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Towards the first step – with Ustaad Ben Saud (Part 2)

This post is a continuation of the series of questions from the previous post [Towards the first step – with Ustaad Ben Saud (Part 1)]

In our previous post, we had some wise insights from Ustaad Ben Saud on how to approach learning Arabic. In this post, we continue with the following questions:

4. What are some of the virtues of learning Arabic?

There’s never enough time to talk about how virtuous the Arabic language is. Even aside from dealing with the pragmatics, it enables you to understand the direct revelation from Allah (SWT) in the language that it was revealed in, and the language of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in which he spoke to give us that spiritual upliftment. Umar ibn Al-Khattab (RA) said, about the spiritual virtue of the Arabic language, “Learn the Arabic language because it is what makes the intellect sound.” It increases your ability or enhances your intellect. Ibn Taymiyyah (R) said, “For sure learning the arabic language has a direct effect on one’s character, one’s intellect, and how someone deals and thinks.”

So, from what I have noticed and what’s known from the trivium, which is the system of becoming educated; there are different angles on which it works with you. It helps you keep a sound relationship and keep your attention span when someone’s talking; helps you make connections between the different topics; understand definitions, and relate the definitions to other than one topic. It’s directly having an impact on your ability to be a critical thinker, so you’re not like a parrot – you’re able to apply a set of rules to other than one situation and learning Arabic constantly develops this.

Learning Arabic enhances your ability to address a point directly, and to get down to the bottom of an issue. All these are faculties that are necessary for someone who is a scholar, a judge or someone who is trying to live a refined life.

5. What are some of the mistakes that most people make while learning Arabic?

I think it can be broken down into spiritual mistakes that they make, and academic mistakes. We have already touched a little bit on the academic mistakes. But the spiritual mistake is that of people saying, “Ok, I’m not going to learn Arabic. I can’t learn Arabic here, wherever I’m at. I need to go to another country to learn Arabic, so I’m not even going to try to learn anything now. I’m going to wait until I’m in the environment, and everything is perfect, for me to do my best.” And this right here, is the spiritual mistake; its a spiritual flaw, because, what happens is, when we want something from Allah (SWT), and when we constantly make dua for the same, we are supposed to take whatever means we have available, in the situation that we are in, to make it happen. Irrespective of how we deem the progress to be, or the effectiveness to be, based on the decision that we have made.

Allah (SWT) judges us based on the efforts that we make and our connection to Him is elevated based on those efforts, not the result. A lot of times, the environment that we are raised in and in the academic systems, it’s all about the results. If you didn’t get the result, you’re a failure. Even if you have tried. But this is actually a false dichotomy, because that’s not how Allah judges us. He judges us based on what we try to do and the efforts we make. Allah says in the Quran, “And that his efforts (struggles/striving) will be seen – then he will be rewarded based on that,” (Quran 53:40-41). So Allah is the One who is Al-Aleem (The All-Knowing); He gives us the ability to learn, and if we take those steps towards learning Arabic or any other thing that we are making Dua for, Allah will, In Sha Allah (God willing), finish it for us.

Another flaw is in our academic approach to learning Arabic. Many people don’t stick to one thing at a time. If they’re trying to learn how to read Arabic, they should focus on reading Arabic; and once they learn how to read Arabic, they should move on to conversation. That along with someone learning Ami’yah (slang dialects) of the country he’s in, and not the Fusha (Classical Arabic) is another issue.

6. What are some of the challenges faced today in learning Arabic?

Arabic not being used is one of the major challenges faced today. The curriculum in the school settings is not based on practice – which lacks practising the language day in, day out. You may have teachers who are very very good at explaining Arabic, explaining what’s happening, explaining the rules; but those students who are in the classrooms do not get to practice the language enough. Their language isn’t monitored to give feedback on their mistakes, and this slows down the production rate. Let alone this, the classrooms are too dense for that. So the students have to try to make much much more effort practising outside, and they have to build up much much more confidence because their language has not been monitored by the teacher.

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Jazak Allahu Khayran Ustaad Ben, for your valuable time and insights in responding to these questions. I’m sure we can all benefit from this.

Ustaad Ben[File photo: Ustaad Ben (right) doing what he loves to do.]

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