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Is Arabic a Holy Language?

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  • Tarek Fatah
    Friends, MuslimWakeup.Com is one the finest Muslim e-magazines on the web today. Edited by Ahmed Nassef, this magazine not only has a sense of humour, but a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2003
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      Friends,

      MuslimWakeup.Com is one the finest Muslim e-magazines on the web today.
      Edited by Ahmed Nassef, this magazine not only has a sense of humour, but a
      deep commitment to equity issues. I strongly recommend that folks sign up
      for a free subscription to get a weekly update.

      In its latest issue, the magazine carries an interesting article by Shakir
      Ebrahim who makes the case of praying to Allah in our mother tongues, and
      not restrict praying in Arabic alone.

      Ebrahim writes, "Try praying just one of the five prayers in the language
      you know best. Write it down on a piece of paper and read it while you
      perform the prayers. See how deeply you will understand your communication
      with the Almighty God, and I promise you that you will come out having felt
      that this is the first time in your life that you have truly spoken with the
      One who created you; the Almighty, the Marvelous God."

      Read and reflect.

      Tarek Fatah
      ==========================
      Is Arabic a Holy Language?

      By Shakir Ebrahim
      MuslimWakeup.Com
      http://www.muslimwakeup.com/mainarchive/000124.html

      Why do Muslims across the world use Arabic in their communication with God,
      whether Hindi speaking Indians, Malay speaking Malaysians and Indonesians,
      or Swahili speaking East Africans?

      Over time, Arabic became the “default” language of Muslims, assuming such a
      close link with Islam itself that it became regarded as divine. But how did
      this process happen?

      Picture this. The Arabs, forever the laggards in the region, suddenly
      grouped together under the inspiration of a new religion and became a strong
      nation. They conquered the whole of Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt
      and Iran in a space of 10-15 years. Since the language of the court and
      administration of the conquered lands became Arabic, slowly the people
      started adopting the language, and within the next 300-400 years, all but
      Iran exclusively used Arabic. Even in Iran, the script was borrowed from
      Arabic and all religious literature was in Arabic, while the arts and other
      books were written in Persian, a language derived from Pahlavi.

      When the empire extended into Africa, India and Spain the ascendancy of
      Islam in the 11th century was complete. Jewish traders in Europe spoke
      Arabic, though for religious ceremonies they used Hebrew. Under these
      circumstances the language of the future looked Arabic, just as English
      looks like the language of the future today.

      Why do we want our children to study in English medium schools today. If we
      can afford it, we will not put them in Gujarati or Urdu medium schools. That
      was the thinking with regard to Arabic right up to the 14th and 15th
      centuries, when it received a challenge from Turkish. Such was the dominance
      of Arabic and Islam that the Mongol invaders who sacked Baghdad in 1258 and
      ended the Abbasid Dynasty, themselves embraced Islam within 50 years.
      Historians say that never before has an invader accepted the religion and
      language of the invaded. The British ruled India, but they did not become
      Hindus, instead we learned English. You can imagine the power Islam held in
      those days.

      Since Islam was revealed in Arabic, the two were closely interlinked. And
      since every land the Arabs occupied replaced their own language with Arabic,
      nobody thought of making a distinction between the religion and the
      language. It was taken as given that sooner or later Islam would conquer the
      world.

      Since a majority of Muslims worldwide come from non-Arab speaking
      backgrounds, the question arises; how relevant is Arabic as a language to
      us. This is what God says about Arabic in the Qur’an:

      “And if we had made it a Qur’an in a foreign tongue, they would certainly
      have said: If only its communication had been made clear? What! A foreign
      tongue and an Arab?” (Qur’an 41:44)

      This verse clearly states that the reason for sending the Holy Qur’an in
      Arabic was: (a) to prevent miscommunication in the message since the
      listeners knew only Arabic and
      (b) revelation in another language would put doubts on the Prophet’s
      credibility. Already there were people who tried undermining him with
      charges of sorcery, equating the verses with poetry and his credibility to
      those of a rawi (a wandering poet).

      In another verse, God states: “Surely we have revealed it -- an Arabic Qur’
      an -- that you may understand.” (Qur’an 12:2)

      How many non-Arab Muslims understand Arabic? My guess -- not even one
      percent. Then what is God telling us with this verse? Asking non-Arabs to
      learn Arabic is a rigid position and impractical.

      We must understand that the first listeners of God’s final word were Arabs.
      How could He possibly have sent His message in another language, as the Qur’
      an itself says in 41:44 and as I have explained earlier. If God were to
      speak to you today, would he speak to you in Arabic or English? This verse
      teaches us an important lesson to interpret the Qur’an in its correct
      perspective.

      If Arabic was God’s favorite language, would he have sent the Bible or the
      Old Testament in Hebrew? Take another verse:

      “And We did not send any Apostle but with the language of his people, so
      that he might explain to them clearly” (Qur’an 14:4)

      Again the rationale for God’s usage of any particular language in the
      messages He has sent during the history of humankind is simply a matter of
      circumstance, so that the message is understood properly. There is period --
      no other reason. I can therefore deduce using logic, that were God to send a
      message to us, he would send it in a language you understood, and being
      non-Arab, that language is certainly not Arabic; keeping with verse 12:2,
      “…so that you may understand”

      But we non-Arab Muslims, who are so obsessed with following Islam as the
      Arabs do, follow them blindly, by choosing Arabic as the language of
      communication with the Almighty God, who understands all languages.

      Our five daily prayers contain nothing but praise for the Glory of Almighty
      God. People of all faiths would never object to this praise. I challenge any
      Hindu or Christian to say that no, we do not agree to what you say in your
      prayers. They cannot because it is pure glorification of the Lord.

      But the problem is that they don’t know what we say in our prayers.

      Worse, the bigger problem is that not many of us understand what we recite
      in our prayers, even though we do it every single day of our lives. Isn’t
      that a shame? Isn’t that a blind following of Islam?

      With so many negatives, I don’t see why we continue to pray in Arabic. To
      understand Islam better and make Islam better understood, we should all pray
      in a language we are familiar with. After praying my ritual prayers for 19
      years in Arabic, I have since 2 years now begun to pray in English.

      There are many arguments scholars will give to continue to pray in Arabic,
      but they are all theoretical, none make practical sense. Try praying just
      one of the five prayers in the language you know best. Write it down on a
      piece of paper and read it while you perform the prayers. See how deeply you
      will understand your communication with the Almighty God, and I promise you
      that you will come out having felt that this is the first time in your life
      that you have truly spoken with the One who created you; the Almighty, the
      Marvelous God.
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