William Chittick's Translation of Kašf al-Asrār wa ʿOddat al-Abrār:

Perpetuating Orientalist Paradigms


  • Marzieh Malekshahi 📧 Assistant Professor, English Language Department, Faculty of Humanities, Damghan University, Damghan, Iran
  • Dr Assistant Professor, Department of Islamic Sciences, Faculty of Humanities, Damghan University, Damghan, Iran


This article provides a postcolonial analysis of William Chittick's English translation of Kašf al-asrār wa ʿoddat al-abrār, a monumental Qurʾānic commentary by the 12th-century Persian scholar Abu’l-Fażl Rašid-al-Din Meybodi. The study investigates how Chittick's positionality as a contemporary Western academic shaped his translation approach, arguing that it reflects certain Orientalist leanings inherited from colonialist discourses. The analysis focuses on framing devices, selectivity, and translation choices that exoticize Islamic culture as mystical and inferior. Strategies like framing Meybodi’s text specifically as "Sufi" commentary, excluding biographical content, and selectively emphasizing passages related to "love" cater to Orientalist paradigms that bifurcate between an emotional, mystical Sufism and legalistic, orthodox Islam. This reductionist filtering tailored for Western expectations fragments Meybodi's integrated exegetical methodology which interweaves linguistic, legal, and spiritual dimensions. Chittick's omission of extensive Arabic sections and hadiths diminishes the centrality of Prophetic narrations in Qurʾānic interpretation. Overall, the study argues that Chittick's decontextualization and homogenization of this profoundly diverse text severely compromises its integrity. It calls for greater reflexivity regarding translators' inherited ideological assumptions and respect for the cultural context and polyvalent nature of source texts.


Kašf al-asrār, Orientalism, Postcolonialism, Qurʾānic exegesis, Sufism, Translation


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How to Cite

Malekshahi, M., & Mirseyyed, S. M. R. (2024). William Chittick’s Translation of Kašf al-Asrār wa ʿOddat al-Abrār:: Perpetuating Orientalist Paradigms. Iranian Journal of Translation Studies, 21(84). Retrieved from https://journal.translationstudies.ir/ts/article/view/1154



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