Author: Razan Ghidhaoui
The word “translation” is derived from the Latin word “translito”, meaning “to carry across.” The Greek term for “translation” is “μετάφρασις” (metaphrasis), meaning “to speak across.” Therefore, the word itself uncovers the existence of a gap that it attempts to fill. Translation has always been a powerful tool in making cross-cultural communications possible, and for thousands of years, it was of utmost importance in the renaissance of many civilizations.
Throughout our evolutionary history, humans have scattered into countless groups all over the planet. Despite the fact we are all the same species, human speech has been shattered into countless tongues as well. But humans are still sociable, whether positively or negatively. We often meet each other for many different purposes such as trade, marriage, and war. With the difference in language, a gap has always existed in communication. As a result, we need to put an end to this disconnect that has emerged.
Among the most fruitful translation movements in history is the Graeco-Arabic translation movement that began in Baghdad during the mid-eighth century. For nearly two centuries, translators sustained a great effort to preserve an appreciable volume of Greek knowledge, which helped enrich their cultural heritage.
During the reign of the Abbasids, a major contribution was presented to the translation movement with the establishment of a library named “The House of Wisdom” (Bayt Al-Hikma). With an aim to promote the status of Arabic culture, the library was filled with authored and translated books from many languages, such as Greek, Persian, and Hindi. Many books on philosophy, engineering, mathematics, and celestial movements were translated into Arabic by notable translators from different cultures, religions, and ethnicities. Persians, Christians, and Muslims worked cooperatively to upgrade educational literature in Arabic.
With an expectation in history that civilizations rise and fall, Arabic translation movements came to an end when religious fundamentalism took over and monopolized the cultural sphere. This ended the scientific movement and consequently, obliterated the aspects of a civilized society.
On the verge of a cultural movement
However, if the fall of civilizations is inevitable, a new rise is always possible. Today, there is a huge gap between the western, highly modernized societies and the Arab ones. Hence, building a translation bridge between them is urgently needed. Among the promising and successful translation bridges being built, today is Bayt Al-Hikma 2.0 – the second version of the ancient Bayt Al-Hikma in Baghdad.
The goal of Bayt Al-Hikma 2.0 led by Ideas Beyond Borders is to rekindle the golden age of Arab civilization. The project’s wonderful team of translators, editors, and publishers have translated the equivalent of three hundred books on science, medicine, engineering, history, philosophy, biographies, humanities, and many other fields of knowledge so far. Although these accomplishments are significant, there is still a long path to fully activate an Arabic cultural renaissance that will help a new rise of Arab civilization.
On a personal level, my translation experience with Bayt Al-Hikma 2.0 has taught me a lot. Reading and translating Wikipedia articles has deepened my knowledge of many subjects, especially science and liberation. The team is very cooperative, and the editors and supervisors give their full effort in helping us improve and carry out our duty toward our societies. We are fully determined to accomplish our goals. We strive to see our efforts turn into something beautiful and our societies flourish again.
This article was edited by Skyeler Antonino