According to a poll conducted by OpinionWay in 2015, 97% of parents of school-age children said that learning a foreign language would be an asset in professional life.
Arabic has been named as one of the most important languages to learn in the future. Indeed, learning the Arabic language, including its alphabet and grammatical structure, would give you a taste of the richness of Islamic civilization.
Even learning literary or dialectical Arabic would be a major asset to anyone who also speaks another modern language.
With some estimates suggesting that there are over 400 million people on the planet who speak Arabic as their mother tongue or second language, it is now the 5th most spoken language worldwide, and being able to speak it makes it almost as useful as English, Spanish, or French.
However, there are many prejudices that haunt the Arabic language. We often overlook what may be happening behind the scenes. Arabic has a tendency to exalt the passions and magnify feelings. This is a language that can evoke longing, adoration, and fascination or disgust and rejection to the point of deep revulsion.
Closely associated with the Muslim religion, Islam, the Arabic language can, in fact, be either quite appealing or rather deterring.
The general public still remains unaware of many aspects of the Arabic-Islamic world and culture.
Superprof has therefore explored four important and often-asked questions about the Arabic language.
Is Arabic the Most Beautiful Language in the World?
To be clear, for those who love it, Arabic IS the most beautiful language in the world.
But, to avoid offending speakers of other languages, we'll make a slight adjustment. Arabic is certainly one of the most beautiful languages in the world.
The Arabic language has been the vehicle for many artistic and scientific advancements such as:
- Mathematics: Arabs furthered the study of algebra and geometry. They also translated the works of Aristotle, Archimedes, Pythagoras, and Thales.
- History and Geography
- Law and Jurisprudence
- Drawing and Painting
- Poetry and Literature, etc.
Arabic is a Semitic language that first appeared during the second century in poems and literature.
For Berbers and Arabs, literature was a way to propagate the Arabic language and culture.
Through Arabic poetry and song, writers praised the pre-Islamic polytheistic religions using two recurrent types of verse: lyricism and description. Arabic is therefore a language with a strong oral tradition.
Arabic poetry slowly disappeared after the prophet Muhammad completed his hijra. At that point, Muhammad became the central figure in Arabic literature through the sacred scriptures of the Holy Quran.
At the time, Arab society was quite advanced due to its extensive body of knowledge.
Take a look at this list of famous Arabic and Persian intellectuals and artists.
- Al Farabi (872-950),
- Abu Al-Qasim (940-1013),
- Avicenne (980-1037),
- Ibn Hazm (994-1064),
- El Ghazali (1058-1111),
- Averroes (1126-1198),
- Ibn Khaldoun (1332-1406),
- Ahmad Amine (1886-1954),
- Abbas Mahmoud Al Akkad (1889-1964),
- Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006).
Arabic calligraphy also plays an important role in Arabic writing. The art of writing Arabic correctly is a noble art which is appreciated throughout the world.
As well as being the way of writing Arabic script, words and phrases, Arabic calligraphy shines a light on Islamic society. This art is deemed worthy of putting into writing the verses of the Holy Quran as well as eulogies to praise the glory of Allah, Muhammad, salvation, and the Islamic liturgy.
Learning Arabic calligraphy increases a student's graphic skill. The attention he or she brings to the beautiful curves and rounded shapes of the letters encourages stylistic awareness of Arabic writing.
Of course, while learning Arabic calligraphy, one can't help learning the Arabic alphabet and recognizing the linguistic richness of the language as well. The Arabic alphabet contains 27 letters in addition to the hamza, 117 letter forms dictated by their positions in Arabic words (isolated, initial, middle, or final).
- Over 60,000 Arabic vocabulary words
- 6,000 verb roots from which adjectives are derived
- An infinite amount of various circumlocutions (wordy synonyms).
Still interested? Let's continue with more on the Arabic alphabet.
Why is Arabic Written from Right to Left?
Arabic and European languages are read in opposite directions, but why is this?
Nothing happens by chance.
The reason for the direction in which Arabic is written can be found in the history of ancient civilizations.
Originating in ancient Mesopotamia in the fourth century BCE, the first writing system was composed of cuneiform characters (in the Middle East) and hieroglyphs (in ancient Egypt) around 3500 BC.
Through the ages, vast empires merged and standardized their oral communication system by creating a Proto-Sinaitic alphabet around 1400 BC. The first examples of this alphabet were found on a dagger in Lachish, in today's Israel.
Read from right to left, this alphabet contained 23 signs in the form of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
By the 10th century, the Phoenician empire - a vast kingdom of Lebanese origin that dominated the Mediterranean basin for nearly 1000 years BC - had spread Canaanite languages throughout the Mediterranean.
They had transformed their spoken phonemes and consonants into a written alphabet of 22 letters that proceeded from right to left.
This writing system based on three-letter consonant combinations would evolve into all of the known Semitic language alphabets including Akkadian, Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic, Hebrew, and would eventually lead to the formation of Greek and Latin.
