Take the 2-minute tour ×
Islam Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for Muslims, experts in Islam, and those interested in learning more about Islam. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I asked this on linguistics.stackexchange (perhaps I have difficulty properly expressing myself), but I wonder if you could help me.

Could Arabic be the preferred language by these indicators?

For example:

  • Fluency
  • Rhetoric
  • Convey meaning
  • Reference for translation into other languages

Because Muslims believe that Arabic is preferable; therefore, God uses it to speak to people.

please answer my question here

and if you want please help me there to ask my question.

share|improve this question

closed as off-topic by goldPseudo Nov 3 '14 at 4:07

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

You would need to explain why those features are the best indicators of "preferred", define metrics by which you are measuring each of those features, and then actually objectively measure them, for a good range of languages. Frankly, most languages manage to convey meaning (including rhetoric). Re translation: not an objective metric, but I've read repeatedly that Arabic is actually relatively difficult to translate. Oddly enough, maybe modern German would be a better candidate, because it has very logical and predictable syntax, making meaning and translation pretty easy. –  Marc Gravell Jan 9 '13 at 9:14
I suspect there is some "confirmation bias" in your/Islam's preference for Arabic; but as indicated on linguistics... it is hard to say that any language is objectively "better" than another (although I'd wager that wager that written Chinese would be a bad choice, due to the vast and growing number of characters, meaning you never really "know" the entire alphabet). Overall, I think this question is asking for opinion and debate, and only tangentially related to Islam. –  Marc Gravell Jan 9 '13 at 9:16

1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

There is a popular question that why Quran is revealed in Arabic? Another question asks why the last prophet (messenger) of Allah was chosen among the Arabs? Muslims usually relate these two questions by focusing on the verse [14:4] which reads:

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا بِلِسَانِ قَوْمِهِ لِيُبَيِّنَ لَهُمْ ۖ فَيُضِلُّ اللَّـهُ مَن يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

We sent not a messenger except (to teach) in the language of his (own) people, in order to make (things) clear to them. Now Allah leaves straying those whom He pleases and guides whom He pleases: and He is Exalted in power, full of Wisdom.

and as far as I have seen conclude that Qur'an was sent to Arabs so it was obvious to be in Arabic. However, it seems to be quite the other way, as it was to be in Arabic so it was sent to Arabs. Here is a point to focus on more deeply. The previous prophets were sent to a tribe or anyhow a specific group of people, either be the prophets of Israelite who were sent to Israelite only, like Moses and Jesus and etc, or be Lut who was sent to a single tribe, or be Adam or Noah who were sent to the only living group of people at the time, peace be upon all the prophets of Allah. They were really sent to their people in the language of their people. But now we have the last prophet, a prophet sent to a specific group of people but not only for them, sent in a specific slice of the time but not for that interval only. So what should be the language now? the massage is not only for Arabs that we can state the holy prophet was sent to Arabs so his message was in Arabic. Therefore, the choice of Arabic here is seemingly due to the message that the last prophet is going to teach. So we see in Quran Allah in a good number of verses denote the point that Qur'an is revealed in Arabic, so that we are all invited to think about the reason behind it! Note the followings as some examples:

1) إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ

We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an, in order that ye may learn wisdom. [12:2]

2) قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا غَيْرَ ذِي عِوَجٍ لَّعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ

(It is) a Qur'an in Arabic, without any crookedness (therein): in order that they may guard against Evil. [39:28]

3) وَإِنَّهُ لَتَنزِيلُ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ / نَزَلَ بِهِ الرُّوحُ الْأَمِينُ / عَلَىٰ قَلْبِكَ لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُنذِرِينَ / بِلِسَانٍ عَرَبِيٍّ مُّبِينٍ

Verily this is a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds / With it came down the spirit of Faith and Truth- / To thy heart and mind, that thou mayest admonish. / In the perspicuous Arabic tongue. [26:192-195]

4) كِتَابٌ فُصِّلَتْ آيَاتُهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ

A Book, whereof the verses are explained in detail;- a Qur'an in Arabic, for people who understand [41:3]

5) وَكَذَٰلِكَ أَنزَلْنَاهُ حُكْمًا عَرَبِيًّا ۚ وَلَئِنِ اتَّبَعْتَ أَهْوَاءَهُم بَعْدَ مَا جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ مَا لَكَ مِنَ اللَّـهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلَا وَاقٍ

Thus have We revealed it to be a judgment of authority in Arabic. Wert thou to follow their (vain) desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither protector nor defender against Allah. [13:37]

  • The first verse quoted above invites us to think about the wisdom behind such a choice (see here for a probable description of the Qur'an being sent down).

