How Learning Arabic changed My Life

Written by Ebrahim College Student Sister Saliha

So I was asked to write a little something on how Arabic has changed my life. Truthfully, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Arabic has made my life. As cheesy as it sounds, I cannot envisage a better life for myself than the one I currently live (alhamdulillah!) and Arabic really is the key to everything I get to do.

Through Arabic I am transported to distant lands and bygone ages, medieval courthouses and illustrious centres of learning. I become a spectator with front row seats to history – watching the interactions of the sahaba (ra) play out before my very eyes, musing at the back and forth between Imam Abu Hanifa and his students, marvelling at the genius of legends like Ibn Hajar and Imam Ghazali.. I get an inside look into their various tales, in their own words, each with their own idiosyncrasies. And what to say of the words of the Prophet (saw) himself?!!

 Every day is a mini adventure – I never know where it’ll take me from the confines of my humble study space! Entire universes continue to unravel themselves before me by virtue of this one invaluable language, often leading me to wonder at the poverty of a life lived without ever knowing it. Chief among the treasures it has given me is access to the variant Qur’anic recitations. If this piece was in Arabic I’d be using a whole lot of ta’ajjub right here but, ohh myy..! Very few things have managed to captivate my soul the way the qira’aat do and I feel forever blessed for having been let in to its precious secrets.

For me personally, aside from the practical aspect of the qira’aat, Arabic has opened the doors to a vast ocean of knowledge on Uloom al-Qur’an that’s just not available in English. I don’t think I’ve ever geeked out over something before, not like this anyway, but recently I was looking into the linguistics behind a certain Qur’anic passage for an assignment and I totally had fireworks going off in my mind! Thanks to Arabic, I had access to some of the most phenomenal works to be written on the Qur’an and I was left in awe at the priceless gems casually strewn across their pages, nonchalantly waiting to enrich the fortunate one who happens to stumble across them. The thought that I could have been deprived of such an experience seems almost unjust!

But one doesn’t have to go too deep into Islamic studies to appreciate the value of Arabic. I remember before my studies, I used to read translations of Qur’an and Hadeeth now and then, and while I would understand the message, I did frequently think, ’Who speaks like this?!’ Questions would be repeated over and over again seemingly unnecessarily, particularly in Hadeeth. Archaic words like nay, lo, and verily were littered all over the place. Otherwise mundane statements sometimes came across overdramatically grave. It is only after getting a taste of the Arabic language that I am somewhat able to appreciate why certain things are expressed in a particular way. Suddenly, the subtleties in the tone behind the words start to come out – the sarcasm, the tenderness, the wonder, the warning, the playfulness, the emphasis and so on – adding a depth to my understanding that no translation can. Of course, I still have a very long way to go before I can claim any kind of real understanding, but Arabic is definitely a first step.


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