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Dialogue of Scriptures

The Tatar Tefsir in the Context of Biblical and Qur’anic Interpretations


Joanna Kulwicka-Kaminska

This book focuses on Muslim–Christian cultural relations across a number of centuries. As for the methodology, the book represents an intersection of religious studies, linguistics and translations studies. The bases of research are a Tatar tefsir and 19th- and 20th-century printed translations of the Qur’an into Polish. In the period of the Reformation, the Tatar adherents of Sunni Islam conducted the dialogue with Christianity. They translated the Qur’an into Polish already in the second half of the 16th century. They used the Arabic alphabet to record the translation and conferred the form of a tefsir to it. Who were the Tatar translators? Did they break the ban on the translation of the Holy Book of Islam? What sources did they use? How did they translate the Muslim religious terminology? Why is their translation of the Qur’an not familiar to researchers? These are only a few questions which are explored in this work.

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…it is difficult for us to recall that heretofore we and our children have been praising God in a language which is unintelligible to us, and we do not use the language which was spoken by our fathers for so many centuries […] it makes us sad that our writings, texts and various worship services heretofore have been concealed in a language that we do not understand. It is time to wake up from our ignorance […] from now on we will pronounce the words of the Maker revealed by his messenger in our mother tongue, the language which is peculiar to us.

(J. Sobolewski, , Wilno 1830, Preface, p. III)

Who are the people who forgot the language of their forefathers and the language of their worship services, and whose mother tongue became Slavic languages (Polish and Belorussian)?

For 620 years, the areas of present-day Lithuania, north-eastern Poland, Belarus and a part of Ukraine, i.e. the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) have been inhabited by the Tatar people, who represent the Sunni branch of Islam. The material and spiritual heritage of their culture is constituted by religious books in which the Polish and the Belorussian language used the Arabic script. These books: tefsirs, kitabs, chamails, tejwids and smaller forms of writing which performed the function of amulets, conceal under the garb of the Arabic script content which is intelligible for Slavs. Tatar religious literature is a genuine cultural phenomenon. It combines the culture of...

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