The Importance of the Arabic Language In Islam

Why Many Muslims Strive to Learn Arabic

In Bahrain, Arabic is largely used in educational settings.
Shane T. McCoy/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Ninety percent of the world's Muslims do not speak Arabic as their native language. Yet in daily prayers, when reading the Quran or even in simple conversations with each other, Arabic readily rolls off any Muslim's tongue. The pronunciation may be broken or heavily accented, but most Muslims make the attempt to speak and understand at least some Arabic.

Why is Arabic So Important to Understanding the Faith of Islam?

Regardless of their linguistic, cultural and racial differences, Muslims form one community of believers.

This community is based on their shared faith in One Almighty God and the guidance He has sent down to mankind. His final revelation to mankind, the Quran, was sent over 1400 years ago to Mohammad in the Arabic language. Thus, it is the Arabic language that serves as the common link joining this diverse community of believers and is the unifying element that ensures believers share the same ideas. 

The original Arabic text of the Quran has been preserved from the time of its revelation. Of course, translations have been done into various languages, but all are based on the original Arabic text that has not changed in many centuries. In order to fully understand the magnificent words of their Lord, Muslims make every attempt to learn ​and understand the rich and poetic Arabic language in its classic form. 

Since understanding Arabic is so important, most Muslims try to learn at least the basics.

And a great many Muslims pursue further study in order to understand the full text of the Quran in its original form. So how does one go about learning Arabic, especially the classic, liturgical form in which the Quran was written?

Background of the Arabic Language

Arabic, both the classical literary form and the modern form, are classified as Central Semitic languages.

Classic Arabic first emerged in northern Arabia and Mesopotamia during the Iron Age. It is closely related to other Semitic languages, such as Hebrew.

Though Arabic may seem quite alien to those whose native language derives from the Indo-European language branch, a great many Arabic words are part of the lexicon of Western languages due to Arabic influence on Europe during the medieval period. Thus the vocabulary is not so alien as one might think. And because modern Arabic is closely based on the classic form, any native speaker of modern Arabic or many closely related languages do not find it difficult to learn classic Arabic. Virtually all citizens of the Middle East and much of northern Africa speak modern Arabic already, and a great many other central European and Asian languages have been heavily influenced by Arabic. Thus, a good portion of the world's population are readily able to learn classic Arabic. 

The situation is a bit harder for native speakers of the Indo-European languages, which accounts for 46% of the world's population. While the language rules themselves--the way of conjugating verbs, for example--are unique in Arabic, for most people whose native language is Indo-European, it is the Arabic alphabet and system of writing that poses the greatest difficulty.

 

Arabic is written from right to left and uses its own unique script, which may seem complicated. However, Arabic has a simple alphabet that, once learned, is very accurate in conveying the correct pronunciation of each word. Books, audio tapes and coursework to help you learn Arabic are available on-line and from many other sources. It is quite possible to learn Arabic, even for Westerners. Considering that Islam is one of the world's premier religions and its fastest growing, learning to read and understand the Quran in its original form offers a means of fostering unity and understanding that the world very much needs.