Arabic - The Key to Understanding
Study the Noble Quran Word-for-Word
We all feel touched when we open up a good
translation of the meaning of the Qur’an and we ponder and wonder
at the beauty of the words and the deep meanings within. But in
reality we are just seeing a glimpse of the real treasure that the
Imagine how you’d feel if you could
understand the words of Allah in the form in which they were sent
down and not just rely on a translation of the meaning in English.
Imagine the power of the words and the directness of the message
then! The potency would be awesome!
The Qur’an is the word of Allah; a direct
message from Allah to us His creation and Allah chose the Arabic
language as the language of this message. Indeed Allah tells us
this in the Qur’an emphasizing to us that to understand the
message in its fuller form one must understand the language:
“Indeed we have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an, in order
that you may understand” (Surah Yusuf, Aayah 2)
thus we have inspired to you an Arabic Qur’an so that you may
warn the mother of towns and all around it” (Surah ash-Shura,
Arabic and the message of the Qur’an
cannot be separated and translators throughout the ages have tried
to convey to the non-Arabic speaking people the beauty of the
meaning of the Qur’an but have always called it ‘The translation
of the meaning of the Qur’an’, emphasising the fact that the
Qur’an’s direct translation is not possible, because so much of
the potency and splendour of the words and their meanings which
are inextricably linked to the Arabic language are lost in English
or any other language. Indeed to even appreciate the poetic beauty
of the Qur’an one needs to have an understanding of Arabic.
Remember that for the Arabs in the time of the Prophet (sallallaahu
‘alaihi wa sallam) who were masters of eloquence and poetry, the
words of the Qur’an itself were so unique compared to the poetry
of the most eloquent of them that many came to Islam recognising
that the Qur’an could not be the handiwork of even the best human
poet, rather it could only come from Allah. The language itself
was one of the miracles of the Qur’an. Allah challenges mankind:
“And if you are in doubt about what we have sent down to our
servant, then produce a chapter like it and call your
witnesses besides Allah if you are truthful. But if you do not
do it, and you can never do it, then fear the Fire whose fuel
is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers” (Surah Baqarah, aayaat 23-24)
The Preservation of the Arabic Language
Languages usually evolve. Just look at the
difference between Shakespearean English and modern day English.
In many ways they seem like two totally different languages and a
man from England in Shakespearean times and a man from modern day
England would find it extremely difficult to communicate! But the
Arabic language is not just ‘a language’. This is why the Sahabah
and the early generations of Muslims strove to preserve the
classical Arabic language. It was Ali (radi allaahu ‘anhu) who
noticed on the tongues of some of the Arabs a slight change in
dialect and ordered for the grammar rules of Arabic to be recorded
in a universal form. He knew that the preservation of the Arabic
language was part of the preservation of Islam itself.
Arabic unified the Muslim countries as it
spread to every land that embraced Islam. This is why it is seen
that those Muslim societies that ignore Arabic are in general less
knowledgeable about Quran.
The enemies of Islam know this and have
worked hard to tear the Muslims from the Arabic language and the
Qur’an. During the French occupation of Algeria, the French
government was advised,
will never be able to overpower the Algerians as long as they
read the Qur’an and speak Arabic. Therefore we must remove the
Arabic Qur’an from their midst and abolish the Arabic language
from their tongues.”
And unfortunately this is exactly what the
secular leader of Turkey, Kamal Ataturk, who abolished the Islamic
caliphate, did. He ordered that the Qur’an be recited in Turkish,
even in prayers and changed the Turkish language which used to be
written in Arabic into a Latin alphabet.
Today you will find that although Arabs throughout the world
unfortunately have different colloquial dialects, they are still
taught the Classical Arabic in their schools and Classical Arabic
is the standard written Arabic in every Arabic newspaper and book.
So it has been preserved by Allah as He promised in the Qur’an:
“Indeed we have sent down the Reminder and surely we will
preserve it.” (Surah Hijr, Aayah 9)
A Priority for all of us
Scholars throughout the ages, from the
beginning of Islam to the present day, encouraged the Ummah to
learn the Arabic language.
