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The Global Qur’an. Shared Traditions, Imperial Languages and Transnational Actors

Project description

The challenges of translating the Qur’an

The Qur’an has gained unprecedented importance as a central source of guidance for Muslims worldwide since the early 20th century. It has been translated from its original Arabic into dozens of languages spoken across the globe. The EU-funded GloQur project will take a closer look at the translations of this sacred text and their transnational religious, social and political dimensions. It will study the transnational governmental and non-governmental actors in the field as well as the translations produced by them. The project will furthermore analyze the historical dynamics of Qur’an translations into former languages of colonial empires such as English, French and Russian. The findings of the research will shed new light on the global dynamics of contemporary Islam.


This project looks at Qur’an translations as a central medium through which Muslims across the globe today approach their faith. Since the early 20th century, Qur’an translations have been produced in nearly all languages read by Muslims by a variety of individual and institutional actors across nation-state borders. GloQur aims to elucidate three major transnational dimensions of the burgeoning field of Qur’an translation and their interdependence. First, it will examine transnational governmental and non-governmental actors in the field as well as the translations produced by them. Second, it strives to transcend the simple dichotomy between Arabic and ‘vernacular’ languages by analysing, from a historical perspective, the complex centre-periphery structures created by the spread of European languages such as English, French and Russian. Third, we will study the negotiation and reconstruction of a shared exegetical heritage in various linguistic, social and ideological settings. We will examine the conditions in which translations were and still are commissioned and produced, the literary history and ideological backdrop of translations, the translators’ decisions as they become manifest in the texts and their use by local audiences. By studying the role of Qur’an translations in specific Muslim communities, as well as their use in social media, we seek to shed light on the linguistic, cultural and religious significance that is attributed to them and on the processes through which specific translations are elevated to a position of authority. GloQur will thus bridge the gap between philological, historical and anthropological approaches to modern and contemporary Muslim engagement with the Qur’an. By developing an analytical framework for understanding the translation of a sacred text as a transnational religious, social and political practice, the project will break new ground in understanding the global dynamics of contemporary Islam.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 980 000,00
79098 Freiburg

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Baden-Württemberg Freiburg Freiburg im Breisgau, Stadtkreis
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 980 000,00

Beneficiaries (1)