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FAQs & Fatwas Islamic Studies

I Want to Learn Arabic..

Question:
I want to learn Arabic. How would you recommend that I proceed? What Arabic literature would you recommend for beginners?

Answer:

In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful

As-Salamu Alaykum,

There are a few things that one should do when trying to learn the Arabic language:

1. Understand that this is the language of revelation. Thus, it’s study should be taken very seriously. The signs of this understanding are the following:

1. A checked intention; meaning, constantly observe your inner state. I’ve seen a lot of Western students show off their latest understanding of tamyiz, hal and ‘alam. Beware of this quality because the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, said about this type of person, “The Fire! The Fire.”

2. Have a lot of patience. Ibn Malik, Allah have mercy upon him,the great scholar of grammar, began his famous book Alfiya (a thousand line poem on grammar) with the line, “Kalamun Lafdhun Mufidun Kastaqim.”

“Kastaqim.” Means to be firm and upright. He opened his blessed poem with that line to say to the student, “Istaqim upon the learning of this language.” In other words Arabic, if you really want to grasp its secrets, is not hard, but takes time. The Ulema used to say, “The entrance to Arabic is hard and it’s exit is easy.” Thus, don’t try and over-do things. Once a man had studied for 19 years. He said, “I’ve failed to become a scholar.What have I learned?” Finally, he decided to leave being a student of knowledge and went back to his village. He sat on a stone well and noticed the rope that held the bucket had warn its way through the stone well.

Suddenly he realized something and said to himself, “Seeking knowledge is like this rope. It takes time, but with patience and focus, a rope can rub through stone.”

3. A lot of supplication: Allah says, “He (Allah) taught men expression.”

Thus, you must beg Allah to give you this language. Remember that learning this language is a means of improving your servitude to Allah. Thus, implore Allah to give it to you.

4. Learning Arabic has a few components:

1. Grammar (Nahw) , Rhetoric (Balagha) and Morphology (Sarf) (these are the internal organs of the language), however, know, may Allah have mercy on you, that learning these sciences will give you a technical understanding of the language. Especially if you learn from the classical texts (mutun) in the begining. Thus, most teachers advise students to start with more basic books, which are current in content, and then later move on to the mutun.

2. Speaking, writing and expression: This is usually the last thing to come.

But, once one has it, they should praise Allah in abundance because they are expressing themselves in the language of the Qur’an, the language of the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, and the language of Ahl al-Janna.

I would advise our brother to began and communicate with others as often as possible. Although you’ll make mistakes, and we all do, keep trying. Once, I was sitting with a group of Malaysian students from Al-Azhar. The were very strong in the Arabic and I noticed that they only spoke Arabic. I asked on of them, “Mashallah, what is going on with you brothers?” He told me, “We love to make mistakes in Arabic more than speaking our own language correctly.” Thus, you must practice, practice, practice. What you fail to use, will fail you when you need it.

As per your study I would do the following:

1. Leave the classical books until you can understand them and read them with a teacher. The best books I’ve found for learning how to talk are, believe it or not, children’s books. Their language is always great and there are a lot of conversations which will serve as a great assistant for you in the future.

2. Use a common text book that teaches Arabic such as Kitabul Asassi, the University of Medina series and many others.

3. Try to study in a center in an Arab country. It is very important to remember that a language is a culture. Thus, while living in the culture you will learn the expression of the language in its natural state.

4. Work hard

Finally, I would try and memorize some Qur’an and Hadith. Both, and the Qur’an more so, are a means of giving you eloquence (fasaha).

Allah knows best

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship.

Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010 and his website, www.SuhaibWebb.com, was voted the best “Blog of the Year” by the 2009 Brass Crescent awards.

Suhaib Webb has lectured extensively around the world including in the Middle East, East Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America. Upon returning from his studies in Egypt, Webb lived in the Bay Area, California, where he worked with the Muslim American Society from Fall 2010 to Winter 2011. He currently serves as the Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston’s Cultural Center (ISBCC).

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  • Assalamu alikum,

    Allahu Akbar, I feel afraid even suggesting that you might have stated something where there is ikhtilaaf and my personal believe is that what you have said is not correct.

    You said Arabic is “the language of Ahl al-Janna”. If by this you meant, Muslims will be in Janna and many speak Arabic, like you inshAllah, then OK. But if you meant that the language of Janna will be Arabic, then that is something not proven from Quran or authentic ahadeeth. Would you please check on this? I am posting something from Islam-QA:

    http://www.islam-qa.com/index.php?ref=83262&ln=eng

    Please forgive me if I have made a mistake or my etiquettes weren’t correct while talking with a scholar. May Allah preserve you.

  • as-salaamu’alaikum,
    I found the point you raised concerning the Malaysia students “just giving it a go” as we say in Australia the most important. I have practical experience of this and cannot praise the point enough, alhamdulillaah. When I was studying arabic in the Islamic Unversity I could not wait until the lunch break in order to try new phrases and modes we just learnt in class.
    I was always so scared to even try and speak until I went for Hajj, where I was forced to use arabic.

  • asslamu alikum

    akhie i am a teacher ,, i teach arabic language …
    i have a good experience in teaching arabic … if there some persons who wants to learn arabic
    i can start with them
    thes is my email: ismailabdallah1@gmail.com

    i have a good program for teaching arabic online

    you can contact me

  • Please visit http://www.rihla.co.za. for more information on learning arabic. The tutor,Junaid Kajee, assists non-native arabic speakers via skype on a weekly basis in conversational arabic,reading and writing. All lessons are on an individual basis and it also helps if you’d like more personalised tutoring as well as interactive. Also, lessons can be arranged at a time that is convenient for you.

    Email info@rihla.co.za for more information

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