The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have once said: "If the Quran were nestled in leather and then thrown into the fire, it would not burn."
You may or may not agree with this quote... But it does could be understood from the view that, in order to read the Quran, you will have to survive the fire beforehand.
This is an apt description of what learning Arabic is like. Overall it is not an easy process. There will be ups and downs, and some difficult moments. But ultimately learning to speak Arabic will be a thoroughly rewarding process.
Arabic is an official language in 26 countries, from Saudi Arabia to Syria, via Iraq and everywhere in between.
But is a language with numerous differences from the mainstream European languages of French, Spanish and Portuguese.
The complexities of this Semitic language vary from the Arabic script being different to the Latin Alphabet (meaning writing words and phrases alone isn't an easy task), to there being a number of different Arabic dialects.
This means that the language learning process is made more difficult when you factor in that Egyptian Arabic is different to Saudi Arabian Arabic, which in turn has many differences from the Lebanese version.
So as a beginner in Arabic, you face a confusing range of different versions of Arabic.
One thing that makes this easier, however, is that if you are going to study the Quran, there is only one version you need to worry about.
Classical Arabic, also some times known as Quranic Arabic because of its use in the Islamic holy book, the Quran, is a form of Arabic found across the Arab world.
It is practised in the sacred and liturgical texts of Islam, and therefore learning classical Arabic allows access to all Muslim spirituality and teaches students about Quran recitation for better Islamic learning.
The reasons for learning the Arabic of the Quran are many, and are not exclusively reserved for those who are religious:
- To discover Arabic language and culture
- To understand Arab civilization throughout history
- Be inspired by a very rich cultural heritage
- Read and understand the Holy Quran, the "Book of God"
- To deepen your religious faith
- To discover Islam, its precepts, and its dogmas
- Or simply to discover the Muslim religion
Are you eager to learn the language of the Quran, practiced by its community of believers in order to understand their conception of society?
Is your Qur'anic Arabic learning socially controlled by your Muslim family background?
There are many different ways to learn Arabic so here is a mini-guide on how to learn Qur'anic Arabic.
How to Learn Arabic: Start with Classical Arabic
Within written Arabic, we can distinguish between two types; Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and Classical Arabic.
MSA, also known as literary Arabic, is the language often used in newspapers, books and any other text with an international audience. It is the language which unites all Arabic speaking countries, regardless of their different dialects when speaking.
Classical Arabic, also known as Quranic Arabic, is the language used in the Quran and in Islamic texts.
Although there are a few differences between MSA and Classical Arabic, these are often negligible and the two are often seen as interchangeable in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa.
Learning MSA is more useful if you want to visit an Arabic speaking country and you want to communicate with the locals. Classical Arabic is more useful is you want to study the Quran.
Seeing as this article focuses on studying the Quran, we will look at learning Classical Arabic.
Classical Arabic is close in form to ancient classical Arabic, which exists in the liturgical literature of Islam.
The purpose of Classical Arabic is to understand the sacred text of the Quran, and therefore, logically, it must be learned in order to study the Muslim Holy book.
The verses of the Quran are studied widely by Muslims, with 80% of Muslims being non-Arabs: Persians, Indonesians, Turks, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Chinese...
In order to be able to read and understand the Quran, begin by learning the Arabic alphabet. There are 28 letters in the Arabic alphabet, and each letter has four forms according to its placement in the sentence: isolated, first, middle, and last.
If Arabic is not your native language, take Arabic language courses to improve your language skills.
This will help with Arabic pronunciation (phonology, vowels, guttural consonantal system), Arabic writing, Arabic reading, Arabic speaking, Arabic grammar (verbs, personal pronouns, possessive pronouns, conjugations, diphthongs), and improving your Arabic vocabulary.
Here's what you can do in order to learn to read classical Arabic:
- Take your time because it is a complex language
- Be diligent because it is often necessary to learn new words by heart
- Learn the Arabic alphabet
- Practice Arabic through reading (Arabic press articles, the Quran)
- Listen to Arabic-language news (Al-Jazeera for example)
- Ask your teacher to add exercises in Arabic writing
- Converse in Arabic with native speakers to improve your oral expression
- Follow Arabic courses online
- Find Arabic courses London
It may take you a year or two to master reading Classical Arabic, but in my opinion it is a key step to take before reading the ancient Arabic found in the Quran .
