Yazid Haroun (Durham University) (Re)translation as an ideological Saudi state apparatus

Although many studies, especially in social and political sciences, have examined the Saudi state’s symbiosis with the revivalist movement known as ‘Wahhabism’, few studies have considered the role of (re)translation of the Qur’an in maintaining support for such a historical relationship. This paper illuminates (re)translation’s role in the study of the relationship between the Saudi state and Wahhabism. It offers a textual and paratextual analysis of the Saudi’s state’s adopted translations and revision attempts of the Qur’an. It argues that (re)translation of the Qur’an has been instrumental in furthering the historical relationship between Wahhabism and the state of Saudi Arabia. Drawing on Louis Althusser’s notion of ideology, the article suggests that Saudi Arabia uses Qur’an (re)translation as an Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) to counter geopolitical challenges to its authority. Understanding (re)translation’s role as an ISA can open up an area for interdisciplinary debate, paving the way for an analysis of the Saudi state’s historical relationship with Wahhabism in terms of translation. Overall, this paper highlights how Qur’an (re)translation is exploited to create and renew the Saudi’s state self-proclaimed image as the guardian of faith.

About the author

Yazid Haroun has recently completed a PhD in Translation Studies at Durham University. His current research focuses on the operation of ideology at the level of Qur’an translation in the process of political mobilisation. He is particularly interested in what a focus on ideology and religion can bring to understanding the notion of translation as a social activity.