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BACKGROUND OF HEARING LOSS
Hearing Loss, in all its forms, affects 1 in 7 (about 9 million) people within the United Kingdom. Through the hard work of many charitable organisations, the advent of new technologies and the immense efforts of individuals, the stigma surrounding deafness is slowly being removed and Deaf individuals are now able to lead fuller and more integrated lifestyles.
British Sign Language (BSL) is the language of choice for many Deaf individuals in Great Britain, in some cases it is the first language used ahead of English. BSL involves using a combination of hand signs, gestures, facial expressions and lip synching in order to communicate with other individuals instead of the traditional use of one’s voice to speak and an ear to receive and understand.
Through time, BSL has been revised with new signs to include modern words and phrases which also include slang and accents. Despite this, BSL has never been amended to hold any form of religious bias. This means Deaf individuals wanting to have access to their religion, in a language they can understand, simply cannot.
Each country has its own form of sign language, for example the United States of America use American Sign Language (ASL), Saudi Arabia uses Arabic Sign Language (ASL) etc. Some words and phrases will use the same signs, however each is considered a language within itself.
SOCIETY IS ADAPTING
Deaf individuals in Great Britain have become more integrated within society as organisations and government have begun to tailor products and services to account for the need of those who cannot hear. Examples of this include:
- Subtitled tvprogrammes or the inclusion of an on screen sign language interpreters
- Visual displays of transport information on all tubes, buses and trains
- Phone relay services that translate live written words into voice or vice versa to allow deaf people to speak to any hearing individual on the phone.
THE HOLY QURAN
The Islamic faith holds belief that The Holy Quran is the word of Allah (God). Revealed verse by verse over the course of 23 years to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the archangel Jibrael (Gabrial).
The Holy Quran is viewed by the 1 billion+ global Muslim population as the final word of God after the revelation of The Holy Bible, The Psalms of David and The Torah.
The Holy Quran itself is made up of 114 sections (Arabic: Sura) of varying length with the shortest being a single line and the longest equal to 20 pages of Arabic calligraphy.
To a Muslim, It is in essence summoned best by the following verse of The Holy Quran “This revelation is no fabrication; it is a confirmation of the truth of what was sent before it; an explanation of everything; a guide and blessing for those who believe” (Sura Yusuf 12:111)
WHY AL ISHARAH?
Established in 2007, we are the only Islamic research and development charity in Great Britain which aims to make the religion of Islam accessible to any Deaf Individual, be they practising Muslims or simply wishing to learn about the Islamic faith.
Our previous engagements within the Deaf Muslim community include:
- Islamic Sign Creation
- Working with a qualified Sheikh (religious teacher), Al Isharah invented 99 new signs for Arabic words of Islamic context that are now used by BSL users.
- Deaf Umrah – Video
- We manage a fully accessible annual Umrah service to take Deaf Muslims to Mecca, Saudi Arabia to perform the pilgrimage of Umrah with Interpreters.
- Friday ‘Khutbah’ Service – Video
- Held weekly on Fridays at mosques in East London and Birmingham, we provide translation services to allow Deaf individuals to understand the sermon given before Friday prayers.
- Call to Prayer BSL translation – Video
- Shown 5 times a day on Islamic satellite channels, we devised the world’s first BSL call to prayer. This allowed Deaf Individuals to see (through sign) and read (through subtitles) that the time for prayer had arrived for the day.
- A pilot translation of the first chapter of Quran – Video
- Al Isharah began a pilot translation of the first chapter of The Holy Quran to understand the effort of completing a translation in its entirety.
THE NEXT STEP
A project of this uniqueness and magnitude has never been previously comprehended by the Deaf Muslim community simply because the foundations for absorbing a BSL Quran were not in place.
Through the creation of Islamic signs, which have now been accepted by the Deaf Muslim community, and the undertaking of the pilot translation, the building blocks are in place for a Deaf individual to accept and understand a translation of The Holy Quran into BSL.
ENSURING THE MESSAGE IS NOT ALTERED
Translating the Holy Quran places a heavy responsibility on those who attempt it, as its accuracy is of the utmost imperative. For a Deaf person, the BSL Quran will be their only source of reference of Gods word therefore ensuring the availability of context and granular breakdown of verses is key to any output produced to ensure it is understood without having to seek alternate sources of knowledge.
The team that Al Isharah will dedicate to the BSL Quran project will be made up of both Deaf and Hearing professionals who understand the complex needs of the Deaf Community. Furthermore, through focus groups with Deaf individuals of different levels of Islamic literacy, we will ensure high quality control of the finalised product.
THE TRANSLATION PROCESS
It is critical that those who read this document recognise that translation is not an exact science. Despite it appearing that there is only one ‘right way’ of translating a given text, centuries of translation scholarship (in Asian and European traditions) have conclusively proven otherwise. By respecting this historical lesson, Al Isharah feel it is imperative to engage the Deaf Community in the translation process from the start to ensure the end product fits the needs of the Deaf Community first and foremost.
Our aim is to translate from Arabic into BSL as this will allow for the richness of the original Quranic message to be retained. Previous attempts have been made to translate from Arabic into English, English to simplified English and then simplified English into BSL.
By following the 3 stage process described above, Al Isharah discovered through feedback with focus groups, that the meanings of verses were not clear from a contextual point of view and therefore not understood by Deaf Individuals.
WHO WILL BE THE TARGET AUDIENCE?
- The Deaf Muslim Community and the wider Deaf Community in Great Britain (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales).
- Wider Islamic Community (including USA and Arab countries) – over 1/6th of the Global population
- Academics who have an interest in the language issues raised through the translation process
- International and domestic audiences who would like to venture into similar projects for their local sign language communities
InshaAllah with your duahs, support and donations, we can make this vision a reality.