understand-quran-arabic

Before you think this question is way too simple to deserve an answer, think again. You won’t find clearcut answers here either, but we’d like to give you just a few things to help get you thinking!

The Quran says that messengers were sent to every nation on the planet. So why did the Quran remain in circulation, both orally and in print, when so many other sacred revelations simply disappeared? More specifically, why did Allah (swt) choose to reveal this most important book in Arabic, rendering Arabic a divine language in the eyes of many Muslims?

To Place the Divine Message in the Most Fitting Vessel— an Arabic Vessel

Let’s examine some of the characteristics of classical Arabic:

  • Arabic has three-consonant root words that bring with them ancient connotations in addition to the principal definition of the word. This accounts for the mystical, codelike quality of the language, including a number of mathematical ‘’coincidences.’’
  • There’s no clearcut sense of time— just the sense of whether an action was done or not done yet and, if it was done, how it happened.
  • Arabic is a highly concrete, poetic mode of expression that lends itself well to expressing eternal truths.
  • Arabic has a long tradition of intensely beautiful metaphysical poetry, a tradition that informs the language itself.

In Arabic— So That Mohamed (saws) Could Understand it

Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an that you might understand.

[Quran, 12:2]

One way of interpreting this aya is to say that Allah (swt) chose the prophet before he chose the language, and that He sent the Quran in Arabic specifically to reach this man.

. . . Allah is most knowing of where He places His message. . . [Quran, 6 :124]

So why was Mohamed (saws) chosen? Here are a few theories as to why Mohamed (saws) may have been chosen to receive the Quran:

  • The prophet (peace be upon him) was a paragon of righteous behaviour, even before receiving the message in Arabic. He was naturally honest, tenderhearted, just, polite, reasonable, and humble. He practically manifested the teachings of the message already, and would serve as an excellent model for future followers.
  • Prophet Mohamed (saws) was not seen as a great man of his time. He had humble origins and was not remarkable in anything but virtue. And they said, ‘Why was this Qur’an not sent down upon a great man from [one of] the two cities?’ [Quran, 43:31] Choosing him was an expression of the divine mandate of equality.
  • The prophet was intelligent, possessed of a strong memory, making it possible for him to accurately memorise and recount the Quran again and again.
  • The prophet, although he had an excellent knowledge of the highest cultural traditions of classical Arabic culture, is described in the Quran as ‘’unlettered.’’ Whatever this word signifies precisely, this state of being ‘’unlettered’’ may have provided the right type of mind for receiving the message— a mind not used to using the written word as a crutch.

To Everything There’s a Season

Now let’s think about the historical and cultural context of the message:

  • In the prophet’s time the Arabs were a motley assortment of nomadic tribes with many dialects, all spread out, and often warring with each other. It’s possible that Allah (swt) in His infinite mercy wished to unify this people and bring peace to them.
  • They were merchants and nomads who travelled a lot, and of all peopels probably had the widest spread and most frequent contact with other nations. This ensured that the message would be spread quickly.
  • Arab culture at the time was mostly polytheistic, as in the time of Ibrahim (ra). As such the dawn of Islam echoes the dawn of Judaism, but among a different nation and with different results.
  • The beginnings of Islam coincided with huge changes in global civilisation, and it was necessary that the last prophet arrive with a very strong message for the whole world.

Think about all this, and try doing a little research on your own. And as you continue in your studies, say a big loud alhamdulillah for this beautiful language, remembering that as hard and frustrating as it may be for you to learn, it’s the language that your creator chose for revealing His message to you!

 

May your mind and heart be opened and filled with light,

 

The Understand Quran Academy Team

 

 

 

 

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