Divine Speech | Intricate Word Choice #1 : Two Different Words for ‘Heart’

There are 2 words for ‘heart’ that are used in the Qur’an & both carries different meaning:

1. [Qalb] is the typical word for ‘heart’; it comes from the word [taqallub] which means to change because the heart is constantly changing / beating. Figuratively, our feelings & emotional states also change.

2. [Fu’ad] is not usually used in normal circumstances; it comes from [fa’ada] which means roasting. So this word is used to describe a heart that is on fire – when a heart is overwhelmed by any extreme emotion.

The Heart of the Mother of Musa a.s.

And the heart [fu’ad] of the mother of Musa became empty [from every thought, except the thought of Musa]. She was very near to disclose his (case, i.e. the child is her son), had We not strengthened her heart [qalb], so that she might remain as one of the believers. [Al-Qasas 28:10]

Both [qalb] & [fu’ad] are used in this Ayah. When the mother of Musa a.s. put her baby in the water & later saw him again in Fir’aun’s household, she was so excited that her heart became [fu’ad]. Any mother who sees her baby in the arm of someone else, their first impulsive reaction is that they would immediately rush towards her baby without even realizing it.

In this Ayah, Allah s.w.t. says Musa’s mother was so close in exposing her secret & the ONLY thing that stopped her & strengthened her heart was because of Allah’s intervention – notice that the word [qalb] is used at this point. It is Allah s.w.t. who calmed her [fu’ad] into [qalb] and the entire psychological transformation through Allah’s intervention is captured with just these 2 words. If we were to read the English translation, we would have missed out this gem.

All human beings will suffer emotionally traumatic experiences & sometimes we are convinced that we will never recover from it. But this Ayah teaches us that Allah s.w.t. can intervene & give us a peace of mind & heart; to let us heal so we can move on.

Fu’ad: “Sorry, I didn’t really mean it.”

Verily! The hearing, and the sight, and the heart [fu’ad],
of each of those one will be questioned (by Allah).

[Al-Israa’ 17:36]

Here comes the scary part. Allah s.w.t. says that on Judgment Day, we will be questioned about what we heard, what we saw, as well as our heart [fu’ad]. Why does Allah s.w.t. mention the excited heart in this Ayah? Here is one of its benefits:

Imagine you’ve had a really bad day at work. You’ve got yelled at by your boss, you’re tired & stressed out. On top of that, on your way back home, you got stuck in traffic. For a really long time. When you finally got home… guess who gets to be the recipient of your bad mood? Your spouse. Later on, when you’ve calmed down, you say to your spouse: “Sorry, I had a really bad day. I didn’t mean what I said. What happened just then wasn’t me. That wasn’t my [qalb]. That was just my [fu’ad].”

Sometimes when we get really angry, we say things we don’t mean. When we’re excited, we do things that we shouldn’t have done. Then to justify what we did, we say things like:
“I get like that sometimes.”
“That wasn’t really me, it was just the hormones.”
“It was a difficult time, you can’t hold it against me.”

Does one think that they can give such an excuse on Judgment Day? Allah says in this Ayah that He s.w.t. will interrogate about our hearing, seeing & our [fu’ad]. There will be no excuses. Our “I didn’t really mean it” STILL got recorded & we will be asked about it.

So one of the important lessons of this Ayah is that we don’t get to blame our excited emotional state in order to justify our sins and bad behavior. We don’t get to say, “I was really scared, that’s why I lied.” “I was really angry, that’s why I hit you.” Not good enough. Our [fu’ad] will still be interrogated.

The placement of [Fu’ad] in this Ayah serves as a very strong reminder to us all. This is the precision & perfection of Kalamullah, subhanallah.

Fu’ad: The Good Kind!

Usually, at the beginning of our endeavour to serve the Deen, we get really enthusiastic like doing a da’wah project or helping out those who are in need. But over time, as weeks or months, or years pass by, we get totally burned out. In comparison to that, Rasulallah s.a.w. didn’t serve Islam part-time like we do. He s.a.w. was committed full-time yet his zeal, energy & enthusiasm to serve the Deen never burned out.

