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August 13, 2021

Why is the Quran in Arabic?

Some readers of the Holy Qur'an ask: Why the Last Message of Allah  (Al-Qur'an al-Karim) was revealed in the Arabic language?

The Holy Qur’an was revealed in the Arabic language because no other language was provided with the atmosphere and conditions to grow and develop which were ordained for the Arabic Language, enabling it to become the vehicle of the Last Message of Allah. The Arabic language is known to be the mother of the Semitic languages. The history of the Semitic languages goes back to Shem (Sam: the eldest son of the Prophet Noah A.S.). Shem and his descendants spoke Semitic languages which include Arabic and Hebrew languages. The Semitic or Abrahamic Religions include: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The amazing history of the Arabian Peninsula reveals that centuries before the advent of Islam, the Poets, Orators, Business men and Leaders of the Arabian tribes from the whole Arabian peninsula and the delegations from Europe, Africa, India, Far East and other nations used to gather in the Cosmopolitan City of Makkah in four sacred months for business expositions and display. The Arab tribes also held literary festivals where poets presented their poetry. The best piece of poetry/literature, presented in these festivals, as a mark of respect and recognition, was placed in Ka‘bah (House of Allah) hanging in it so that all Pilgrims may know about the best Ode: قصيدة. All such Odes were called: “المُعَلّقَات” (Hanging Odes), out of which at least 14 are extant and seven of them: المعلّقَات السَبْعَة are still included in courses of reading in religious institutions of the Muslim world, in order to teach the language which ultimately became vehicle for the Last Message of Allah. In addition to these odes volumes of Arabic poetry and highly cherished pieces of Arabic prose from pre-Islamic era are also extant.

Some writings on grave-stones and examples of literature (in Standard Arabic (SA) which remained in use across the centuries and still being used) are extant which date back to 250 years before birth of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. For example, the king of Arabia: Imra’ul Qays bin ‘Amr who died in 328 AD---his grave-stone has his introduction and other details in the Standard Arabic. (See for details: ‘Arabi Adab qabal az Islam (Arabic Literature before Islam) by Dr. Khurshid Rizvi, Lahore, 2010, Vol: 1, pp. 77-102). In those days the Arabic language also accepted some foreign vocabulary. Thus, after a long interaction between the Arabian clans and others, emerged the Common Arabic Language: (اللغة العربية المشتركة) encompassing merits of all dialects and expressions of the Arabian Peninsula, making itself able to become the vehicle of the Last Message of Allah. It was a Divine Design that the environment and conditions provided to the Arabic language, to develop and grow, have not been provided to any other language.

About the background of the known history of the Arabic language, an orientalist namely: Prof. Jaroslav Stetkevych of Chicago University, in his book: The Modern Arabic Literary Language – Lexical and Stylistic Developments, has very rightly pointed out: "Venus-like, it [the Arabic language] was born in a perfect state of beauty". (The Modern Arabic Literary Language…, Chicago University Press, 1970, p.1).

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, himself took the responsibility to purge the Arabic language from polytheism and idolatry. Any word or phrase which contained obscenity or a concept which represented any shade of "شِرْك" (idolatry) was banned and consequently it did not remain in currency in daily usage.

The Holy Qur’an was revealed in this centuries-old and well-groomed Arabic language. The most eloquent Arabs found the Qur’anic diction inimitable. The most striking and astonishing feature of the Arabic language is that there is no modern or classical (ancient) Arabic except those words, terms and phrases which came in use with the changing socio-cultural conditions of life. It is because of the reason that the Arabic grammar, linguistic rules, use of prepositions, proverbs and phraseology has been derived from the Holy Qur’an. The Holy Qur’an is the first Arabic book; and, for the last millennium and a half the Holy Qur'an is the primary source to determine the meanings and nuances of the words employed by it in various contexts.

The miraculous character of this divine book becomes more evident when we ponder that:

·        Every Arabic word, whether a noun or a verb, comes on a particular meter and all such meters have been derived from the Holy Qur’an.

·        Every meter has a particular meaning or a set of meanings.

·        All grammatical rules of the Arabic language have been derived from the Qur’an.

