Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Arabic vs. English – A Spiritual Comparison

وَلَقَدْ نَعْلَمُ أَنَّهُمْ يَقُولُونَ إِنَّمَا يُعَلِّمُهُ بَشَرٌ لِّسَانُ الَّذِي يُلْحِدُونَ إِلَيْهِ أَعْجَمِيٌّ وَهَـذَا لِسَانٌ عَرَبِيٌّ مُّبِينٌ

Indeed We know that they say that a mere mortal teaches him; whereas the tongue of he to whom they impute this is non-Arab whilst this is a clear Arabic tongue. [ʾan-Nal : 103]

I strongly recommend “Muammad Rasūlullāh” the biography of Allāh’s Final Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ, written by Shaykh Sayyid Mawlānā ʾAbul asan ʿAlī Nadwī, teacher of my teacher. Although the commonly available English translation is not the most reader-friendly version ever, the Sayyid strikes a perfect balance between conveying facts and expressing his love for our Guide صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ. Some books express love, but do not teach much, others are cold, analytical and emotionless, as if they had been written by orientalists.

One of the points discussed in “Muammad Rasūlullāh” is why Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ had to be an ʿArab. This discussion would of course link to the question as to why Allāh’s Speech was revealed in Arabic, bearing in mind that language is a clear map of the psychology of a nation. This post is not meant to address either question. Instead, these questions inspire recognition of the spiritual purity of the language of the final revelation. To demonstrate this, I shall gather a few examples of the spiritual depravity of English, which Arabic is completely innocent of.

Why English?

Well, obviously first and foremost, my writings and audience are English for historical and pragmatic reasons. English is also a medium to demonstrate that every language, other than Arabic, is imperfect. English is the child of both the Germanic and Romance worlds. Thus certain facets of English may be particular to it, but other facets may be shared by French, Latin, German etc.

English is decidedly pagan in vocabulary and outlook

Arabic words, like her Semitic sisters are very much mathematically derived from three root-letter structures, or equations as I think of them. K-T-B gives us kātib (scribe), kitāb (book) etc. Where words develop with added meaning, the outlook reflected is that of the wild, pure, untamed desert homeland, not the seemingly sophisticated paganism of Rome. For example, siyāsah, meant to tame a wild horse. When the loose Arab tribes became more politically organised, they saw a leader who had to tame wild politicians with different agendas to be doing a similar job. Thus siyāsah became used for “politics”.

Now let us look at the attitude of Pagan-Roman influenced English. With this influence alone, it is almost impossible to speak, write and - most importantly – think in English, without touching on its polytheism, something the language of the Qurʾān is certainly free of.

You would know that suicide is to kill sui (oneself). Homicide is to kill homo (a man). Regicide is to kill rex (a king). The list can go on, but you might be surprised to know that decide also fits into this list. So who exactly gets killed when one decides, when one makes a decision?

Before we look at the answer, let us first revise the Arabic and Islāmic concepts of decision. The Arabic root for decision is Q-Ḍ-Y, which simply implies completion. In other words, after a process of deliberation, a thought process is completed and a conclusion for action is reached. A pure, clean etymology for a word used in the Qurʾān. Over and above one’s personal thought process, is the instruction from Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ to offer the ʾIstikhārah (seeking good from Allāh) Prayer, in order to help us reach a decision. Surely this is a most pure and innocent language, used as a vehicle by the most excellent Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ.

Now let us revert to the language of the modern civilised world. Just what does decide mean? Who gets killed? It is Deus – God! How to explain the misguided, pagan Roman-English mind? Their outlook, as opposed to the teachings of Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ, is that when one weighs various options and chooses one, one has seized the matter in one’s own hands and killed off God from the equation of indecision. Of course, we use such words innocently. The point however remains, ponder over the mentality of a people who deliberately construct such words. How satanic their thought processes must be! Praise be to Allāh who chose Arabic as the language of guidance. (By Arabic I mean the sweet language of Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ, not the braying colonialist legacy one hears on the modern Arab street).

Days of the week

 The Arab named his days with the same simple desert mentality – Days One to Five, then the Day of Gathering and the Sabbath, a legacy of the Hebrew Prophets whom we revere.

