It is wrong to promote the idea that one can only serve the Lord of the Universe in the Arabic language. Such an opinion (and that is all it really is) ignores the following material considerations:
- The Lord of the Universe is not an Arab.
- The Lord of the Universe understands English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Thai, Tamil, Japanese, Chinese or any other language (including those of the ants and the animals).
Why then, the obsession with the ‘political correctness’ and emphasis on the Arabic language and culture in Islam? The Reading details the lives of great people of the past like Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Moses, Jesus and many others who served God. They did not speak the Arabic language but they were righteous people and the pioneer servants of God. They did not worship God in the ordinary sense of that word. Their relationship with Him revolved around upholding their obligations and keeping their commitments1 pure and chaste through deeds. All of this was accomplished without the facility of the Arabic tongue. Worship is a pagan ritual. Moses, Abraham, Jesus, David, and Muhammad were sent to teach us to stop worshipping through rituals. It is God’s will that we are the consenting party to His deen by serving Him through upholding our obligations and performing righteous deeds.
Every living creature in the seven heavens and the earth are glorifying God in their own way. There is nothing that does not glorify Him. God understands their glorification and their languages. To demonstrate this fact, the Reading narrates an incident with regard to Solomon. Solomon was blessed with the understanding of the language of the animals, the birds, and the ants. One day, as he was passing a colony of ants, he smiled in amusement when he heard the ants communicating with each other:
When they approached a valley of the ants, one ant said, “O you ants! Go inside your homes, otherwise Solomon and his troops may crush you unintentionally.” (27:18)
Obviously the ants were not communicating with each other in Arabic. God translated the language of the ants into Arabic because He understands all languages. If He had chosen a French prophet, He would obviously have translated the ant’s warning to his comrades into French.
God revealed the scripture to Moses in his mother tongue i.e. the Hebrew, but when the Reading was revealed in Arabic to an Arab, the Children of Israel were told to believe it. Obvious God did not ask them to become Arabs or to follow the Arab culture and traditions to continue to uphold their commitments with Him.
O Children of Israel, appreciate the blessing I have bestowed upon you and uphold My covenant, that I uphold your covenant, and reverence Me and believe in what is revealed herein confirming what you have, and do not be the first to reject it. Do not trade My revelations for a cheap price, and observe Me. Do not confound the truth with falsehood, nor shall you conceal the truth knowingly. And uphold your commitment and maintain its purity and humble yourselves with those who are humble. (2:40-41-43)
God’s revelations had to come down in some language and there is no doubt that it is the message and not the messenger nor the language of the messenger, which is of supreme importance. Those who refuse to believe will regard the language as an encumbrance in accepting God’s message. The Reading teaches that the language of God’s Scripture is not important, and that God will put His message into the hearts of sincere believers irrespective of their mother tongue. The Reading says those who disbelieve are bickering about the language not the message. The Reading gives a good example about the people of the past who had disputed about the language of the Torah. There were instances of those who claimed to be following the teachings of Moses who squabbled about the language of the Torah and finally abandoned the Book. Instead, a small group of Jewish sages wrote the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmud – the most influential documents they claim to explain the Torah – but the Jews are told not to ‘read’ the Talmud, but ‘learn’ like the music for a choir voices; it is sung. To understand the Talmud they must read the Tosefta which explains the Misnah (representing the thinking of Jewish sages) and also the Gemarah a commentary on the Mishnah. Mishnah was written by Judah the Patriarch, but it needs to be explicated by the disputing books of Shammai and Hillel. Such is the confused religion of Judaism as we know and see it today, a strange cult entity unknown to Moses. They created various sects because they differed in the interpretations and understanding of what they have invented. Similar disputes are, not surprisingly, raging within the Arab religion. The Reading predicts that people would have questioned God’s revelation no matter in what language He chose to reveal it:
Had we made it a non-Arabic Reading they would have said, “Why are the verses not explained?” Shall we reveal a non-Arabic reading to an Arab? Say, “For those who believe – it is a beacon and a guide. As for those who do not believe they will be deaf and blind to it, as if they are being called from afar.” We also gave Moses the Scripture and it, too, was disputed. If it were not for a predetermined decision by your Lord, they would have been judged immediately. They are in great doubt thereof. (41:44-45)
If presented in Arabic to the non-Arabs they could not accept it when recited to them. This is the way We render it to the hearts of the undeserved. Consequently, they fail to believe until the painful retributions strike them. (26:198-201)
Despite the fact that the Reading was revealed in Arabic, God has not preferred the Arabs over other races. He made it clear by resolutely condemning Arabs in the Arabic Scripture in the strong terms where He says they are the staunchest in disbelief and hypocrisy.
Certain people have accused the author of a hatred for the Arab people for his pointing out the existence of the verses in the Reading which do, in fact, describe the Arabs in exactly the terms mentioned above.
If we take 9:97-101 for example, critics of the views put forward here will insist that the words a’robu and a’robi refer to Bedouins or ‘desert Arabs’. In addition, we have been furnished with the following interpolated translations that serve to prevent us from taking the words of the Reading at the normal value ascribed to them:
- The wandering Arabs are more hard in disbelief and hypocrisy, and more likely to be ignorant of the limits, which Allah hath revealed unto the Messenger. Allah is Knower, Wise. (9:97 – Marmaduke Pickthall)
- (The hypocrites among) the Bedouins are more hard in disbelief in (their) refusal to acknowledge the truth and in (their) hypocrisy (than the settled people), and more likely to ignore the ordinance which God has bestowed from high upon His Apostle, but God is all-knowing, judge. (9:97 – Muhammad Asad)
- The Bedouin Arabs are the worst in unbelief and hypocrisy, and most fitted to be ignorant of the Command which Allah hath sent down to His Messenger; but Allah is All-Knowing, All Wise. (9:97 – Yusuf Ali)
God’s Arabic in the Reading is perfect and is used precisely. In the language of the Reading, Bedouin Arabs or the ‘desert Arabs’ are referred to as badu-naa fil-a’robi.
