The Strategic Importance of the Arabic Language

Figure 1A: Bedouin Arab children playing. A legacy of a great history.

Figure 1A: Bedouin Arab children playing. A legacy of a great history.

 

The Arabic Language is the language of the Qur’an as well as Islam[1]

Figure 2A: Shaikh Muhammad Abu Shahbah.

By Shaikh Muhammad ibn Muhammad Abu Shahbah[2]

The Arabian Peninsula

The expression above refers to a section of land that falls in the southwest of the continent of Asia. This Peninsula is the largest semi-island in the world.

It reaches nearly 700 miles in its’ width and in its’ height it is 1,100 miles while the circumference is nearly 1,000,000 miles.

It’s boundary stretches from the South Arabian Sea (the Indian Ocean), from the Mediterranean in the north and from the east the Arabian Gulf and Euphrates River.

As for the west, the Red Sea surrounds that location as well as the ancient Suez Boundary that is today referred to as the Gulf of Suez.

When we look at this Peninsula, we see that it is surrounded on all sides by oceans and rivers with the exception of a small portion that is landlocked. It is due to this fact that it is called the “Island of the Arabs.”

This definition was spoken of by the historian Al-Hamdani and includes all of the land of Sham, the Bedouins and their environs between the Iraq and Sham and the environs of the Bedouins of the Sinai as being from the Arabian Peninsula.[3]

Location of the Arabian Peninsula

The Arabian Peninsula falls in a very strategic location between three continents, namely Asia, Africa and Europe. In terms of the strategic maps of civilisations before Islam, the Arabian Peninsula was sandwiched between two leading civilisations of the time: Byzantium and Persia.

The Arab Race

The race that inhabits the Arabian Peninsula is referred to as the “Arab race.” This group is a member of the Semitic group which is attributed to Sam, the son of the Prophet Nuh, peace be upon him; but most of this group have preserved the ways of the Semites. This group of people speak a language known as Arabic.

The Arabic Language

Language is a collection of expressions and statements which each people use to express itself by way of vocabulary and grammar. The proper expression of clarity of a language is known by the people themselves.

Arabic is a Semitic language and Semitic languages include the following: Syriac, Hebrew and the Abyssinian languages;[4] but Arabic is the largest of the Semitic languages that is preserved intact among the people with few alterations. This preservation has to do with the natural life of the Arab people in the Peninsula that they inhabit.

The natural life is one of isolation, preservation of family bonds and lineages, non-intermarriage with non-Arab peoples or marriage among them which involves the individual being absorbed and authority ceded to them.

This lifestyle is what preserved the Arab people and their language from being diluted in the same way that other Semitic people had been or their language being supplanted, just as what had happened to Syriac, Hebrew and the Abyssinian languages.

The Arab nation is categorised among the light brown skinned people of the human race along with the fact that some scholars of ethnology have called it the most noble language as to its’ ease to learn, the lightness on the tongue, how pleasing it is to the ears, the universal and encompassing nature of its’ expressions etiquettes and sciences and grammatical rules and tenses.

The Arab Nation in History

The Arab Nation is one of the oldest and most popular peoples in ancient and modern history with relics that remain unto this very day. Allah, Blessed and Exalted be He, ennobled this people’s existence by choosing from among them the Seal of His Prophets and Messengers, our Master Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his family and Companions.

History became a witness that this people took the reins of leadership of the world on behalf of both domains: the earthly life and the Hereafter. So as long as one Muslim remains on the face of the Earth, he should cling stubbornly to this Islamic Faith.

This faith is the seal of all religions, the most perfect of them, the most fulfilling of all the needs of man.

In just the same way, Allah, Blessed and Exalted, made the Arabic language to remain as a permanent and grand sign of the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and the greatest of his miracles was the revelation in that very language, which is the clear Arabic Qur’an.

The history of the Muslim Ummah has not gone ahead without also considering the history of the Arab people and the two have been intertwined from the beginning.

The Muslim Ummah could not have been without the Arabs carrying the banner of Islam from the start and spreading it to all locations it was favoured to reach.

