Islamic Translation: Overcoming Challenges



Islamic Translation Overcoming Challenges

In part one, “Islamic Translation: Why So Challenging?” of the blog series, we’ve dealt with the main challenges that could be involved in this particular type of translation. This has only brought us closer to the original point: is having an immaculate Islamic translation a real thing?

Surprisingly, despite the challenges, the answer is definitely yes, and this is where the ‘how’ part comes in. And because this is no small talk, we bring you part two of the Islamic Translation blog series where we are going to shed some light on quality-centered best practices and approaches for this unconventional type of translation and how to smoothly overcome its challenges.

Best Practices and Strategies of Islamic Translation

Since this particular type of translation is of both extraordinary significance and sensitivity, there is this incredibly pressing need for quality and an error-free and hassle-free translation. With the challenges we previously tackled, we have realized the urgency of figuring out the optimum strategies and approaches to best handle these challenges and achieve the highest-quality.

While, in the digital age, Islamic translation has gone beyond the regular and has come to take several forms
including Multimedia, E-learning courses, Software & Mobile Application, Books and Online Content, the linguistic and cultural challenges remain the same.  However, no matter what the form it has taken, they all attend the same quality procedures mentioned below.

  • For translating islamic content, various translation strategies are employed, including paraphrasing, providing cultural equivalence- because sometimes culture fills the gaps of any linguistic limitations, borrowing, coining, and perhaps the most commonly implemented is transliteration. Transliteration1, in its essence, is “an operation whereby the characters of an alphabetic writing system are represented by characters from another alphabetic writing system”. For example, the wordالله Allah shouldn’t be rendered as God, as the word Allah has a unique character; it has no derivatives. Another example for transliteration can be found in the word البر (piety); it should be transliterated as berr followed by the translation of the word.

It is worth mentioning that among the several advantages of applying transliteration is facilitating Back Translation as well as enriching the target audience’s familiarity with Arabic and Islamic terms.

  • Determining the target audience whether Muslim or non-Muslim and also the purpose of translation has to be clearly defined whether academic or general in order to produce a suitable translation that is culturally and linguistically appropriate.
  • Creating a style guide is quite essential for any Islamic Translation project, for any translation project for that matter, to maintain consistency and uniformity of the translation process. It’s a set of guidelines put together by well-versed translators of Islamic discourse after insightful study, discussions, and consultations- which makes it the foundation and cornerstone of the entire process. On the other hand, a glossary might not work at its best here. The most advisable way to work things out here is to approve several translations for a given word and give the liberty to the linguist to use the best that could better deliver the meaning.
  • The translator assigned to work on this type of translation projects should be equipped with specific skills and qualities. It goes without saying that mastery in both Arabic and the target language is non-negotiable, just as specializing in Classical Arabic and Islamic Studies. Moreover, a smooth high-quality Islamic translation is in part attributed to the translator’s deep knowledge and profound understanding of Islam and its cultural, social, and historical, and emotive associations. An Islamic translator should be able to fully grasp the Islamic text and render it as accurately and faithfully as possible, not just from a linguistic perspective but also from Shari’a (Islamic Law) perspective.
  • The process of Islamic translation, however, shouldn’t be a one-man show; rather it should be verycollaborative between different parties participating in the translation. Translators coordinate with proofreaders and reviewers, who are all led by a project manager orchestrating their efforts. Accordingly, there must be frequent discussions throughout the various quality-centered translation stages (translating, proofreading, and reviewing) to align the work of translators, reviewers, and proofreaders, besides, the changes done by proofreaders are either accepted or rejected by reviewers, in attempts to maintain accuracy and consistency.
  • A Linguistic Bug Tracking Request is an innovative and useful extra-quality technique that can be implemented while working on this type of translation. It’s basically what proofreaders use to report any translations that are vague (proofreaders check the target language only) so that a reviewer or linguistic group lead can better explain it according to the source text and maybe suggest a better translation, and the same goes for similar cases.


When having an Islamic translation project, or any kind of translation project for that matter, no one wants a text in a different language, because we are all aware that it’s more than just that.

The good news is: Islamic translation could be quite challenging yes, but not when it’s done properly.

So, for the sake of doing it right and getting a seamless quality-oriented translation, we’ve established some cutting-edge strategies and techniques. However, don’t forget, it is a whole package kind of thing that you need to implement all its elements for your most desired outcome.

BayanTech is a professional translation and localization service provider, which has made major contributions to Islamic Translation. BayanTech has proven experience in translating islamic content, working on several related large-scale translation and localization projects from Arabic to English and other languages catering to small and large corporations, organizations; charity, NGO, independent organizations, in addition to other online communities and Islamic learning centers.

Contact us to learn more about our projects and to discuss yours.


  1. An article, “Islamic religious terms in English – translation vs. transliteration in Ezzeddin Ibrahim and Denys Johnson-Davies’ translation of AnNawawī’s Forty Ḥadīths, in The International Journal for Translation & Interpreting Research

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