Now how does the English world begin its week? The first day is the day dedicated to the worship of the sun. Monday is for worshipping the moon. Tuesday is Tiw’s day, the Germanic god of war. Wednesday is Woden’s day, the Germanic king of gods. Thursday is Thor’s day, the Germanic god of thunder. Freya’s day is dedicated to Woden’s wife! Saturday is Saturn’s day, the father of the king of the Roman gods!

Whilst the contemporary English-speaking Muslim does not associate the origin of “Friday” with ascribing a wife unto Allāh, we should see and appreciate the system and planning of Allāh, in keeping the language of the Qurʾān pure from such foolish pagan concepts.

Months and names

Some English months are neutral. December is simply the tenth month as per the original calendar. Yet the original first month is dedicated to Mars, god of war, and there are other months with pagan meanings as well. As for Mr Mars, he does not live on in March alone, but the name, Mark, means one dedicated to Mars. Why would a society supposedly worshipping the One God, not find such names offensive at the time when the meaning was well known? This again points to the unique value of Arabic, a language divinely chosen and whose every word was weighed, appreciated and understood.

The Self-centredness of English

Consider that “I” is the only pronoun compulsorily written with a capital letter. In what other language does this occur? The self-centredness of the English language perfectly complements the savage rape of the planet by the British Empire.

English is the only European language which does not have a pronoun of respect for the second person. There is just “you”. Whilst the same may be said to be true of Arabic, the comparison is not accurate. Firstly, English exists in a continent where it manages to isolate itself with egoism. Arabic does not originate amongst that place and peoples and hence the comparison is not applicable in this case. Secondly, Arabic in its very structure is anti-ego. Its starts with the third person and reaches the first person only at the end. English of course starts with I and leaves the third person for the end. It is the language of “I”. Neither the modern English child, nor the Germanic and Latin parents, could ever have been a candidate for the pure vehicle of mankind’s spiritual reformation. Allāh chose Arabic.   

A day in the life of pagan English

Did you have cereal for breakfast by any chance? Yet another dedication to Ceres the Roman goddess. Had it with natural orange nectar? Actually its impossible to drink nectar. It’s the drink of the Greek gods, sorry. As for your naturalNetjer were the Egyptian gods.

Now what cloth is appropriate for today’s weather? Just don’t ask goddess Clotho. Don’t find this amusing? Blame the Muses. Before you leave home, remember to take your medication for your chronic condition, named after Mr Chronos, god of time. Do remember to greet the janitor named after the god, Janus, especially if it is the month of January. If you are not polite he display fury, the spirit of vengeance. Then you will panic, a word from the goat god Pan.

In short dear reader, Allāh has chosen Arabic as His pure vehicle of transmitting guidance to mankind. It is free of the defects found in other tongues. If you are not in a position to learn and speak the language of Allāh’s Messenger صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ, the least you can do is value and respect it, which includes correctly pronouncing Arabic names, instead of making Arabic subservient to your culture.

سليمان الكندي
Twitter: @sulayman_Kindi  

Saturday, 8 August 2015

The Jewish Commemoration of the Temple – Our Heritage, Our Distinction

قالوا يا موسى إنا لن ندخلها أبدا ما داموا فيها فاذهب أنت وربك فقاتلا إنا هاهنا قاعدون
[The children of Israel] said, “O Moses! We shall most certainly not enter [the city] for as long as they are in it. Go you and your Lord and fight while we sit here.” [al-Māʾidah: 24]

The Jews have recently commemorated Tisha B'Av, the date of the destruction of the Temple, twice. In a general sense this is part of our history as well, as those were the rebellious believers of the time and these occurences are mentioned in the Qurʾān in the opening of Sūrah Banī Isrāʿīl also called Sūrah al-ʾIsrāʿ. Even in the name of “Tisha”, the Arabic student should recognise “Tāsiʿ” or ninth. B’Av is however beyond me.

Yet it is in the very commonality that the two religions share, that our distinction is most evident. There may be a common historical legacy, but through the guidance of Muammad صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ our outlook and treatment of the very same common event is treated differently.

