Every Muslim agrees on the fact that the Holy Qur'an came down as a revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) in Arabic as we see in the following two verses:
The Holy Quran 43:3
"Surely We have made it an Arabic Qu'ran that you may understand."
The Holy Quran 12:2
"Surely We have revealed it-an Arabic Qu'ran-that you may understand."
Today with uncountable nationalities embracing the fold of Islam, many read the Holy Qu'ran in their native tongue and thereby pose different questions and arguments about reciting it in their own tongue.
These arguments include the following:
1. It is not wajib (Obligatory) to read the Holy Quran in Arabic because it is not specifically mentioned in the Holy Qu'ran that we must read it in Arabic.
2. Non-Arab Muslims do not understand the Holy Quran in it's revealed language and since Islam is a way of life, then it is more important to understand the injunctions, clear signs, stories of the Holy Prophets (AS) of Allah to gain guidance from these instead of spending time; learning a language, reciting in that language that they believe does not benefit them and that the time in which they would be occupied in reciting a language that is, they feel, not of use to them, then this time although not exactly wasted can be put to better use in acquiring actual knowledge.
Some argue that they can not learn Arabic because they are not good with languages and others still insist that while they read the Holy Quranic interpretations in their native language in the holy month of Ramadan, they have actually completed an entire Quran that month.
And a final argument given is the following:
"I do not understand at all why the Quran should be read in Arabic? Yes, Allah Almighty has said that we sent the Qur'an in Arabic for you to think about, but if we read the Qur'an in Persian, can we not think about it?"
So let's begin to answer these arguments by going directly to the Holy Qu'ran where the word Arabic is mentioned exactly ten times and see what Allah is telling us.
In the Holy Quran 12:2,
"Surely We have revealed it-an Arabic Quran-that you may understand."
In the Holy Quran 13:37,
And thus have We revealed it, a true judgment in Arabic, and if you follow their low desires after what has come to you of knowledge, you shall not have against Allah any guardian or a protector.
In the Holy Quran 16:103,
And certainly, We know that they say: Only a mortal teaches him. The tongue of him whom they reproach is barbarous, and this is a clear Arabic tongue.
In the Holy Quran 19:97,
So We have only made it easy in your tongue that you may give good news thereby to those who guard (against evil) and warn thereby a vehemently contentious people.
In the Holy Quran 20: 113,
And thus have We sent it down an Arabic Quran, and have distinctively set forth therein of threats that they may guard (against evil) or that it may produce a reminder for them.
The Holy Quran 26:193,194,195 and 200
193. The Faithful Spirit has descended with it.
194. Upon your heart that you may be of the warners.
195. In plain Arabic language.
200. Thus have we made it enter into the hearts of the guilty.
The Holy Quran 39:28,
An Arabic Quran without any crookedness, that they may guard (against evil).
The Holy Quran 41:3,
A Book of which the verses are made plain, an Arabic Quran for a people who know.
The Holy Quran 42:7,
And thus have We revealed to you an Arabic Quran, that you may warn the mother city and those around it, and that you may give warning of the day of gathering together wherein is no doubt; a party shall be in the garden and (another) party in the burning fire.
The Holy Quran 46:12,
And before it, the Book of Musa was a guide and a mercy: and this is a Book verifying (it) in the Arabic language that it may warn those who are unjust and as good news for the doers of good.
As we see from the ten verses above, Allah has a specific message that he wants to imprint on our minds and hearts by the adjectives which he brings with the word Arabic in the same verses. However, let us not rely on our own assumptions or interpretations as I can already hear the arguments that may arise that, yes, it may be that it was revealed in Arabic because the people of the time were Arabs and how could they understand another language but today we come from many different nations and tongues. So let us continue by looking at a clear hadith from Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (as).
Imam Sadiq (as) said:
"Learn Arabic, which is the word of Allah, and Allah has spoken to His servants in that language (the meaning of the Qur'an), and speak your jaws in Arabic and pronounce the end of the words clearly". (Al-Khesal. Vol 2. P 258)
In this above tradition, we see that the words of Imam As-Sadiq (as) are not advising or recommending us towards an action or a behavior, rather the words are decisive - a command. What is our Imam telling?
He says: "Learn Arabic", these are final and conclusive words from the sixth Imam (as). He further tells us that Arabic is the word of Allah, he does not say the Quran is the word of Allah but Arabic itself. He tells us that Allah has spoken to His servants in Arabic "That language" and finally, he explains the physical aspect of the recitation - how we should recite in Arabic? "Speak your jaws in Arabic and pronounce the end of the words clearly."
The above tradition coming from the Sixth Imam himself should also instill into our hearts that there is a science to the recitation of the Arabic Quran and when something has a science, then there is a cause and an effect. By mentioning the jaws, we see that there is some physical benefit for our actual body that comes from reciting the Holy Qur'an in Arabic but what more does he tell us about this recitation?
The following tradition, answers this question.
Imam Jafar As-Sadiq (as) said "Try your best to read the Qur'an correctly in true Arabic pronunciation in the same way that Arabs read it."
p 270 The life of Imam Al-Sadiq (as) Allama Baqir Sharif al Qarashi.
By the mentioned verses of the Holy Quran and the clear tradition (without even touching on the benefits of Arabic), there should be no doubt left about the actual command from our Imams and the guidance in the words of Allah himself that although we must understand the Holy Quran (reading in our native tongue), still there is nothing that can replace the function and role of the word of Allah in His own language.
The foundation of each person’s life is the faith they have in what they believe. Like other belief systems, there are some “ Islamic axioms”- basic principles or self-evident truths- whose acceptance is regarded as the leading entry to this religion.