And those who disbelieve say: “Why is not the Qur’an revealed to him all at once?”
Thus (it is sent down in parts), that We may strengthen your heart [fu’ad] thereby…
[Al-Furqan 25:32]

Allah s.w.t. gave him s.a.w. a heart that always remains [fu’ad], through the Qur’an, to serve the Deen. So here’s the gem: If we want to have a passionate heart when it comes to our Deen, we need to have a strong relationship with the Qur’an – it is our fuel to keep our hearts going.

May Allah s.w.t. give us all a burning heart for the love of this Deen and serving this Deen.

Reference: Divine Speech Seminar by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan


Divine Speech | Verbal Idiom #5 “To Venture Into Every Valley”

Did you not see that they wander [yaheemun] in every valley?
[Surah Ash-Shu’araa’ 26:225]

This is an expression in the Qur’an describing poets and it is extremely relevant in our time. Some points to bear in mind:

  1. The word [haamat] (to wander) is used to describe a camel when it is lost, wandering aimlessly in any direction, from one valley into another.
  2. It also includes wandering while not knowing the kind of danger ahead.
  3. Also before one ventures into a valley, he is on the higher ground – which is associated with honor & dignity. Its opposite is going down into the valley, and being low is normally associated with humiliation.

This isn’t a phrase about how the poets like hiking 🙂 So what does this expression really mean then?

The Thought Process of Entertainers

Back in the old times, the Arabs entertained themselves by listening to poets. The poets had 2 roles: They were the entertainers (they performed story-telling and singing) and also the philosophers of that time (which will be explained further).

Fast-forward to the present is the entertainment industry today. Now we have movies or songs that became extremely popular. As a result the artist received spotlights, won awards and his movie/song received millions of purchases – but how long does these sort of fan-craze last? After some time of listening to the same thing repeatedly, people get tired of it – they want something new. So the artists had to work hard to come up with the next big hit.

But when the sequel isn’t as popular as the first, people begin to lose interest in them. The problem is, the lives of these entertainers revolve around fame and recognition. They become desperate when people no longer pay attention to them. So we see how certain artists re-invent themselves by making their songs indecent or more controversial. Some would even further lower their standards of decency for the sake of popularity – they got arrested for drug overdose, or did something utterly scandalous. They would try all sorts of style and methods as long as they get a little bit of that spotlight again. So they keep venturing into every, single, possible valley. That’s the correlation with this Ayah. The entire thought process and career goal of entertainers is being described in this one Ayah.

If we compare today’s entertainment with 50 years ago, we will find how deteriorating they get in terms of language, decency, and shamelessness. Here’s the scary part: The entertainment industry has the opportunity to influence thousands of minds. What we listen WILL affect our thoughts, and in turn affect our behavior and speech. Every container only gives out what it contains.

The Philosophers

In the old times, the poets were also their philosophers. In our time, we have certain philosophy professors who try to instill one thing: That there is no such thing as absolute truth. They live in the world of What-If’s: What if there is no God? What if the Book has been tampered? What if all of these are just folktales? When someone tries to answer them, they would continue to ask the next What-If question – they keep wandering into every valley that has no end.

The Qur’an teaches us to live in the world of WHAT IS. Overwhelmingly in the Qur’an, Allah s.w.t. asks us to look WHAT IS around us, at ourselves, at the ruins of nations that were destroyed. We are supposed to have clarity of thoughts, we don’t venture into any valley. Instead, our job is to pull people out of them!

Notes extracted from the Divine Speech Seminar by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan. 

Divine Speech | Verbal Idiom #4 “To Double Up a Chord & Twist It”

A building is hold up by its beams or pillars. Back in old times, the beams were held together by a really strong type of rope. The people would use this strong rope, then double it, and twist it many times so that the bond becomes super strong. In comparison to shoelaces which are only temporary knots, the tied-up ropes in construction must not come undone under any circumstances. They are permanent and the word “Abrama” (أبرم) in the Arabic language literally means to tie something with a knot permanently. We find this word in the following Ayah:

Is it that they have firmly resolved (أَبْرَمُوا) to do something?
Then, We have firmly resolved (
[Surah Az-Zukhruf 43:79]

1. Firm & final decision

Allah s.w.t. asked a rhetorical question to the Quraish who did shirk:

Have they tied the knot / completely set with regard to their decision that they will not accept Islam?