  • The second verse quoted above describes the Arabic Quran as free from any crookedness (curvature that makes deviation from the Truth). One can discuss a lot around this verse what issue is it addressing, but almost certainly Allah is putting aside a role for the language Arabic here in keeping Quran free from any crookedness. What can be the role of language in this regard? To answer this one can mention the richness of Arabic in words and the closely tangled conceptual (here it means intrinsic) interrelation of such words with each other. Indeed, in Arabic the names are far from being mere symbols, independent arbitrary symbols, but the names are based on their created realities, and according to Hadeeth this is the tongue that Adam --peace be upon him-- was taught to speak with in Heavens and therefore through this language he should have known the science of names cited in [2:31,33]: "وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الْأَسْمَاءَ كُلَّهَا ..." (And He taught Adam the names of all things ...). [according to Hadeeth, Arabic was the language of Adam and Eve --peace be upon them-- until they ate from the forbidden food and were sent onto the Earth, their Language was changed to Syriac (سریانی) and it was the case until Saam, the son and successor of Noah --peace be upon them-- (or according to this link until Isma3eel) whose language was again changed to Arabic ..., and now Arabic is also known as Saami] This characteristic of the Arabic tongue helps at least in two respects: on one hand the words used in one sentence cannot be easily substituted by another similar word unless many conceptual relations would be cut, and on the other hand, a great amount of data can be implicitly embedded in one sentence that would be extractable by anyone who knows the intrinsic relation of the words. For example one can always ask why Allah has used this word here and not the other similar word instead, then think about it and derive a new concept he was not aware of that before. The first respect addressed here helps Qur'an to be kept intact through centuries and millenniums and the second respect heps the interpreter to interpret Quran and extract knowledge out from it.

  • The third set of verses quoted above is mentioning that Arabic is Mubin (clear). In a Hadeeth from either Imam Baqir or Imam Sadiq --peace be upon him-- about [26:195] Imam described "عَرَبِيٍّ مُّبِينٍ" (the perspicuous Arabic tongue) by "تبین الألسن و لا تبینه الألسن" which means Arabic clearly expresses the other languages but the other languages do not clearly express it. This can be understood again by mentioning the richness of Arabic in words and their closely tangled intrinsical interrelation. This characteristic can help the notions to be stated in as much smaller the number of words as possible, and this is a crucial criteria for a book that is going to contain all that the human kind needs [for being guided] from the time it is revealed up-to the Resurrection. Note that the book is finally about 500 pages like many other books, but it has the answer to all the questions, and it is indeed a Miracle.

  • The fourth verse quoted above describes how Allah using Arabic has chapterized the whole content of His book in distinct chapters. I said chapters not to mention Surah, that's another issue, but to mention "فصل" (used in the verb "فصلت" that comes from "تفصیل") which means chapter. Indeed in Arabic, "فصل" means making distinction, so that e.g. Quran calls the Judgement Day also by a name "یوم الفصل" (The Sorting Day) during which day people are sorted in distinct groups. The chapterized book has each of its chapters complete and independent as much as to avoid any ambiguity. Qur'an is revealed such that every rule is completely stated with all its details and it can be understood from the very book if something is obligatory or only encouraged, or forbidden or discouraged, if something is true or false, and etc., but all of these are only "for people who understand", not even all the Arabs, as it needs some knowledge of names and this knowledge is gathered in the holy prophet and his household --peace be upon them all-- who are the describers of the holy Qur'an. For further study about this interpretation (and some different ones) refer to المیزان (Al-Mizaan) and مجمع البیان (Majma3ol Bayan).

  • The fifth verse quoted above partially approves the info given for the fourth verse above. The rules of Allah has been stated in Arabic, very clearly that no one can pretext the rules were ambiguous for him (actually if they follow those people who understand, according to the fourth verse quoted above). And this verse is more than clear to need further discussion.

Put all these data beside the verse:

أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ ۚ وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِندِ غَيْرِ اللَّـهِ لَوَجَدُوا فِيهِ اخْتِلَافًا كَثِيرًا

Do they not consider the Qur'an (with care)? Had it been from other Than Allah, they would surely have found therein Much discrepancy. [4:82]

and you will find out why Arabic is certainly the preferred language for stating the content that The Qur'an possesses.

