Learning to Read the Holy Quran

An Invitation to read the book of books

There are some books that need not be read once or twice but scores of times. There are books that simply decimate you, that don’t need our recommendation but that judge us. There are books that one would not like to part with even in grave. There are books that need certain moral and spiritual qualifications to be understood, or we would fail to drink from the fount of wisdom. There are books that must be in the curriculum of life’s education. What is the book that is most urgent reading for anyone  who cares about higher things of life including wisdom and ethics? I argue it is, first of all,  a divine book. Let us try to read one today.

Imagine any reason for praising a work or at least paying attention to it and one may find that the Quran illustrates the case. If impact of a work counts, the Quran we know created history and new civilization. If readership or recitation counts, it is amongst the most read, most memorized, most recited works. If inherent linguistic and literary excellence counts, it is, by almost universal consensus amongst the best scholars of Arabic language and the Quran, a feat that we ordinarily describe as miraculous. If loftiness of themes, polyphony and polysemy count, it impresses in the same way that other sacred scriptures impress. Countless commentaries have been written and keep coming. The best minds from philosophers to Sufis to poets to scientists have been struck dumb by it and they have joined in the great tradition of commenting on it. Some of the most influential modern minds  including psychologists like Jung have also joined in this group by commenting on certain verses or chapters. From Nietzsche to Derrida we see glowing tribute paid to the aspects of legal, mystical and philosophical culture inspired by the Quran. Heidegger,  arguably the greatest figure in twentieth century philosophy, deemed himself a philosopher in the Arab tradition of philosophers. In previous centuries literary giants from Carlyle to Goethe have been struck by the Quran.  If speaking to – rather shaking –  depths of our being is a criterion, its power is too well known to need a comment.  If inimitability is the criterion,  we find that from its contemporary Arab poets to James Joyce in Finnegan Wake, attempts to dilute the force of the claim of inimitability have patently failed.

How come some of the greatest Orientalists and those who approached the Quran from purely academic reasons become its for good? How come volumes have been devoted to apparently as simple things of the Quran as orthography of letters by the best minds? The Quran inspired art, poetry, philosophy and number of traditional science constitute a significant part of cultural heritage of mankind. The Quran has stayed and will stay

The Quran consumes the reader or the reader fails to read it. It transforms, it devastates as a great beauty devastates. Man’s salvation lies in getting ready for such a transformation. Great tragedy or poetry seeks to accomplish something similar.

There are books that one should pray for getting access to them. The sacred scriptures and writings of saints are such books. If one isn’t able to enjoy the Quran despite linguistic and other resources at one’s command, one needs to investigate why. Perhaps some notions bequeathed by shallow education or misinterpretations need to be addressed. I seek to argue that the key claims of the Quran are self evident and none can find them problematic. Let us try to see how we can appreciate the Quran as an open invitation to all of us including the Muslims (usually Muslims think they know the Quran  and it is other communities that need to be invited to it.)

Learn Quran Reading Online

Who can refuse invitation to explore the science of the self or psyche (anfus) and the cosmos (aafaq) to which Al-Quran invites all? The Quran invites us to pay attention to ontological Quran, the text of flesh, blood, matter and soul  that constitutes anfus and aafaaq. Who can finish exploring them? Who can finish reading the Quran this sense? Who can’t entertain Quranic invitation to take sensory experience, reason and history seriously as sources of knowledge? Who can have issues with the invitation to see all religions from Adam to Muhammad (PBUH) received through prophets as explicating one Deen – Al-Islam i.e., submission to Truth/Reality? Does Truth need any other certificate to claim our assent? The Quran doesn’t give a view or interpretation of truth that one could subject to certain ideological critique but asks man to submit to Truth not its particular truth but Truth as such wherever one finds it. Kufr is concealing the truth and who can approve of it?

La Illaha Illallah, read with the help of illumined reason, contains the whole essence of metaphysics as Schuon has noted.  Read with the help of metaphysical, spiritual and esoteric commentaries the Quran is perfectly seen as the deeper voice of both our hearts and minds. Nothing that is revolting to reason or ethics can be in the Quran.

