The Great Arabic Language

The Arabic language plays an important role in the life of current Arabic thought. It is the biggest base on which this great heritage stands, a living medium for Arabic literature and the language which binds together the Islamic nation. It is a strong basis for uniting different parts of the Arab homeland. There is no doubt this language had a colossal stature among world languages. This is because it was not an ordinary language like all others in birth, growth, development and scope.

On the contrary, it opposed to the natural laws known for different languages. It was born in fully grown state, without passing through the stages of childhood or stumbling along a long road. Its maturity (at birth) is a wonder which has captivated all researchers and scientists. More astonishing is the fact that it spent about a millennium and half (1500 years) performing its duties fully alive and dynamic, adapting therein according to time and development, standing unique even among Semitic languages in terms of consistency and uniformity of the roots of words and rules of pronunciation and grammar. It was also able to flow with different cultures and meet their requirements. Researchers have stressed that the preservation of the Arabic language in this fashion is almost a miracle.

The language entered Europe when Muslims conquered Sicily and Andalusia (Spain) and resounded in southern Europe. Even today, there are many words in Spanish and Portuguese derived from Arabic. The two eminent scholars Dozy and Engelmann listed these words in their book “Glossaire des mots espagnols et portugais dérivés de l’arabe”, published in 1869 AD, Leiden.

Then Arabic words made inroads in other European languages like French, German and English. English contains more than a thousand Arabic words. 270 words derived from Arabic roots are used in English daily, e.g. the word Emir or Emir Al-Bahr (naval commander) in Arabic became the English Admiral (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Admiral#History_and_origins).

Numerous researchers have observed that Arabic is the language with the biggest pool of sounds, syllables, alphabets, words and expressions. It even exceeds English in number of sounds, since Arabic contains 28 non-repeated alphabets while English contains only 26 repeated alphabets.

Arabic contained alphabet and sounds not found in most languages, e.g. the Haa (guttural) , Kha, Dhad, Taa, Dha, ‘Ain (guttural), Ghain (guttural), Qaf (guttural) etc. The language is famous for its wealth of numerous, distinct synonyms, e.g. there are 400 names for lion, 300 for sword, 200 for snake, 225 for camel, 170 for water, 100 for wine and 70 names for rain.

It has also a vast variety of expressions and phrases, e.g. the literal and the figurative; clarity and metonymy etc. This abundance and wealth was its biggest source of power in its battle against two great empires, Persian and Roman, especially the former. The (vanquished) Persian Empire bore geniuses for the language, e.g. Al-Fairuzabadi, Ibn Muqni’, Abu Nawas and Abu Hanifa. After the advent of Islam, Arabic transformed from a language of poetry to one of legislation and jusrispudence. It became a language of the sciences, and scores of philosophical and scientific works were translated from Arabic to other languages.

Arabic adapted according to the developments (around it). During the Abbasid culture, it was able to cope with the advancement and describe instruments and ideas. It was fit for translating hundred of works from Greek and Roman heritages. It was also able to resist the biggest battle to annihilate it, i.e. the Tartar invasion of the Muslim World followed by the Christian crusades. It took refuge in the big universities like Al-Azhar, Zaytunia and Al-Karaouine (Al-Qarawiyyin). They remained its garrisons in the period of weakness of the Islamic World. Similarly, at the time of Ottoman Turks, it faced another massive onslaught against its existence and withstood it, when the Turkish language replaced it in schools, mosques and courts. On the contrary, it began to flourish at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the face of the above mentioned Ottoman onslaught. After this, it faced another battle which had deeper dimensions when the (Western) imperialism tried to annihilate it and launched the most merciless and savage war on it.

Nothing is more clear a proof of the power of Arabic than the fact that the likes of Ernest Renan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Renan) ,who is extremely prejudiced against Arabs and their civilization was compelled to admit in his book ‘General History of Semitic Languages’:

“The spread of the Arabic language is the most astonishing event of human history whose secret is hard to unlock. Unknown initially, it suddenly emerged as a most complete language, most smooth and rich. It is complete in the sense that it did not undergo any noticeable changes, so one cannot define for it an early or a late stage. It is just the same today as it was when it first appeared. It was born complete and strong. Not fifty years had passed over the conquest of Andalusia (Spain), that the Church people were forced to translate their prayers in Arabic to make the Christians understand them!”

Dr. David Samuel Margoliouth [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D._S._Margoliouth] ,the Laudian Professor of Arabic at Oxford University said:

“Arabic language is still liing a real life. It is one of the three languages which had such became prevalent on the inhabitants of the world like no other: English, Spanish and Arabic. It is different from its sister languages (English and Spanish) in that the time of their birth is well known, which is not more than a few centuries ago. On the contrary, the Arabic language’s beginnings predate all (documented) history!”

Max Van Tago said in his book “The Miracle of Arabic”:

“The influence of Arabic language in our thought process is great. The sociologist Schibingler said as much and recorded his observations in his famous book ‘The Fall of the West’.

The Arabic language played a fundamental role as the medium of disseminating knowledge and the instrument of thought during the historical stage which started when Arabs gained hegemony over the route to India at the expense of Greeks and Romans and ended when they lost the hegemony.”

George Sarton said:

“This is how Arabic was the language of Allah (i.e. the language of the Qur’an), the language of Revelation and the language of the people of Paradise (which is not proven in Islamic texts. See question no 83262). The Prophet (peace be upon him) stressed that Qur’an should be recited in Arabic. The result of this one way intellectual street which stressed absolute soundness of the language was that it became one of the prominent languages in the world. It also became one of the fundamental mediums for culture in the middle ages. To this day, it remains the language of a nation spread out all over the globe.

Arabic is one of the most beautiful languages in existence. It has a very rich pool of words. It is possible to extend the language indefinitely with this pool, since deriving compounds and nouns from old roots makes it very easy to make new words. This fulfills the needs of everyone according a well-defined procedure.

The language of Qur’an in terms of being the language of the Arabs was completely modern, but the Prophet (may peace be upon him) gave it flexibility such that it was able to record the Divine Revelation in an excellent manner. He united the fine meanings of the Revelation (i.e. Sunnah) with its fine language and expressed in beautiful and strong phrases. This is how the Qur’an helped raise the level of Arabic to that of the ideal medium for expressing the intended message.” (end quote; with abridgement)

Excerpts from the book, “Al-Lughah Al’Arabiyah bayna Humatiha wa Khusumiha” (The Srabic Language between its supporters and opposers) by Anwar Al-Jundi (page 1-35), Al-Risalah Press.

Also see: “Mujallah Majma’ Al-Lughah Al-‘Arabiyah” (Arabic Language Journal) No 34, page 59-64. Article titled “Al-Lughah Al-‘Arabiyah makanataha Al-Qaumiyah wa Al-‘Aamiyah..by Shauqi Amin”

The following article is also useful:

http://www.saaid.net/Minute/33.htm

Also, these old books:

1. “Al-Saq’ah Al-Ghadhabiyah” by Al-Tufi Al-Hanbali (died 761 H), especially from page 233-279.

2. “Al-I’lam bi Manzilat Al-‘Arabiyah min ‘Alum Al-Islam” by Al-Arzaqi Al-Gharnati.

Allah knows best.

Translated for http://www.islamqa.com

Advertisements