Almost all that has been stated so far was about Arabic being the preferred language for inspiring The Qur'an. However, if you have read the above text in care you have found that the language Allah had preferred for Adam --peace be upon him-- was also Arabic, and that Arabic is the best language for studying the nature. Beside that other languages are by no means worthless, as you can read about it in the book Tuhid Mufazzal by Imam Sadiq --peace be upon him:

from: توحيد المفضل، ص: 79 و 80 و 81

تَأَمَّلْ يَا مُفَضَّلُ مَا أَنْعَمَ اللَّهُ تَقَدَّسَتْ أَسْمَاؤُهُ بِهِ عَلَى الْإِنْسَانِ مِنْ هَذَا الْمَنْطِقِ الَّذِي يُعَبِّرُ بِهِ عَمَّا فِي ضَمِيرِهِ وَ مَا يَخْطُرُ بِقَلْبِهِ وَ يُنْتِجُهُ فِكْرُهُ- وَ بِهِ يَفْهَمُ عَنْ غَيْرِهِ مَا فِي نَفْسِهِ وَ لَوْ لَا ذَلِكَ كَانَ بِمَنْزِلَةِ الْبَهَائِمِ الْمُهْمَلَةِ الَّتِي لَا تُخْبِرُ عَنْ نَفْسِهَا بِشَيْءٍ وَ لَا تَفْهَمُ عَنْ مُخْبِرٍ شَيْئاً وَ كَذَلِكَ الْكِتَابَةُ الَّتِي بِهَا تُقَيَّدُ أَخْبَارُ الْمَاضِينَ لِلْبَاقِينَ وَ أَخْبَارُ الْبَاقِينَ لِلْآتِينَ وَ بِهَا تُخَلَّدُ الْكُتُبُ فِي الْعُلُومِ وَ الْآدَابِ وَ غَيْرِهَا وَ بِهَا يَحْفَظُ الْإِنْسَانُ ذِكْرَ مَا يَجْرِي بَيْنَهُ وَ بَيْنَ غَيْرِهِ مِنَ الْمُعَامَلَاتِ وَ الْحِسَابِ وَ لَوْلَاهُ لَانْقَطَعَ أَخْبَارُ بَعْضِ الْأَزْمِنَةِ عَنْ بَعْضٍ وَ أَخْبَارُ الْغَائِبِينَ عَنْ أَوْطَانِهِمْ وَ دَرَسَتِ الْعُلُومُ وَ ضَاعَتِ الْآدَابُ وَ عَظُمَ مَا يَدْخُلُ عَلَى النَّاسِ مِنَ الْخَلَلِ فِي أُمُورِهِمْ وَ مُعَامَلَاتِهِمْ وَ مَا يَحْتَاجُونَ إِلَى النَّظَرِ فِيهِ مِنْ أَمْرِ دِينِهِمْ وَ مَا رُوِيَ لَهُمْ مِمَّا لَا يَسَعُهُمْ جَهْلُهُ وَ لَعَلَّكَ تَظُنُّ أَنَّهَا مِمَّا يُخْلَصُ إِلَيْهِ بِالْحِيلَةِ وَ الْفِطْنَةِ وَ لَيْسَتْ مِمَّا أُعْطِيَهُ الْإِنْسَانُ مِنْ خَلْقِهِ وَ طِبَاعِهِ وَ كَذَلِكَ الْكَلَامُ إِنَّمَا هُوَ شَيْءٌ يَصْطَلِحُ عَلَيْهِ النَّاسُ فَيَجْرِي بَيْنَهُمْ وَ لِهَذَا صَارَ يَخْتَلِفُ فِي الْأُمَمِ الْمُخْتَلِفَةِ وَ كَذَلِكَ لِكِتَابَةِ الْعَرَبِيِّ وَ السِّرْيَانِيِّ وَ الْعِبْرَانِيِّ وَ الرُّومِيِّ وَ غَيْرِهَا مِنْ سَائِرِ الْكِتَابَةِ الَّتِي هِيَ مُتَفَرِّقَةٌ فِي الْأُمَمِ إِنَّمَا اصْطَلَحُوا عَلَيْهَا كَمَا اصْطَلَحُوا عَلَى الْكَلَامِ فَيُقَالُ لِمَنِ ادَّعَى ذَلِكَ أَنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ وَ إِنْ كَانَ لَهُ فِي الْأَمْرَيْنِ جَمِيعاً فِعْلٌ أَوْ حِيلَةٌ فَإِنَّ الشَّيْءَ الَّذِي يَبْلُغُ بِهِ ذَلِكَ الْفِعْلَ وَ الْحِيلَةَ عَطِيَّةٌ وَ هِبَةٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ لَهُ فِي خَلْقِهِ فَإِنَّهُ لَوْ لَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ لِسَانٌ مُهَيَّأٌ لِلْكَلَامِ وَ ذِهْنٌ يَهْتَدِي بِهِ لِلْأُمُورِ لَمْ يَكُنْ لِيَتَكَلَّمَ أَبَداً وَ لَوْ لَمْ تَكُنْ لَهُ كَفٌّ مُهَيَّئَةٌ وَ أَصَابِعُ لِلْكِتَابَةِ لَمْ يَكُنْ لِيَكْتُبَ أَبَداً وَ اعْتَبِرْ ذَلِكَ مِنَ الْبَهَائِمِ الَّتِي لَا كَلَامَ لَهَا وَ لَا كِتَابَةَ فَأَصْلُ ذَلِكَ فِطْرَةُ الْبَارِي جَلَّ وَ عَزَّ وَ مَا تَفَضَّلَ بِهِ عَلَى خَلْقِهِ فَمَنْ شَكَرَ أُثِيبَ وَ مَنْ كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ عَنِ الْعالَمِين

