The Significance of Arabic Language in the Life of the Muslim

The Significance of Arabic Language in the Life of the Muslim"Indeed, We have sent the Qur'an down in Arabic so that you might understand" (Qur'an, 12:2).

Introduction

This article compares between the impact of English Language on any non-English, whose medium of instruction was English at school, and the significance of Arabic Language on any Muslim, who reads the Qur’an very often. The impact of English Language is discussed in Part 1, whereby the significance of Arabic Language is discussed in Part 2. Part 3 presents the main discussion and comparison, followed by conclusion.

Feel free to pen down your thoughts and reactions in the comments area. Here we go with Part 1.

Part 1: The Impact of English Language on the Life of Any Non-English Native

  1. Let us assume that English Language was your medium of instruction when you were in school.
  2. That means, by this age, as you read this, you are likely fond of the language.
  3. It also means you read stuffs in English, perhaps, more than in any other language.
  4. You also watch English movies.
  5. Perhaps, you listen to English music.
  6. You also have some English and ‘Englished’ men, whom you admire. These can be anything from scholars, businessmen to celebrities.
  7. It also means you are more comfortable travelling to English native and British colonized lands (English-speaking countries).
  8. Then, you are probably grateful that you know English Language (considering the dominance of English in the world today).
  9. In some circumstances, you take the pride and feel privileged (if not blessed) for knowing English Language.
  10. Often times, English words do slip into your conversations when you speak your native language (or your second and third languages).
  11. You are more comfortable with English language at the expense of your native language (unless you have mastered your native language, too, at school).
  12. Although you probably did not live and grow up in England, you cannot deny that English lifestyle has impacted on your local and traditional lifestyle. If not at personal level, then at social or even national level (this happens, with or against your intention/will).

Part 2: The Significance of Arabic Language in Your Life as a Muslim

  1. Here, the assumption is that you are Muslim.
  2. That means you pray five times a day.
  3. You also read the Qur’an every day. If not. very often (even though you may not understand it).
  4. It is presumed that you read about the Prophet every day or very often.
  5. This is a clear indication that you are serious about your religion (Islām).
  6. With that, you take The Prophet Muhammad and his companions as your role models.
  7. Then, by this stage, you are likely fond of Arabic language (even if you do not understand it).
  8. You also appreciate many things related to Arabic (food, clothes, design and perhaps culture).
  9. You name your kids with Arabic names (if not all, some).
  10. You remember God, you praise Him and you glorify Him in Arabic; consciously and unconsciously (SubḥānallāhAlḥamdulillāhAllāhu AkbarAstaghfirullāh).
  11. Certainly, you greet your fellow Muslims and respond to their greetings in Arabic (Assalāmu ‘alaykum! / Wa’alaykumussalām!).
  12. Finally, and most importantly, you plead to God to make the last word you will utter in this world to be the most common Arabic sentence (lā ilāha illā Allāh).

Part 3: Discussion

As per Part 1, ‘English’ can be substituted with any other prevailing language. Say French. Think of Portuguese. What about Chinese? In fact, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, German, can replace it. As an adult, you may not be able to substitute your first language, but your child can easily replace it if he is transferred from a school of English as medium of instruction to another with a language other than English as medium of instruction.

While ‘English’ can be substituted in Part 1 –and if that happens the whole outcome changes– ‘Arabic’ can never be replaced in Part 2. English in the scenario of Part 1 is a mean of communication in life. In life, there are different means of communication, of which English Language is one. This means one can live a 100 years and die as a ‘successful’ person without knowing English or its competitors as per Part 1 of this article.

But on the other hand, Arabic Language translates Islam into practice. It has therefore emerged to be part of the religion. And when we agree that there is only one true religion at a time, this will mean, that if you cannot do without Islam, then you also cannot do without the appreciation of, if not mastering the Arabic Language.