The Ayah is not talking about tying knots in a construction, but it’s about tying knots in their decision. Allah s.w.t. asked if they’ve made up their mind. If they’ve tied up their rope then…

Then We (Allah s.w.t.) have tied the rope too.

The Mushrikin have tied their knot because they refused to accept the Oneness of Allah and His Messenger s.a.w. Because of their refusal, He s.w.t. made them permanent that way. In other words, Allah s.w.t. will never seal anybody’s heart until they have completely made up their mind on their decision to reject the truth, and who knows better the inner depths of our hearts than Allah s.w.t.

2. Temporary (Verb) VS Permanent (Noun)

This Ayah is beautiful because this figure of speech shows the comparison between the Mushrikin’s decision and Allah’s decision. If we refuse to accept the truth, then Allah will let us stay that way. I thought this was scary enough! But there is something SCARIER that is being implied in this Ayah.

When the Mushrikin tied their rope, the word أَبْرَمُوا is used. This is actually a verb.
But when Allah s.w.t. tied His rope, the word مُبْرِمُون is used. This is a noun.
I previously learnt that verbs are temporary by nature, whereas nouns are PERMANENT.
What does this mean?

Sometimes when we make a decision, we’re not quite sure on what we have decided, so we might go back on that decision and change it. Then there are times when we think we’ve really made up our mind, that there is no way that we would ever change it. The Mushrikin said that they have completely made up their mind, but rhetorically Allah s.w.t. shows that their decision was still something temporary. When Judgment Day comes and they finally see the reality of what they were denying… Do you think they still want to remain with their decision not to accept Islam?

It may be that those who disbelieve wish ardently that they were Muslims.
[Surah Al-Hijr 15:2]

On that Day, oh how they would wish that they could untie their rope! But when Allah s.w.t. has made up His decision, it is permanent. Allah’s rope is PERMANENT.

May Allah s.w.t. protect and guide us!

Reference: Notes extracted from the Divine Speech Seminar by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan.

Divine Speech | Verbal Idiom #3 “Untie The Knot in Tongue”

Musa a.s. made the following du’a before he confronted Fir’aun:

“O my Rabb! Open for me my chest (grant me self-confidence, contentment).
And ease my task for me
. And loose [untie] the knot from my tongue.
That they understand my speech.”

[Surah Ta-Ha 20:25-28]

Imagine a string that is all jumbled up into a ball; we don’t know where it begins or where it ends. There might even be more than one string that got mixed-up together so they become even more confusing. The only way to make things clear is by untangling them. So “untie the knot from my tongue” in this Ayah mean:

1. To ask for clarity in speech

When we speak, sometimes we get our words mixed up. This is especially true when it comes to public speaking. We get really nervous, trip all over our words, and as a result our audience gets confused. So this du’a teaches us to ask Allah s.w.t. for clarity in speech, one that has a clear beginning, middle and end like a clear straight line, just like how a string would look like when it’s untangled. Furthermore, Musa a.s. had a stutter. When someone with a stutter gets nervous or angry, the stutter gets worse. So this beautiful du’a covers in both figuratively and literally sense.

2. To stay on focus

We see numerous times how smart politicians or TV hosts throw their opponents off in debates. Their opponent would be bombarded with questions after questions and attacked from all angles just so that he is thrown off and look really bad in front all of the audience. Similarly, Fir’aun was a very savvy politician and Musa a.s. was commanded to speak to such a tyrant. If we read surah Ash-Shu’ara, we’ll learn that Fir’aun tried to do the same to Musa a.s., but he was defeated in his own court in front of his generals whereas Musa a.s. remain undeterred and stayed focus on his mission, as a result of this du’a.

This is a du’a for confidence! 🙂

Reference: Notes extracted from the Divine Speech Seminar by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan.