O Mufadhdhal, consider the blessing of speech, with which man has been endowed by Allah the Almighty, which is the medium for the expres sion of his inner thoughts and his cordial feelings springing from his cogitation and with which he also understands the inner feelings of others. Without this faculty, man would be like quadrupeds: neither able to convey his own in ner thoughts to others, nor able to understand the words of the speakers. Thence is the case with the art of writing which is a means for knowing the histories of the bygone people and for transmitting those of the existing people for the generations to come. Through this art, achievements of science and literature are preserved in books for ages. Through this art, the discussions and accounts between one man and another are preserved. Without this art of writing, one age would have been completely cut off from another, nor would any news have been received from those who are away from their native lands. Sciences too would have been extinct. Information on morality and etiquette would have been lost, and a serious damage in the affairs of mankind would have ensued as well as in the religious teachings and the traditions, which people need to know and the knowledge whereof would have been impossible (and yet essential for man). You may, perhaps, think that this need has been fulfilled by man with the help of his own design and intelligence. It is not inherent in the nature of man. The same is the case of speech and language, for this too is a matter of terminology and resolution, determined by the people according to their mutual understanding of talk. That is why different groups have different languages and scripts, for instance, the Arabic, the Syriac, the Hebrew, the Roman, etc., each of which is different from the other, each having decided upon its own terminology of language and words. For him who makes such a claim (as to what has been the divine share in this purely human activity), the answer will be that though in both these matters man‘s planning and action have played a role, yet the underlying means therein whereby his planning and action achieve the goal is a gift from the bounty of Allah the Almighty (for instance, the intellect or the tongue by means of which he attained the skill to establish the terminology). Supposing he had not been gifted with the tongue for speech or the intellect had not been bestowed on him to guide him to such an activity, he would never have been able to talk and if he had not been blessed with the palm and the fingers, it would never have been possible for him to write. You should learn a lesson from the animals in this behalf, which have neither the power to speak nor the power to write (being without the specific intellect or the instruments of writing). As such, it is the principle laid down by the Almighty Creator for man‘s fundamental nature and a special boon, for which whoever is grateful shall get the heavenly reward, while whoever denies it will be ignored, for Allah the Almighty is independent of the whole universe. "He does not need anybody‘s gratitude"

so that one can consider the linguistic sciences like the other sciences evolved through the coarse of time and this demonstrates the language to speak with is not limited to Arabic, however, it seems that Arabic is the most preferred language when is not considered through personal views. Maybe we can conclude that the capacity and efficiency of the Arabic language should define Arabic as the default language for praying and scientific studies, and after that everyone would be left free (by this I don't mean allowed and forbidden in the sense of religious orders) to choose the language that personally prefer more for other works.

share|improve this answer
I'm terms of comparison, discussing only one candidate (Arabic), and using only subjective text and vague measures: lacks empirical objectivity. People seem to be discussing science and religion perfectly well in other languages. –  Marc Gravell Jan 12 '13 at 8:10
@MarcGravell, yes perfectly well, but not as perfect as Arabic can be used, and "can be used" is also different than "is used", here I talked about the capacity of Arabic and its position in the view of Allah as can be understood from many signs in Islam. It would be not strange if you will not accept the reasoning here if you had not accepted Islam before ;) –  owari Jan 12 '13 at 8:36
@ovari yes, but the question is about the Arabic language, not Islam. If the language is objectively better, it should not depend on my accepting of Islam, or Islamic measures. –  Marc Gravell Jan 12 '13 at 8:38
@MarcGravell, you are right but the question has been asked in Islam.SE and I didn't answer it in Linguistic.SE as I have no knowledge about the science in the way people there have. You can simply not accept my answer if you can not accept my assumptions and references, it is still science as there is a set of assumptions and then reasoning based on them, but the conclusions are not admitted by all as the assumptions are not admitted by all, pretty much like any other science. There are many physical theories that I don't accept as their assumptions are not acceptable to me ;) –  owari Jan 12 '13 at 8:42

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.