IMPORTANCE OF A KHMER TRANSLATION OF THE QURAN
Most of the religious teachers in Cambodia were syahid during the reign of the communist regime Pol Pot from 1975-1979. After the fall of the regime it was estimated that there were only about thirty religious teachers left who were able to read the kitab (books) in the Arabic language. Their efforts to revive the Islamic teachings caused them to translate the Quran into Cham and Khmer language according to the needs of the teaching environment.
The majority of the Cambodian population is Khmer. The Khmer language and cultural traditions are distinct from the Cham language and cultural traditions. Hundreds of years of assimilations of the Cham in Cambodia give rise to a peculiar situation where many of the Cham people are not able to read or speak Cham. They can only read and speak the Khmer language. This group of people can be divided into two:
1. The Cham people that are concentrated in the Southern of Cambodia where historically they were separated from the mainstream of the Cham culture.As such they were totally assimilated in terms of language to only being able to write and speak Khmer.
2. The historical status of the Cham as the migrant people in Cambodia did not allow the Cham language to flourish as a language of knowledge. The loss of the Cham Empire also narrowed down the language to be used primarily as a verbal language of communications. Many young people of the Cham community are more conversant in the Khmer language as the whole educational system conducted by the government is in the Khmer language.
More importantly, 95% of the Cambodian population are Khmer. Culturally they never had the opportunity to understand Islam from the primary sources as the resources of Islamic knowledge in the Khmer language are minimal. The translation of the Quran in the Khmer language will allow the Khmer people to open the door to the vast treasure of Islamic knowledge. The tolerant nature of the Khmer people and the Buddhist religion allow Islam to be understood as it is. However, the missionary activities of the Christian is a worrying trend due to their confrontational nature to the Islamic religion. If Islam is not being presented in Cambodia there is a fear that the ingrained prejudices of Islam among the western Christians will be transferred to the converted Christians among the Khmer.
THE KHMER LANGUAGE
The famous philosopher in the Malay world Professor Naquib al- Attas has forwarded this thesis of languages of Islam. The main idea is that: a language is considered Islamic if the basic terms and concepts of Islam are embedded in it; to such an extent that all the Fardhu Ain (religious duties) of Islam can be understood using that language. This means that one can be a good Muslim even though that person cannot read or converse in Arabic.
By this definition the Malay language for example is considered as an Islamic language whereby all the basic tenets of Islam can be learnt through the language. This happens when the basic Arabic terminologies of Islam are the same terminologies used in the Malay language. Examples of these terminologies are iman, ehsan, zakah, hajj, tauhid, wudu’, halal, haram etc. The speakers of the Islamic languages normally can read the Quran and perform the obligatory prayers in Arabic. It is also easy for them to learn the Arabic language.
Conversely, the Khmer language has many influences and the main influence is from the Hindu Buddhist philosophy of life. The Khmer language is a Sanskrit based language and the religious terms of this language normally refers to the Hindu Buddhist theology. In many ways the translation of the Al-Quran into the Khmer language is a momentous attempt towards Islamizing the Khmer language. A group of religious teachers who can master the Arabic language also should act as the leader in integrating Islam with the local language. As such this will be a continual effort and the translations of the Quran will be the catalyst in bringing the Khmer people to understand and appreciate the Islamic philosophy of life.
The Honourable Hj. Zakaryya (right) shaking hands with the Chairman of Telekom Malaysia.
Zakaryya Adam was born on 9th of April 1951 in Kampong Cham province in Cambodia. His village was one of the central places to learn Islam before the war and he was brought up through both educational systems: the Islamic and national educational system.
During the civil war he joined the Muslim Battalion of the government who fought bitterly against the Communist Party of Cambodia. In one of the battle he was shot and hospitalized when Phnom Penh fell to the Communist hand. Zakaryya Adam had to disguise himself as an ordinary Cambodian to avoid execution. At that time the Khmer Rouge would execute anybody with any linkage with the Government army, any intellectual or religious teacher. He happened to fit all these three descriptions.
He was sent to the Kampong Cham town and was involved in building the ferry terminal that connects the East of Cambodia with the Western part across the Mekong River. He even had to disguise his Cham origins to avoid suspicions of his past.
He could only pray in secret and during this time he made the nazar or vow to dedicate his life to propagate the teaching of Islam if he survives this Pol Pot regime. After the war he started teaching at his village in national type school and also in Islamic madrasah. During the 80’s he was actively involved in dakwah activities in Muslim villages all over Cambodia. Many religious teachers now were his former students.
After the peace treaty in Paris in 1991 he moved to Phnom Penh to be involved with the reconstruction of the country. He was appointed as one of the member of the Highest Council of The Islamic Religious Affairs of Cambodia and remains a member till this day. After a shura (meeting) with other religious teachers he decided to be actively involved in politics through the Cambodian People’s Party. Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed him as the Under Secretary of State of the Ministry of Cults and Religion from 1998 till 2003. Due to his commitment and excellent performance Hun Sen promoted him to be a Secretary of State of the same ministry till 2008. In the last general election in 2008 he was elected as a member of parliament for the Kandal province.
During all these times he has not stopped teaching or writing. He has written numerous articles and Friday sermons and continuously supports the Mufti of Cambodia in spreading Islam. Beginning 1995 he decided to translate the Quran into the Khmer Language. His main references for this translation are the major kitabs and tafsirs in the Arabic language and the translation of the Quran in English, French and the Malay language.
Numerous editing and comments were solicited from the religious teachers in Cambodia, especially the Mufti of Cambodia. A completely translated Quran was given to the King Norodom Sihanouk during his royal birthday in 1998. A copy was also presented to Samdech Techo Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia during his birthday, the following year.
Zakarrya Adam’s proficiency in languages was acknowledged in the Asian region when he was appointed to be a member of the Malay Language board by the Malaysian government. Currently he is also the contributing editor to a Khmer-Malay dictionary; a work to be published by the National Malay Language board of Malaysia (Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka).
Zakarrya Adam now resides in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
‘Kaedah Cepat Baca Al-Quran’ Course by Al-Ameen Serve Holdings
The following are the estimated cost of this project:
Editing cost: USD 6,000
A final editing and proofreading of the translation is necessary so as to ensure the quality of the translated work.
Layout and design: USD 4,00
Printing: The followings are the specifications of the printing of the translation:
Quantity: 100, 000 copies at USD 7 per copy: USD 700, 000
Printing & Material: Contents: Black and white using 52.3 gm Wood free paper
Cover: 4c x Gloss Lamination
130 Art paper
End paper 140 Wood free
Finishing: Thread sewn, cover drawn on and trimmed to size, shrink wrapping
This printing quotation is from a printing company in Malaysia
Transportation and distribution costs : estimated 5% of printing costs USD 35,000
Total costs of project: USD 745,000
Funding for this project should be channelled into the following account:
Name of account: Mufti of Cambodia
Bank: Maybank Phnom Penh Branch
Account number: 00001-02-001136-07
Address: No. 3 Street 114,
Kramoun Sar, Phnom Penh
Cambodian Muslim Development Foundation:
Okhna Othsman Hassan
Cambodian Muslim Development Foundation
Haji Zakarrya Adam
Translator of the Al-Quran
& Vice President of Cambodian Muslim Development Foundation
Okhna Sos Komry
Mufti of Cambodia
Chairman of the Higher Council of Islamic Religious Affairs Cambodia