The Qur’an begins the description of this blessed month with,
“Ramadan is the month in which was revealed the Qur’an – a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (between right and wrong)”.
Ever since divine revelation was inspired to Muhammad (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), people (Muslims as well as non-Muslims) have marvelled at the Qur’an’s inimitability, both in reference to its content and language. Great scholars such as Imam al-Shafi’i have stated that if no other chapter were to be revealed except al-‘Asr, it would be sufficient for mankind. This is due to the concise text and meaning which provides a wealth of information and direction although the chapter only consists of three verses. The Qur’an carries such conciseness throughout being a light of guidance and wisdom, admonition and a clear message in the Arabic language.
In this article we would like to discuss two main points: the importance of the Qur’an as a source of guidance and its relationship with the Arabic language. As is evident to all Muslims, the Qur’an is Allah’s supreme word to mankind revealed in the Arabic language, and thus, both the Qur’an and the Arabic language have become synonymous with one another.
The Qur’an was revealed over a period of twenty three years to the Prophet Muhammad (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) and is the first source of Islam and the speech of Allah. It is referred to as the book, guide, glad tidings and criterion amongst others, although most titles tend to point to the same semantic meaning. It delivers guidance to mankind by providing them with a criterion between truth and falsehood and thereafter gives glad tidings to those who successfully adhere to it.
Inevitably, being a source of guidance, The Qur’an is a manual for our lives, encouraging and ordering the believers towards righteousness and warning the evil doers and disbelievers. Its commandments are full of divine wisdom and those who adhere to them will attain felicity. However, how can a person adhere to something that he or she does not understand?
As a result of a lack of understanding, many people neither study the Qur’an nor ponder over its verses. Many argue that a study of the Qur’an is time consuming and that such study is not viable due to other commitments such as work, study etc. However, throughout life we read many things in an attempt to gain a better degree of understanding such as newspapers, books and magazines. Throughout our schooling we study various languages and books on various disciplines seeking to learn not only their contents but to also enhance skills of reading, writing, speaking etc. Thus we must also equally dedicate time to study Arabic and the Qur’an which will not only save us in the hereafter but also enhance our intellectual abilities and life skills. Studying increases the individual in reading and comprehension ability, and seeking a deeper insight into specific verses enhances one’s analytical ability. Additionally, the Qur’an provides life skills which if adhered to, would create an exceptional society whereby citizens would be prime examples of good manners, etiquette, patience and humility, as well as other traits. For example, with regard to interaction between one another we are commanded ‘when you are greeted with a greeting (of peace), answer with an even better greeting, (or at least) with the like thereof.’ Thereafter you should ‘abstain from lewd speech, from all wicked conduct, and from quarrelling’. If the Muslims ‘hear vain talk, they turn away from it and say “To us our deeds, and to you yours; peace be to you – we seek not the ignorant.”’. If anybody engages in moral and conceptual bankrupt speech about Islam, we are commanded ‘leave them to indulge in idle talk and play [with words] until they face that [Judgment] Day of theirs which they have been promised’. When we do speak we ‘enjoin in virtue and forbid vice’, ‘extol His (Allah) limitless glory and praise’ and ‘invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching’. Additionally, you should be humble and ‘be moderate in thy pace, and lower thy voice; for the harshest of sounds without doubt is the braying of the ass.’ This is just a snippet of the beautiful conduct encouraged in the Qur’an. However, due to the lack of knowledge of the Arabic language, we are seemingly oblivious to the wisdoms found in it.
In addition, there tends to be a culture of ignorance particularly among South Asian communities where the emphasis is on the recitation of the Qur’an while neglecting its translation and meanings. Thus, there has been an air of ignorance among such communities, although surprisingly, such ignorance is either encouraged or overlooked by scholars respected by these communities. It would be true to say that many of these scholars do not know Arabic themselves and are ignorant in terms of Islamic laws and rules of conduct. Recently, in a discussion about the importance of Arabic language with a colleague (a teacher in the UK madrasah system), I enquired as to why children in madrasah’s were not required to learn the Arabic language as well as the Qur’an. I was informed that the majority of teachers (as well as parents) among the South Asian community believe that learning the entire language is not important, learning to read the Qur’an by deciphering the alphabet is sufficient to accrue blessing and fulfil the obligations of prayers. They have completely disregarded the importance of understanding the words they recite, and are content in blindly following the ‘Maulana’s’ in the community.
Such beliefs are unislamic and it is certainly time that we as Muslims procure adequate facilities to learn Arabic alongside the Qur’an for both ourselves and our children as they will be the flag bearers of Islam in the World tomorrow.