The Quran convinces or saves by virtue of its appeal to Signs of God that are for everyone to contemplate in virgin nature, in rhythms of cosmos, in the music of our souls, in perfections we find everywhere getting embodied in life and universe. The best use of aql leads to a state that the Quran calls heaven. Only the knowledgeable fear God, the Quran declares? Now who can vote against these things?

The Prophet’s mandate is to teach the Book  (all books that are worthy of attention are in a sense in the Mother of Books, Ummul Kitab that is the epithet of the Quran) and love of wisdom (hikmah) and purify the souls. Aren’t all great teachers revered because we think they help us in achieving these three objectives?

What the Quran calls faith in Al-Gayyib is understandable as respect for what Marcel calls mystery that is existence or life and  what Stace foregrounds as depth dimension of things that refuses access to rationalist’s tools. Who is the fool to claim to have demystified the world or emptied it of wonder?

Two of the greatest Muslim scholars of the twentieth century including Allama Anwar Shah Kashmiri once tried to experiment with changing or substituting a verse, a word, a letter in the Quran and investigate if it would change the overall sense and structure. Needless to say, the experiment failed. A good review of major points regarding the literary excellence of the Quran is in Hamza Andreas Tzortzis’ “An Introduction to the Literary and Linguistic Excellence of the Quran.” There are numerous books on Aijaz-i-Quran that cumulatively do make a strong case for engaging with the Quran for modern man.

Postscript

One of our greatest calamities is that we are disconnected from the Arabic language. Teach children Arabic and the Arabic Quran will, most probably, hook them for ever to its miraculous form and content. Hardly any preaching needed. Teaching the Arabic language is the antidote to alienation from religion we currently see in new generation. Ask schools you pay handsomely, for arranging for Arabic teaching. Most of us need to better our Arabic if for no reason than at least enjoying the Quran aesthetically. Faith will take care of itself.

Muhammad Maroof Shah

Previously published in Greater Kashmir

 

 

Arabic Vocabulary – Religion

English Standard Arabic Transliteration Egyptian Arabic Transliteration
religion دين (ج) أديان diin (pl.) adyaan
sect طائفة (ج) طوائف Taa’ifa (pl.) Tawaa’if Tayfa (pl.) Tawaa’if
denomination مذهب (ج) مذاهب madhab (pl.) madaahib mazhab (pl.) mazaahib
Islam الإسلام al-islaam
Muslim مسلم muslim
Sunni سنّي (ج) سنّة sunni (pl.) sunna
Shi’ite شيعي (ج) شيعة šii3i (pl.) šii3a
Alawite علوي 3alawi
Christianity المسيحية al-masiiHiyya il-masiHiyya
Christian مسيحي masiiHi
Copt قبطي (ج) أقباط qibTi (pl.) aqbaaT ‘ibTi (pl.) a’baaT
Maronite ماروني (ج) موارنة maaruuni (pl.) mawaarina maruuni (pl.) mawaarina
Orthodox أورثودوكس ortodoks
Catholic كاثوليك katoliik
Protestant بروتستانت brotestaant
Judaism اليهودية al-yahuudiyya
Jew يهودي (ج) يهود yahuudi (pl.) yahuud yihuudi (pl.) yihuud
Reform Judaism اليهودية الإصلاحية al-yahuudiyya l-iSlaaHiyya
Conservative Judaism اليهودية المحافظة al-yahuudiyya l-muHaafiZa il-yahuudiyya l-muHafZa
Orthodox Judaism اليهودية الأرثودوكسية al-yahuudiyya l-ortodoksiyya
Druze دروزي (ج) دروز druuzi (pl.) druuz
Hinduism الهندوسية al-hinduusiyya
Buddhism البوذية al-buudiyya il-buudiyya
Baha’ism البهائية al-bahaa’iyya
Sufism الصوفية aS-Suufiyya
Sikhism السيخية as-siixiyya
Jainism الجانية al-jaaniyya
Zoroastrianism الزرادشتية az-zaraadištiyyas
Taoism الطاوية aT-Taawiyya
paganism (pagan) وثنية (وثني) wataniyya (watani) wasaniyya (wasani)
atheism (atheist) الإلحاد (ملحد) al-ilHaad (mulHid)
secularism علمانية 3ilmaaniyya
monotheism توحيدية tawHiidiyya
infidel كافر (ج) كفار kaafir (pl.) kuffaar