Divine Speech | Verbal Idiom #2 “To Lower Wings”

When someone said that person is “raising his wings” or “lowering his wings”, an imagery of a bird comes to mind. When a bird raises its wings, it means it’s about to go up and fly off. And when it lowers its wings, then it’s about to go down and land. Obviously when the bird has wings, it has the ability to raise them anytime it wants. Yet this bird still chooses to lower them.

And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility
through mercy [rahmah], and say: “My Rabb! Bestow on them Your Mercy
as they did bring me up when I was young.”
[Surah Al-Israa’17:24]

This Ayah is about our relationship with our parents – that we should lower our wing of humility out of love and mercy towards them. What does this actually mean?

1. The bird can fly, but it chooses to stay down

As time goes by, as we get older, our parents get older too. But they don’t just get weaker, they sometimes become more sensitive and emotional. Perhaps some parents become more difficult to speak with; they become angrier or easily agitated. By now, we would have our own job, money, and family. We have a pair of strong wings which we can raise anytime we want.

But the lesson from this Ayah is this: Even though you have powerful wings, you need to learn to lower them when it comes to your parents. To act like the wings don’t work, meaning to refrain from saying hurtful things like, “You know dad, I’m a grown up now. You can’t talk like that to me anymore!” The Ayah teaches us to be humble with our parents. Remember: The bird can fly, but it CHOOSES to stay down.

If we think our parents are unusually exasperating – then realize that these are all tests from Allah s.w.t.

2. Lowering the wing out of rahmah (love and mercy)

The word “rahmah” in this Ayah has 3 implications:

  1. When the bird was young, its parents would gather food and bring it to the chicks because they couldn’t survive on their own. Similarly, we were completely dependable on our parents too. They showed us love and care, they did everything for us. Now is time for us to do the same for them. Some may complain that our parents don’t understand us, ask too many questions, get agitated towards us to the point that we become tired and weary. But you know what, when we were little, WE made them tired and weary too, didn’t we? They put up with us. Why is it that we can’t put up with them?
  2. Secondly, we ourselves should genuinely have love and care for our parents. A sign of humbleness in a person is in the way how he treats his parents. We can’t raise our voice to our parents, yet say we love them.
  3. Thirdly, and the most powerful of them all is: If we want Allah’s Rahmah, we’d better show rahmah to our parents!

3. Sacrifice

Do you see how birds would lower their wings over their nest to defend it from being attacked by predators? Their wings will be attacked, but the chicks are protected. The parents are willing to sacrifice for the well-being of their chicks. But this Ayah is about the children sacrificing THEMSELVES for their parents. Our parents protected us – it’s time for us to protect them.

As we grow older, Allah s.w.t. reverses our roles and we find this reversal in the du’a in the last part of the Ayah:

“My Rabb! Bestow on them Your Mercy
as they did bring me up when I was young.”

[Surah Al-Israa’17:24]

Allahumma, show our parents love and care like how they showed us love and care when we were small.

Notes extracted from the Divine Speech Seminar by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan.

Divine Speech | Verbal Idiom #1 “Coolness of the Eyes”

Language is dynamic. Sometimes it is impossible to do word-by-word translation of certain phrases without losing their actual meaning. This is particularly true for figures of speech, for example someone who asks me, “What’s up?” isn’t asking me in a literally sense, but he is asking how I am, not what’s up there over my head. Similarly, Ancient Arabic has figures of speech and the Qur’an uses them too. In order for us to understand the actual meaning of the Ayat, we have to know how these idioms were used in ancient times.


Literally, coolness of the eyes would probably mean placing banana peels over our eyes 🙂 What does it actually mean in Ancient Arabic?

  1. Tears of immense joy – There are 2 expressions in the Arab idioms: The eyes becoming cool, and the eyes becoming warm. “May Allah warm his eyes” is actually a curse which means may that person suffer so much sadness the he shed tears out of sorrow. Whereas “Cooling the eyes” is the opposite, to mean shedding tears out of happiness and joy.
  2. Finding refuge & relief – The Arabs when travelling in the desert would wrap their face as a protection from sandstorms. But they couldn’t afford to cover their eyes without losing their vision, so they would say “My eyes are becoming warm.” And when they finally found a cave, they would say “My eyes are becoming cool.”
  3. The word also means when something stays in one place.

