How well do you know Arabic? Do you aimlessly recite the Quran and depend on the translations for the meanings? Do you refer to an Islamic dictionary?
Arabic was the language of the Prophet Ishmael عليه السلام, the son of the Prophet Ibrahim عليه السلام. They were called pure Arabs. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was also a descendant of Ishmael عليه السلام and the language of his family, the Quraysh, was the most eloquent of all languages. Allah Almighty also revealed the Holy Quran in this language.
Since all of us Muslims believe that the Quran is the word of God, this language also has the virtue of being performed by Allah Himself. The same language will be in the paradise for us Muslims, إن شاء الله. Its a language we must all strive to learn with the help of books and Islamic dictionaries.
Arabic is one of the oldest surviving languages in the world. All the other languages have gradually changed, even to the point of no return. In English alone, an estimated 5,000 words are added daily. But the consistency of the Arabic language is such that the language that was spoken fifteen hundred years ago is still in the same condition. The Arabic language has been given this consistency by the Quran and Sunnah. Since Allah says:
لَا تَبۡدِیلَ لِكَلِمَـٰتِ ٱللَّهِ
No change can there be in the Words of Allah
So, this language will survive as long as the Holy Quran will remain in this world. Therefore if anyone learns this language, he learns an ultimate knowledge and becomes one of those people that will get Sawab (reward) on learning it as long as the intention behind it is to learn the language of the Quran and Sunnah. It’s for this very reason why Islamic dictionaries & books have become so abundant.
The virtue of the Arabic language is that Allah Almighty has also praised it in the Holy Quran, as He says:
إِنَّاۤ أَنزَلۡنَـٰهُ قُرۡءَ ٰ نًا عَرَبِیࣰّا لَّعَلَّكُمۡ تَعۡقِلُونَ
Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Quran so that you may understand
He also says:
وَلَقَدۡ نَعۡلَمُ أَنَّهُمۡ یَقُولُونَ إِنَّمَا یُعَلِّمُهُۥ بَشَرࣱ لِّسَانُ ٱلَّذِی یُلۡحِدُونَ إِلَیۡهِ أَعۡجَمِیࣱّ وَهَـٰذَا لِسَانٌ عَرَبِیࣱّ مُّبِینٌ
And We surely know that they say, “No one is teaching him except a human.” But the man they refer to speaks a foreign tongue, whereas this ˹Quran˺ is ˹in˺ eloquent Arabic.
وَلَوْ جَعَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا أَعْجَمِيًّا لَّقَالُوا لَوْلا فُصِّلَتْ آيَاتُهُ أَأَعْجَمِيٌّ وَعَرَبِيٌّ قُلْ هُوَ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا هُدًى وَشِفَاءٌ وَالَّذِينَ لا يُؤْمِنُونَ فِي آذَانِهِمْ وَقْرٌ وَهُوَ عَلَيْهِمْ عَمًى أُوْلَئِكَ يُنَادَوْنَ مِن مَّكَانٍ بَعِيدٍ
Had We revealed it as a non-Arabic Quran, they would have certainly argued, “If only its verses were made clear ˹in our language˺. What! A non-Arabic revelation for an Arab audience!” Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “It is a guide and a healing to the believers. As for those who disbelieve, there is deafness in their ears and blindness to it ˹in their hearts˺. It is as if they are being called from a faraway place
The Holy Prophet ﷺ also said about his language, Arabic in its praise:
نُصِرْتُ بِالرُّعْبِ وَأُوتِيتُ جَوَامِعَ الْكَلِمِ
I have been helped by terror (in the hearts of enemies) and I have been given words which are concise but comprehensive in meaning
(صحيح مسلم: 523)
It’s an admitted fact that the miracles of the Quran are being revealed since it was sent down and will remain as long as the Quran will be recited.
One of the characteristics of the Arabic language is that the longer its grammar, the easier and more interesting it is. But learning this language is an art and teaching it is an art as well. This language is learnt and taught in the best way in the Islamic centres, Mosques and Madaris of the subcontinent.
Since not everyone has access to such places, as a result, lots of authors have published different self learn Arabic books and Arabic dictionaries.
Since the majority of the followers of Islam are not native speakers of Arabic and many of them may not have the chance to learn it properly. Translation has been resorted to however incomplete it may be. But even good translators always find it difficult to translate the special terms of Arabic. A cursory look at the translation of various Islamic works would reveal the discrepancies between the Arabic text and its translation, on one hand, and the different renderings of the same Arabic terms by different translators or even by the same translator at different times. This is why the need for an authentic and reliable Arabic Islamic dictionary is a pressing need.
The issue of the Quran and the Sunnah is especially sensitive. When translating here, the translator is responsible for translating the meaning of Allah or His Messenger into another language according to their will. This requires great care because if he makes the slightest mistake, he may face the promise of punishment. [Sahih Bukhari: 1291] and if he translates the Prophet’s ﷺ words accordingly, he may be entitled to the supplication of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ that Allah may refresh the face of the person who hears a hadith from us and transmits it as he has heard it from us. [Sunan Abi Dawud: 3660]
Therefore, there was an intense need to compile a collection of Arabic words with their translation along with their usage according to correct grammar. In other words, there was a need for a comprehensive Islamic dictionary that any non-Arabic speaker could refer to in order to understand Arabic and Islamic teachings.
What are the meanings of the Arabic words used in the Quran and Sunnah? What are the special terms of the Arabic language and as well as Islam and what are their meanings and concepts used for? What is the correct synonym for Arabic words in English and does this word have the same meaning as the Arabic word conveys?
The answer to all these questions has been answered in Dictionary of Islamic Words and Expressions which is a unique dictionary of Islamic words and expressions used in Quran & Sunnah and other Islamic works.
The quality of this Islamic dictionary is that each word is written in Arabic with its transliteration followed by a short concise meaning and finally by a description of how, where & when it is to be used. It also includes references to where it may be found.
The author of the book is Mahmoud Ismail Saleh who is a professor of applied linguistics in Riyaz, Saudi Arabia. His abilities in his profession will be helpful for the readers to understand the book’s concepts in a very easy way.
The characteristics of this book can be summarized as:
- Arabic to English Islamic dictionary.
- Collection of frequently used Arabic terms, their meanings & explanations.
- Compilation of Arabic words for non-Arabic speakers in a dictionary-style.
- Includes brief details about the usage of the Arabic words with references.
- Includes an appendix of the surahs of the Quran and their meanings.
Thus, the book is extremely useful for all people interested in learning Arabic and the language of the Quran and Sunnah. Let’s take a look at some extracts from the book to get a better idea of the subject matter.
Extract 01: Meanings of a few Arabic terms starting with the letter A.
‘Aabid (pl. ‘ubbaad)
A person devoted to worshipping Allah.
People of ‘Ad
A people of the Arabian Peninsula to whom Allah sent the Prophet “huud” (Hood). It is said that they liven in the Yemen area. (See e.g., the Quran, 11:50-60)
Extract 01: Meanings of a few Arabic terms starting with the letter R.
Raawii (pl. ruwaat)
راوي – رواة
The person who reports a prophetic tradition.
God-fearing, devout person.
Get a copy of the book for yourself and let us know in the comments below what you think. The book can be purchased from Darussalam stores and online by clicking here.
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