As soon as this stage of reading is over, you can go on to study the Quran in order to understand the verses.
Where to Learn Arabic: Go to a Mosque
Learning to read ancient Arabic takes time. You will have to learn from specialists of the Muslim religion, in other words, religious leaders.
There are many countries throughout the western world with large Muslim communities. Therefore finding a Mosque in your city shouldn't be too difficult.
Mosques tend to teach Classical Arabic due to the links to the Islamic faith.
Teaching Arabic to young children is important for many parents, and such classes are great as there are intended for both children and adults who would like to memorize and chant the verses of the Quran.
The courses teach the recitation of the Quran in the language of Allah (the Hadith). Did you know that the word "Quran" (القرآن, al-Qur'ān) also means recitation in Arabic?
The mosque is the right place to learn the science of Tajwid, the recitation of the Holy Quran. This practice can be explained with the help of History:
- When Islam spread to Arab and non-Arab regions, many populations were not used to the sounds of Arabic letters.
- The Quran was therefore recited (and interpreted) with many errors, which worried the scholars. They developed fears for the continuation of Islam.
- To guard against a possible disintegration of the Muslim religion, they sketched out rules and ways of reciting the Quran that still apply today and allow for correct pronunciation of the Holy Book. This recitation science is called "Tajwid."
- It is complicated because a badly pronounced letter, such as a sound too close to another, may distort the meaning of the sentence - or reverse it - and thus, in religious terms, a misleading reader can easily become a disbeliever of his own free will.
How to Learn Arabic Fast: Study at a Specialized Arabic Institute
Besides Arabic classes at a local Mosque, you can also opt for Quranic Arabic lessons in an institute specializing in the language of the Holy Book.
To memorize the Holy Book, the courses (called marakiz) of Qur'anic Arabic will have the double advantage of making you learn Arabic while learning the precepts of the Quran.
There are institutes across the world that you can enroll in at the beginning of the school year in order to learn the Islamic sciences.
Use the internet to find a local one in your town or city. Classes will often be mixed between student from Muslim backgrounds, and those who are just curious to learn more about the religion of Islam.
A good institute will promote a healthy and tolerant learning environment, whilst simultaneously aiming to move past the current divisions in the Islamic faith that we can see in the world today.
And if you are looking to learn Arabic fast, ask what intensive Arabic courses they offer. Often, these institutes will cater for students who have more time to study and therefore want to learn Arabic more quickly.
For this kind of intense learning program, your memorization skills will be solicited, so make sure you are fresh and ready to learn so as to maximise the experience of studying Classical Arabic.
If you can't find a language institute close by which offers the types of classes that you are after, then why not learn Arabic online?
Learn Quranic Arabic Online
With a simple Google search, you can be introduced to many institutions offering Islamic science courses. The internet has a wider range because of all its distance learning courses.
Most are located in North Africa or Egypt:
- Maqsoud Institute: The institute offers the possibility of studying the Arabic language and the Quran without traveling. The center is based in Egypt, and offers individual courses for men and women alike. No financial commitment is needed.
- Al-Kunuz Institute: ideal for learning to read Arabic writing and taking courses in the Holy Quran. Courses are for children and adults. Egyptian teachers are experienced and graduates of a language degree in teaching Arabic to non-Arabic speakers.
- Al-Isbaah Institute: Courses are based in Alexandria, Egypt and on their website. Teaching is taught in individual, group, or two-to-one lessons.
- Ihfath Institute: Also based in Alexandria in Egypt. From the age of 4, children and adults alike can learn the Arabic language through online courses.
- Darajat Institute: This structure is for women who want to learn to read Quranic Arabic and the Tajwid. The professors are students.
- Al-Dirassa Institute: This school based in Egypt offers Arabic language courses as well as Quran and Islamic science courses in order to learn to speak Arabic and promote Tajwid understanding.
If you would like to teach yourself and bypass a course, the internet offers a wide range of instructional material so you can learn the language of Allah.
On Youtube, there are some educational videos in Tajwid and Quranic Arabic.
Preparation for learning Arabic shouldn't be underestimated so in order to do further training, why not take a spiritual trip to the Arab countries of Lebanon and Morocco?
Go to the Middle East or a North African country in order to discover the great mosques and become bilingual! You can partake in a pilgrimage of our modern times!
Or if you are easily bored by learning a language, there are plenty of fun ways to learn Arabic too.