Friday, October 26, 2007

On display

Tonight I did something for the first time ever! I cut a pineapple! I love pineapple... and I cut it... decently, I suppose. Hm..k

What's the Arabic word for pineapple, anyone?

I've been "studying" Arabic for a little while now, mostly so I can read and understand al-Qur'an but the ability to converse in Arabic is gaining priority as I hope to be moving to Saudi Arabia soon inshaaAllah. By "studying" I mean I learned how to read and have tried to pick up a few words here and there. My "studies" have gone something like this:

First, I made myself flashcards to learn the letters. I found a page online and copied them... yet I wrote the letters left-to-write in typical European style. After a few weeks I had the letters down, wondering all the same why there were two T's, two D's, two Dh's, two H's, and two S's and what exactly a "hamza" was supposed to sound like.

Then, I began taking a weekly class in Arabic primarily for new muslim sisters offered at the masjid. I was a little "ahead" of the class by being able to recognize the letters in principle before she taught them, but I was still learning to write them properly and pronounce them properly. (Which, of course, explained why there were "duplicate" letters...)

But before that class even finished, I had the opportunity to take a 10-day Arabic intensive... that was actually grammar. In order to take this class, though, we were supposed to be able to read Arabic easily and quickly--faster than I could. But I didn't want to miss the opportunity so I purchased a small book in reading Arabic to help me learn to read even faster, and during my Spring Break this year I would spend extra time "studying" and practicing to read. I didn't get as fast as I probably should have for the class, but I took it anyway.

And alhamdulillah. The class was in grammar and I learned so much, right away. I really loved it and decided then that I really wanted to learn Arabic, and study Arabic, very seriously. I kept taking that weekly class, finishing out the year to learn really how to write the letters correctly more than anything else. I started taking the monthly seminars which were a follow-up to the initial intensive course. But that's when I started to fall behind. Over the summer I was taking two engineering courses and still working two jobs, and studying Arabic on top of that... I really couldn't keep up. The second set of seminars is supposed to resume next month, in November, but I don't think I'll be there. I hate to leave the study of Arabic but I feel that if I can't keep up and if most of the information is going over my head, then it's not really worth it. I have other objections about the instructor, but that's neither here nor there.

This year inshaaAllah I'll taking the second course the masjid offers for sisters in Arabic, with the same instructor. I've sort of jumped ahead of the class in that sense, now that I've been taking grammar classes and all. Tonight I was over at the sister's house, and she wanted to sort of "show off" me, as her student, to her friend... hehe... she pulled out a book and had me read a part of it... "haadha baab" "haadha kitaab" etc., kind of amusing. And I laugh now but truly I want to learn Arabic, I want to be fluent in it and I make this du'a constantly.

And I encourage everyone to do the same. Not to be a scholar or anything like that but just to be able to understand the Qur'an. For one thing, you can begin to read the Qur'an in Arabic. Even if you've just learned how to pronounce the letters, you can at least read it (without comprehension) and if you don't see value in that alone, let me tell you that since I am able to read now I am able to memorize so much faster. And if you can learn some grammar and vocabulary, you can memorize even faster. And everything you memorize is more speech of Allah that you can hear in your prayer. The more Arabic you can understand the more speech of Allah you can listen to when praying in jama'at, any congregation and not just taraweeh.

For anyone who wants to gain more concentration and benefit in their salaat--learn Arabic!! If you want to have more khushoo' in your taraweeh next Ramadan, learn Arabic!! Learn whatever you can, little by little. 'Umar ibn al-Khattab (2nd khalifah) said to learn Arabic, because it is part of your deen. Ibn 'Abbas (a Companion and well-known commentator of the Qur'an) said that when Surat al-Baqara is describing the Children of Israel not knowing their book it's because they only know it by memorization and recitation, having lost the language. The Qur'an is meant to be in Arabic, and it is possible to learn Arabic.

And if you're thinking that Arabic is hard, and you're about to press that comment link to tell me that Arabic is too hard to learn... I'm happy to refute you with the Qur'an:

And We have indeed made the Qur'an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition?

This ayah is repeated in Surat al-Qamar--four times you find it in that surah. Four times! Allah swt says that the Qur'an is easy to understand and remember, so if we learn Arabic with the intention of understanding and remembering the Qur'an... it is easy.


Ibn Abd-el-Shafy said...

Such a light beginning... and it ends in what is likely your strongest post ever in terms of the wisdom it contains. I applaud you loudly and sincerely to remind us of the overwhelming value of learning Arabic, and refuting those who say it is hard. It took me 1.5 years of intensive Arabic classes (5 days a week, 5 hours a day) to learn to read and write, and when I look back on that now, I am just grateful it was so LITTLE considering the tremendous world that has been opened to me of the Qur'aan, the Sunnah, and all the books of the scholars. Being able to read Allaah's speech, our Creator and Lawgiver... is there anything more absorbing than this?

My only regret, and I can easily start crying about this, is that I did not do that sooner.

Oh, pineapple in Arabic? Ananaas.

