Learning anything new is never easy. Lot of factors determine the success rate of learning a new language. Let’s look at the top 10 excuses people have for not learning Arabic and see how we can overcome them.
1. I’m too old for this
Being too old to learn Arabic should never be an excuse because Allah (SWT) rewards you according to your intention. It’s our duty to put sincere effort in learning the language. Allah (SWT), unlike people, doesn’t judge us by the results; because results are up to Allah, efforts our up to us. As we get older, we should be strongly motivated to learn the language of the Quran so we can understand His message and be better Muslims (Clock is ticking!).
Learning a new language may not always be easy as adults, but they do have other benefits. One of them is improving your brain health. As we get older, most of us experience many age-related reduction in mental functions like attention and memory, or in worse cases – Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Now, there’s plenty of research available to show that learning a new language can postpone some of these inevitable age-related cognitive declines and even delay the onset of dementia. Learning a new language keeps your brain active and healthy.
2. I’m too busy
Spending about 15-20 minutes everyday is sufficient to learn any new language. No matter how busy we are, we can make at least about 20 minutes to learn the language of the Quran. That’s only about 1.3% of our time from the 24 hours which Allah has blessed us with, everyday!
Did you know that initially when Salah was prescribed to us (Yes, it’s a prescription!), it wasn’t 5 times per day; instead, it was 50 times per day! If not for Musa (AS), who asked our Prophet (SAW) to go back to Allah (SWT) and reduce the number, we would be expected to pray 50 times per day! Can you imagine that scenario? 50 times per day would mean that we would be praying every 30 minutes (approximately). If we had to perform Salah 50 times per day, where would we have the time to do anything else? To put things into perspective, this is the sole purpose of our creation! (to worship Allah alone) [Quran 51:56].
3. Arabic is too difficult
Allah (SWT) says in the Quran, “Verily, We have sent it down as an Arabic Quran in order that you may understand.” [Quran 12:2], “And We have certainly made the Qur’an easy for remembrance, so is there any who will remember?” [Quran 54:17]. Are we going to trust someone who says that Arabic is difficult or trust Allah (SWT)? Who is more knowledgeable than our Creator? Make the sincere intention to learn Arabic and ask Allah (SWT) to make it easy for you. Allah is the One who can make it easy or difficult.
There is wisdom behind the Quran being revealed in Arabic. Arabic has the largest number of words compared to other common languages like English, French and Russian. The below chart shows this, and also gives examples of some words in other languages that have been borrowed from Arabic. Almost 8% of Spanish words are rooted out from Arabic. Even Portuguese language has borrowed a large number of Arabic words. Obviously, the more number of words in any language, the richer it’s way of expressing the message. SubhanAllah!
4. I’m not good at learning a new language
Language learning doesn’t require any skill or talent. It’s about dedication and consistency. We naturally learnt our mother tongue; no one taught us how to speak our first language. We are born with the natural ability to learn a language. Unless, you don’t speak any language, you cannot truly say you’re not good at learning a language. Many times, it’s about finding the right approach or method that works for you.
Unfortunately, we have a fixed mindset on how Arabic is taught. If you want to find out what it is, just say-out-loud the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of learning Arabic. Are they memories of dozing off in some traditional madrasa-setting? Today, there are plenty of new and successful approaches to learning any language in a fun and entertaining way, especially with the help of technology. However, finding the right teacher who understands your needs and caters to you is the key!
5. I’m not an Arab!
Quran was not revealed just for the Arabs. It was revealed for the whole mankind. Allah (SWT) says in Surah Al-Baqarah, “Oh mankind, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, that you may become righteous -“ [Quran 2:21]. Here, Allah (SWT) is addressing the whole mankind, regardless of whether they’re Muslims or not. Can the Creator of all mankind be unjust while one of His names is “The Impartial Judge” (Al-Hakam).
