Arabic- the language of Islam
The Qur’an is in Arabic, the hadiths or sayings of the Prophet (S) are all recorded in Arabic, our Prophet (S) and his followers spoke Arabic; therefore, the language of Islam is Arabic. Then how come we are Muslims without Arabic?
This question always haunts me. The Qur’an says -
“A.L.R. These are the symbols (or Verses) of the perspicuous Book. We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an, in order that ye may learn wisdom. We do relate unto thee the most beautiful of stories, in that We reveal to thee this (portion of the) Qur'an: before this, thou too was among those who knew it not.” (12:1-3).
The Qur’an has been intentionally sent down to us in Arabic. The original copy of the Qur’an is kept in the heaven on preserved tablets in Arabic -
“Day, this is a Glorious Qur'an, (Inscribed) in a Tablet Preserved!” (85:21-22).
We could logically conclude that the language in the heavens is also Arabic. Therefore, as Muslims we are ought to learn this language in order to follow it properly-
“Thus have We revealed it to be a judgment of authority in Arabic. Wert thou to follow their (vain) desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither protector nor defender against God.” ().
Why Arabic? Arabic is considered the ‘mother’ of all languages. Since Prophet Adam (A) descended directly from heaven being the way he was and he must have spoken Arabic language. Therefore, his lineage spoke Arabic during his time. We find a clue here that says this language is ‘pure and clear’ –
“We know indeed that they say, "It is a man that teaches him." The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic, pure and clear.” (16:103).
For an Arab, Arabic is a mother tongue. But for the Muslims who are non-Arabs are in an obligation to learn this language for religious reason. Jews who are born and brought up in a non-Jewish environment learns Hebrew for the sake of their religion. Then why not Muslims learn Arabic?
In order to understand the Qur’anic knowledge one must understand Arabic first hand. It is not possible to fully understand the Qur’an basing on someone else’s translation and interpretations with 100% accuracy because the translator and interpreter could also err.
“Thus have We sent this down - an arabic Qur'an - and explained therein in detail some of the warnings, in order that they may fear God, or that it may cause their remembrance (of Him). High above all is God, the King, the Truth! Be not in haste with the Qur'an before its revelation to thee is completed, but say, "O my Lord! advance me in knowledge."” (20:113-114).
The appeal of the language of the Qur’an could not be understood without the knowledge of the original language on which the revelations came and have been recorded –
“Verily this is a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds: With it came down the spirit of Faith and Truth- To thy heart and mind, that thou mayest admonish. In the perspicuous Arabic tongue. Without doubt it is (announced) in the mystic Books of former peoples.” (26:192-196).
The Qur’an is a book of parables explained in simple terms for the Muslims to follow. But how can it be understood properly without reading and understanding it in the original form, which is Arabic?
“We have put forth for men, in this Qur'an every kind of Parable, in order that they may receive admonition. (It is) a Qur'an in Arabic, without any crookedness (therein): in order that they may guard against Evil.” (39:27-28).
Again and again Allah is stressing on the importance of the language of Arabic in order to understand the book -
“A Revelation from (God), Most Gracious, Most Merciful;- A Book, whereof the verses are explained in detail;- a Qur'an in Arabic, for people who understand;- Giving good news and admonition: yet most of them turn away, and so they hear not.” (41:2-4).
Non-Arab Muslims ‘turn away and hear not’ because they ‘understand not’. If they could understand Arabic would they turn away and hear not?
Other earlier scriptures were revealed in languages other than Arabic as they were meant for the people of the region or group where they were residing. Those scriptures were regional and not global in nature carrying the however the same message as we find in the Qur’an –
“Nothing is said to thee that was not said to the apostles before thee: that thy lord has at his Command (all) forgiveness as well as a most Grievous Penalty.” (41:43).
But Islam is the universal religion and the last of the revelations for entire mankind. Therefore, it was planned in such a way that it would come to the last Prophet Muhammad (S) in his own language-
“Had We sent this as a Qur'an (in the language) other than Arabic, they would have said: "Why are not its verses explained in detail? What! (a Book) not in Arabic and (a Messenger an Arab?" Say: "It is a Guide and a Healing to those who believe; and for those who believe not, there is a deafness in their ears, and it is blindness in their (eyes): They are (as it were) being called from a place far distant!"” (41:44).
