I had a conversation with an acquaintance today which brought back some thoughts I had before to the forefront of my very crowded mind. One of those crowded thoughts is the concept of Arabic being the gateway to Islamic Knowledge. Before I proceed further, let me say first, that I mean no ill will to the one with whom I had this conversation with. If any thing, it brought up a topic I believe needs discussing.
Many moons ago, when I began my “career” as a Muslim, I saw what I believed to be the singular importance of learning Arabic. All around me I heard and saw American Muslims talking about the necessity to learn Arabic language. Often I would hear about certain imams or religious figures criticized by brothers because, “they don’t know no ‘Arabiyyah (Arabic). In a sense, one’s knowledge about the religion and to a greater extend, one’s ability to speak on it authoritatively, was cemented in one’s grammatical abilities in the Arabic language. The one small leak I found in this paper bag of thought is that no one knew the damned language and so how could they critique? And in the end, what impact did Arabic have on the content of their character?
As I have said before, there’s an authority crisis amongst the American Muslims. Who can and cannot speak on this religion with emphasis? One step to having the linguistic gavel is obtaining knowledge or perceived knowledge of Arabic. I say perceived because many of the brothers that I spoke of before who went overseas to study came back with the perception of being well-learned in Arabic, though in fact many would not be able to graduate from elementary school overseas with their new educations. The pursuit of Arabic became on all-encompassing obsession for many American Muslims I met (and continue to meet). Without it, basically, one wasn’t really a Muslim.
So, what great impact can the Arabic language have on one’s character (of course, we must ask if that was even the objective – smiles…)? Was their scholarly pursuits turning them into Godly-men overnight? Did they enshrine themselves with the poetics of Arabic to become saintly men? Well…, not exactly from what I saw but I am a subjective individual. Instead of piety I saw piety wars. I hierarchy had been created – a pecking order. They haves and the have-nots of the Arabic-speaking world amongst American Muslims.
So where am I trying to go with all of this? It’s simple. Islam is not a religion about the Arabic language. It’s not a religion about dogma. It’s a system about changing the human condition. In my thirteen-plus years so far, the most honorable and pious men have been those with either very little Arabic or you wouldn’t even be aware that they did speak it. It’s simply a means to an end and not an end to a pedestal. So, with that said, please scroll to the end of the page where you can find many fine text books and books on Arabic grammar! Happy studying.