What is the Role of Arabic in Islam?

The vast majority of Muslims are not Arabs, and relatively few of the non-Arab Muslims know Arabic. Yet, for practising Muslims, Arabic is a language they use on a daily basis.

Why is it that Arabic seems to have such a prominent role in Islam? To understand this, we need to take a closer look at the elements of the faith.

The Quran
The One-ness of God The Quran The Prophet Muhammad
The belief in one God, is the very essence of faith in Islam.

The article of faith reads Laa ilaaha illa-llaah, Muhammadun rasoolullaah, "There is none to be worshipped but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God".

The strict monotheism of Islam stresses the One-ness of God, who sent One Prophet - Muhammad - to guide mankind to One Truth, revealed in One Scripture, the Quran.

This one-ness also comprises the Ummah, or "Nation of Muslims". The Ummah is the concept of all Muslims being like one nation, where all individuals are equal before God. According to Islam, what matters to God is a person's level of piety, not his nationality, race or social status.

The Arabic language has a unifying role in this whole context. Being the one and only language of the sources of Islam, its use does not only serve to unify the faith, but also to protect these sources from alteration.

According to Muslim belief, the Quran is the final message that God sent to mankind. The Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad.

The message of the Quran contains the fundamentals of faith in Islam. It is also the primary source of Islamic law, known as the Sharia.

The Quran is, and can only be, in Arabic. The meanings of the Quran can be translated to other languages, but these translations are not regarded as "the Quran", but merely "translations of the meaning of the Quran".

The uniqueness of the Quran's language cannot be substituted by another language. Hence, Arabic is the only language that perfectly conveys the message of the Quran.

According to Muslim belief, the prophet Muhammad was the final prophet that God sent to guide mankind to the truth. This was accomplished through the revelation of the final message, the Quran.

Being the final message from God, it is valid and applicable until the end of times.

Before Muhammad, other prophets had also received messages from God. Those who received them in written form, were Moses, David and Jesus. The contents of these scriptures were applicable to the people of their respective times.

The prophet Muhammad was born in Makkah in Arabia, around 570 AD. He did not know how to read or write. The Quran was revealed to him in Arabic, over a period of some 20 years.

Sunna Hadeeth Fiqh and Sharia
The prophet Muhammad began gradually receiving the revelations of the Quran at the age of 40.

The prophet's way of life, the Sunna, became the ideal way of life, to be adopted by the Muslims.

The Sunna highlights, comments, explains and clarifies various aspects of the life of a Muslim. It also elaborates on such faith-related matters that were not defined in detail in the Quran.

For example, the Quran orders the believers to establish regular prayers, without going into details. The Sunna explains the details, regarding the number of prayers, how they should be performed, etc.

The Sunna has been recorded in Arabic, and any reference to matters relating to the Sunna, is through the earliest compilations on this subject. These sources are all in Arabic.

Hadeeth (plural: Ahadeeth) are the sayings of the prophet Muhammad, as recorded by his followers, the Sahaba.

The Ahadeeth are the major source of the Sunna. Only the Ahadeeth transferred by the most trustworthy and dependable among the Sahaba, are considered valid as being the statements of the prophet Muhammad.

The Ahadeeth are all in Arabic, and they explain, clarify, describe and comment on various subjects related to Islam.

Fiqh is the Islamic jurisprudence, which is based on the Sharia, the Islamic law.

Sharia has its roots in the Quran and the Sunna.

Fiqh is the interpretation of the Sharia, and its adaptation to all sorts of legal questions and matters.

Having their roots in the Quran and Sunna, both Sharia and Fiqh rely on Arabic sources.

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