Unfortunately, we have become comfortable
with simply relying on translations and spending all of our time
and efforts in studying other things, (other languages even!) and
have forgotten that the Qur’an is in a very approachable language
and we all have the ability or rather the responsibility to study
and understand it. If you knew that Allah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala)
had a message for you, personally, then would you not want to
understand it in its original form? Think about it…we have the
last revelation to mankind, the only communication from our Lord
and Master, which is preserved in its original form, and yet in a
70 odd year life we do not give it the attention, which it
deserves. We should realize that Allah has honored us with the
Qur’an and chosen for us the noblest of languages. Attention to
Arabic is attention to the Book of Allah so we should make
learning it a priority.
I remember the feeling of tasting the sweetness of Allah’s words
in my Salaah when I first embarked upon my Arabic studies. I just
repeated the same aayah of the Qur’an again and again savoring the
words and suddenly feeling a deep emotion that I’d never felt
before though I had read the same aayah many times before studying
Arabic, it was as though a light had been lit for me and I’d
suddenly discovered a new part of a house that I’d been living in
for years. One of the definite benefits of learning Arabic is that
it aids Khushoo’ or consciousness in salaah and helps us to
improve all of our worships.
Practical steps towards learning Arabic
Alhamdulillah with all the teaching aids
and easy access to information that we have, learning Arabic does
not necessarily mean traveling on arduous journeys to distant
lands as it once used to. With discipline and commitment, the
student can study much in his own time
Here are some tips to help you along they way:
1. Make Du’a: As with everything we work
towards, we should ask Allah to help us and make learning easy for
us. We should ask Allah to purify our intentions so that we truly
learn Arabic for the better understanding of the Qur’an and deen.
2. Discipline yourself! Put a set amount
of time aside every day or twice a week for your Arabic studies
and stick to it. Remember a little study regularly is better than
hours of study once a month.
3. Know your basics well: going step by
step is the best way to master any language, concentrating on
improving your basic reading and writing is the first step in
learning Arabic, even if it is repetitive. Then you can build on
that firm foundation.
4. Invest in a good dictionary and Arabic books:
A good dictionary is the Hans Wehr or Al-Mawrid dictionary,
available in most Muslim bookshops and on the Internet too! Arabic
words are usually arranged under their three letter roots. Get
used to looking up words often and compile your own personal
vocabulary dictionary. Some good three-book sets you can start
working through are the three Madinah university books or the
Kitaab-ul Asaasi books.
5. Enrol into a summer course: There are
a few around every summer and they are a great way to kick-start
your learning. They can be quite intensive so remember to revise
and keep up your study afterwards.
6. Study Arabic as part of your full-time
degree: If you are going to study a degree, why not study a
degree in Arabic or one with Arabic as part of it?
7. Study under an Arab friend or tutor:
The importance of a good teacher cannot be stressed enough.
Although there is a lot of self-study involved, a friend who knows
Arabic or an Arab brother or sister who you could go to regularly
for guidance would be very valuable. You could even start going
through your Arabic books with them.
8. Organize a class locally: There must
be like-minded Muslims in your area who would like to study Arabic
too. Maybe you could get together and pay for a teacher to teach
you Arabic together at the local Masjid or in one of your homes.
Studying with friends is a good way to stay motivated.
9. Study abroad in an Arab country: there
are various good courses running in countries such as Egypt which
really speed up your learning and can provide you with a nice
experience. People have found that a few months in an Arab country
can be more beneficial than a year or more of studying at home.
Make sure you keep up your studying when you get back though!
10. Expose yourself to as much Arabic as you
can: You can listen to Arabic lecture tapes, visit Muslim
countries, read some Arabic everyday, and maybe get an Arab
newspaper when you become more proficient.
11. Speak Arabic whenever you can: One of
the biggest obstacles to speaking Arabic is being shy about making
mistakes in speech and so not speaking at all. You must overcome
this shyness and use whatever you know whenever you can. This is
how you will eventually improve insha Allah. Maybe you could meet
some Arab brothers or sisters who only speak Arabic. This way
you’ll be forced to speak what you know and they’ll be pleased
that you’re making the effort.
12. Relate your knowledge back to the Qur’an and
other worships: Don’t forget that your aim is to understand
what you recite of the Qur’an especially in your salaah and other
adhkaar. Try to recognise Arabic words as you come across them in
the Qur’an and apply your knowledge in understanding the Qur’an.
Ponder over and pay attention to the words in your salaah.
13. Todays world of
Internet there are many websites where you can learn the meaning
of the Quran
Study the Noble Quran Word-for-Word
May Allah help us all to master the
language of the Qur’an and to aid its spread throughout the Ummah.
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