Role of Arabic language

9 08 2007

‘Change the record, will ya,’ my friends complained this morning. It seems, they have just about had enough of my continuous Ijtihad/Taqleed rants, which seems to find its way into almost everything I touch these days. They may have a point though. Not so long ago, Wahabbis, Sufis, Uncle Tom’s, sell-out scholars, modernists, progressives were all at the receiving end of my rather ruthless criticism. In fact, I still manage to find a spot for them somewhere in my current Ijtihad vs Taqleed altercation. It may seem incomplex to shift blame for problems of a global community down to a few sects or individuals, but in my opinion it is crucial to exercise criticism of rotten ideas and those who hold them for future sake. Hence, I have decided to dedicate the blog to my thoughts on Ijtihad and particularly Tajdeed (renewal).

Recently, I have been thinking about languages- inspired by a post on Bubble’s blog. Languages are fascinating, a means of communicating thoughts, ideas, and concepts. Through languages, ideas are conveyed from one person to another, from one place to another, and from the past to the present and recorded for the future. Often, people find it difficult to convey something understood in one language to another. I find it very annoying when some of my friends in middle of a conversation start speaking in their ‘back home’ language. It seems like they are hiding something or don’t want me to know something. However, in reality, they are unable to express certain thoughts or terms linked to their ‘back home’ culture in English. Similarly, people have complained to me about excessive usage of Arabic terms when I am speaking about an Islamic issue. I have tried to minimise the use of Arabic terms but it is almost impossible to discuss Islam without using the language it was revealed in.

One of the factors which caused the Ummah to reach the decline she faces today is the neglect of Arabic language. It is this neglect which led to a situation where Muslims were no longer able to access the scriptures (Quran and Sunnah) directly, consequently Ijtihad ceased and Taqleed began. The Qur’an and Sunnah are an Arabic legislative speech, so they must be understood like the Arabic speech, therefore it is important to understand this language in order to deduce a ruling. The Arabic in this context means the pure and unadulterated Arabic. This Arabic language has many qualities such as, it is derivational, rendering it as a language where a jurist can seek the Illah (legal reasoning) behind the law and thus extend the Illah to other situations to apply the law. Another fascinating quality of Arabic is in its richness in words which describe human actions and feelings while lacking names of objects. It is also the medium through which the Islamic concepts and laws were conveyed to us. Furthermore, it is impossible to know what Allah (swt) wants us to do without knowing and understanding Arabic.

Islamic revival cannot be achieved through material or scientific advancement. The basis of correct revival is rather in understanding the applicability of Islam. Therefore, Arabic is needed to deduce solutions from the Islamic sources in leading an Islamic way of life. Also, to produce original material requires from us to directly access the Quran and Sunnah, otherwise we will be restricted to thought based upon translations or secondary works. It is equally important for Muslims to learn technical terms (Istilah) or the shari’ah definitions making them part of their Islamic vocabulary as they have been preserved just like the Quran and the Sunnah.

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30 responses

10 08 2007
Hasmita

Good topic. We’ll just read it here and sounds lot easier to understand 😉

as you know I have been learning Arabic at the Tayyibun institute. It has been good so far but its not easy. It will be long time before I can read and write let alone converse or be able to look at root words. But it’s a start and am happy with it so far, had an exam renently is well 🙂

So my question is, whats the diff between tajdeed and what the so called modernist or the proggies call for? Arent they doing exactly the same thing by calling for Ijtihad like over at Ijtihad.org?

10 08 2007
Tanvir

Why is there such a push towards Arabisation of Muslims by Islamists? Muslims are expected to talk like Arabs and even dress like Arabs. I hear Muslims call others Akhi and wear thobes to show they are religious. Why can’t Muslims hold on to Shalwar Kameez and Allah hafiz? This is what I call Arabisation of Muslims.

I understand Arabic is important to read Quran but I don’t understand the pressure being applied to learn Arabic as a language. I can read Islamic literature in urdu and understand them much better than I can in even if I started learning Arabic. Urdu is our language along with English, henceforth material is available for us to read and incorporate Islam in these languages so the people of other cultures can assimilate themselves into Islam. I read that companion Salman al-Farsi was allowed to translated Quran in Farsi to take it to his people with approval of Prophet Mohamed (PBUH).

10 08 2007
Sumera

I share the same sentiments as yourself Tanvir. The drive to Arabsize every Muslim (from clothing – long thobes- to language – referring to one another as ukhti, akhi, calling parents Umm X/Abu X) extremely irritating.

But I actually do agree with Tia that to fully understand and comprehend a text you do need to go back to its language, because no matter how gifted an interpretator is you simply can’t interpret/translate everything without losing its “essence” and the various layers of meaning some phrases/words carry with them.