The Muslim nations in the East and the West are but the city of the Muslim Arab nation which bore the flag of the Message of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, after the death of the Noble Messenger until Islam reached all four corners of the globe.

The Noble Qur’an is the Greatest Arabic Book

The Noble Qur’an is the greatest Arabic book ever written and symbolically unified the Arabs and gathered them all upon one matter.

It is due to the Qur’an that the Arabic language has earned a guaranteed place as a language and a continued life and the Arabs also became one believing nation.

The Qur’an unified the hearts of the Arabs, made them of one mind and habit, unified the language and kept them of similar speech and expression.

As for the Muslims in the first age, they became one Ummah due to the Qur’an without making any distinction based upon race or complexion.

This in turn caused the fusion of these groups and they solidified into a consolidated block in the light of Islam.

No pride remained for anything except Islam, with the language of the Qur’an becoming the language of all of them. One of them even said in poetry:

Islam is my father with no other one besides;

While others brag about their lineage to the Qais or the Tamim tribes!

And from the Qur’an the Arabs and the Muslims spread their sciences, their know-how, and then cast forth their heritage.

There was no science that they brought except that it had something from the Qur’an that triggered it, some narrative that came from it or support from the very pages and ink of this book.

Had it not been for this clear Arabic Book, the Arabic language would have ceased to be and would have been absorbed into other languages and today be among the world’s dead languages.

Had it not been for this clear Arabic Book, the revolution in the classical sciences[5] never would have happened that revolves around the Qur’an and the language of the Qur’an that goes about and blossoms as it had over the wide expanse of the Earth.

The Arab had nothing of himself – even his religion – except this Book that gave him a source of pride, strength, continuity with the past and love as it gave contentment to his natural Arab disposition, appealed to his sense of expression in the most eloquent way and gave him the pure, unadulterated Arab way of expression in all different areas.

This same Book led to the branching out of sub-sciences in statements, speech and the things of the highest level in the eloquent Arabic tongue that made it as clear as could be for onlookers.

The Spread of the Arabic Language among non-Arab Muslims

After the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, went to the Companions on High, the propagation of the Revelation after him was carried to the whole of mankind by the Companions, may Allah be pleased with him, their Followers and those who came after.

They bore the Qur’an in one hand and the sword in the other. The sword was not to compel people to enter into Islam and accept the Revealed Law. Lord forbid! Never was that the case!

Rather, it was only for the safeguarding of the call to Islam and its’ Revealed Law and the Truth when there was no power to strengthen it and safeguard it from being destroyed in the presence of obstinate falsehood or a rebellious and transgressing authority.

If the Caesars of Rome and Byzantium, the Emperors of Persia and the heads of other nations and kings of the Earth had left the Muslims to call the Religion of Truth with proof and clear text, wisdom and noble preaching and left the disputes to occur in an atmosphere of safety and peace, none of these wars would have ever happened.[6]

Instead, Islam would have spread by the strength of its’ proof the fullness of its’ teachings that would have led to man’s natural state, sound intellects, souls that are devoid of base desires and bestial passions, clear and blossoming souls that are not sullied with earthly darkness and ulterior motives.

In closing, Islam and the language of the Qur’an both journeyed from one side to the other in the lands that were conquered; so much so that there was no man or woman that entered Islam except that he or she firmly desired to commit the entire Qur’an to memory or atleast parts of it along with memorising the Sunnah or a portion of it.

Thus the Arabic language spread in conquered lands on account of the swiftness of the spread of Islam and this continues to be the case.

 

[1] This was taken from `Ulama ul-Islam, vol.1, pp. 242-245, no.174, Jumada Al-Akhirah 1399 edition

[2] 1332-1403 AH (AD 1914-1983). A major scholar and if not for blindness in childhood he probably would have been a marja`. He is Muhammad ibn Muhammad Suwailim Abu Shahbah. Born in the village of Minyah Ginag on the banks of the Nile River in Egypt – which is classed as being in the city of Dasuq in the governorate of Kafr Ash-Shaikh – his father sent him to a local kuttab at four years of age. From the ages of 4-9, the young Muhammad learned half the Qur’an by heart according to the narration of Qalun, along with reading, writing, basic math and foundational theology. This would be in keeping with the oath his father made that he would be dedicated to the Qur’an and attend Al-Azhar campus.

