A Guide to Learning Arabic

As Muslims we should always be working towards getting closer to Allah. That is after all why we were created: to worship Allah [Qur’an: Chapter 51, Verse 56].

Learning Arabic can be viewed as one of the ways we can grow closer to Allah. Insha Allah this article will look at why Arabic is so important in our lives, and also outline some practical tips to get you started.

Modern Standard Arabic or Classical/Qur’anic?

Of course there are two forms of Arabic: Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and Classical Arabic, that of the Qur’an. You need to decide why it is you are learning Arabic. What do you hope to get out of it? The ability to converse with other Arabic speakers? The ability to be able to read the words of Allah with complete understanding?

I have met many people who suggest that learning MSA alongside Classical is the best method. However, only you can know what works best for you, and most importantly what you have time for.

While we can grasp the meaning of the Qur’an through translation it will never be the exact meaning as that of the Arabic words. Arabic is an extremely rich language and often there are no equivalent words in other languages such as English. Therefore, without learning Arabic it is unlikely we can ever fully appreciate the meaning and linguistic beauty of the Holy Qur’an.

Arabic and Our Relationship with the Qur’an

Needless to say, that if you understand the words of the Qur’an as intended by Allah then you are likely to feel closer to your Creator as a result thereof. Learning Arabic can be viewed as an extension of gaining knowledge in Islam.

Let us not forget Allah asks in the Holy Qur’an: ‘“Are those who know equal to those who do not know?”’ [Qur’an: Chapter 39, Verse 9].
The Messenger of Allah(pbuh) said, “Allah makes the way to Jannah easy for him who treads the path in search of knowledge. [Muslim]

Imagine: you are praying behind one of the famous imams in Masjid al Haram and you are able to understand everything being recited. Imagine the feeling of Allah speaking directly to your heart. You are likely to have greater khushoo in your prayer because of your increased understanding of the language and therefore the impact of the meaning.

This, in turn, is likely to encourage you to read the Qur’an more often, and learn more surahs for recitation during salah. If Allah is speaking to you directly through Arabic, then this is sure to make your reading of Qur’an and salah more meaningful and productive; ultimately helping you to improve your life, overall.

Allah has made Islam easy for us. In the Qur’an it is written: ‘And indeed, We have eased the Qur’an in your tongue that they might be reminded’ [Qur’an: Chapter 44, Verse 58]. With the right intention, Allah will help you to achieve your Arabic goals.

Benefits of Learning Arabic

As well as the many benefits for increasing our understanding of our Deen, learning Arabic can provide other benefits too:

Allah says in the Holy Qur’an that we should continue learning throughout our lives and ask to have our knowledge increased: ‘And say: “My Lord, increase me in knowledge”’ [Qur’an: Chapter 20, Verse 114].
As Muslims, we should always be seeking ways to increase our knowledge – mastering Arabic is certainly a beneficial way to do this.

Depending on the type of Arabic you are learning e.g. different dialects. Your travel to the respective parts of the Arab world will be easier as you find yourself able to communicate with the locals.
A ‘How to’ Guide for Learning Arabic

Practice, practice, practice – make mistakes, be fearless, and make dua that Allah makes learning Arabic, easy for you.

You don’t have to be living in an Arabic-speaking country to practice your new language skills. There are thousands of resources available on the Internet e.g. quizzes, listening exercises, pronunciation guides. You can also find yourself a ‘language buddy’ via Skype through which you can exchange languages e.g. Arabic in exchange for English. This is a great – and free – way to practice your speaking skills in a non-Arabic speaking country.

Read the Qur’an regularly – remember the first word of Revelation was: Iqra’ (recite). Therefore, take the advice of your Creator and develop the habit of reading Arabic or reciting regularly. You will soon begin to recognize common words and therefore begin to grow your vocabulary bank. Your new best friend will be your dictionary!  Making flash cards can help you to remember and revise vocabulary. Be sure to revisit new words regularly to test yourself.

Allocate set days and times of the week when you can focus on your studies. Find a suitable location where you know you can study in the kind of environment that works best for you.

Discover how best you learn. If you learn better by listening and practicing conversations then there seems little point in sitting for hours every day and reading a grammar book. Discover your learning style and you will see the difference.

Focus on the skills that you need to practice. It may not be the best use of your time to practice your speaking skills if your main objective is to perfect your listening skills e.g. for listening to Qur’an recitations.
Surround yourself by the language. Read the Arabic newspaper. Read the Qur’an. Watch Arabic shows. Listen to Arabic radio stations. Who is your favorite reciter of Qur’an? Listen to them on CD. Try to have conversations with other Arabic speakers. If possible, travel to an Arabic-speaking country so you have no choice but to use the language that you have learned!

Make it fun! When you think of language learning perhaps you imagine pages and pages of grammar rules. It doesn’t have to be this way. If it’s not fun, then you will only find excuses and reasons why you cannot study. Have you considered a language exchange via Skype?

Start small. As with anything, make it manageable otherwise you will only be discouraged. Bithnillah, the days will slowly turn into weeks and you will be amazed at how much you have learned.

Stop procrastinating! If we want to do something, we have to make time for it and possibly make some sacrifices too. We all lead busy lives these days, however there is no excuse for not finding time for something which can bring us closer to Allah.

Join a class or self-study. Only you can decide how best you will acquire the language and also what you have the time for. If you know that you can only study once the kids have gone to bed or before Fajr then self-study is likely to be your best option.

We’ve perhaps scratched the surface of why you should be learning Arabic and how best to do so productively. What are your experiences of learning Arabic? Share your productive tips with readers below.

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