(1) Allah, the Almighty and Wise, chose and singled out Arabic from amongst all the languages of the world - past, present and future - to be the vehicle for His final Revelation to the whole of humanity. This fact alone should constitute sufficient reason for Muslims to learn Arabic. Certainly, if Allah so wished He could have revealed the Qur’an not only in any language but in every language but as He Himself states in the Holy Qur’an: “Verily, We sent It down as an Arabic Qur’an in order that you may understand”. This verse implies that Arabic has certain unique features which make it superior to all the languages of the world and which enable it to convey the subtleties and mysteries of Allah’s Speech in a manner that no other language can. Furthermore, it is Allah who endowed Arabic with these features and made it superior to all other languages.
(2) If Allah is who He is - the Creator of the worlds - and His Messenger (Peace and Blessings be upon him) is who he is – the Best of Allah’s creation - should not every Muslim in this world attempt to learn Arabic to understand Allah’s Words and those of His Messenger? The Qur’an - even though it is in this world - is not from this world but rather from the Lord of the worlds. Allah, Most High says: “ Verily It (i.e. the Qur’an) is a Revelation from One, All Wise and All Knowing”. How can any Muslim live in this world finding time to do so many things and yet not find time to study the language of Allah’s Holy Book and the Sunnah of His Holy Messenger (Peace and Blessings be upon him). How many of us spend so much time, effort and money on learning the sciences of this world but in comparison spend absolutely zero on learning the sciences of the Next world. If we really know who Allah is and who His Messenger is we would not hesitate one second to learn the language of Allah’s Book and the Sunnah of His Messenger. The Qur’an and Sunnah contain so much wealth – Real Wealth – but most of us prefer to remain poor and deprived forever.
(3) A great number of scholars believe the Qur’anic inimitability to reside inter alia (among other (things)) in its language. The science of al-Balaaghah (eloquence/stylistics) was especially developed to deal with this particular dimension of the Qur’an. This science demonstrates in no uncertain terms that the Qur’an represents the Absolute Pinnacle of Eloquence and that it stands unrivalled and unchallenged in its stylistic output. However, to appreciate the stylistic aspects of the Qur’an presupposes having learnt Arabic. Thus, those who are not schooled in Arabic will forever be deprived of the Stylistic Beauty of the Qur’an and fail to see and comprehend the subtle mysteries that are enclosed in the depths of is language.
(4) Apart from the Qur’an and Sunnah that are in Arabic there is also the vast and rich Islamic Legacy. This is the legacy left behind by the world’s greatest minds. Without Arabic we would deprive ourselves of the fruits of almost fourteen centuries of Islamic scholarship. All of this scholarship was directed at serving Islam and the Muslim Ummah. Numerous sciences sprung up after the advent of Islam with the principal aim of preserving and explaining the Primary Islamic Sources. These sciences are still being studied and taught up to today in Islamic institutions and circles around the world – the result is an ever-expanding heritage. Had it not been for the past Muslim scholars then we would not have known Islam as we know it to today. May Allah reward them abundantly for the great service they have rendered to Islam and the Muslim Community.
(5) A number of Islamic sciences derive explicitly from the Arabic linguistic sciences in that a number of the issues discussed therein are linguistic issues. To understand these issues requires a thorough grounding in the Arabic linguistic sciences on which they are based. These sciences include inter alia: al-Tafseer (Qur’anic exegesis), ‘Uloom al-Qur’aan (Sciences of the Qur’an), ‘Ilm al-Hadeeth, al-Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence), al-‘Aqeedah (Islamic Theology). The reason for this being the case is the fact that the two primary sources of Islam, viz. the Qur’an and Sunnah, are in Arabic and in order to understand their message, unlock their hidden mysteries and treasures and appreciate the linguistic subtleties with which especially the Qur’an has been characterised one needs to be familiar with the Arabic sciences that will make such a task possible. Thus, al-Tafseer is no more than an interpretation of the Qur’an, ‘Ilm al-Hadeeth no more than an interpretation of the Prophetic Traditions, al-Fiqh no more than an extrapolation of legal rules from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, al-‘Aqeedah no more than an extrapolation of a set of beliefs from the Qur’an and authentic Sunnah, etc. It is clear from the aforementioned that each of these Islamic sciences involves a detailed analysis and close investigation of the Arabic in which the Qur’an and Sunnah are couched. It is not uncommon to find that many a difference amongst scholars on a particular Islamic matter has its source in the manner in which they interpreted or read a particular Qur’anic verse or Prophetic tradition.