We find this figure of speech several times in the Qur’an:

1. [Surah Al-Furqan 25:74] “Our Lord! Bestow on us from our spouses and our offspring the coolness of the eyes…”

What this du’a means is that we ask from Allah for our spouses and children to be the coolness of our eyes from the outside storm. The outside world is full of stress, problems and difficulties, and our refuge and relief from that storm is our home. But sadly, how opposite is the state of our homes today? The storm isn’t happening outside of our homes, rather it’s happening inside. This du’a teaches us to ask from Allah for peace, tranquility and not just a happy home, but a home that makes us so happy that it makes us cry. What a beautiful du’a.

2. [Surah Ta-ha 20:40] “…So We restored you to your mother, that she might cool her eyes and she should not grieve…”

When Fir’aun’s soldiers were approaching, the mother of Musa a.s. put her baby (i.e. Musa) in the river to save him. She saw her baby floating away from her, and her heart became so deeply distraught and distressed, not knowing what would happen to him. So when she was finally reunited with her baby, by the will of Allah, she began to cry… And that cry was not a cry of sadness, it was out of immense happiness. This reunion between a mother and child is captured beautifully by this phrase in the Qur’an.

3. [Surah Al-Qasas 28:9] “And the wife of Fir’aun said: “A comfort [coolness] of the eye for me and for you. Kill him not, perhaps he may be of benefit to us, or we may adopt him as a son…”

Fir’aun’s wife was in an abusive relationship, perhaps both psychologically & physically. She didn’t have any place to turn to, except Allah s.w.t., because the police, government – in general everyone – was owned by Fir’aun. When she discovered Musa a.s. in the river, she picked him up, brought him to Fir’aun and said [paraphrasing]: “When I look at the baby, my eyes stay on him.” She couldn’t take her eyes away from Musa a.s.; she found her relief. Even Fir’aun, the same tyrant who ordered for a military campaign to kill thousands of babies, experienced the same and they ended up adopting Musa a.s.

4. This figure of speech is also found in hadith. Remember when Musa a.s. spoke directly to Allah s.w.t.? There can never, ever be anyone else more important and more beloved than our Rabb. So we know for sure that this is a memory that Musa a.s. will never, ever forget! But what did Allah s.w.t. command? Allah s.w.t. said to Musa a.s.:

Verily! I am Allah! None has the right to be worshipped but I, so worship Me,
and perform As-Salat for My Remembrance.”

[Surah Ta-ha 20:14]

The REAL way to remember Allah s.w.t. is through prayer. And our beloved Rasulallah s.a.w. said The coolness of my eyes is in Salah.” [1]

Those who have a clean heart are more sensitive than others; it really hurts when someone speaks to them in a foul language. Our beloved Rasulallah s.a.w., the best of mankind, heard foul language, curses, allegations, being mocked at, being made fun of by the Quraish every-single-day. But he s.a.w. never stopped making da’wah to the same people, and their hatred and aggressiveness only got worse each day. He s.a.w. was in this storm all the time, but when he enters Solah… that is when he found his relief. The coolness of his s.a.w. eyes is placed in the Solah. It completely changes our perspective what Solah should really mean to us.

The idea about crying in our prayers is true. Usually we cry when we listen to Ayat about the Hellfire or Judgment Day. But the Qur’an should also make us cry that cools our eyes… When we listen to Ayat about Allah’s gifts and rizq, His Mercy and forgiveness, how Allah s.w.t. protects us… they should move us to tears of joy.

[1] Sunan an-Nasa’i | http://sunnah.com/nasai/36/2
Notes extracted from the Divine Speech Seminar by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan.

