The Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (saw) over the period of 23 years. The language of revelation was in Arabic. As Islam spread outside the regions of where Arabic was not the native language, the need for translations of the Quran arose.
It is believed that the first translation was during the early 7th century when Salman al-Farisi, a companion of the Prophet (saw) and the first Persian to embrace Islam, translated Surah al-Fatihah into Persian language. Fast forward to modern times, translations in 102 languages were known by 1936.
Today, millions of Muslims whose mother tongue is not Arabic can read the Quran in their language. This then begs the question, is it important for a Muslim to learn Arabic and understand the Quran in its original language?
To help answer this question, Quran Academy has interviewed Nihal Khan, an Arabic teacher from New Jersey. Below are highlights of our conversation with him
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Quran Academy (QA): Why would a Muslim need to understand the Quran in Arabic if there are many translations available?
Nihal Khan (NK): Although there is a lot that we can learn from the translation of the Quran, there will come a point where your learning will eventually plateau. Arabic is a language with many nuances. Understanding and mastering the nuances of Quranic Arabic will unlock another level of understanding that would otherwise remain lost in translation.
Another advantage of understanding the Quran in Arabic is it gives you the flexibility to study and explore the Quran. Relying on translations or relying on excerpts of translations often give us soundbites. But soundbites expire. The human mind wants more as we grow older.
For anyone who is a serious student of the Quran, for anyone who has become hungry to reach their next level of iman, learning how to understand the Quran in Arabic is the next step. It can unlock a path to deeper understanding and spirituality.
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QA: Do you think that we are drowning in information but starving in wisdom?
NK: In many ways, yes. Knowing something can give us understanding. Having the knowledge is the “what”. But the application of knowledge, that is wisdom. To have wisdom in our lives, we need to have comprehension. We need to understand the place that information has in our lives.
As a Muslim, simply having knowledge of the Quran is not complete. We need to also comprehend and ponder. You will lead a monotonous life if you don’t ponder upon what you believe in. Without reflection, our lives will be robotic and we risk being subjugated when we are without comprehension.
If you were to study the history of successful people, you will find that all of them reflect and ponder upon knowledge to gain wisdom. Also in the Quran, there are many verses where Allah SWT calls upon us to ponder upon the Quran. Learning the nuances of Quranic Arabic is one of the most powerful doorways to deeper reflection that plants the seeds of wisdom to grow in our lives.
QA: Is there anything else that a Muslim should keep in mind when trying to learn Quranic Arabic?
NK: Remember the purpose. Remember that this is the literature of our deen. This is the language that your Muslim identity is rooted in. Learning Quranic Arabic is not about getting the grades or the certificate or the degree. It’s about YOU and your relationship with the Quran. It’s a gift to yourself, really, and one of the best favours you can do for yourself.
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