(I am using Arabic as a reference language because it's clearly the most relevant to the site; I see no reason the same idea can't be used for Urdu or Farsi or any other language in which there is a large amount of untranslated Islamic resources)

It is known that there is a lot of Islamic information out there in Arabic, much of which has not been translated (or translated clearly) into English. There is a lot of demand for English-language resources, as many western Muslims are not fluently bilingual.

Many users write posts referencing Arabic-language resources already, which is great (as long as the post is standalone enough for an English user). To me, that's one of the core advantages of this site, is that it's improving the corpus of information for English users; every Arabic language fatwa or article referenced, summarized and/or explained is one more new piece of information that is now available in English.

Google translate, unfortunately, is laughably terrible at working with Arabic, which leaves the bulk of this information difficult to access.

While the site itself is clearly to be on the topic of Islam, rather than an Arabic-English translation service, one wonders whether making such translations on-topic would be a constructive use of the site.


  • Demand: There are a lot of English-speaking Muslims who would benefit from an influx of English-language material.
  • Answerable: Translation is more art than science, but while there may be multiple ways to translate something, whether it's right or wrong is easily judged (and voted).
  • Experts: We have (or are expected to build) a community with a not insignificant number of experts who are both bilingual and knowledgeable in Islam.


  • Distracting: A lot of translation questions may distract from the actual questions about Islam which are supposed to be our meat and potatoes. We are not a translation service.
  • Copyright: I'm not sure exactly how copyright laws work regarding translation, especially not in the US. We would very possibly need to have very clear guidelines (i.e. summarize, rather than direct translate) to not fall afoul of them.
  • Quality: Opening the floodgates thus would potentially hit the site with a lot of low-quality questions ("What does fatwa #12220 say," "What does fatwa #12221 say," What does fatwa #12222 say," ad nauseum)
  • Core Audience: We want to attract experts in Islam, and seeing a bunch of translation questions would potentially bore them away. Translation is basically grunt work, not scholar work.

I honestly don't know if it's a good idea or not, but it seems like it has potential; I figured I'd let the community have a stab at this one. Does this seem like something we want, and if so, is it something that we can do constructively?

(Just for reference, similar issues have come up on the foreign-language Stack Exchange sites (e.g. german.SE and french.SE))


2 Answers 2


Talking of Google translate and others of the same ilk, it should be also be discouraged to use translation from these service in posts and edits, as I had witnessed once.

I would rather suggest something more beneficial, rather then explicitly ask for translation, like:

I want the translation of this/these fatwa(s)/article(s).

Something like:

I was having this problem [or doing research on this topic] and while searching online I came about this. I have read the English translation of it through this online service but I was having trouble comprehending the translations. So could someone explain it/this particular section to me? Also, a good translation of it would be much appreciated.

This way the readers and prospective answers would at least see that some serious effort was placed into this question, the need it legitimate and that the site is not being used as some kind of free translation service. Keeping in mind that the above example not to be abused as a cover. Needless to say this will be much less distracting and annoying to the new and present audience.

In regards to the copyright issues. I don't think it is much to be concerned about since that issue can be seen addressed in:


I think we should consider them gray area. I.e. they are not completely on-topic, nor complete off-topic, but border line. The suitability of such a question for the site depends on how much the question is about Islam and how interesting it is for other users.

Those which look of general interest might be fine, whereas if the question is not that interesting for others then we can close it (as too-localized?).

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