Posted by Abu Abdurahman | 4 Comments
Many of us are affected when we read the meanings of the Quran in English, as we ponder the words our hearts are stirred, however the reality is we are only given a glimpse of the treasure that is the Qur’an. Allah chose the Arabic language as the language of his final message to mankind. Allah says in the Quran:
“Verily we have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an, in order that you may understand” (Surah Yusuf,)
Now some people might think of this post as a no-brainer. I need Arabic to understand the Quran right? The picture is a lot larger than that. The first evidence for this is the lack of Arabic speaking mom and dads out there. If we truly understood the value of the language than it would be a top priority for us and we have to take responsibility for the fact that for one reason or another it’s taken a back seat in our priority list. First and foremost is that in order to get past the basics of Islam and feel as if you are not totally dependent upon others for how you practice your religion you need to understand Arabic. Without it, you are dependent upon the understanding of the Imam, or Student that is acting as a middle man between you and the religion. Even though year after year many Islamic texts are being translated often times they are translated incorrectly or have left out phrases altogether, and I’ve seen this even from the most reputable printing companies where parts of the hadeeth are completely missing from the translated text, be it intentional or just sloppy, neither of which am I interested in leaving to help me understand how to worship Allah.
In regards to homeschooling, you can’t teach something that you don’t know. We have received a few emails from parents asking us how they as non-Arabs can teach their children Arabic. Well the most obvious first step is to learn yourself. This is something that we feel is very important within our self education philosophy, which is that we need to become self driven in trying to pursue our educational goals as individuals so that we may lead the way for our children as well as utilize what we learn to help teach them.
So how can we learn Arabic? Do we all need to travel to distant lands and live amongst Arabs in order to learn the Arabic language? Even though this is what we did, alhamdulillah we do not believe that this is necessary. We are blessed to live in an age where access to information is simply at the touch of a button in the comfort of our own home. We are easily able to study wherever we may be at a pace that suits us and with such a plethora of resources we have no excuse for not trying. So here is our guide to learning Arabic:
1. Learn how to read Arabic.
There are different mediums used to teach reading, from our own experience Al Qaeedat Al Baghdadiya is really great for both children and adults, arabic speaking and non arabic speaking alike. We are in the process of putting together a series of videos to help you study al Qaeedat Al Baghdadiya at home so you can learn how to read Arabic. In the meantime if you can find someone that will help you go through this very short and concise book you will be reading in no time inshallah.
2. Practice Reading from the Quran .
The next step is that you should start reading from an Arabic only Quran while listening to the recitation. Starting from the smaller chapters and working your way up. For this you may want to use a reciter like Minshawy as his recitation is very clear and slow. Practice each chapter again and again until you are able to read it fluently. Over time this will strengthen your reading ability and slowly build vocabulary.
3. Choose an Arabic Program for learning how to use and understand the language.
One of the mistakes that many people make when studying Arabic is they focus too much on Grammar at first and so as a result fail to reach a level of fluency. There are many aspects that need to be worked on like being able to read, speak, write, as well as work on grammar. Language needs to be learned in a practical context. For example a classical book in Arabic like Ajrumiya would not be a good beginner book for a non-native speaker. Many of the best programs that we have available to us today are those used by the Arabic centers for teaching the language to non-native speakers. Another option we would like to suggest that not many people have heard of is the Arabic program used by Muhammad ibn Saud university. We used this program with a private instructor in Egypt and completed the most part of the series in 8 months. I have used this program as well as other more popular series, and I personally feel that the Muhammad ibn Saud program excels with regards to structure, progression, practice, vocabulary and grammar. You can find the complete four level series of books on our download page. Inshallah we will put up a post detailing how we used these resources soon. These books require some instruction particularly with grammar, so a teacher would be helpful.
4. Find a teacher if possible.
This is the hard part right? Yes it pains me that these days it seems nearly impossible to get help learning your religion without having to put some money down as “everybody’s gotta make a living”. Unfortunately not everyone’s got the spare cash to pay, and I personally don’t think you need to. There are lots of brothers and sisters out there who know Arabic and will teach you, but you have to be persistent. They are not going to go looking for you. One of my first Fiqh teachers I begged to just teach me for 15 minutes a day three days a week. Eventually once my teacher saw I was serious those lessons moved up to an hour nearly every day of the week. Ask at your masjid, use Skype to study with someone on the other side of the state, or country. Look for a retired brother or sister who is lonely and needs a friend. You don’t need a teacher with a PHD in Arabic, degrees don’t make good teachers, and the fact that if you’re using a curriculum, you don’t need that individual to do anything more than, explain the book, and trust me it will be more than sufficient.
5. Purchase a good Arabic dictionary.
A good English/Arabic dictionary is crucial especially for self-study. The best print dictionary is the Hans Wehr. If you have access to an application for your smart phone, or an electronic dictionary than this would be excellent as well as it can save a lot of time rather than flipping through pages. Another excellent resource for this is Google Translate.
6. Have a small notebook that you use just for new vocab. When we were studying Arabic we would have a section of our notebooks just for vocab and we would have four columns, for each verb we would conjugate the past, present, command form and the infinitive. Practice putting that verb into sentences.
7. Speak as much as you can.If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Put yourself in situations where you speak Arabic. Find Arabs and force your way into the conversations. Find a speaking partner. Learn alongside your children. It will be difficult in the beginning but once you get past a certain curb people will be more comfortable helping you out. In the beginning people will be reluctant because they don’t want to wait a minute every time you try to get out an idea, but if you want to learn you’ve got to be patient, with their lack of patience. Don’t be shy or afraid to make mistakes or even sound stupid, because you’re going to make mistakes and sometimes maybe even sound silly, but remember who you’re doing this for. Don’t assume this person has to be an Arab either. In fact you may benefit from a non-Arab more, as classical Arabic (Fusha) is a second language to most of them and they listen to it, and read it, but often don’t speak it, and in some of their cultures using it is even looked down upon. Another Arabic learner like yourself will be more patient with you and their language will be more graded to your level, meaning that in language learning an instructor often has to “dumb down” their speech to the level of the learner using appropriate vocabulary, this will help in the beginning stages, and then once you’ve built up some confidence have a go with some native speakers.
8. Be consistent. The key to learning anything is consistency. Without consistency we are unable to master much of anything. However just a small amount of time on a consistent basis allows you to accomplish much. Therefor be strict with yourself and set a specific amount of time for your daily study of the Arabic language, and no matter what stick to it. The Prophet peace be upon him said “The most beloved actions to Allah, are the most consistent, even if they are small”.
Finally, in Islam everything is based upon our intentions, so to begin with we should ask Allah to purify our intentions so that we learn Arabic in order to understand the Quran and Islam, and then go on to teach our children.