Divine Speech Seminar | Introduction

The Noble Qur’an : Surah and Ayah
Surah VS Chapter

The Qur’an is made up of 114 Surah. Some people call Surah as Chapters, but Surah and Chapters are distinctively different from one another. Here’s why:

  1. Chapters have a chronology order; the earliest writing is placed at the beginning and continued on with the later piece. But is the earliest Surah placed in the beginning of the Qur’an then followed with later revelations? If the Qur’an is in a historic chronology order, it would have “Iqra bismi Rabbi kal-ladhi khalaqa.” in the beginning, and some of the ayat of Surah Al-Baqarah at the very end. So the Qur’an is not in a Chapter-order, nor by size, nor by subject [if one asks what is the subject of Surah Al-Baqarah, it’s going to be a very difficult question to answer :)]. Even so, all of the Surah in the Qur’an ARE ORGANIZED by what has been decreed by Allah s.w.t.
  2. Chapters will not repeat the same concepts that have been mentioned previously. At most, if the previous concept is required to be mentioned again, a footnote will simply be placed: “Refer back to Chapter so-and-so”. The idea of Chapters is to build an argument in a chronology order. But the Qur’an repeats many principals and reminders again, and again.
  3. Chapters also have titles, which summarize everything about the contents within that Chapter. The Qur’an doesn’t do this.

Therefore, from the literature perspective, it is incorrect to call a Surah as Chapter. It is unique on its own identity. The Qur’an has its own standard, thus we cannot compare the Qur’an to any other literature.

Ayah VS Verse

Inside the Surah, we have Ayah which we sometimes translate as Verse. Here are some implications to consider why Ayah should not be translated as such:

1. Verse is used for poetries / songs. This is a major problem because we are putting the Ayah of the Qur’an on the same platform as poetry. The Qur’an emphatically stated that it is NOT a poetry:

And We have not taught him (Muhammad SAW) poetry, nor is it suitable for him. This is only a Reminder and a plain Qur’an. [Surah Yaseen 36:69]

It is surely the speech of a noble Messenger (that he conveys from Allah). And it is not the speech of a poet, (but) little you believe. [Surah Al-Haqqah 69:40-41]

2. Verse is usually associated with the Bible. When we talk about the Qur’an, we don’t want people to start thinking about the Bible; we don’t want to even give a hint that the Qur’an is associated with it, because of the corruption people have made to the Bible.

Therefore, just like the definition of Surah, the definition of Ayah remains as Ayah due to its uniqueness.

What about Ayah VS Sentence?

Some may wonder: Can Ayah be translated as a Sentence of the Qur’an? Here are some reasons why that is also impossible:

  1. Is Aliff Lam Meem a sentence? We don’t know if it is, or if it’s not. Only Allah knows what it means.
  2. A sentence is made up of several words. Look at the first Ayah of Surah Ar-Rahman:

Ar-Rahman. [Surah Ar-Rahman 55:1]

Is 1 word a sentence? No. Sometimes there are Ayat in the Quran that is less than a sentence. Sometimes there are 3 Ayat that goes together, making up 1 sentence. [Surah Al-Fatihah 1:1-3] Sometimes there is 1 Ayah but has 9 sentences inside! [Surah Al-Baqarah 2:255 i.e. Ayatul Kursi]

Therefore, it is also impossible to call an Ayah as a Sentence.

What is an Ayah?

From the Qur’an perspective:

  1. The unit of the Qur’an is Ayah. Allah s.w.t. says: “It is He Who has sent down to you (Muhammad SAW) the Book (this Qur’an). In it are Ayat that are entirely clear…” [Surah Ali-Imran 3:7]
  2. Allah s.w.t. also says “Verily, in Yusuf (a.s.) and his brothers, there were Ayat.” [Surah Yusuf 12:7]. So Ayat are not only parts of the Qur’an, but also people, history, human experiences, trees, mountains, the future, what is inside our body, our feelings, our hearts, our sleep, marriage – EVERYTHING in the universe & in existence is accurately define as an Ayah.

