By Malika Kahn
Arabic is a language spoken in countries all over the world, but specifically in the Middle East and North Africa. It is a language that connects all Muslims together, because the language of the Quran is Arabic. It can be difficult to learn for Westerners especially (unless you learn with us), but it is incredibly deep, beautiful, and eloquent.
There are many different dialects, accents, and styles that come from Arabic. For instance, if one traveled to Egypt, then Lebanon, then Jordan – they would hear three very different variations of the language we call Arabic. But if one visited mosques in each of those countries, they would hear no difference in the recitation of the Quran during prayer. So the question is – what is the difference between the Arabic of the Quran and spoken Arabic?
We can split up the language of Arabic into two main categories – the first being colloquial Arabic. Colloquial Arabic is the spoken Arabic language we hear all over the world in many, many different countries. But because of different cultures, experiences, customs, and traditions passed down over time in each and every one of these countries – their own languages are very different. One could even say that they are heir own different languages, not just dialects. For example, in many languages, such as Jordanian Arabic and Lebanese Arabic, a car is called “sayyarah.” But in Egyptian Arabic, a car is called “‘arabiyyah,” which is named after the caravans of the Arabs, as they were originally a bedouin people! Languages are fluid just like human beings, so they are ever-changing, just as we are. Most spoken Arabic we hear, regardless of the dialect, is considered colloquial Arabic.
The second category is classical Arabic, which we can split it up into two further categories: Quranic Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic. The latter is what is used in books, movies, radio, newspapers, journals, articles, debates, speeches, news channels on television, and so on. It is the “formal” version of Arabic, used for more professional settings. It is also what is taught in colleges and universities. If a student decided to take Arabic as their language requirement, Modern Standard Arabic is what they would be learning.
Quranic Arabic, on the other hand, is the word of Allah that is used solely in the Quran. It is incomparable because of its incredible eloquence and beauty. Allah says in Surah al-Hashr, the 59th chapter of the Quran:
“If We had sent down this Quran upon a mountain, you would have seen it (the mountain) humbled and coming apart out of awe and reverence of Allah. And these examples We present to the people, so that perhaps they will give it thought.” [59:21]
Because it is the word of Allah, an entire mountain would immediately crumble to pieces had the Quran been sent down on it. It is, in fact, a heavy word. It has weight and meaning, and is meant to be understood by Muslims.
Quranic Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic are similar in most ways, with very slight differences. For example, a large chunk of the vocabulary is very similar, but because the Quran was sent down over 1400 years ago, some of the vocabulary is no longer used in Modern Standard Arabic and is a bit more ancient. The Arabs at the time had their own dialect, full of words and expressions that are not used anymore. Another similarity between the two is the grammar, which is essentially the same. The only difference is that in the Quran itself, some of the grammar rules are broken. However, this is done for a specific purpose – to create more eloquence, emphasis, and cause the reader to pay attention and notice what is being said.
If someone speaks either a certain form of colloquial Arabic or Modern Standard Arabic, then it could be very easy for them to read and understand Quranic Arabic. Quranic Arabic is actually used very often in literature and poetry, because of its eloquence and beauty, while Modern Standard Arabic is used for mostly spoken outlets, such as speeches and television. If a person is interested in studying the Quran, then Quranic Arabic is for them. On the other hand, if a person is intending to travel to various Arab countries and/or work as a professional in an Arab-dominated field, then Modern Standard Arabic is the way to go.
When comparing the two, however, as we did so above, Quranic Arabic is much easier to learn than Modern Standard Arabic. The first reason is because in the Quran, there are a limited number of words. The vocabulary ends at some point, because it is in fact a book. With Modern Standard Arabic, however, the amount of words to learn are unlimited because it is a current language in the modern world. Secondly, with Quranic Arabic, the language does not change. It is a book, so the word remains exactly the same as it did when it was revealed over 1400 years ago. Modern Standard Arabic, however, is ever-changing because it is a current language that is used today. And because human beings are constantly changing and fluid, as mentioned before, so is language. Finally, what most people don’t realize is that many of the words in the Quran are repeated time and time again. 10 words make up 25% of the Quran, and 62 words make up 50%! If one focuses on learning Quranic Arabic through vocabulary and grammar, it will be much easier for them to master the language quicker.
Which is exactly what we here at Quranic aim to do! In our free mobile app we focus on frequent Quranic words first. In our UQA Level 1-3 course, we focus on helping our students learn 80% of Quranic Arabic in just three months. It becomes much easier for us to connect with the Quran and Allah through our prayers when the language of the Quran is opened up to us. Not to mention, this course makes it easy and fun to learn while you’re at it!
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