بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Okay, so it sounds better in Arabic.
Today, I was talking to the supervisor of the centre where I do my hifdh (memorisation) and was asking her about some issues. [This whole conversation took place in Arabic because she doesn’t know English.]
She then asked me when I was going to finish the Quran (I have a long way to go).
I told her that I wanted to.
She then said: “If you traverse a path, you will reach..” (meaning reach the end).
I was confused. I mean, yeah obviously I would reach the end, that was the point wasn’t it?
She saw my confusion and thought that I didn’t understand her words (because I’m not an Arabic speaker) so she repeated it in another way.
I understood her words but I couldn’t figure out what she was trying to say. She then explained that if I did a bit of hifdh every day, I would get to the end (i.e. I would finish memorising the whole Quran).
Then I got it.
And the simplicity of the whole thing just struck me.
If we want to memorise the Quran, we start to do it and continue with it until we finish memorising it , insha-Allah. The only thing that can stop us is death.
If we want to learn Arabic, we start to study it and continue with that until we can understand it . Again, the only thing that can stop us is death.
If we want to pray 5 times a day, we try to do it until we get there.
If we want to be patient, we start trying to be patient until we actually do become patient.
The problem with many of us is that we either don’t start to walk on the path or else we walk and then stop. Very few of us keep walking until we reach the end of the path.
In the surah that we recite in every prayer, there occurs the following ayah (verse):
اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ
“Guide us to the Straight Path.” [Surah Al-Fatihah (1): 6]
My tafsir (explanation of the Quran) teacher pointed out that it says “path” meaning that it is a road, not the destination. So that means that this world is the road, not the destination.
So, what is the destination?
Paradise*, of course.
[*The whole point of memorising the Quran, learning Arabic, praying 5 times a day, etc is to earn Paradise.]
Many people think that attaining Paradise is so tough.
Well, yes it’s hard but it’s not that hard. The point is we just need to take the steps to get to it, even if the steps are small. See, even if one takes small steps towards any destination, they will eventually get there assuming that they keep going at it until they reach the destination.
Let me give you a simple example. A man leaves work and heads home. Suppose there’s only one road that leads to his house. It so happens that on this day, there is a lot of traffic on that particular road.
Tell me, do you think that he’ll take another road and go elsewhere? No, he has to go home so he will keep driving on that road, no matter how slowly the traffic is going, until he gets there.
So, the reason that he got home is because he had already decided that he had to get there and he kept driving forward slowly so he eventually reached home.
So how do we get to Paradise?
Well, we try to be obedient to Allah and keep trying. We will then improve day by day, insha-Allah and in doing so, we’ll get closer to the destination i.e Paradise.
And if we try to do this, when we die, insha-Allah, we’ll die in a state of obedience to Allah and thus earn Paradise.
So, we need to traverse this path until we reach the end.
Simple, isn’t it? Now if only we would apply it…
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
8) In order to learn Arabic, you need to learn grammar and vocabulary.
[Okay, I mean in order to learn simple Arabic. You need to learn much more than just grammar and vocabulary to go deep into the Arabic language!]
By grammar, I mean two things: sarf and nahu.
To use an example I heard, sarf involves word construction and nahu involves sentence construction.
Studying sarf is what really broke open the code of Arabic for me.
What is sarf exactly? Well, it is sort of like verb conjugation but it’s more than that. I think it would be pointless of me to explain because you won’t understand until you start studying it.
Arabic verb conjugation is something that will amaze you due to its simplicity – unlike in French where some verbs drive you crazy (devoir, pouvoir and vouloir, I’m talking to YOU).
For a quick way to learn some Sarf before Ramadan, I would suggest:
That’s basically learning about nouns, prepositions, etc. There’s no point in explaining this either because you need to study a bit of nahu before you understand how wonderful it is.
Both sarf and nahu can be tough in the beginning (especially if you are monolingual) but be patient and you’ll reap the rewards, insha-Allah.
A good place to start learning nahu would be the Madinah books. There are two websites where this book is explained:
2) LQ Toronto
The second site has basic to advanced nahu lessons. However, a little warning: In the Madina series videos, the instructor mentions the names of some deviant speakers and recommends their lectures (according to what I read on a website). If so, then please be careful.