The question we should ask is not what is an Ayah, but what is NOT an Ayah? 🙂

From the language perspective: The root word for Ayah is hamza, ya, ya which gives many meanings. Some of them are:

  1. Something valuable – which means EVERYTHING we experience is valuable, every problem, every gift of Allah, every challenge in life, every day & night, every ANT is valuable.
  2. Something that inspires curiosity.
  3. Something that points to a direction. Every Ayah points to a direction – and that is Allah s.w.t. Himself.
  4. Something amazing – it is supposed to make you wonder. When the believers look at the creations of Allah, they become amazed by it because they confirm the existence of Allah as their Creator.
  5. Something to get our attention – Every Ayah is calling us; we have to pay attention to the reality around us as there are lessons to take heed.
  6. A means of bringing us certainty, a source of conviction.
  7. It means meaning itself – everything is meaningful, nothing is pointless.
  8. To have a strong purpose, intention.
  9. A sign.

All of the above is what an Ayah is. So it is impossible to limit Ayah by calling it a Verse or Sentence.


We know that the Qur’an is revealed in Arabic, but there are many types of Arabic today. Thus it is critical for us to understand which Arabic is used for the Qur’an before we can analyze it.

3 kinds of Arabic:

  1. Spoken Arabic – Street Arabic, it’s an informal Arabic one uses in speech, has different dialects.
  2. Formal Arabic – The Arabic used in the newspapers, lectures, textbooks.
  3. Old / Classical / Ancient Arabic – Just like there is a big difference between Formal Arabic with Spoken Arabic, there is a BIG difference between Formal Arabic with Ancient Arabic. A lot of students make mistakes because they thought there is no difference.

The Arabs, even before the coming of Rasulallah s.a.w., lived in an isolated desert. Their neighbors were the Romans, Abyssinians, and Persians and these empires left the Arabs alone. One may wonder: How come these superpower didn’t want to take over the Arab lands to expand their own? The Arabs would have no chance against their massive army if they decided to attack.

The simple answer is: There was no oil yet 🙂 There was nothing in the desert, so there was no point of exhausting their manpower for this. Furthermore, if one of them decided to take over the land, then the other neighboring kingdoms would get agitated and start a war. So the Arabs were left alone.

Thus the only people the Arabs spoke to was with each other, with their own people. Some Arabs did some trade, but for the most part, not a lot of people from the outside came. Since there were less outside influences, they became an isolated culture and Arabic became more, and more, and more refined to the point that it became so advanced [just like how we would have some secret codes between close friends that we understand but others don’t :)]. So the Arabs became very proud of their language and really, really took care of it.

Fast-forward: When Allah s.w.t. gave Islam victory, many non-Arabs from different parts of the world entered into the Deen. So there were millions of foreigners and huge population of new Muslims that came to the Arab land, injecting their own sets of language and culture there.

So the Ancient Arabic language gets worse and worse. This happens even in our own times in all countries, where we can see with our own eyes that the decline in language due to outside influence can happen in a very short time. Even the Sahabah noticed this problem. So there were 3 movements that were put into motion: Movement to protect the Quran, movement to protect the Hadith, and movement to protect the Arabic language.

But how did they protect the language? The language in all of the big cities were getting contaminated. The uncontaminated Arabic remains and lies in the villages in secluded parts of the deserts. Thus we learn that previous scholars would leave the city, journeyed into the desert, in order to capture the original, ancient Arabic language.

Why the fuss? Because the Qur’an was revealed in this language.

A Similitude

We have a pair of glasses and there is some dirt on the lens. When we put them on, everything we see looks dirty. When we look at a pristine diamond with these dirty glasses, yes we do see something shiny, but it still seems dirty so we become less impressed with it. But if we look at the same diamond with clear, clean glasses – we will see its true beauty. The problem is not with the diamond, the problem lies with our glasses.

The Ancient Arabic is the clean, pure lens. We cannot look at the Qur’an from the Formal Arabic’s perspective. Just look at the word Ayah, how many meanings were we able to derive? We will not get these meanings from Formal Arabic. Ancient Arabic has died in the desert, and thus today it becomes a research and study. We have to learn this language so that we can analyze the Qur’an with the proper, unstained lens.

– Notes extracted from the Divine Speech Seminar by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan.