Sunday, January 6, 2013

Eloquence -- The Power of Words

Even before the advent of Islam, one of the few things that the Arabs were known for was their eloquence. The isolation in the desert ensured that it stayed unadulterated from other linguistic influences which was not always possible in the towns and cities. It was considered part of a child's education that he grew up in the countryside with the bedouins absorbing the inflections and nuances of the tongue at an early age.

It is the Sunnah of Allah (SWT) that He challenges a people in a field which they consider themselves masters. Hence, He showed the people of Musa (AS) miracles in magic as they were famous for magic. He showed the people of Issa (AS) miracles in medicine as they excelled in medicine of their time. And He challenged the Arabs through the eloquence of the Quran by asking them to produce even a few comparable verses. So many Sahaba (RA) entered Islam just by listening to the richness of Allah's speech, testifying that it cannot be man-made.

It is interesting to note that Allah (SWT) chose language as His everlasting miracle to invite mankind to His deen, as words affect the heart like nothing else. From the ears, the message can reach the heart directly. In an experiment conducted on terminally ill patients, Quranic recitation was played regularly for a period of time on the sound system in a hospital ward resulting in observable improvements in the conditions of the patients' well being.

The science of tajweed, allows Muslims to recite the Quran the same way it was revealed through Archangel Jibreel (AS). It is important to clarify that originally the word "Quran" meant the actual recitation (speech) and not the holy book that many take it to be nowadays. By reciting the Quran with proper tajweed, i.e. falling back on the original pattern of recitation, a Muslim experiences special feelings that go hand in hand with the words he pronounces. This feeling can penetrate the heart of the reciter and the listener (to a somewhat lesser extent), causing truth and wisdom to become part of his inner being. It is one of the ways of increasing one's eeman.

By knowing a thousand or so words one can understand the majority of Quranic vocabulary as the same words are constantly repeated. It is easier for some non-Arabs whose native languages have historically been impacted by Arabic, e.g. Farsi, Turkish, Kurdish, Pushtu, Urdu, Bengali, Bahasa, Somali, Berber, Swahili, Hausa, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Maltese, etc. and thus share a lot of common words. Arabic grammar is one of the most logical language grammars. Learning it is like learning a computer programming language. Once you learn the patterns of the verbs in past, present and imperative form in both active and passive cases, you can recognize new verbs in context, together with their pronouns. All words in Arabic are based on root letters (often 3 letters per word). There are different patterns which use the same root letters to derive multiple words from. Once you know the root letters and the pattern you can conclude the meaning of the word.

Imagine reciting Allah's speech in the way it was revealed while understanding what it means. With a little effort this is an achievable goal for all Muslims. Allah (SWT) has made sure that the language of the Quran is superlative in its eloquence, effect and ease of learning, because He wants to guide humanity to achieve the highest purpose for which man was created.