5 reasons why every Muslim needs to learn Arabic

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The Imam clears his throat and begins

Bismillahi Ar Rahmani Rahim, Alhamdulilahi Rabil a’lameen

This is going to be a long night you think, as you start the first set of a 20 rakaat Taraweeh prayer. The mind games begin to unfold, the analysis of the carpet commences and you begin to follow on behind the Imam not understanding a word that is being uttered.

Does this situation sound familiar?

Unfortunately, many of us can relate to this rather strange situation.

What’s even stranger is that very little is done to change this.

It is indeed an unfortunate phenomenon that needs to be addressed.

Here are five reasons as to why every Muslim should strive to learn the language that Allah chose to reveal his blessed book in.

5. The pious predecessors held the learning of Arabic in utmost importance

A sahabi (a companion of the Prophet (saw)) by the name of Ubay bin Ka’ab (rad) said to his fellow Arab companions “Teach your children Arabic just like you teach them to memorize the Quran”.

Keep in mind that this sahabi and his companions understood and spoke the language that the Quran was revealed in and naturally it would have been passed onto their children, nevertheless they regarded this language with such high importance that it was mentioned alongside Quran memorisation.

Likewise, Umar (rad) was reported to have said: “Learn Arabic for it is a part of your deen” and Shaykul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (ra) even went further to say that “The Arabic language is part of the Religion, and knowing it is an obligation.

4. Allah requires us to know what we are uttering in prayer

Before the final prohibition of alcohol came down, a companion from the muhajiroon (emigrants) lead the Maghrib prayer after drinking one day and consequently the following verse was revealed:

O you who believe! Approach not the prayer when you are in a drunken state until you know (the meaning) of what you utter...” [1]

Apart from the obvious meaning that is evident in this verse, there is a wisdom that can be derived from it.

To this companion Arabic would have been his first language and for that reason it would be reasonable to say that he understood about 50 – 70% of what was being uttered during this state, however, even with this amount of comprehension, Allah ordered that one does not approach the prayer without knowing what is being said!

As a result, if the understanding of an intoxicated sahabi is not adequate enough to be considered as knowing the meaning of what is being uttered in prayer then where does this leave the one who does not understand at all?

3. Recitation and Memorisation is not enough

In today’s common norm, when we say that we are learning the Quran then this means that we are reciting and/or memorising it.

So if we were to teach our children how to recite the Quran and memorise it then walhamdulilah, our job is completed and this is enough for them to maintain a strong relationship with the Quran and the religion.

But interestingly enough there was a nation before us named Bani Israel that too were given a book, a messenger and a shariah (law) however they did not do justice to neither their book nor their messenger.

In the following verse, Allah describes how they failed with their book:

And there are among them (Jews) unlettered people, who know not the Book, but they trust upon false desires and they but guess. [2]

Ibn Abbas (rad), a great companion who specialised in the interpretation of the Quran, commented on this verse and said that these people only did tilawah (recitation). They knew their book by recitation and memorisation but they did not understand it nor did they know what was inside of it.

Therefore, if the lack of understanding was the great crime committed by Bani Israel against their book then what about the many people who have recited and even memorised the entire Quran, cover to cover, yet are not aware of what they are reciting?

4. Translations can never replace the original words of Allah

Remember the day you heard a really funny joke and decided to share a translated version of it at a family gathering? How it caused the whole room to go into an awkward silence while you explained the joke to them in more detail till it was no longer funny anymore? Only to receive a few sympathetic laughs from the elder aunties while everyone turned back to their conversations.

This, my dear readers, is an example of a message being lost in translation. The meaning of the message was conveyed but the effect the original language had, was lost once translated.

Likewise, this is what occurs when we read a translation of the Quran. We think that we are reading the Quran in its completeness but in reality, the bigger experience is lost.

1. It is the Miracle given to this nation

When messengers were sent to the people, Allah strengthened their message with miracles so that it made it easier for hearts to accept.

Different messengers were aided with different miracles, for example; a staff was turned into a serpent when Musa (A) was challenged by the magicians of Fir’awn and a camel was created from a solid rock to aid Prophet Salih (A).

The Prophet (saw) on the other hand came with the Quran which was perfect in all aspects. It contained rich language, it was free from errors and it had a great affect on the hearts of the people.

In fact it broke strong men such as Abu Bakr (rad) into tears, caused many to enter Islam, despite the hardships and even had a profound effect on the disbelievers to the extent that some leaders from the Quraish would secretly stand outside the Prophet (saw) house in the middle of the night and listen to him recite from the Quran without anyone else knowing.

The unique aspect of the Quran is that it is a timeless miracle that continues to amaze people till today, unlike the miracles of the older Prophets that were only appreciated by those who were present at that time.

So if the miracle of the Quran is within our reach today,  then what is stopping us from understanding and appreciating it? Imagine how our lives will be? How much our Eman will increase? How much comfort we will find in our prayers and most importantly, how stronger our relationship will become with our Lord?

 

Therefore, take the next step and commit yourselves to learning Arabic today!

If you think languages are hard and difficult to grasp then read about the companion, Zaid bin Thabit (rad) who learned the Hebrew language in less than 15 days! [3]. He was a human just like you and me but what made him different was that he believed that he can learn this language and because of that he was able to do so.

Whether you are old or young, Arab or Non-Arab, whatever your circumstances may be, learning Arabic is totally possible, for Allah has promised us that the he will make the understanding of the Quran easy for us but only if we do it for his sake.

And We have indeed made the Qur’ân easy to understand and remember, then is there any that will remember (or receive admonition)? [4]

Therefore my dear brothers and sisters in Islam, do not pass away without learning this beautiful language, for a life that leaves this world without tasting the sweetness of the Quran has truly missed out on something great.

 

Further Reads

NOW is the time to learn Arabic- A guide to Learning Arabic

 

References:

Why and How to Learn Arabic – Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, 2008

1. [An Nisa: 43]
2. [Surah Baqarah: 78]
[Abu Dawood]
[Al-Qamar: 54]

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  1. #1 by rhadiyah on June 30, 2012 - 8:37 am

    As salaamu alaikum,

    I thought I would share this with you since you mentioned this. Narrated Abu Salama ibn Abdur Rahman that he asked Aisha (Allah be pleased with her), “How was the prayer of Allah’s Apostle (Peace be upon him) in Ramadan?” She replied, “He did not pray more than eleven raka’at in Ramadan or in any other month. He used to pray four raka’at – let alone their beauty and length – and then he would pray four – let alone their beauty and length – and then he would pray three rak’aat (witr).” She added, “I asked, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! Do you sleep before praying the Witr?’ He replied, ‘O Aisha, My eyes sleep but my heart does not sleep.'” (Bukhari, 3/230)

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