By Mohamedarif Suleman (Nairobi, Kenya)
Lots of our problems today are due to the fact that we are not conversant with the language governing our religion. The question whether we should learn Arabic or seek more translators, is an age old discussion with no right side in the contest. In the past, we have dealt with the issue of whether Majlises should be recited in English or Urdu. Here is an opportunity to discuss the third dimension.
What do you think? How do we solve this problem? It all starts when we are told that our wrong understanding of the Quran and even salaat is simply because the language used is foreign to most of us. Is that a fact? Do we have those learned people in the community who can speak Arabic around? If there are, can we hear of their experiences as to whether knowing the language has helped their understanding of the religion better?
Many of us, however, try very hard and on one of our ziyarat trips do attempt the usage of one or two isolated words and phrases to communicate with their hosts. But the fact remains that if a language is not in use, it is not very practical to expect knowledge of the language let alone fluency, for in order for one to speak a language in contemporary fashion, one would have to know the slang and the connotations, the contexts and the newly coined words to escape the plight of sounding obsoletely Victorian in English.
A few years ago, when the Husayni Madressa had Arabic as a compulsory subject in senior sections, there was great enthusiasm on the part of students to use newly learned words and phrases in daily friendly conversations. But again, a Madressa can hardly be expected to train individuals intensively due to the multiple constraints of time, availability of teachers and mostly the innate attitude problem that the community at large holds about such institutions.
Then of course, our community can be accused of not being clear on policy regarding language, in any case. Thus it would be fallacious for us to presume that Arabic can be taught continuously whereas our own mother tongue is endangered.
While the Community on Friday awaits the views of readers, let us take a look at Engr Sayyid Khadim Husayn Naqavi in the book ”Dictionary of Islamic Terms”, in which he attempts to explain the English equivalents of oft-used Islamic (Arabic-Persian, you may say) terms. Here is a selected assortment:
Aramish; TRANQUILITY, PEACE, CALM
Arman; IDEAL, AIM, DESIRE
Azar; The name of Prophet Ibrahim’s maternal grandfather or, according to others, his uncle
Asayish; COMFORT, CONVENIENCE
Asudagi; SATIATION, COMFORT, TRANQUILITY
Ashti; PEACE, RECONCILITATION
Ashkar; MANIFEST, OPEN,EVIDENT
Ashub; DISTURBANCE,RIOT, CONFUSION
Asif bin Bakhiya; Prime Minister of Prophet Sulayman
Agah; COGNIANT, ACCQAINT
Aghanah; INFORMED, INFORMATIVE
Aal; BESCENDANTS, FAMILY, OFFSPRING
Ale Imran; Family of Imran
Ale Muhammad; Family of Muhammad
Aaludah; INFECTED, CONTAMINATED, POLLUTED
Aamarish; SALVATION, FORGIVENESS
Aamuish; TRAINING, EDUCATION, INSTRUCTION
Aamizish; INTERCOURSE, ASSOCIATION