This is so, because Arabic Language has been divinely chosen to be the medium of fundamental communication between God and man for the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The fundamental mean of communication between God and man in Islam is the Prayer/Ṣalāh. Can you perform ṣalāh in English, German, Chinese or Hausa? Moreover, It’s through Arabic Language that God’s commands and decrees (revelation / waḥy) to the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam were understood. It could have been in any other language. But God is the One who decides. And He has decided for it to be in Arabic Language. In other words, Arabic Language is the medium of instruction for the revealed book, which together with the tradition/Sunnah of the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam they outline the directions of life for the Muslim.

This means, the text of the Qur’an will remain in Arabic, –not just any Arabic, but he Arabic with which it was revealed– till end of time. Arabic Language is also set to remain in our prayers and supplications for as long as we shall bow and prostrate for God. This is because, Islam is a divine instruction. And the Qur’an is a divine revelation. They came to change us, not to be changed by us.

Thus, if circumstances can cause two generations in a family to vary between two or three different languages of convenience (instruction), no circumstance can change the significance of Arabic Language nor its impact in Islam and on the life of Muslims. An evidence to this is that learners of English today understand Shakespeare’s works with a great deal of difficulty. But Muslims (who have learnt Arabic) and Arabic learners have no problem understanding Arabic literature that can be dated back to 1400 years.

The implication of this simple comparison is that, if points 8 to 12 (in Part 1) are true in your case, and you can admit it or see it, then points 1 to 7 are also true, and they have –truly taken place, once upon a time in your life. And if points 8 to 12 (in Part 1) happen to be false in your situation, then points 1 to 7 have also been false. That will mean that English has neither been the medium of instruction at school for you, nor are you fond of it. You also don’t watch English movies nor are you comfortable traveling to English speaking countries. That means you’ve been pretentious about them all this while! (Remember to replace English with any language of your choice! Same formulae work, and the same results are expected.)

Similarly, if points 7 to 12 (in Part 2) are true in your situation, then that confirms and authenticates the claim that you’re Muslim. It also means that you read the Qur’an very often and that you read about the Prophet as and when you can. It also means that you pray five times a day, and you see role models in the Prophet ṣallā Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his companions raḍiya Allāhu ‘anhum. But if these points (point 7 to 12 in Part 2) are not true in your situation; whereby you cannot feel them, nor can you see them in other Muslims around you, and they just make no sense to you, then please sit back and review points 1 to 6 in your life. Get them fixed… ASAP!

Conclusion

Everyone, regardless of their race or religion can fit for Part 1 above. But Part 2 only befits those who choose to be Muslims. This means, one may be an Arab by ethnicity, but have no attachment to the Qur’an and hence to the language, let alone Islamic teachings. Simply; because he is not a Muslim. In fact, he may speak Arabic (as he has grown up in its environment) but lacks the attachment a Muslim develops for it even when he’s not fluent at it. However, it is only the Muslim, regardless of his race or language; whether an Arab or non-Arab, who feels the need for attachment to the Arabic Language.

The Arabic language will remain significant in the life of Muslims, as long as Islam remains significant in their life.

Here, it is worth emphasizing, that as much as the behaviour of Arabs do not necessarily represent Islam, Arabic language cannot be separated from Islam. And you can’t understand Islam, if you don’t understand Arabic. The least is to ‘Keep Calm and’ learn Islam from someone (Muslim) who understands Arabic, and can convey it to you, in your language.

No doubt, Arabic culture existed before the arrival of Islam. Therefore, Arabic culture does not equal to Islam. However, language is nothing but one component among several components that make up a culture. And in order to grasp a language, you must make yourself comfortable with its culture. Thus, in order to better understand Arabic, after which understanding the Qur’an becomes easier, you need to learn to understand the Arabic culture/history. Appreciation is the key to learning something!

Similar to English, Arabic is a language. But being an English or an Arab is an ethnicity. A non-English by ethnicity doesn’t become an Englishman no matter how much he masters the language. And a non-Arab doesn’t turn into an Arab by ethnicity, no matter the extent to which he has mastered the language. But with a good appreciation and command of the Arabic Language, a Muslim can establish an easy access to Islamic resources that will enable him to worship God with confidence.

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Allah knows best.
Allāhu Hafiz 🙂

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