The Origin of Tisha B’Av

Rabbinical authorities clarify that the original reason catastrophe constantly befalls the Jews on this date was the refusal of the Children of Israel to fight the Canaanites when Allāh’s Messenger, Mūsā (Moses peace be upon him), commanded them to do so. 

The spies return on the eighth day of Av and report that the land is unconquerable. That night, the 9th of Av, the people cry. They insist that they'd rather go to Egypt than be slaughtered by the Canaanites. G‑d is highly displeased by this public demonstration of distrust in His power

The Qurʾān records the above as follows:

(20) And [mention, O Muhammad], when Moses said to his people, "O my people, remember the favour of Allah upon you when He appointed among you prophets and made you kings and gave you that which He had not given anyone among the worlds.
(21) O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has written for you and do not turn back [from fighting in Allah 's cause] and [thus] become losers."
(22) They said, "O Moses, indeed within it is a people of tyrannical strength, and indeed, we will never enter it until they leave it; but if they leave it, then we will enter."
(23) Said two men from those who feared [to disobey] upon whom Allah had bestowed favour, "Enter upon them through the gate, for when you have entered it, you will be victorious. And rely upon Allah, if you truly are believers."
(24) [The children of Israel] said, “O Moses! We shall most certainly not enter [the city] for as long as they are in it. Go you and your Lord and fight while we sit here.” [al-Māʾidah: 20 - 24]

Third parties would list Joshua (peace be upon him) as a Jewish hero, but again we differ in commonality. Note the respect the Qurʾān accords him as man who fears Allāh. Whilst we agree that he was sent to gather intelligence, Muslims would deem it disrespectful to use the term “spy” on him. Again, note how he and his companion encourage reliance upon Allāh and striving in His Cause. Can there be any doubt as to the esteem we hold him in?

The Jewish Legacy

So we agree on a common even but as Islām is zealous that all mankind achieve guidance, whilst Judaism is primarily focussed on its own flock, and some even obstructing people from entering the fold of Judaism, the legacy is quite different. The Jewish interpretation becomes nation focussed and whilst we would deem the refusal to fight to be plain rebellion against Allāh and His Messenger, the Jewish national explanation is not of punishment, but divine displeasure at not fulfilling one’s potential. The focus is on the nation:

Many tragedies happened on the 9th of Av. The Two Holy Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. World War One and Two’s commencement was due to an event that happened on the 9th of Av.
Charlie Harary in a Video On explains that G-d is not out to punish people. He wants people to remove their negative attitude of not believing in themselves. Thus, aside for mourning, the destruction of the temples and the tragedies that occured, we should do teshuva / repent and make resolutions to better ourselves through the Torah’s lessons and strengthen our belief in ourselves – in our ability to do good.

Tisha b’Av reminds us of how broken we are, how we have not been living up to our potential, and Hashem mourns over the destruction of the temple within each of us and the distance between us that that destruction has created.

The Muslim Legacy

The tribe of Kindah was Jewish before Islām, although there would have been idolaters amongst them as well. If only the racist Muslims I have to live amongst, could comprehend even the one deed below, of the first of my tribe to embrace Islām. I would ask you to read up on the details of the Battle of Badr on your own, but the pertinent point is that fighting was not yet compulsory on all. Muammad صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ was unsure whether all would voluntarily join in this battle, upon which the very existence of Islām would depend. Miqdād bin al-Aswad al-Kindī (may Allāh be pleased with him) referred to the event from our Isrāʾīlī heritage. Yet this offspring of a Jewish tribe, who had become imbued with the spirituality of Muammad صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ, no longer had any nationalist interest. To him the incident with Mūsā (peace be upon him) was now a lesson in absolute loyalty, obedience and sacrifice. Allāh and His Messenger come above any excuse in exonerating the nation, the tribe, the people or the self. I conclude in quoting him from Muammad Rasūlullāh, by ʾAbul asan ʿAlī Nadwī:

Then Miqdād got up and said, “O Apostle of God, we will not say as the Children of Israel said to Moses, ‘Go thou and thy Lord and fight, we will sit here.’ We will fight with you on your left and on your right, in your front and in your rear.”

سليمان الكندي
Twitter: @sulayman_Kindi