·        The Islamic Ideology, creeds and the Islamic World View can only be best elaborated and understood in the Arabic language. Therefore, the Second Caliph ‘Umar b. al-Khattab (R.A.) always emphasized:

                                   ."تَعَلّمُوا العربيّةَ  فَإنّها مِن دِينِكُم"

(Learn the Arabic language as it is part of your Din). Al-Bayhaqi: Shu‘ub al-Iman, Vol. 2, p. 257.

·        As discussed in our previous post, during last 1450 years the Qur’anic vocabulary did not accept Semantic Extension and the word-meaning relationship, particularly in the Qur’anic contexts, remained the same. In other old sacred scriptures the words have changed their meanings; therefore, we find that every new publication of the Holy Bible carries a caption: “The Revised Edition” as the employed vocabulary had substantially changed its meanings and nuances.

In the context of the languages, it is said: “The Form is permanent and the Content moves”, which means that with the passage of time the words of every language tend to change their meanings. This is a natural law and phenomenon which occurs in all world languages. The Holy Qur’an seems to have broken this natural law as its vocabulary did not change its meanings during last millennium and a half. Therefore, it is justified to claim that: The Holy Qur’an is a Continuous Miracle of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

The Holy Qur’an is the basic source to determine the meaning of the words employed therein. I explain it with an example: If, the most celebrated author of the English language, Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1399 CE) comes to London today and dwells in Piccadilly; no one will understand him except some professors of the classical English literature. On the contrary, suppose if the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, (570-632 CE) comes in any city of the Arab world; he, peace be upon him, will understand the local Arabs and the inhabitants of the Arabian lands will understand him fully.

·        One of the most salient features of the Holy Qur’an is that the Translation of the Qur'an is the most difficult thing to do because its semantic, rhetorical, stylistic and syntactical beauties cannot be transmitted and rendered in any other language. That is why it was only Shah Waliullah Dehlawi d. 1762 CE, who for the first time, translated the Last Message of Allah in the Persian language. It should also be remembered that the Text of the Holy Book is divine but not the translation because a translator will translate a text as he has understood the Text. Therefore, the scholars in Islamic history, in order to determine the meaning of a Qur’anic word or a phrase, always referred that to the literature and usages of the people in which the Holy Qur’an was revealed; and, accepted a meaning of a word or a phrase keeping in view the linguistic citations  (الشواهد اللغويّة) in support of that meaning.

As mentioned in our previous post about the Arabic language, it is said:

." لَوْ لَا القُرآنُ، لَمَا كَانَتِ الْعَرَبِيّةُ "

(Had there been no Qur'an there would have been no Arabic language).

The languages like Latin, Sanskrit, Old Greek, Old Pehlawi and all other Germanic languages perished because they were not supported by a book like the Holy Qur'an.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, has already reminded us:

."لَا تَنقَضِي عَجَائِبُ القراّنِ وَ لَا يَخْلُقُ عَنْ كَثْرَةِ الرَدِّ ، فَاتْلُوُهُ"

(The wonders of the Qur’an will never come to an end, and it will never cause boredom for its readers; therefore, read it). Al-Tirmidhi: Chapter Fadl al-Qur’an, p. 143.

Dear readers! The Eternal Arabic, the Mother of the Semitic Languages, which is a Living Language for the last two millenniums, is the only language which could have the capacity to become the vehicle of the Last and Eternal Message of Allah; therefore, Allah Almighty chose this language and revealed the Holy Qur’an in the unequaled and unique Arabic language.

It is also very interesting to note that the Arabic language is a very easy language to learn particularly for the native speakers of Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Sheena, Baluchi, Balti and many other Eastern languages. For example, when we speak Urdu language we are using more than fifty percent Arabic words or their derivations. The Arabic language has miraculous grammatical rules and a fine script. Allah has made a proclaimation in the Qur’an that We (Allah) have made the Holy Qur’an easy for the learners. The proclaimation necessarily implies that the contents of the Qur’an and its language both are easy to grasp. Allah says:

."وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا ٱلْقُرْءَانَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ"

(We have made the Qur’an easy to learn. Is there anyone who would learn?)  Surah: 54, Verse: 17.

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