Okay, what about the vocabulary?
Well, actually when you learn sarf, you’ll learn new vocabulary faster. See, each word in the Arabic language has some “root letters” so when you know the meaning of a set of root letters, you can figure out the meanings of all the words that are derived from it.
Let me give you an example from English (all these come from Latin):
Trans means “across, through, over, beyond, to or on the other side of, outside of”.
So, based on the above, can you guess what the following words mean?
Transform, transfer, transatlantic, translate, transition, etc.
Yes, to some degree, you’d have a general idea of what they meant.
Circum means “around, about, surrounding, on all sides”.
So, based on the above, can you guess what the following words mean?
Circumvent, circumference, circumstance, etc.
Now, you might have known what these words meant already but knowing the meaning of “circum” might have given you a deeper look into these words, thereby leading you to understanding their meanings better.
9) There are different vocabulary sets depending on what you want to understand.
If you want to understand the Quran, that’s one vocabulary set. The ahadeeth have another vocabulary set. Islamic literature has another vocabulary set (and each subject matter has it’s own vocabulary set).
If you want to study something else in Arabic, like IT or cooking, that has another vocabulary set altogether.
Of course, the above all refers to the standard Arabic. Each colloquial dialect have their own vocabulary sets as well.
Scared? Why? Isn’t this the case in every language? Think about it.
Generally speaking, sarf will help you with most of them (not the colloquial though). However, you would also need to start learning the vocabulary separately for each subject.
The first thing that you should focus on is the vocabulary of the Quran. The rest of them can come later, insha-Allah.
How can you improve on this?
Well, I can suggest three short ways before Ramadan:
– The Understand Quran courses also teach Quranic vocabulary.
– Using the dictionary of the Quran on the Understand Quran website which gives the translations of each new word, juz by juz.
– Reading the Word-to-Word translation of the Quran on a daily basis. I would recommend the Darussalam version due to its authenticity. However, the others are acceptable as well.
10) So, what will your Arabic schedule look like before Ramadan?
Well, assuming that you know how to read the Arabic letters, do not understand any Arabic at all and have not registered for any course, I would suggest:
a) Starting with the Understand Quran Short Course.
Dedicate 15 minutes in the morning to doing the course and another 15 minutes in the night to reviewing it.
b) Read at least one page of the Word-to-Word translation every day.
Write down all the new vocabulary that you’ve learnt in a notebook and keep reviewing them.
c) You could also keep listening to the Quranic recitation along with its meaning.
Here’s one with Shaikh Abdullah Basfar’s recitation (excellent tajweed).
d) After you finish all the Understand Quran lessons, you can then move on to the Madinah Arabic lessons.
Again, I should point out, that these are all suggestions. It’s okay if you don’t follow all of them. I’m just try to give you an idea of what you can start with.
Remember: The more you push yourself, the more Quran you will be able to understand in Ramadan and the more khushoo (humility) you’ll feel in the taraweeh prayers (and all the other prayers for that matter).
To be continued…
I mentioned here that the classes would start tomorrow (Wednesday).
However, the teacher just sent out a message stating that it would start on Thursday morning, insha-Allah.
Level 1 is at about 6:20 am everyday for a few weeks.
Level 2 is at 8pm.
For all those who work or study in the UAE, this is an IDEAL opportunity for you. The classes are after Fajr and BEFORE you leave for work or university (for most people anyway).
We can keep saying “We really want to learn Arabic” but the proof is in the pudding.
If we don’t take advantage of such a fantastic opportunity then I think it means that we really weren’t serious about learning Arabic.
Please take these classes (you can even do it as a family!) and stick with them until they end, insha-Allah.
And please tell everyone about these classes.
Okay, as we’re on the topic of learning Arabic in our post-Ramadan Teensie Weensie Tips, I thought I’d mention one of the better Arabic learning websites out there:
And for kiddies:
They’ve both got some great stuff (which you won’t get on other sites). Please be sure to check them both out (especially if you are a teacher or a parent).
PS. French speakers, you’ll like this website…
5) Try to use your strongest language to learn Arabic.
Okay, there are two key words here: “use” and “strongest”.
Let’s take the second word first.
a) What is a person’s strongest language?
It’s what is known as the “native language”. And just for your information, according to many people, that is exactly the same thing as one’s mother tongue.
People seem to think that the language that you speak at home with your parents is your native language. It doesn’t have to be.
If you’re confused as to what your native language is (and I’ve met many people who are), ask yourself this simple question: What language do you think in?
People generally think in just one language.
[By the way, judging by some of the conversations that I’ve had, it seems that the language that you think in can change, if you use another language for a long time. For example, a German sister pointed out to me how she had started to think in English because she used it far more than she used German.]
Okay, so why should we use one’s strongest language? Well, I’m assuming that everyone thinks like me. See, if someone asked me to translate from French to Arabic, then I wouldn’t be able to do it without first translating from French to English and then from English to Arabic. From what I understand, this is the case with most people.
Also, there is the little issue of “getting lost in translation”. You lose so much by going from one language to another. Imagine what would happen if you went through more than one language!
Now someone might say “Eh? Doesn’t everyone use their native language when learning a new one?”
Erm no, which is why I felt the need to write all the above.
[I’m still waiting for more comments on this post before deciding on which option to go for for.]
In Part 1, I mentioned 2 things that we needed to do to learn Arabic, insha-Allah. Here are some more:
[Look, I’m not an expert (and Arabic is not my native language either). These are just my personal views. I could be wrong. ]
3) You need to figure out why you are learning Arabic.
This one might have confused you. Let me explain.
There are 3 different types of Arabic:
a) Classical Arabic (used in the Quran and the ahadeeth).
b) Modern Standard Arabic (used in newspapers, books, and err…even in cartoons).
c) The Dialects – Yes, there are loads of them. There’s the Khaleeji (Gulf) dialect (“Agullich!”), the Sham (Levantine) dialect (“Shoo biddik?”), the Egyptian dialect (“Aiyi haaga!”), the Northern African dialects (nobody understands what they’re saying so don’t worry about these) and some others. Of course, you have sub-dialects amongst these dialects so…
The first two use the same grammar but have a different vocabulary set.
The third one……..that’s a long story. They’re a hotch-potch. However, they’ve all branched out from the fus-ha (the proper Arabic).
[No, it’s not confusing. Remember what I said about English in Part 1?]
So, what do you want to do?
– Go to Egypt and order some Kushari?
Well then, learning Classical Arabic will not really help. The waiter will say “Haaga thaanee?” and you’ll say: “Aaid, min fadhlik”. And then you might get a glare from the waiter because he’ll think you used the feminine form to talk to him whereas you were actually using fus-ha but the poor boy doesn’t know that.
[This is a bit of a rant, so beware. Don’t say that you weren’t warned.]
[*I suppose I could say “blogged” but I’m more of a writer than a blogger. (Feel free to disagree.)]
One of the mistakes that many people make is to read the Quran without understanding it. Unfortunately, they only realise this little fact (i.e. that they can’t understand a word) when it’s time for Taraweeh in Ramadan. That’s when posts like this one become a super hit*.
[*No, I’m not joking. It seems to have reached all parts of the globe.]
So, what should the one who cannot understand the Quran do?
Well, learn Arabic of course.
Isn’t that what many people promise themselves every Ramadan? “Next Ramadan, I’ll be able to understand what the Imam is reciting!”
And did they? Well, judging by the super hit post, most people didn’t keep this promise to themselves.
So, what do you need to do?
1) Make the firm intention to learn Arabic before Shaban 2011.
2) Ignore all those silly articles that say that learning Arabic is difficult. They were not inspired by anybody except Shaytan (the devil).
Everyone has realised this by now, right?
The Quran is the Speech of Allah. Keeping in touch with it only increases our iman which he doesn’t like.
Therefore, he has taken many steps to ensure that we stay unaffected by the Quran. The main way is by stopping us from understanding the Quran. Hey, you can read and read and read but if you don’t understand what’s going on, you won’t get affected by the message, and he knows that all too well.