When the Reading talks about the Bedouin Arabs, it says so:
Yah-sabu-nal ah-zaba lam-yaz-habu, wa-‘in-yaktil-ah-zabu yu-wudu-lau an-nahum badu-naa fil-a’robi yas-alunaa ‘an-abaa-ikum walauka-nuu fi-kum ma-qor-taluu il-laaqor-li-lan (33:20). La-qad-kaa-naa la-kum fi-rosul-lil-lah-hee as-waa-tun hasana-tun lee-man-kaa-naa yar-jul-lah-hu wal-yaum-mil-aakhir-ral-lah ha-kashir-ran. (33:21)
They thought their allies would not come, but when their allies came they wished they were Bedouins within the Arabs (badu-naa fil-a’robi) who were only watching you from a distance. If they happened to be with you they will not struggle (33:20). Surely there is best example for you in the messenger of God for those who seek God and the last day and who constantly remember God (33:21).
9:97-101 clearly uses the word ‘Arab’. It does not qualify the noun. It does specify that these Arabs are of the city. Their identity is made clear in 9:101, “Among your surroundings they are from Arabs hypocrites – and those from the city dwellers, they are deeper in hypocricy”. Thus, they are not – and are not meant to be confused with – inhabitants of the desert. This is yet another example of how the Reading explaining itself and confounds those who would manipulate it.
It is true that the Reading also mentioned about the believing Arabs in Sura 9 Verse 99:-
“And from among the Arabs are those who believe with God and the final day and consider their contributions as means of drawing them nearer to God, and also the obligatorily (Sol-laa-waa-tee) of the messenger. Surely, it will bring them nearer to God, and God will admit them into His mercy. God is forgiver and merciful”.
Understandably in order to qualify – the believing Arabs must commit themselves to the deen the way it was done by their messenger. They should be actively involved in contributing towards cultivating the peacefulness (Islam) for God. Nobody denies the fact that the messenger made a great effort risking his life against the disbelievers within his own community who refused to accept the Reading as the sole source of guidance. He struggled against the hypocrites and the idol worshipers. In other words, he took the challenge (haj) against his own people to promote (u’mro-ata) God’s guidance to make it prevail over all other way of life or deens.
In 33:20 above we see that the Bedouins were not interested to strive in the path of God, then followed by 33:21 that says ‘the messenger is a good example for those who truly seek God and the hereafter’…… Thus, the present day Arabs who think they belong to the group of people in 9:99 – should be doing exactly what their prophet had done. Obviously they know the true meaning of the verse in 9:19 that encourages them to “Jaa-haduu fi-sabee- lil-lah bi-amwaa-lee-him waa-aan-fuu-see-heem” or they must strive in the path of God with their money and lives. It is their duty to take the same challenge against their own people to promote what was sanctioned by God in the Reading to make it prevail over the present day idol worship practice in their homeland.
Unfortunately, in spite of their conversant in Arabic, many of them decided to move to the Western world for a better system of governance leaving behind the autocratic scheme in their own native land. Logically, if one wishes to qualify one must practice what one believes. No need to talk about it. They must follow the example of the prophet to establish the peacefulness – (more than anyone else) because they understood the language of the Qur’an. They can physically sense the idol worship practice packed with Arab myth and tribal cult rituals in their country. Unless and until they demolish these false innovations – sura 9 verse 99 is irrelevant to their claim.
Arabs from other countries are equally accountable to take the challenge to promote God’s consented decree to give life to His guidance against the disbelieving and hypocritical Arabs. God told them in many places in the Reading, “Do not fear the people, but fear Me instead, so that I may complete My blessings upon you, and that you may be guided.”
They must take into consideration that it was God’s blessing that He sent a messenger from among the Arabs to recite for them the signs, and to sanctify them, and to teach them the scripture and wisdom, and to teach them what they never knew. Thus, it would be hypocritical for the believing Arabs to utter what they do not do because the Reading says, “most abominable in the sight of God is uttering what you do not do” (61:3).
Therefore, the language of the Reading does not bequeath the Arabs any advantage over God’s Scripture despite their mother tongue, unless they follow the good example of the prophet. Sadly, there are many non-Arabs around the world who seek to be more ‘Arabic’ than the Arabs. A non-Arab henceforth cannot claim he believes and consented to God’s decrees because he knows Arabic. In fact his insistence on Arabic exposes his wickedness.
If God understands all languages, language cannot be a barrier to magnify the Creator in any language whatsoever. God says even the heavens; the earth and the mountains are able to understand what humans say. Each time a person says that God has begotten a son – the heavens, the earth and the mountains react to such blasphemous utterances. I don’t suppose this verse indicates that the heavens, earth, and mountains can only understand blasphemous utterances in Arabic.
They said, “God has begotten a son”. Indeed you have uttered a gross blasphemy. The heaven is about to shatter, the earth is about to burst and the mountains are about to crumble upon hearing such claims about God most gracious. (19:90-91)
In simple terms, the Arab religion insists erroneously and maliciously that everyone serve God in the Arabic language and in the ‘Arab’ way. This stand is not only devoid of authority from the Reading, but makes no logical sense whatsoever.
1 Collins Co-build Dictionary defines commitment as ‘a strong belief in an idea or system, especially when it is shown by your action and behaviour. If you commit yourself to a course of action you decide that you will do it and you let people know about your decision’. In the context of the Qur’an, a person is required to uphold his/her commitments by the sanctions in God’s system or the bayt al-muHarami as espoused by Abraham. This is discussed in detail below.