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Attitude towards Arabic Language: The Approach to Translate vs. the Approach to Educate

Rather than we Muslims encouraging the Arabic language, we have opted to translate Islam into non-Arabic languages, mainly English. Here, do not misunderstand me that there should be no translations. But there’s difference between translations as an effort that is taking place  versus a strong effort that out-performs the effort to bring Arabic to the focal point , to the center of attention, when we talk about the language of Islam. There’s a big difference. You will find the movement to translate  the Islamic culture to other languages much stronger than the effort to educate Muslims about Arabic language (at the level of Ummah). Here, in my opinion, we are taking the wrong approach. We must bring Arabic language back to life rather than straying into the realm of translations. Even Shaykhul Islam ibnu Taimiyyah said in his Iqtidaa us-Siraat-il-Mustaqeem that Arabic is the emblem of Islam and its people and that languages are the biggest distinguishing factor of nations! Again, translating is not a problem. But to make it a parallel or even stronger than the effort to bring Arabic language into focus, this is going off-the-mark. When earlier generations carried Islam and that was the prime time of Islam, they did not carry translations of it with them. So where do we go from here? What is our plan? What do we want to do? [these are by no means conclusibe and do not cover every ground under the sun, just few thoughts really]

(1) We must work to revive the Arabic language at the level of the Ummah. It is not a small task. And entering Al Jannah is not a small task either. It is not something that is cheap. There is no revival of Islam without it. This is not a racial language. It is a language of Islam. We must make it central in our lives. It is not impossible, may be difficult. But definitely not impossible.

(2) We always want to emphasize the integral relationship between Islam and the Arabic language. They are inseparable. There is no Islam in English or in any language! Islam was revealed in Arabic and that’s the way it has been. How can I perform Ijtehaad without the Arabic language? Do I say that I am actually reading the Quraan when I reading Yusuf Ali’s translation? I’m not reading the Quran. I’m reading Yusuf Ali’s translation of some meaning, assuming the translation is fantastic. Arabic language is the container. And we cannot have the content without the container to hold it.

(3) We must cite evidence using Arabic text and must therefore memorize the evidence for any Islamic subject. When I want to remind people that Allah Ta’la says Allah is One, I should not remind them by saying ‘Allah is One’. Instead I should say ‘Qul-hu wallahu AHad!’. So that people associate Quraan with its language. If I want to teach my son or daughter that Salah is FarD, I will not say that Allah Ta’ala said that Salah is obligatory. I will say that Allah Ta’la said in the Quran ‘wa aqeemus-Salah…’ so that I always use actual evidence. It is not difficult but it will take some effort/

(4) Learn Arabic as the language of your Deen. People nowadays learn Kayfa haluk etc. The focus should be on the language that is used for the Deen. Focus doesn’t mean to neglect others. But learn what is used in Arabic texts. Do not wait for anybody. If you have the means and the energy, go for it and learn it. Inshaa’Allahu Ta’la Allah will reward you for it. Life does not wait. Akhira does not wait. The Pleasure of Allah SWT must not wait. We should rush for it whether we make it or not. What matters is the effort we make.

– Sh. Mohammed Hannini

[Transcribed from: Impact of Arabic Language’s Negligence on Muslims’ Decline]

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