Is learning Arabic a must in order to be
a Muslim
and to understand the Quran?
By: A. Muhammad

Upon embracing Islam, new converts are usually bombarded with a number of instructions that they should follow to become proper Muslims.
One such instruction is to discard their birth name and replace it with a new 'Islamic name'. The analysis of this subject can be found on this page: The myth of Islamic names

Another set of instructions are related to the Arabic language, and they usually come from Arab Muslim preachers, they are:
First: Arabic is the language of Islam, and thus it is necessary to learn Arabic in order to understand Islam.
Second: It is necessary to learn Arabic to understand the Quran.
Third: It is necessary to read the Quran in Arabic, and that the Salat must be recited in Arabic.

Before addressing the above claims in the light of the Quran, it must be stressed that those who propagate such claims are indeed making the religion much harder than it has to be.

1-
Learning a totally new language is not easy for most people, it presents them with hardship in practicing the religion. This is in direct contradiction with God's assurance that He did not place any hardship on people in practicing their religion.

Strive in the cause of God with the striving that is due to Him. He has chosen you and has placed no hardship on you in the religion. 22:78

2-
Arabic is one of the most difficult languages to learn. With regards to non-Arabic speaking people, having to learn Arabic in order to practice Islam suggests that God treated them unfairly in comparison to others who are born into Arabic speaking communities, and who therefore never had this burden to contend with. This implies that God does not exercise equality between all people, and that He places extra burdens on some in practicing their religion, for no fault of theirs. Needless to say, this notion violates the Quranic assurance that God never inflicts injustice on anyone:

God does not inflict an atom's weight of injustice.
4:40

First: Is it necessary to learn Arabic to be a Muslim or to understand Islam?

To address this claim, it is necessary to first understand what exactly does the word Islam mean.
The word Islam simply means submission, and in a religious context, it means submission to God.

The majority of Muslim writers, Imams and scholars consider Islam to be the religion brought to the world by prophet Muhammad. As such, they consider Islam to be a religion exclusive to the Quran. Such claims contradict the Quranic input about Islam and how old Islam is. The following verses shed light on this matter:

Noah was a Muslim
If you turn away, then I (Noah) have not asked you for any reward. My reward comes only from God. I have been commanded to be one of the Muslims (Submitters)." 10:72

Abraham was a Muslim
Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian but was a monotheist Muslim and was not one of the mushrikeen (those who set up partners with God). 3:67

Solomon was Muslim
When she arrived, it was said, "Is your throne like this?" She said, "It looks as though this is it." "We were given the knowledge before her and were already Muslims." 27:42

Jacob and his sons (Joseph and the others) and his ancestors Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac were Muslims
Or were you witnesses when death came to Jacob, when he said to his children, "What will you worship after I am gone?" They said, "We worship your God and the God of your fathers; Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac: One God, and to Him we are Muslims." 2:133

Moses was a Muslim and called his people to do the same
Moses said, "O my people, if you have believed in God, then in Him you shall trust, if you are indeed Muslims." 10:84

Jesus and his disciples were Muslims
And when I inspired the disciples: "Believe in Me and My messenger." They said, "We have believed, so bear witness that we are Muslims." 5:111

Those who were given the Scripture by God were Muslim before they knew the Quran
Those to whom We gave the Scripture before this, they believe in it (Quran).
And when it (Quran) is recited to them, they say, "We believe in it. It is the truth from our Lord. We have been Muslim from before it (Quran)." 28:52-53

As the verses above inform us, all the prophets of God were Muslims (submitters to God) and called their people to be Muslims and to submit to the One and only God.
In addition, the following verses inform us that Islam is the only religion authorised by God for humanity, which means that Islam is the religion of all previous Scriptures and not just the Quran:

The religion in the sight of God
is Islam (Submission to God). 3:19

Submission to God is the only religion accepted by God:

Whoever see
ks other than Islam (Submission to God) for a religion, it will not be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter, he will be among the losers. 3:85

As we have seen, all God's prophets and messengers followed the religion of Islam, yet n
one of those before prophet Muhammad spoke one word of Arabic.
In addition, none of the Scriptures given to any of the prophets who came before Muhammad, all preaching the religion of Islam, were written in Arabic.

The above Quranic evidence debunks the false claim that knowledge of Arabic is necessary to understand Islam or to be a Muslim. It also debunks the claims that Islam was a religion brought by Muhammad, and that Islam is a religion exclusive to the Quran.

Second: Is it necessary to learn Arabic in order to attain the message of the Quran and to follow the Quran?

The answer to this question lies in the following verse:

If We had made it a non-Arabic Quran, they would have said, "If only its verses were made clear!
" Whether it is non-Arabic or Arabic, say, "For those who believe, it is guidance and healing, and for those who disbelieve, there is deafness in their ears and it brings blindness upon them; those are being called from a faraway place." 41:44

The words in this glorious verse tells us that whether God revealed the Quran in Arabic or in any other language, it will always be a guidance and healing for the genuine believers. It follows that Arabic is merely a tool that conveys God's message, Arabic is not an aim in itself.
The believers will attain the guidance of the Quran in whatever language they read it. In contrast, those with impure hearts will never attain the true message of the Quran, even if they are proficient in the Arabic language. The example of that is witnessed in front of our eyes in the world today.

All the prophets who came before Muhammad and those who followed them of the believers; they were all Muslims who worshipped God alone, yet none of them knew one word of Arabic. And so, to say that it is necessary to know Arabic in order to worship God would imply that none of those who came before Muhammad knew how to worship God!