There is no need to review the complete history of writing. But, it is good to remember that the Phoenician language is the ancestor of the Aramaic alphabet, the language spoken by Jesus Christ, to which the Arabic alphabet can trace its origin sometime during the second century.
In short, Arabic is written from right to left because of its Aramaic linguistic origins.
But, we don't quite understand yet WHY the people of Arabia began writing from the right.
We currently only have a collection of hypotheses about the direction in which Arabic is written.
- The type of material used at the time (reed, stone, etc.)
- The hand used to carve the stone (there have always been more right-handed people than left-handed people)
- The direction in which documents were unrolled in ancient Egypt. Egyptian scribes unrolled papyrus scrolls with the left hand in order to read and write toward the left.
- The desire to imitate the writing of ancestors. Each civilization inherited the skills of those that came before.
To explore further: Why do we write from left to right?
Why is Arabic Important for Islamic Civilization?
Arabic is the language of the Quran, and plays a fundamental role in the Muslim world.
The Arabic language also represents an identity for a number of Arabic speakers.
Firstly, around 300 million people, natives of Arab countries, speak Arabic as a first language.
Then, there are an estimated 100 million Arabic-speaking ex-patriots around the world.
According to an INSEE study using data from 2008, in France alone there are 3.5 million second generation people of Maghreb origin.
A brief history of the birth of Islam reveals the degree to which learning to read and speak Arabic is fundamental for understanding the Quran, a vital step for every Muslim.
In fact, Holy book is Islam, the Quran, is written entirely in Arabic. While it has been translated into many languages since, Arabic remains the religious language of the Islamic faith.
Arabic became the language of Islam due to the diffusion of the Quran by Muhammad and his successors, a fact that remains an important factor of Islamic civilization to this day.
Likewise, the language of Ishmael not only has great influence in the Muslim and Arabic worlds, but the across the globe as well.
IMPORTANT: Please note that we are speaking here of religion. Let's look at the difference between the meanings of "Arab" and "Muslim".
- Arabs are a people, a majority of whom practice the Islamic religion.
- However, there are Christian and Jewish Arabs.
- There are also non-Arab Muslims (Turks, Persians (Iranians), Indonesians, Pakistanis, etc.)
Only 20% of Muslims on the planet are Arabs!
Arabic is an official language in 26 countries, including those of the Arab League. This means that across the Middle East and North Africa, Arabic is widely found, from Qatar to Lebanon, and Syria to Tunisia.
Arabic can therefore play an important strategic, economic, and diplomatic role in international and intergovernmental relations.
Arabic is also an official language of such international institutions and the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab Maghreb Union, and the African Union.
One thing is for certain. The Islamic civilization has greatly influenced the rest of the world as evidenced by the number of Arabic words found in English. Here are just a few of the 900 English words of Arabic origin:
Why did Allah choose the Arabic language?
According to Islam, Allah is a divine being who has no image and surpasses all human understanding. Allah, to whom humans must submit, created human beings. In fact "Islam" in Arabic means submission.
In Arabic, "God" is written with the article "al" - ال - which means "the" and the Arabic word "ilâh" - إِلَاه - meaning God.
The Quran insists upon the strict uniqueness of the Muslim God and the dominance of monotheism (Tawid), but this hasn't always been the case.
At the risk of irritating some readers, the term "Allah" does not belong solely to Islam. It was used by the Akkadians ("llu"), Christian Arabs ("Allaha"), pre-Islamic Arabic polytheists, and Jews ("Elohim").
So, there is not a separate God for each religion, but rather a common Semitic origin to which Islamic, Hebrew, and Christian divinities can be traced!
It is said that Allah chose the Arabic language so that the Quran would make sense to believers. Tradition and stories speak only of those who have faith.
Consider as well what Achafi'i (772-826), a famous Muslim thinker, said.
"The language Allah chose is the Arabic language. He sent down his precious book (the Quran) in Arabic, the language of the last prophet. For this reason, it is the duty of everyone who is able to learn Arabic to learn it because it is the first language."
It can be presumed that the Quran was written in Arabic because the prophet Muhammad was of Arabic origin.
Not only does an Arabic Quran unite all Muslims of the Arabian peninsula around a common spiritual leader, Allah, but it also allows all Muslims to understand the words of Muhammad.
Learning Arabic in order to understand the Quran is a vital part of Islamic instruction.
Courses in the Modern standard Arabic (Msa) and Quranic Arabic (classical literary Arabic) train students in the study of the Quran as well as Arabic grammar, vocabulary, and even Arabic culture.
Speaking Arabic is slightly more complicated because each country has a different dialect meaning that Moroccan Arabic is different the Iraqi and the Algerian versions.
So when learning Arabic online, make sure your teacher speaks the right dialect.
But the written language is a lot more straight forward as it is common across the Arab world, and in short, it's everything you need to practice Islam!
There is so much that we don't know about Arabic, and learners will explore the language, including the alphabet's four vowels (A, E, I, and U) and 24 consonants. Did you know that you can spell a verb and several adjectives using only three consonants?
Maybe Arabic is easier than you think...