Ustaad Benjamin Saud is one of the best Arabic teachers I know of. His understanding of the Arabic language and his ability to teach it in a unique way is what I find truly fascinating. Originally, from Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, Ustaad Ben moved to Al-Madinah about 10 years ago and is a former student of the Islamic University of Madinah. He graduated from the Faculty of Da’wah & Fundamentals of the Religion – specialising in Aqeedah (belief/creed). Since then, he’s been continuing his journey of seeking knowledge and also teaching Arabic.
I asked him a few questions to help anyone who has an intention to learn Arabic towards taking the first step. Here are his responses:
1. If some one always wanted to learn Arabic, but could never make it. What would you tell them, to help them take that first step?
No doubt, the number one thing to start with is Dua, because its a big responsibility if some one gets exactly what they’re looking for i.e. being able to learn Arabic. They’re going to be able to understand the Quran and the Hadith in the original language. It’s a very very big blessing of course, and with that they will be tested. So Allah has to facilitate that for them in a way, where they’re going to get the most benefit from it.
And going into the less spiritual side, its not that important to write Arabic but if they didn’t already know how to read Arabic, that is definitely where they would want to start. The second priority would be, of course, to learn the language by conversation – learning how its spoken. So, from that level what you may want to do is get a list of sentences that you would want to know how to say in Arabic; and get them translated by someone who can speak the original Arabic language. You have to memorise these sentences. This is the bottom line. Once you memorise these sentences and you have an overview of how these sentences are being used, learn the words in it, and then the structure of the sentences you’ve used. This is the most effective way. Because if you’re able to use the language personally, it will be more easy for you to understand the language.
2. What would be some of your tips to people who have just started learning Arabic?
Definitely, it would be to separate the sciences. To know that there is a difference between learning Sarf (morphology) , learning Nahw (grammar) and learning conversation, and they would have to separate those. Knowing that the terminology that’s used, maybe from the varying sciences of Sarf and Nahw or just regular Arabic. Sarf being the knowledge of the word itself (knowing whether it’s an adjective, a name, or a proactive verb by itself – that’s Sarf); and Nahw being the knowledge of the word in that sentence, are two different sciences.
You need to be able to separate and learn them, and not in the midst of learning conversation. If you’re learning conversation, stick to learning what is considered to be spoken language and not mix rules with conversation. If you’re not learning the language alone, know that you’re studying other sciences, maybe Sarf or Nahw. Purely learn the language as it is spoken, don’t get too much into the details of terminologies in Arabic – that’s not necessary. But just learn what they mean, without really focusing too much on the technicalities involved in the make up of that word. Just knowing terminologies doesn’t develop your conversation to a higher level.
3. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey through learning Arabic?
My journey to learn Arabic was ignited after I memorised some Quran and started to practice Islam. I felt some spiritual effect happening just from reciting the Quran, whether in Salah or otherwise. All of that I was reading had nothing to do with the meaning. I’m not a person that was very spiritual by nature, so that’s why it kind of moved me. Because, before I accepted Islam, I was against all kinds of spirituality – Jinn, Malaika, so on and so forth. So by me, feeling this spirituality, without even understanding what I’m reading, I said there’s something about the meaning for sure and I’ll be able to feel it on another level if I were to understand it. That concept of where spirituality is connected with the meaning, as well as, SubhanAllah, it being the driving factor that would help you in staying away from haram things and doing what you’re supposed to be doing, to get as close to Allah as possible. That’s what ignited it.
You need to be equipped with what is going to call you and drive you. Because we are all sinners and we are all going to commit sins. But what type of equipment do you have with you in this journey, in order to keep you in a way that’s most pleasing to Allah? It is the knowledge and understanding of what Allah is saying. It should help you, affect you, in a way where it supports you to do good and stay away from evil.
These are some of the reasons why my journey started, and after that, I was trying to get it from anywhere I can find. But in America, the opportunities are really low to learn Arabic properly, and I felt that. So I said I have to get out of America for sometime in my life to learn, and at that time, I was 17 years old.
(to be continued)