(It is a funny word in English though... And possible to separate it in two... "I pine for her, she is the apple of my eye." Hmmmm.)

a guy in saudi.

MyHijab said...

Salam alaikum Amy.

You are so right about the arabic. I grew up only knowing how to speak arabic, never to write or read it. Sure I went to saturday school as a kid in an attempt to learn arabic but we would end up playing most of the time.

However I did learn the alaphabet all those years ago and it has stuck with me since.

When I concentrate really hard I can put the letters together and make out words. But it so very much upsets me when I dont know what words say at a single glance, the way that I am able to in English.

As soon as I graduate i want to take some formal classes in Arabic. I want to be able to read and write the way my husband does. I want to be able to teach my daughter how to read and write, not just speak it like the majority of my Lebanese/Australian generation here in Australia.

Good on you for learning Arabic. It is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

And saying the word ananaas is not like saying bananas (lol). its pronounced anna-naas.

Hope that helps


Anonymous said...

I grew up having my mother only teach me naughty words in Arabic..

So, I could insult my way out of a manhole, but I can't speak properly in public lol

Learning new languages is great! Keep up the good work :)

Amy said...

AA Myhijab -

"But it so very much upsets me when I dont know what words say at a single glance, the way that I am able to in English."

This bothers me a lot of the time--to recognize words. I realized that when reading now in English I just look at a word and it's familiar enough to me as a whole, as a picture almost, that I just glance at it and understand it. Not so in Arabic.

I remember trying to help my niece learn to read--more like persuading her to. It was tedious for her to do so, which was the challenge. She had to sound out every single word and didn't have the patience to do that for long. And I realize now, why, when I see myself doing the same thing in Arabic!! And quite literally that's what I have to do, sound it out.

So I take that lesson I taught her, going one letter at a time and trying to make it fit, and try to work it out. And alhamdulillah, the more you do this, the faster it gets. Alhamdulillah. I can now recognize some words immediately upon seeing them--words like "kitaab" and "haadha" and "allatheena" which I see a lot. And the more I read Qur'an while I try to learn it, the more words I begin to pick out.

therehman said...


Having learned Arabic recently, I agree that it’s really not difficult to learn enough to understand Quran and it’s a very rewarding experience to be able to understand Imam’s Qirat in prayers, Alhumdulilah.

And then there are more benefits, people who are fluent in more than one language have an edge in abstract thinking and are more likely to sustain their cognitive prowess well into their old age!!

brnaeem said...

AA- Amy,

Based on my (limited) experience, learning Arabic is of two kinds – reading comprehension and speaking. Most Arab-speaking teachers will concentrate on the latter, focusing on conversational skills with reading skills (recognize letters an read Quran). The problem, IMO, is that they lack the ability to think like a non-Arab.

After years of trying (and failing) to learn Arabic using that method, I figured that I really don’t care to speak and converse as much as I need to read and understand (as all the knowledge is in the books).

So I found the way taught in the sub-continent madrasa system to be most effective in teaching reading comprehension. Its funny how you’ll find graduates of that system with the greatest skills in reading and understanding the most complex of texts, but with poor conversational skills. They just never practice it (after all, they’re living in Pakistan and India, not Egypt or Syria).

But why is that so bad? Its not, IMO. Their purpose (as mine) is to be able to understand the Quran and Hadith and ALL the classical texts of Islamic science.

That being said, the method used by them is to focus on grammar (nahu) and morphology (sarf). I’ve found that to be the most effective in helping me increase my reading comprehension. I’m not where I would like to be, but that’s due to lack of practice, not lack of the foundational knowledge.

Maybe that's why your exposure to the grammar class was so beneficial. Not exactly sure what you covered...

May Allah lighten your heart with beneficial knowledge.

Amy said...

Wa alaikum as-salaam AbdulRehman

Jazakallah khair for your comment. I agree. :-)

Amy said...

As-salaamu Alaikum Naeem

The Arabic class I am taking weekly is the more conversational variety and honestly it seems almost a scatterbrained way of learning Arabic and offers very little to aid in reading Qur'an. I agree that learning to read the Qur'an and classical texts is more fundamental.

And honestly, learning Arabic this way makes a lot of sense--the Bayyinah class had that philosophy: grammar and morphology in teaching. Just a few classes and hey, I can understand whole ayaat sometimes in the Qur'an (after analysis, if I know the root words.)

Bits of conversation like "Kayfa l-Haal" and "Tashareffna" may be "neat" but they don't help one bit in learning Qur'an.

Ameen to your du'a. :-)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting Amy, that ayat you mentioned towards the end is very inspiring especially when I hear..learning this surah is too hard or I have a bad memory. InshaAllah I will remember that ayat.
I find it easy to remember a surah..a lot of times ayats are repeated, or parts of it in many surahs. This helps me...For example I often hear wa ma adraka (sorry my transliteration stinks) you hear it in Qaria, Qadar, Humazah, and others. Sometimes you might mix up a surah for that reason but more or less it has helped me in getting through ayats faster :)
Anywho, i enjoyed reading this one