Learning Arabic is a personal obligation


See this link for the complete article on this title: http://www.2shared.com/file/8665042/fca233e7/To_master_the_Arabic_language_is_a_personal_obligation.html#

After a brother – with whom I had some e-mail correspondence about learning Arabic – read the article he made the following comments:

Many of the quotes you made, though they are correct, do not justify your conclusion that mastering arabic is fard…Just because Umar ra hit his children for making language mistakes do not in any way establish the fact that arabic is fard…So we have to disregard such and similar quotes…Yes, learning arabic strengthens one’s intelligence, and it can also increase one’s murua’ah…but from these statements we cannot deduce that learning arabic is fard ayn…” and: ” These quotes merely show that mastering arabic is very desirable, and recommandable, which every muslim agrees by default..
The brother – may Allah preserve him is correct. I want to add to this though I didn’t mean to quote these sayings from the Salaf to prove that learning or mastering Arabic is fard ‘ayn but only to illustrate the importance of the Arabic language in our religion and how the Salaf valued this language and to show their devotion and love for the Prophet and everything he did in which many of us are lacking, including myself. They were the best of the generations who followed him and they tried to imitate him – out of pure love for Allah and His messenger – in every way possible, also with regard to the language (although it might seem extreme to us to hit your children because they make mistakes in the language; and we all know Ibn ‘Umar followed the Prophet s.a.w.s. in a very strict way). My point was to make clear that if you really want to understand your religion, you learn and study Arabic to the utmost of your capabilities and possibilities with the help of Allah else I really wonder if you take your religion and the upbringing of your children – who will insha’Allah follow you in your religion out of conviction – seriously. Also, just because something is not fard and “merely” and emphasized sunna doesn’t mean we shouldn’t follow it or leave it because it is not an obligation.  
He also wrote me concerning the quote: Do not learn the language of the non-Arabs, and do not enter upon them in their churches on their festivals, for indeed wrath descends upon them.” “I don’t want to divorce this quote from its textual and contextual conditions of historical emergence; obviously it makes a reference to entering churches on festivals etc…However, saying “don’t learn the language of non-arabs”  is not only a hidden arab nationalism, but also fundamentally against islamic values, and the life our Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wassalam).  Just to remind you, the famous sahabe named Zayd bin Thabit learned Hebrew and many Syriac languages when the Prophet asked him to learn foreign languages…Then Zayd became a translator, and guided in da’wah activities as well…I don’t know how people come up with bizarre statements such as ‘do not learn non-Arab languages..
I do agree with the brother here. This seems to be some hidden Arab nationalism or fanaticism here which is not of the teachings of islam, moreover it is well known that this saying contradicts the practice of the Prophet s.a.w.s. and his Sahaba. For example, when some of the first Muhajirin arrived in Medina from Abessynia and they presented to him some clothing from that place as a gift he said something in the language of the Abessynians to make clear he liked it.
Concerning my quote: “Always remember … without total fluency in the Arabic language, you can only attain basic islamic knowledge … but basic knowledge is the path to advanced knowledge.” He wrote: “Yes, true. Absolutely!  One cannot achieve more than basic islamic knowledge without Arabic fluency. But what is fard ayn is only that basic islamic knowledge.. (which includes recitation of surahs in Arabic for prayer as well, but not knowledge of Arabic language itself).
Concerning imam al-Shafi’i’s statement: “It is obligatory upon every muslim to learn the Arab tongue [language] to the utmost of his power {to be able} to profess through it that “there is no God at all but Allah and [that] Muhammad is His servant and apostle [messenger]”, and to recite in it {i.e. the Arabic tongue/language} the Book of Allah, and to utter in mentioning what is incumbent upon him, the takbir, and what is commanded, the tasbih, the tashahhud and others.” he wrote: “This is definitely true……if you say that knowing arabic is fard…you don’t mean that one must be able to speak it, for example, in a court situation, explaining his situation to the qadi in Arabic…A muslim would not be sinful if he cannot express himself in Arabic during a court, or any other situation, right?  In that case, you are using the word “mastering” in a wrong way…Because, for example, I mastered the English language…and this means that I can fully express myself in that language in whatever context it is…But clearly, this is not what you mean…You only mean Arabic knowledge related to islam…Yes, I agree that it is fard ayn to master Arabic to the extent that you can say ‘there is no God at all but Allah and that Muhammad is his servant and apostle” in Arabic, and to the extent that you can recite the book of Allah (which, technically only requires pronunciation and tajwid, not knowledge of Arabic language itself..For example, I can recite the whole Qur’an, but I don’t understand it) and to the extent that you can utter what is incumbent upon him, e.g. takbir etc…As long as you can do all these, that means you satisfy the fard ayn requirement of Arabic knowledge…which, linguistic wise, does not mean you mastered Arabic language. And lastly, it will come as a suprise…Abu Hanifa ra.  held the opinion that one’s salah would be valid if he recited the Fatiha in Persian language under extreme conditions…(The sahaba Selman Al-Fârisî had made a Persian translation of Fatiha, and the Persians recited this translation in salah until their tongue became familiar with Arabic pronunciation. But I don’t know whether this was during or after the life of our Prophet.
Masha’Allah, this last part especially is some great piece of valuable info. Salman al-Farisi was actually the first one to translate the Qur’an into a foreign language. About the recitation of the Qur’an in Persian, this can be read here: http://www.answering-islam.org/Books/MW/translatable/koran.htm But be warned: this is an anti-islam site but quotations are provided which can be checked on veracity. In the Wikipedia article with the title “Hanafi” it can be read: “Abu Hanifa held that “the Qur’an” consists of the meaning of the text and so in the daily prayers it was permissible to recite “the Qur’an” in any language unconditionally. Later Hanafis only held that this meant it was only permissible if the person praying was unable to recite the Qur’an in Arabic, but the original opinion is still upheld as a difference.” No source is provided though. See also this fatwa on the same subject (especially nr. 12): http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?pagename=IslamOnline-English-Ask_Scholar/FatwaE/FatwaE&cid=1119503546068  There is much more to find on this subject if one delves into it. Here are some more links:
May Allah reward the brother for his useful comments.


Filed under Random thoughts

3 responses to “Learning Arabic is a personal obligation

  1. student


    Mashallah this was a profound document. Do you have an email? If you can shoot me one I’d like to ask some questions about learning arabic…


  2. haruni

    Salam akhi,

    I’ll send you my e-mail to your e-mail adress insha’Allah. Remember I’m also just a beginning student of Arabic and not a teacher or anything but of course you can ask me some things and I’ll try to answer them insha’Allah. Barakallahu fik for your comment.

    Friendly greetings,


  3. Pingback: Learning Arabic is a personal obligation (via Bayt ul-Hikma – House of Wisdom) | learning quran online blog

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