essence of Thirukkural in Arabic

Encouraged by his book translating Tamil poetry into Arabic with special reference to Thirukkural (published in 2017), he brought out two books in succession — Essays on Thirukkural in Arabic and Thirukkural in the era of globalisation.

The content is on Thirukkural translation studies and critically analyses the existing translations in Arabic. The book comprises two main areas: Ethics in Thirukkural in an Islamic perspective; and translating Thirukkural into Arabic.

Written in the halcyon days any translator could take the inchoate feelings, ideas and experiences and alchemise them into words. “Of course, in this digital age too Thirukkural provides a strong mooring to the people,” says the author. Without any fashionable phrases, he makes it a point for the reader to effortlessly understand what he wants to convey. Dr. Zubair lists the name of 133 Chapters in Arabic. “The philosophies propounded in this poetical work are relevant to humanity irrespective of one’s language, race, culture, religion, sex and age. In the age of globalisation, the teachings of Thirukkural are highly relevant, still strong and inspirational in any language,” he concludes.

The essence of Thirukkural in Arabic

The author provides the translation of 50 couplets: Glory of Rain (verse no. 11-20); Speaking Pleasantly (verse no. 91-100); Learning (verse no. 391-400); Embracing the kin (verse no. 521-530); and In Praise of Love (verse no. 1121-1130).

Dr. Zubair had recited the Arabic translation of Thirukkural in the presence of the then Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah at the Raj Bhavan, Chennai, in 2014.

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 4:14:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/the-essence-of-thirukkural-in-arabic/article30105709.ece

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