The language spoken by Abraham and his sons, and also the prophets sent to the Children of Israel was Hebrew. The Scriptures they received from God were in Hebrew.
The language spoken by Jesus was Aramaic. The language of the Injeel, given to Jesus, was Aramaic.
Should we therefore say that the Scriptures given to those prophets were incomplete or unworthy because they were not written in Arabic?

New converts to Islam should not concern themselves in spending long days and weeks in learning the Arabic language. Instead, the time they spend should be devoted to understanding the Quran and following the Quran.

Whatever language they read the Quran in, if their heart is truly devoted to God, God will make the meaning accessible to them, and they will be guided by the Quran (41:44 above).

When we stand humbly before God on the Day of Judgement, God will not test our knowledge of Arabic, but He will reward our faith and our deeds. The ones who will be saved are not those proficient in Arabic but the ones who arrive before God with a pure heart:

The Day when neither wealth nor children can be of any benefit,
but the only benefit will be for those who come to God with a pure heart." 26:88-89

The Arab speaking Muslims have extensive knowledge of the rules, vocabulary and grammar of the Arabic, yet the majority of them know little about what it means to worship God alone, and the importance of dedicating the religion purely to Him alone:

We brought down to you the Book with truth, so
worship God, devoting the religion purely to Him. 39:2

Unquestionabl
y, it is to God that the pure religion is due. 39:3

Say, "I have been commanded to worship
God, devoting the religion purely to Him. 39:11

Say, "God is the One I wors
hip, devoting my religion purely to Him. 39:14

Devoting the religion purely to God is not just a pretty phrase to be recited along with other Quranic words without knowing what it entails.
Despite the numerous Quranic verses that assert that the sole duty of all messengers is to deliver God's message, and that the religion must be devoted to God alone (verses above), yet it is a sad fact that the majority of people have polluted their religious practice by making their prophet the focus of their religion!
The Christians have made Jesus the focus and be-all of their religion. The Muslims have done the same, even though they may deny it.

The focus of the Islam that is practiced in the world today is prophet Muhammad (the Sunnis) while the Shia sect have made the family of the prophet the focus of their religion. Both have deviated from the commands in Sura 39, which compel all believers to make God alone the focus and be-all of their religion.

Third: It is necessary to read the Quran in Arabic to understand it, and must the Salat be recited in Arabic.

Due to the above confirmation that knowledge of the Arabic language is not a condition for worshipping God nor for following Islam, it goes without saying that uttering the Salat words in Arabic is not conditional in order for it to be acceptable.

When we study the Quran, we find no instructions, direct or indirect, that makes the recitation of the Salat in Arabic mandatory.
There are a large number of preachers who have placed such restriction. They do so by referring to verses in the Quran such as 12:2 and 43:3 in which God says He revealed the Quran in Arabic.
When God states that He revealed the Quran in Arabic, as in 12:2 and 43:3, God also tells us the reason for doing so:

We have rendered it an Arabic Qu
ran so that you may understand. 43:3

God revealed the Quran in Arabic so that it would be comprehensible to the people who received it. No other reason is given in the Quran.

Various preachers have not stopped at that, but some are unfortunately coming up with totally absurd claims. One of these absurdities is the claim that only when the Salat is recited in Arabic does the human being establish contact with His Maker and render his prayers acceptable and answered!
To assess this claim, it is necessary to start with the following Quranic words which informs us that
the Salat is as old as Abraham:

We made them (Abraham and his sons) leaders, guiding by Our command, and We inspired them to do good deeds, the observance of the Salat and the giving of the Zakat. They were worshippers of Us. 21:73

The Salat was practiced by Abraham and all the believers who came after him. Their Salat was never uttered in Arabic. Would we therefore be justified in concluding that none of them established contact with God in their Salat nor were their prayers accepted or answered?

To instruct non-Arabic speaking people to utter their Salat in Arabic or otherwise it would not be acceptable, results in having many such believers utter their Salat in words that they do not fully understand. Even when the Arabic words of the Salat are explained to them, the fact that they utter the Salat in a language that is alien to them makes the words cold and robotic when they utter them. The inevitable result is
that their Salat loses it spirituality and becomes robotic. For that reason, God stresses in the Quran the importance of knowing what we are saying during our Salat:

O you who believe, do not approach the Salat while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying. 4:43

Even though the above words speak about intoxication and forbid those who are intoxicated from observing their Salat, the reason given applies to all who utter a Salat they do not comprehend.
The only prohibition given in the Quran against observing the Salat is in the case of intoxication (4:43). What this means is that a person who has committed any other sin, as large as it may be, is still expected to observe the Salat when its time is due.
As an example, a person who committed murder is still able to observe the Salat when its time is due.
The only reason why intoxication is the only case that deprives a believer from the Salat is simply because an intoxicated person would not know what he is saying in his Salat. His Salat would therefore be meaningless.
That is why God added the words "until you know what you are saying" after the word "intoxicated" to stress the importance of knowing what we are saying during our Salat.

Those who utter their Salat in a language that means little to them are also in a position of not fully comprehending what they are saying.
The words in 4:43 confirm without doubt that knowing what we are saying is a necessity when we observe the Salat, and that the words of the Salat must therefore be uttered in a language that is fully understood by the person worshipping his/her Maker.
Somehow, non-Arabic speaking believers are led, through false teaching, to believe that they earn extra credit when they utter their Salat in Arabic!
They do not!

The ultimate aim of the Salat is to make contact with God and to glorify Him. The sincerity of the contact comes from the purity of the heart and not from the language or efficiency of the tongue!

Perhaps an apt example is given in the prophet Moses who had a speech impediment (20:27, 26:13) but was still one of the great prophets and the only man mentioned in the Quran to have spoken to God (7:143).