I was reading something in the Quran yesterday that bothered me. It’s in Surah 12, Yusuf. I’ve read it before but I’ve never thought about it deeply before. Read this ayah carefully,
“One day the king of Egypt said: ‘I saw seven fat cows in my dream which were eaten up by seven lean cows, likewise, I saw seven green ears of corn and seven others that were dried up. O chiefs! Tell me the meaning of my dream if you can interpret the dreams.” (12:43 trans. by Muhammad Farooq-i-Azam Malik)
So what’s wrong with this? The technical term is anachronism. The story of Prophet Yusuf, alaihis salaam (peace be upon him), takes place in Ancient Egypt, roughly 1000 B.C. But corn, as you might remember from American History, is a New World crop. Pilgrims in the 1600’s were unfamiliar with corn until the Native Americans showed them how to grow it. How could a king in Ancient Egypt been dreaming of a crop that would not be discovered for nearly three thousand years?
I was thinking if this might simply be a translation error and I believe it is a strong possibility. I was in Borders today, looking through different English translations of the Quran. Every one I saw had the word “corn.” I’m no Arabic scholar, but as near as I can figure from Malik’s translation, the Arabic word used for corn is “ijafun.” If anyone out there knows the Arabic etymology, I would love to read it.
The problem may not be in the Quran, but in the English word, “corn.” In the U.S., when we say “corn,” we mean a yellow plant with kernels. But in England, “corn” can refer to just about any cereal grain, including wheat and oats. I think what may have happened was that an early English translation of the Quran used the British term, referring to either wheat or oats (both Ancient Old World plants). Subsequent translators probably kept the word “corn” without realizing the ambiguity.
Also, you might wonder, as I did, about the word “ear.” In English, we commonly talk about “ears of corn” but are there such things as “ears of wheat?” Indeed there are ears of wheat. According to www.dictionary.com, “ear” is defined as
|the part of a cereal plant, as corn, wheat, etc., that contains the flowers and hence the fruit, grains, or kernels.|
Has anyone else seen something strange in the Quran or Bible that you would like to discuss?