By Sheikh Ahmad Al-Rashid
There can be no doubt that learning the Arabic language should be one of the top priorities. Indeed, it should be seen as one of the basic necessities for a person who wishes to study Islam.
Likewise, the teaching of Arabic is equally a priority for those who wish to impart Islamic knowledge to others. This is especially the case when the student is young.
The only reason of this is that the Arabic language is the language of our religion. The Quran was revealed in Arabic. Allah says:
Indeed, We have made it an Arabic Qur’an that you might understand.(Al-Zukhruf 43:3)
Just as the Quran came to us in Arabic, the Sunnah of our Prophet (peace be upon him) came to us in Arabic as well. Both of these sources are Arabic in their wording, in their idioms, and in their meanings.
Because of this, the people of knowledge have concurred that proper understanding of the sacred texts can only be realized in accordance with the dictates of the Arabic language as understood by the Arabs at the time the revelation took place.
If the person who wishes to seek Islamic knowledge is not a native speaker of Arabic, he needs to learn the language and acquire a solid understanding of it. This will enable him to understand the meanings being indicated by the Qur’an and Sunnah with respect to Islamic Law. Once he is equipped with this ability, he will be able to carry out what the Qur’an and Sunnah command of him and shun what these two sources prohibit him.
However, it must be admitted that acquiring an intimate and in-depth knowledge of Arabic is not a small task. It is difficult for a native speaker of Arabic, not to mention those who are not Arabic native speaker. A student who wishes to become fully proficient in Arabic should take into account the study of Arabic, as experience has shown, can take a considerable amount of time.
In consideration of this fact, the best approach for a non-Arabic speaking student is to pursue the study of the Arabic language in conjunction with the study of other Islamic disciplines in his own language. While developing his ability to understand the Arabic language, he can seek knowledge from the Qur’an and Sunnah and from the books written by scholars in theology, Qur’an commentary, hadith studies, Islamic Law, and various other fields that are available in a language he understands. These books might either be written in his native language or be translations of Arabic works.
If a student employs such an approach, he will benefit greatly, with the help of Allah. After some time, he will see that he has accumulated a body of knowledge that is not at all insignificant. When he reaches the desired level in his Arabic proficiency, he will be able to build upon the knowledge that he has already acquired by referring directly to the original Arabic source works. With such a background, this will not present any difficulty for him.
A student should try to benefit from the experience of many non-Arabic Muslim communities around the world whose educators have developed tried and true methods and syllabi to teach their people Arabic and the most important matters of their faith in their local languages. It may be possible for students and educators to acquire these programs through various charitable and educational organizations.