I find that to be the case when translating something from Urdu into English, so I expect the same for Arabic into Eng. But I’ve found that material translated from Arabic into Urdu/Farsi to be quite thorough and can explain concepts quite adequately. There aren’t quite as many limitations (language wise) when translating from Arabic into Urdu/Farsi as there are for English. Probably.

And as far as I know, its not just about learning “Arabic” because the language has evolved, so you’d need to learn the “ye olde Arabic” :p to grasp the rulings etc better? Is that a false assumption I’m under? And the few people that I know who have “learnt” Arabic in order to read the original texts actually can’t “speak” the language – they can just about read it and deem that to be sufficient for the purposes required.

11 08 2007
Hekmaa

Arabic is the tool that Allah used as he used Hebrew or any other language to convey the message of Allah to the the people it was revealed. Allah says in the Quran “we send down Prophets in the language of their people, ‘liyubayina lahum”. This clearly removes that thought from some people that Arabic has superiority.

What it does have is association with the Prophet, Quran and Jannah, and that is why we respect and love it. As per the saying of the Prophet SAW. Now as the Jews had to learn Hebrew to understand their books, we have to understand Arabic to understand the Quran. However the knowledge of deen is not locked in Arabic text. There was great works done in Arabic in the early parts of Islam, however in the last 100yrs the whole Arab world together and there is over 200million of them, could not publish the quantity of intellectual material as turkey on her own.

So this brings me to the next point, the place of Arabic as a language in this changing world. We see and witness at a rapid rate the Arab world “westernizing” and by that they are taking hook and sinker. Language, Culture, clothes everything, some even deen.

Therefore, Islamization will only be able to take place if it speaks in the language of the people it is addressing, it could be Arabic for Arabs, english for english people etc. Arabic as a language will never die, simply because Quran and Hadith are in Arabic, and we will always reference them in Arabic, however developments, progression, intellectual break throughs both in religious thought, text and theory may not be in Arabic any more, as the Arab masses have swapped and outed for westernising. They send their youth to western countries to learn sciences etc, how do we ever expect Arabic to play the role it did in the past, if the holders of the language cant speak it in the level they need to progress their societies.

11 08 2007
confusedaboutlife

good topic , arabic need’s to be learnt even by arabs , don’t forget islam is not about being arabic ..it’s about being muslim . It’s very true that their are words that just can’t be said in english must be said in arabic .
I have finaly realized that the only way that were going to reduce ignorance is learn arabic to actualy read the orignal sources otherwise your going to be stuck with transliterations that are often bias

11 08 2007
confusedaboutlife

tanvir – just read your comment! NO you don’t need to start looking like an arab that realy gets on my nerves you can keep your language and culture as long as it does not go against islmic rulings .
But learn arabic beacuse what you will is the arabs manupilating their OWN idea ‘ well I am arab I know more then you ‘
well no in most cases they don’t , learn arabic so other muslims don’t take advantage and start picking and choosing what they would like to translate to the world .
tanvir – knowledge is power I’m sure you have heard of that one

11 08 2007
Tia

Hasmita: Mash’Allah carry on as you learning.

The progressive and modernist came about as result of the problem being discussed. They realised Islam Islam is backward, its laws have no place in the modern world so they began to modernise/re-interpret Islam to suit modernity which mostly means doing away with Islamic rules and traditions. Whereas, what I am calling for is to re-equip ourselves with tools needed to go back to the sources and find thier applicability, so rather than re-interpreting we are re-applying. 🙂

Tanvir, thanks for visitng here and commenting. I would appreciate if you can explain the term Arabisation?

generally, when you identify yourself with an particular wordl-view it is only natural that you would speak in their terms regardless of what language it is. No language is particularly superior to another, Arabic is not even a sacred language, it is just a language which Allah (swt) chose to reveal Islam in, therefore it is only natural that we would have to adopt to it.

Sumera, your under the right assumtion, it has to be the classical Arabic. Though, I don’t understand how anyone could learn a language to only be able to read and not converse? I suppose you could, one can read, understand and interpret shakespear at the same time as not being able to speak it, but it would only require a little practice before one can speak it too. I could only read Arabic and be able to carry out small conversations, but living in Arabia has helped in learning Fusha, I can now speak quiet fluently but I may just forget because there is hardly any Arabs here in the UK who can speak it 😦

11 08 2007
Tia

confusedaboutlife, you should change your username, you are not so confused after all.. you seem to be on the ball. Masha’Allah. 🙂

11 08 2007
Sumera

If the purpose of learning classical Arabic is so you can interpret text, then whether one can converse in it or not is irrelevant. Thats my POV on it. I dont think theres many Arabs around here in the UK who speak it (Fusha) anyway. I can read Farsi and understand (most of) it, but I can’t speak it – and wouldnt attempt it either aside from the odd word or 2! Perhaps if I needed to speak it, then I would put that little bit of an effort into it, but because my purpose is just to read and understand Farsi text, Im quite complacent 😀

I’d probably have the same approach to Arabic as well – once I actually get around to learning it.