(6) ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
“Learn the Sunnah and learn Arabic; learn the Qur’an in Arabic for it is in Arabic”.
He also said:
“Learn Arabic for it is part of your Religion and learn how the estate of the deceased should be divided (al-Faraa’id) for these are part of your Religion”.
Imam al-Shafi‘iyy is reported to have said that he studied Arabic for twenty years (from its pure sources) in order to understand the Qur’an
Some scholars also maintain that learning Arabic is compulsory on every Muslim. The reason for this ruling is that learning the Qur’an and Sunnah is compulsory on every Muslim and since the Qur’an and Sunnah cannot be learnt without Arabic it follows that Arabic is also compulsory.
Al-Aîmu‘iyy is reported to have said:
‘What I fear most for a student of knowledge – if he does not know Nahw – that he may fall in the category of those mentioned in the hadeeth: “Whosoever intentionally contrives a lie in my name, then let him prepare or reserve for himself a seat in the Fire”, because the Messenger of Allah (Peace and Blessings be upon him) never used to make grammatical errors in his speech so anything that you report from him and you make grammatically errors in it then you would have contrived a lie in his name’.
(7) Knowledge of Arabic makes one’s devotion and worship much more meaningful. This is especially the case when performing îalaah, reciting and listening to the Qur’an, listening to khutbahs, making du‘as, etc. In short, knowing Arabic obviates the need for a mediator or interpreter between Allah and us. In other words, Arabic enables us to listen to the Qur’an and Prophetic statements first hand.
Moreover, what constitutes the Qur’an is not its mere meaning but rather its meaning together with the specific wording in which it is couched. This means that no matter how close a particular translation is to the actual meaning of the Qur’an it still does not constitute the Qur’an which is the Divine and Uncreated Speech of Allah. At best, a translation is no more than a human approximation of what the Qur’an means and as such is finite and can never replace the infinite Speech of Allah. Consider the following Qur’anic verses: “Say (O Muhammad): If the sea were ink for (writing) the Words of my Lord, surely the sea would be exhausted before the Words of my Lord would be finished, even if We brought another (sea) like it as backup” and “And if all the trees on the earth were pens and the sea (were ink wherewith to write), with seven seas behind it to add to its (supply), yet the Words of Allah would not be exhausted. Verily, Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise”. In addition, reliance on a translation (which in itself is deficient because it is only a human approximation of Allah’s Divine Speech) means one will always be deprived of the effect of the actual wording which adds to the richness and inimitable eloquence of the Qur’an. It is not the translation that brings tears to the eyes of men but rather the Qur’an in the full splendour of its stirring words and moving meanings.
(8) The problematic nature of translations is another reason why Muslims should learn Arabic. Much of our Islamic heritage is still inaccessible to the non-Arabic speaking Muslim population and so it will continue to be for a very long time. Translations also have their own deficiencies and shortcomings. These range from gross misinterpretation to poor quality and sub-standard translation.
(9) Language being a conduit of culture has an indelible influence on its speakers. Arabic being the conduit of Islamic culture likewise has a positive Islamic influence on its speakers. No doubt, the Qur’an and Prophetic Sunnah have left a permanent mark on the Arabic language and are – to a large extent – also responsible for Arabic remaining fundamentally unchanged over the past fourteen centuries.
(10) If certain non-Muslims (Orientalists) - spurned on by their hatred for Islam and the Muslims - studied Arabic for the purpose of destroying Islam and gaining control over the Muslims then why should Muslims – spurned on by their Eemaan (faith) and love for Islam and the Muslim Ummah – not study Arabic for the purpose of defending Islam against anti-Islamic forces and Islamophobia?