When he reached his tenth year, he then headed to a local madrasah, where he would complete the other half of the Qur’an at only 12 years of age upon graduation. From 1344-48, he was at Ma`had Dasuqi and from 1348 on he was based at the Ma`had in Tanta. In the year 1353, he enrolled at the College of Theology and Law and received his degree in the year 1357. He continued his studies and received advanced degrees through the years 1363-65 in addition to spending one year at the Jami` ul-Imam Abi Hanifah in Baghdad. This would be followed by work done in Sudan, Asyut in south Egypt. He spent a number of years of his life teaching the science of hadith and his favourite, the Jami` of Imam Al-Bukhari. This was done in Egypt, Arabia, Sudan and other locations. His students were many, including the blind shaikh, `Umar `Abdur-Rahman Al-Masri Al-Azhari. Please see and Al-Madkhal li-Dirasat il-Qur’an il-Karim, pp. 495-496, Dar ul-Liwa’, 1407, Asnaf ul-Hukkam: Muqaddimah, Dar us-Sunnah, Cairo, 1406 for further details on the topic.

[3] The Sinai Peninsula politically stopped being part of Arabia after the Albanian warlord Muhammad `Ali Basha (d. 1266 (AD 1843) swept down and took over Egypt and some surrounding locations. Someone looking at the flora, fauna, tribal distribution even today can see that it was not only geographically Arabia but also racially. Ancient Egyptians of the land referred to it as such, sometimes interchangeably identifying it with Goshen or the Arapes.

[4] Abyssinia is the old name of the peoples that cover the areas of today’s Ethiopia, Eritrea, Oromo, Tigrinya, part of Somalia, Djibouti and a large slice of the southeast portion of the Sudan. Languages from this area include, Amharic, Ge’ez (which is now mostly liturgical), Oromo, Eritrean, Mdu Ntr (no longer spoken but preserved for liturgical use), Kushic, Somali and Coptic.

[5] Trans. note: The author is referring to the fact that the Arabs lived in the last of the classical Greek period. Thus when the knowledge revolution happened, they used the books around them, i.e. the Greek literature, and sponsored massive translation and dissemination projects. This then spread to the Abyssinian languages of Ge’ez, Amharic, Tigrinya, Oromo and so forth as well as the Semitic languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Phoenician. This translation thus led to the revival of Greek and the aforementioned for use in teaching. Even Hindu pandits were invited to Baghdad for the savvy they had in math and other hard sciences in the Hindi language. This was crucial for the building of Dar us-Salaam, which was previously known as Baghdad in its’ foundations.

[6] Examples of this include Indonesia, Malaysia, the Phillipines, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Eritrea, Djibouti. Islam arrived there with traders and theologians. Discussion and dispute was allowed and those that desired to become Muslim did so while those who did not remain Christian to this day. The reader is advised to consult the oldest eye witness documents on the topic where this can be easily traced.

 

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3 responses to “The Strategic Importance of the Arabic Language

  1. Can you point me toward a PDF or the full title with author of your two posts on the Arabic language? I’d like to read it with my students in the original with assistance from your translations. Shukran.

  2. Thank you for choosing a picture which is a more accurate depiction of the ancient Arabs. The Arabs of old were a dark-skinned people and prided in their dark skin. I feel there is deep racism amongst many communities in the Ummah who attempt to white-wash the history of Islam and of the Arabs and seek to distort their heritage so they can monopolise it for themselves and derive socio-economic benefit thereby.

    After all, Ali RA is described as being shadeed ul udma- the same description given about Bilal RA- the son of a Yemeni Arab and an Ethiopian princess.

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