12 08 2007
Hekmaa

ditto to forget, i forgot Fusha because there was no one to speak it, but it never leaves you when you go back you pick it up, but even in arab countries the general folk cant speak it.

12 08 2007
bubbles

Hey everyone is entitled to their pet peeves… lol.

I pretty much agree with Sumera. Language is complex. One would have to be an expert grammarian linguist vocabularist historian poet etc to really do jusice to translations. (sorry the ‘comma’ key on my laptop is messed up) Even if one were an expert in all this there will still be the barrier of subjectivism – the subconscious choice or inclination in interpretation. A perfect example is the different translations of the Qur’an we have today. Sometimes I’ve had to refer to several in order to get the finer details of what is being said. People who rely on translated texts rely on second-hand knowledge that has been chewed and spat out by someone else. There’s no way of knowing where and when the translators bias gets mixed in. You might even find yourself foolishly debating that while missing the entire point itself.

The solution like you proposed is to have many people who know Arabic. It would increase the probabilities of similar conclusions drawn from the texts. Since Islam was revealed in Arabic and it is unchanging I believe an understanding of the text in which it was revealed in will put to rest once and for all the debate of whether Islam is moving forward or retrogressing. I mean everyone can’t get it wrong.

12 08 2007
bubbles

Oh and if there’s a new language I want to learn it’s definitely Arabic. I’ve been following tawheed lessons on http://www.ummjunayd.info and I discovered one needs to have a firm grasp of the language to get the basis of one’s faith right.

And I’m glad I inspired this entry 😀 *grin*

13 08 2007
Tia

I agree, it has been almost impossible to translate the Qur’an in any other language. Whatever we have is actually translation of the meaning and not directly the address as found in Arabic. This also points to the necessity of learning the language of the Qur’an.

What is also fascinating is how young children can read Qur’an in perfect Arabic without knowing the language. Recently, I told a non-Muslim friend and she couldn’t believe it, as she attempted to read russian without knowing it as a language.

Oh computer languages are also interesting, and do people have different names of computer hardware in other languages, i.e, is mouse or harddisk called something else in different language?

13 08 2007
Hasmita

No, a mouse is a mouse in Hindi and Gujrati. It be funny if they called it Chooha lol.

before I became Muslim, we had to use certain hindi words as part of our english vocab. Its considered disrespectful to say ‘Hi’ to elders, we had to say ‘namaste’ and to really get their ‘blessings’ bow down as if touching thier feet before they tappd to say its ok. These kind of things showed you were cultured and well mannered. Also, when i m really angry I find it easy to vent in Gujrati than in english :p

13 08 2007
Tia

Hasmita, kemcho? hows your Arabic classes going? Know what a computer is called in Arabic for 10 point? 😉

14 08 2007
Hekmaa

arabic names for hardware, i just smiled, then the thought of something really funny came to mind, programming in Arabic, like imagine a ‘for loop’ or a ‘while loop’ with its conditions “if X true”

in Kan X haq, lol sounds like a khutbah.

14 08 2007
Tia

lool

14 08 2007
Hasmita

I was about to say Combuter.. its al-haasub.. no? :p

14 08 2007
Tia

Well done. *thumbs up.

15 08 2007
Hekmaa

isnt Al Haasab calculator?

15 08 2007
Hasmita

I think so, but i think its translation of computation.

19 08 2007
tradicionalista

I agree with the post

21 09 2007
Tia

An interesting course at Sunnipath.com starting 23rd sept. And its FREE!.

Islam & the Language of the Arabs
Sunday, September 23, 2007 at 12:00 pm

http://spcourselensarabic.eventbrite.com/

22 11 2007
Aisyah

Assalamualaikum…..
Im little bit confuse about inflectional and derivational in arabic language role, I hope I can get explanation about it, because I took research paper in my university about that. thankyou for your helping!

Wassalamualaikum….

25 11 2007
Tia

wa alaikum asslaam Aisyah

Can you please expand on your question and perhaps what exactly is the question of your research paper. Ia i may be able to help.

5 01 2008
Role of Arabic language I S L A M I C S | Bibles

[…] / compiled some interesting notes about Role of Arabic language I S L A M I C SHave a look at this […]

15 10 2012
qualandar

Taqlid has pre-empted FITNA. else there would have been thousands of SCHOOLS and versions of ISLAM some or many of them beyond recognition.

15 10 2012
qualandar

How can you give blanket authority to common man to give rulings? Authorities are authorities, in all branches of knowledge.

15 10 2012
qualandar

Reblogged this on Islamic Articles and commented:
I am against the idea of Ghair Muqallids

28 12 2013
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