Category Archives: Importance of Arabic

Swallow more than your pride.

*Post edited and corrected on 28-10-08


al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

It has been narrated that a major scholar of the past [1] used to try and fault the Qur’an by searching for flaws in its language. His attempts and studies lasted months, during which time a group of men would frequent his house and ask him whether he had found anything yet. Eventually, he smashed his ink pot and broke his pen, and replied, “None can dispute that this is the Speech of Allah!” He then left the house and passed by a mosque, from which he heard the voice of a young boy reciting the verse,

وَقِيلَ يَا أَرْضُ ابْلَعِي مَاءكِ وَيَا سَمَاء أَقْلِعِي وَغِيضَ الْمَاء وَقُضِيَ الأَمْرُ وَاسْتَوَتْ عَلَى الْجُودِيِّ وَقِيلَ بُعْداً لِّلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ
And it was said, “O earth, swallow your water, and O sky, withhold [your rain].” And the water subsided, and the matter was accomplished, and the ship came to rest on the [mountain of] Judiyy. And it was said, “Away with the wrongdoing people.” (Hood, verse 44)

to which the man remarked, “It is not possible that a human could produce such words.”

The verse in question is one of the most beautiful, eloquent, rhetorical verses of the Qur’an, as the scholars of Arabic balaaghah (rhetoric) identified within it more than twenty-five different rhetorical devices (fann balaaghee) within just 17 words! [2] Continue reading

A lesson in their stories

islam-lands.jpgal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

لَقَدْ كَانَ فِي قَصَصِهِمْ عِبْرَةٌ لِّأُوْلِي الأَلْبَابِ

Indeed in their stories, there is a lesson for men of understanding. (12:111)

There are a great many examples throughout Islamic classical literature in which the scholars, leaders, and pious men of the past urged and encouraged the Muslims to learn, speak and master classical Arabic, and avoid grammatical mistakes in their speech as much as they were able. The primary reason that drove the scholars of the past to systemize the rules of grammar was the grammatical solecisms (lahn لحن) that were beginning to creep into the tongue of the Arabs, due to the expansion of their borders which led them to mix with non-Arabs and be influenced by their language [among other reasons] and there was a fear that this would lead to an increase in making mistakes when reciting the Qur’an, as had happened in a number of previous cases.

Thus, very early on in the history of Islam we find such examples of encouraging the mastery of Arabic, among which are: Continue reading

In perfect form.

roseal-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

One aspect of the miraculousness of the Qur’anic language lies in the precision of its words. As al-Suyuti said in al-Itqaan fee ‘Uloom al-Qur’aan,

“It is possible to convey a single meaning with a variety of words, some more expressive than others. Likewise for the two parts – subject and predicate – of a sentence; each may be expressed in the most eloquent manner when taken alongside the other. Thus, it is necessary [in good composition] to consider the overall meaning of a sentence, then to consider every single word that may be used to convey that meaning, and then to use the most appropriate, expressive and eloquent of those words. This is impossible for man to do consistently, or even most of the time, but it is well within the Knowledge of Allaah [whose knowledge is boundless], and thus the Qur’an was considered the best and most eloquent of all speech…”

One example of this usage lies in the morphological forms found in the Qur’an, which will sometimes reflect the deeper meaning of the word itself, and upon reflection it can be found that not a single word in the Qur’an can be changed for another without it affecting the depth of meaning conveyed by the original word. Continue reading

Diving is a skill.

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

If Arabic is a sea, then the Qur'an is the most precious treasures, jewels, pearls and gems that can be found in the sea. But reaching these treasures requires a diver skilled in deep thought and contemplation. One of the prerequisites for a diver to reach this level of skill, is a knowledge and understanding of Arabic and its sciences.

In this regard, Ibn Taymiyyaah (rahimahu Allaah) commented,

"Before one can interpret and understand the Qur'an and the Hadith, he must know the denotations and connotations intended by the words of Allaah and His Messenger (sallaa Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam). How can their words be understood? Knowledge of the Arabic language in which we were addressed will help us to understand what Allaah and His Messenger (sallaa Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) intended through their words, as will understanding the semantics behind the words and phrases. Truly, most of the misguidances of the Innovators occured due to this reason – they began to misinterpret the words of Allaah and His Messenger (sallaa Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) claiming that they meant one thing, when really they meant another." [1]

[1] al-Eemaan : 111

Like a building and its foundations.

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

The Arabic language no doubt has a special place in Islam because it is the language of the Qur'an, and the importance of Arabic to each Muslim is proportional to their relationship with the Qur'an and how deeply they seek to understand it.

Thus, the Muslim must be vigilant in protecting and preserving the Arabic Language, and this vigilance is related to his vigilance and protectiveness of the religion itself, for one complements the other and strengthens the other, like a building and its foundations.

An argument in favour of Arabic states [1]: Language is a means by which history is manifested and expressed, and history narrates the character of a people and their nation, and a nation may be said to be crafted by its language because it is one of its inherant, natural needs that cannot be replaced by another. And the Qur'an in this regard represents a linguistic nationality that gathers together all the believers in Tawheed, through the Arabic language.

[1] Adapted from the book al-Bu'd al-Deeni li-al-Lughah al-'Arabiyyah wa atharuhaa fi al-Tadaamun al-'Arabi wa al-Islaami by Dr. Muhammad Sikhani, Dar Qutaybah: Beirut, pg 66-68

A way forward?

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh

Jamal al-Din al-Afghani studied the relationship between the Arabic language and the strength of the Muslim Ummah, and among the conclusions he reached was:

"The Turks overlooked a vital matter; the adoption of the Arabic language as their state language. Had the Ottoman Empire adopted Arabic as its official language and strove to Arabicize the tongues of the Turks, it would have been impregnable. But instead, it did the opposite and tried to Turkicise the Arabs which turned out to be a regretable policy and misjudged move. Arabicization would have removed the nationalistic feuds from the two nations [and united and strengthened them]…" [1]

[1] For more information, refer back to al-A'maal al-Kaamilah by Jamal al-Din al-Afghani.