بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the Arabic language there’s the concept of active and passive ‘voice’.
What does active mean and what does passive mean?
Active form would be: He helped. We know who helped here.
Passive form: He was helped. We don’t know who helped him here.
Notice: the active form has the doer(the one who does the action), i.e. the subject whereas in the passive form, the doer (the subject) is suppressed and instead the object (the one upon whom the action is done) is mentioned. So in the passive form, the answer to ‘who’ is omitted.
In grade six or seven, I was ‘indoctrinated’ by my English teacher that we mustn’t use passive voice in creative writing. It somehow ‘weakens’ the sentence. So I had this attitude of ‘whatever’ with the passive voice. Nobody cares about English grammar. As long as it sounds right when writing it’s right, right? I mean who remembers those things anyway after so many years.
However in Arabic language, more specificially in the Quraan, every thing has a purpose.
In Arabic, to indicate the active and the passive form, the vowelling is changed.
In the example below, the verb is the same but notice the highlighted vowellings which have changed. It is a general pattern that is followed in most if not all verbs.
Passive form(doer/subject suppressed, object is the focus):
The example of verb above has been extracted from ayah 10 of Surat’l Jinn, 72:10:
‘And we know not whether evil is intended for those on earth, or whether their Lord intends for them a Right Path.’
Notice the following:
When speaking about guidance
it was attributed directly to the subject (Lord-Rabbuhum) and so the active verb was used:
What’s so fascinating about using passive voice in Arabic language?
- When the subject is known and when it is also known that one entity is capable of that verb.
- It is also used when attributing the verb to the subject causes disrespect. Such is the case in the ayah above. The verb of intending guidance is used in active form and directly attributed to Allah SWT whereas the verb of intending evil is used in a passive form, not attributed to Allah SWT out of respect.
Isn’t that amazing? SubhanAllah! Allahu Akbar…the words which we recite in haste have such a deep meaning within them! Allah SWT is teaching a lesson here of respecting Him in the manner He SWT deserves respect in our lives! Who would’ve known? La ilaha illalah…
I personally do not like it when teachers do not give explanations to highlight the significance of a certain concept. Most Arabic teachers do not explain the significance of using active/passive voice in the beginning. So people like me who come with the attitude of ignoring certain grammar-related concepts as in English, naturally do not focus on those subtle details. When you don’t attach significance to a certain piece of information, you forget the concept entirely; retention becomes difficult and learning becomes dull.
When examples are given from the Quraan and the benefit of that concept is explained briefly, then learning Arabic becomes not only a lesson in Arabic language but a lesson in ‘Aqeedah. How? Because one’s yaqeen (certainty) about Allah SWT’s Ruboobiyah increases even more and then you are more submissive to Him by singling Him out in worship (Uloohiyah). You are amazed at His Wisdom (strengthening of tawheed asmaa wal sifaat) for choosing specific verbs in certain voice to fascinate His Slaves’ intellect and thus be more interested in studying the Quraan.
It’s like every word in the Quraan is a call towards Him on its own. Every word is an ayah, a Sign, towards Tawheed.
It makes you think. It does, doesn’t it? The skies, the trees, the people, snow, sun, life, death, even what we known as ‘grammar’ in Arabic of the Quraan, every single thing points to Allah SWT. He SWT must be, no doubt, the Supreme Creator of everything and He SWT must be the One who’s Al-‘Aleem.
As a budding writer, one learns after a period of intense reading that some authors have special meaning hidden within the metaphors/words they use. The general reader may not recognize it and it’s only a writer who can understand another writer’s reasoning behind using that specific word in that specific sentence or sometimes even their omission. There’s an element of subtle thought to the structure. But not all words that a good writer uses has deep meaning though. After all, humans have very limited knowledge and capability.
Learning bits about Arabic in the Quraan makes one realize that every word, its’ vowelling, its’ placement, has a sea of meaning. It is a humbling thought especially for one who likes to write. I mean no human can ever come up with something so meaningful. We all know that but when you recognize it with your own intellect, it’s a life-changing experience. To Allah SWT belongs the Loftiest of Examples, it is His Speech which makes a person like me , a lover of words, completely shocked. SubhanAllah!
In a nutshell, this methodology of learning increases your love for Allah SWT. With this love then, a slave is more inspired to enthusiastically achieve the goal of Allah SWT’s Pleasure. The purpose of learning Arabic or any other Islamic Science is not to get recognition or memorization of facts. It is to love Him more, fear Him more, and have hope in Him Alone.
I just hope teachers recognize the bigger picture of teaching Islam. In today’s age of technology where everything has become commercial, the teachers must pause and design learning experience that connects the learners directly to Allah SWT and that their craving of that connection with Allah SWT becomes their sole motivation to study inshaa’Allah. This will help decrease the number of drop-outs from any Islamic learning program and propel us as a generation towards an educated and successful Muslim society.
May Allah SWT grant us all beneficial knowledge and opportunity to work in the most noble profession, i.e. teaching of the Quraan. Ameen.
And Allah SWT knows best.
[Note: the mention of past tense has been excluded for the purpose of simplification.]