Not being an Arab should not be a reason for us to NOT learn Arabic. In fact, it should motivate us because the reward for someone who recites Quran with difficulty is double! Moreover, many of the major works in learning the Arabic language was done by non-Arabs. For example, Dr V. Abdur Rahim’s Madinah Arabic Books for Non-Arabic speakers is being taught in the Islamic University of Madinah since many years and has benefitted thousands of students! Being a non-Arab didn’t stop Dr V. Abdur Rahim from mastering the language, and it shouldn’t stop us either. Dr V. Abdur Rahim is currently the Director of the Translation Centre at the ‘King Fahd Glorious Qur’aan Printing Complex’ (Madinah, Saudi Arabia), and has been serving as its Director for over 15 years.
6. I’m not in the right environment
You will never be! Definitely, there are benefits in immersion programs. However, don’t expect to magically speak the language without any efforts from your end. Even after moving to an Arabic-speaking country, I faced a lot of challenges in learning Arabic. Read our post on Challenges for Arabic-learners in the Gulf. One person expressed his difficulty of practicing Arabic in Morocco as majority of the locals preferred to talk to him in French!
Today it’s possible to create your own environment to learn the language through technology. Interacting with a language-buddy via Skype is one of the options. You can also find someone who is interested in learning the language and pair up with them to practice the language. Make lots of dua so that Allah facilitates the right environment and circumstances for you to learn the language. Today many have mastered second or third languages using technology. There are plenty of examples where people have learnt Arabic living in non-Arabic speaking countries, whereas some people who have lived in the Middle East for decades can’t even have a basic conversation in Arabic!
7. I have a bad memory
We don’t need a good memory to learn a language. This is just a bad excuse. As adults, it’s easier to link new vocabularies to your existing vocabulary, which helps you remember better. Look up some memory enhancing techniques on YouTube and you’ll realise that it’s not that complicated.
Today, one can even learn a language through games and interactive apps. One hardly has to memorise anything. Of course a minimum amount of memorisation is necessary, but this doesn’t have to be done all at once. One can subconsciously recall things through repetition.
Focus on understanding with the help of the context. This is much more effective than trying to memorise a list of words. When you’re learning a new language don’t merely focus on memorising new words. Vocabulary will build up gradually and subconsciously. Focus on understanding how the language works, phrases, etc. The beauty of how the language is structured will keep you motivated to continue.
8. I’ll learn when I retire
There is no guarantee that we will be alive the next second! How many people you know have died suddenly? Age is not a factor for death; neither should it be a factor to determine when we’ll begin our Arabic journey. When we think of the many people who have passed before us, think about how many of them we actually remember. Hardly a handful. Don’t be just another soul who came to this world and left without leaving behind anything significant. Be different. Make an impact. Live a purposeful life. Don’t save it for retirement.
Don’t procrastinate and delay. Death is the destroyer of pleasures. Let’s make the best of what’s left of our life. Let’s not delay and regret.
9. I can’t afford it
Save money and invest in your education. Best investment is the one you make in yourself. Don’t buy the next new iPhone or latest gadget! Skip the next vacation that you so badly want to take so you can post pictures on social media! Don’t get sucked into the over-consumerism and self-obsessed mentality. True wealth is your good deeds.
Also, there are plenty of scholarships offering free Arabic and Islamic education around the world. Learning Arabic and Islamic studies costs far less than most other courses that we so carelessly spend on, without even giving a second thought to whether the value it provides justifies the tuition fee it demands.
10. I can’t be bothered
It’s not an option. Being a Muslim, it’s obligatory to seek knowledge. Unless we have thorough understanding of the Quran and Sunnah, how can we fully realise our purpose in life? What would be our response when Allah (SWT) asks us on the Day of Judgement, what we did with His Speech (The Quran)? Are we going to tell Him we couldn’t be bothered? May Allah protect us on that Day when there is no shade except His Shade.
After reading this post, I hope these excuses will not be a hurdle for any of us to learn Arabic and Islam. Make dua constantly so that Allah facilitates the right condition for all of us to learn and understand His Deen.