Unlike Saint Augustine’s [i] claim that says: “I believe in order to understand,” which shows a lack of reason in at least some sects of Christianity, in Islamic reasoning, rational thinking is a priori and prerequisite for the realization of faith.
In Islam, faith is nothing beyond human’s reason and understanding; in other words, the axioms of this religion are the fundamental principles that are rational by themselves and can be ascertained by people’s common sense. So stepping into the stage of this faith depends on the submission that is gained through preliminary investigation of its axioms.
Additionally, faith is not accepted in Islam unless these doctrines are freely investigated and understood by every individual either commonsensically or intellectually, so Imitation is not permitted at this stage. Consequently, the basic principles or doctrines of Islam are defined as axioms that have to be testified on the verge of converting to Islam.
One might wonder what these axioms are. The most certain and evident of them are monotheism (Tawhid), prophethood (Nubuwwah) and the afterlife (Ma'ad), which are innate in human’s nature separately. ‘Tawhid’ or monotheism is the most fundamental religious knowledge that holds God exists, is The Only One and independent of the entire creation. It declares the unity and uniqueness of God as the only creator and sustainer of the universe.
The realization of this concept (the existence and oneness of God) is before the other two (prophethood and afterlife), that is its acceptance leads to the affirmation of them rationally.
Prophethood is God's blessing and favor that is bestowed on an individual chosen by Him to convey His message. Every prophet states that all he receives is from Allah and for the well-being of humanity. He confirms what was revealed before him and what may be revealed by a future prophet.
Thus the revealed message is always the same in essence and purpose, and it cannot deviate from prior or future revelations. Prophets are needed for conveying God's instructions and guidance to humankind. Without this knowledge, we would be unable to answer the fundamental questions of our existence either here in this world or the world that is to come.
Information about the afterlife, as the third fundamental axiom in Islamic teaching, is provided by the prophets whose truth we have testified. They have told us to have faith in the continued existence of human beings after death and that there will be a day of judgment when all humans will be held accountable for their actions and divided between the eternal destinations of Paradise and Hell.
In brief, Islam is the religion of rational thinking that encourages its followers to individually investigate and question the truth of its doctrines before accepting them, to reach firm belief through common sense or intellect; this makes them submit to God’s commands willingly and contently.
[i]. An early Christian theologian and philosopher.
The Holy Quran is a record of the exact words of the last revelations from Allah Almighty to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). Since he was uninstructed (29:48), he recited the words to his companions, who either memorized them or wrote them down. Here are some facts about this divine Book.
The Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) through the archangel Gabriel (Jibrail) in two forms : all at once and gradually. The Holy Quran was once revealed on the night of Qadr (Laylat al Qadr): “The month of Ramaḍan is one in which the Quran was sent down” (2:185). Also, it was sent incrementally over 23 years until he passed away, which caused the faithless to object: “Why has not the Quran been sent down to him all at once?” (25:32)
During the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), the Quran was written on the skin of animals, palm’s wood, and tissue. After Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) demise, there was a need to unify the written texts of the Quran into one specific Arabic dialect and to clarify the reading of the Quran. This happened in the time of the third Caliph, who ordered to collect a unique version of the diacritic the Quran, and other versions were eliminated such that he united the Muslims on one authoritative recension . It should be noted that the actual version of the Quran is the one which was originally collected during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and under his supervision. That is to say, the content of this holy book has remained undistorted since it was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), and only its form and diacritic was unified at the time of the third Caliph. Therefore, the longer surahs are found at the beginning of the Quran and the shorter ones towards the end.
The Quran has some other names the most important of which are :
• Al-Kitab, meaning the Book: “This is the Book. There is no doubt about it.” (2:1-2);
• Al-Furqan, meaning the criterion for the right and wrong since it gives Muslims some tools to differentiate between the truth and false, the lawful and unlawful: “Blessed is He who sent down the Criterion (the Furqan) to His servant that he may be a warner to all the nations.” (25:1);
• Al-Dhikr, meaning a reminder because the Quran reminds us of Allah Almighty: “Indeed We have sent down the Reminder, and indeed We will preserve it.” (15:9).
The Quran is composed of 114 chapters, called "Surahs", and 6236 verses, called "Ayats". It is divided into 30 sections called “Joz’” and 60 sub-sections called “Hizb.” The longest surah is Baqarah and the shortest Kawthar.
The surahs of the Holy Quran are divided into two groups: those revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) when he lived in Mecca, called Makki, and those from after his migration to Medina, called Madani. Generally, the ayats about the Islamic axioms, such as monotheism, prophethood, and afterlife, were revealed in Mecca since the new Muslims required to get fully acquainted with these principles. The ayats about governing the Islamic society, practical principals, and details were revealed in Medina.
Every surat of the Quran has a specific title. These titles were known from the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), and he was the one who introduced these titles initially. The titles were determined to represent the concept and topics discussed in that surat or a priority considered in the Quran about that surat .
It is essential to treat the Quran respectfully since it is a divine revelation in every aspect. In this regard, the paper upon which the Quran is written and the Arabic words on its pages should not be touched without having performed ablutions (Wudhu). Moreover, when one is reading the Quran out loud, it is better if the listener keeps silent, listens (7:204), and thinks about the meaning of words.
- M. H. Ma’rifat, “Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'an,” p. 64, 2000, Tamhid Qom cultural institute, Qom, Iran.
- M. H. Ma’rifat, “Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'an,” p. 133-136, 2000, Tamhid Qom cultural institute, Qom, Iran.