Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Special Issue on Translation No.5 May, 2016                                 Pp. 144- 157

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Lexical Difficulties in Translating Contemporary Spiritual Texts 

Hassan Shuqair Abdel Jawad
Department of English, College of Arts and Social Sciences
Sultan Qaboos University, Oman 

Hamdan Al-Hajri
Royal Oman Police, Oman


Translators of Mystical and corresponding types of spiritual discourse, e.g. Sufi texts,  an overlooked area in translation studies–are bound to face several problems, including issues of moral ethical pre-translation one as well as lexical problems in the process of translation. The role of the translator in dealing with such texts goes beyond the inter-lingual  equivalences of the messages to a deeper understanding and interpreting of their spiritual function. This paper surveys the first problem by showing that the translator faces an ethical and moral problem before he or she even begins translation. Then,  through the analysis of two translations to Arabic of Tolle’s (2005)  New Earth: Awakening to Life’s Purpose, the paper identifies the distinctive nature of spiritual language by highlighting the  characteristic features of  this style and providing some examples. Afterwards, the lexical difficulties that translators may encounter in rendering contemporary Mystical  texts are analyzed. Four categories are identified: central concepts having no commonly-used equivalents in contemporary Arabic writings, newly-coined concepts, shared concepts with other fields of knowledge, and concepts borrowed from other religions. Examples are drawn from two available translations,  Abu-Hawash’s (2009) and Hussain’s (2014) translations of Tolle’s work into Arabic. The discussion provides an insight into the nature of spiritual texts and how they should be rendered. Translators need to mobilize all resources to help them reach the intended interpretation of each item by  going deep  into the core of such texts in order to render proper translation
Key word: lexical difficulty, mysticism, New Age movement rhetorical devices, spiritual texts, Sufism,


Hassan R. Abdel-Jawad got his PhD in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in
1981. He taught in several Arab universities and currently he is an associate professor in Sultan
Qaboos University, Oman. His main areas of research interest are sociolinguistics, (critical)
discourse analysis, Pragmatics, Language , ideology and politics,, Language and identity, and