The revolution had to begin somewhere. And it began in Makkah – the mother of the cities-
“And those who take as protectors others besides Him,- God doth watch over them; and thou art not the disposer of their affairs. Thus have We sent by inspiration to thee an Arabic Qur'an: that thou mayest warn the Mother of Cities and all around her,- and warn (them) of the Day of Assembly, of which there is no doubt: (when) some will be in the Garden, and some in the Blazing Fire. If God had so willed, He could have made them a single people; but He admits whom He will to His Mercy; and the Wrong-doers will have no protector nor helper.” (42:6-8).
Selection of language (i.e., Arabic) must have something to do with understanding the message clearly and properly. Without understanding the language by heart we would not be in a position to realize fully in what way Arabic is superior as a language compared to other languages-
“By the Book that makes things clear,- We have made it a Qur'an in Arabic, that ye may be able to understand (and learn wisdom). And verily, it is in the Mother of the Book, in Our Presence, high (in dignity), full of wisdom.” (43:2-4).
Qur’an confirms that the Book before the Qur’an was the Book of Moses (i.e., Torah) that was considered a guide and mercy-
“And before this, was the Book of Moses as a guide and a mercy: And this Book confirms (it) in the Arabic tongue; to admonish the unjust, and as Glad Tidings to those who do right.Verily those who say, "Our Lord is God," and remain firm (on that Path),- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. ” (46:13).
Before Islam and before revelation of the Qur’an, people used to listen to the Torah – The Book of Moses translated into Arabic for their understanding-
Narrated Abu Huraira: The people of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and then explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. Allah's Apostle said (to the Muslims). "Do not believe the people of the Book, nor disbelieve them, but say, 'We believe in Allah and whatever is revealed to us, and whatever is revealed to you.' " (Bukhari 9.460).
But it is no longer required as the Muslims now have their own revelation, which is the Holy Qur’an.
In order for us to learn Islam from its original sources (i.e., the Qur’an and Sunnah) we must learn Arabic. Or else we would always be under the dictating spells of others telling us in the name of ‘fatwas’ what we should do. To be a complete Muslim we need to understand the complete Qur’an and Sunnah and practice according to the guidelines laid down in those books.
It has been observed that all the religion based problems exists only in the non-Arabic speaking Muslim countries. All kinds of non-Islamic innovated practices (Bidat) are observed in these countries; Bangladesh being one of them. Recently, while speaking to a madrassa manager about their hafizia program where the students memorize the entire Qur’an we finally agreed that this memorization of the Qur’an does not help an individual intellectually if it is not understood.
So, where can we learn Arabic in Bangladesh? Fortunately, the number of Arabic teaching centers are growing in the country facilitating class room based traditional learning environment. There are some governmental initiatives as well as private. Quality of teaching and cost would vary from center to center that only an individual can verify by attending them.
Some may even venture into self paced learning options using books; and computer based learning materials (CDs / DVDs) as well as following an online learning program. But please take note, unless one have a strong desire and motivation online learning may not turn out to be fruitful. For most individuals, traditional class room learning still works best.
There are some free programs offered by different organizations that they advertise in the newspapers from time to time. One may find some program offered at the local masjids as well. If the masjid or madrassa (meaning Islamic school) in your area is not offering Arabic language program then organize one for the sake of Allah! Turn all the masjids and madrassas’ in the country into Arabic teaching / learning centers.
Our educational system and syllabuses at the school level should incorporate teaching of Arabic language as we have for the English language. The English medium Islamic schools in Dhaka do teach three languages – Bangla, English and Arabic from the nursery level, which is good. We could follow the school model developed by Dr. Zakir Naik for his own school International Islamic School (IIS) in Mumbai, India. Bringing in a franchise of the school could yield tremendous results in our country.
The high commissions and embassies from the Arab nations could contribute greatly by introducing and offering Arabic language learning programs through their cultural wings. Offering regular scholarships to Bangladeshis to attend Arabic language learning programs (short term and long term) in their respective countries could be arranged that would yield better relationship between the citizens of Bangladesh and their country.
Places where Arabic language is taught in Dhaka: