Translating the sacred Agency in translating verb-noun alternation in the Qur'an

Abdul Gabbar Al-Sharafi*, Rizwan Ahmad

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the contentious issues in religious translation since the legendary St. Jerome is the degree of the translator's agency. The point of contention has been whether the translator can exercise agency and freedom in translating sacred texts or they should strictly adhere to the form and attend to what St. Jerome called the "mysterious syntax"of the sacred text. Using a stylistic approach (Abdul-Raof 2001 and 2006; Abdel Haleem 1992), we address the issue of the translator's agency in religious translation by examining the translations of a unique rhetorical feature, namely the verb-noun alternation, by seven key translators in Verses 59, 64, 69 and 72 of Chapter 56, Al-Waqi'ah. Despite the general assumption that religious translation is highly constrained and that the translators of this type of text have little freedom, the findings of this paper show that religious translators, in fact, do exercise agency in their translation, whether in the form of adapting the source text to the target text readers or in the form of reproducing the grammatical patterning of the source text for cultural or ideological reasons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-340
Number of pages24
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 15 2022


  • Arabic rhetoric
  • Arabic stylistics
  • eloquence
  • Iltifat
  • Qur'anic inimitability
  • religious translation
  • translator's agency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language

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