creation theory نظرية الخلق naZariyyat al-xalq naZariyyat il-xal’
theology الإلهيات al-ilhiyyaat
creed عقيدة (ج) عقائد دينية 3aqiida (pl.) 3aqaa’id diiniyya 3aqiida (pl.) 3aqaayid diiniyya
(a) god اله (ج) آلهة ilaah (pl.) aaliha
God* الله allaah
lord رب (ج) أرباب rabb (pl.) arbaab
Satan, the devil الشيطان (ج) الشياطين aš-šeiTaan (pl.) aš-šayaaTiin iš-šiTaan (pl.) iš-šayaTiin
messiah مسيح masiiH
savior مخلّص muxalliS
Jesus يسوع | عيسى yasuu3 (used by Christians); 3iisa (used by Muslims)
angel ملاك (ج) ملائكة malaak (pl.) malaa’ika malaak (pl.) malayka
heaven, paradise الجنة al-janna ig-ganna
hell النار an-naar (lit. “the fire”)
الجحيم al-jaHiim gaHiim
الجهنم al-juhannam gahannam
cross صليب (ج) صلبان Saliib (pl.) Sulbaan Siliib (pl.) Sulbaan
crescent هلال halaal
star of David نجمة داوود najmat daawuud nigmit dawuud

mosque جامع (ج) جوامع jaami3 (pl.) jawaami3 gaami3 (pl.) gawaami3
مسجد (ج) مساجد masjid (pl.) masaajid
prayer niche in mosques محراب (ج) محاريب miHraab (pl.) maHaariib
minaret مأذنة (ج) مآذن ma’dana (pl.) ma’aadin مدنة (ج) مدن madna (pl.) midan
call to prayer اذان adaan adaan
muezzin مؤذن mu’addin mu’azzin
minbar (pulpit) منبر (ج) منابر minbar (pl.) manaabir mimbar (pl.) manaabir
Friday sermon خطبة xuTba
imam امام (ج) أئمة imaam (pl.) a’ima

church كنيسة (ج) كنائس kaniisa (pl.) kanaa’is كنيسة (ج) كنايس kiniisa (pl.) kanaayis
shrine مزار (ج) مزارات mazaar (pl.) mazaaraat
altar مذبح (ج) مذابح madbaH (pl.) madaabiH mazbaH (pl.) mazaabiH
sanctuary هيكل (ج) هياكل heikal (pl.) hayaakil
synagogue كنيس kaniis
temple معبد (ج) معابد ma3bad (pl.) ma3aabid
monastery دير (ج) أديار deir (pl.) adyaar deir (pl.) adyira
monk راهب (ج) رهبان raahib (pl.) ruhbaan
nun راهبة raahiba rahba
priest قسيس (ج) قسس qassiis (pl.) qusus ‘assiis (pl.) ‘usus
bishop أسقف (ج) أساقف usquf (pl.) asaaqif us’uf (pl.) asa’fa
the Pope البابا al-baaba
rabbi حاخام (ج) حاخامات Haaxaam (pl.) Haaxaamaat Haxaam (pl.) Haxamaat
prophet نبي (ج) أنبياء nabi (pl.) anbiyaa’ nabi (pl.) anbiya

the (holy) Qur’an القرآن (الكريم) al-qur’aan (al-kariim)
chapter from the Qur’an سورة (ج) سور suura (pl.) suwar
verse from the Qur’an آية (ج) آيات aaya (pl.) aayaat
the Bible الكتاب المقدس al-kitaab al-muqaddas ik-kitaab il-mu’addas
the New Testament العهد الجديد al-3ahd al-jadiid il-3ahd ig-gidiid
the Gospels الإنجيل al-injiil il-ingiil
the Old Testament العهد القديم al-3ahd al-qadiim il-3ahd il-’adiim
the Torah التوراة at-tooraah

the pillars of Islam أركان الإسلام arkaan al-islaam
profession of faith شهادة šahaada
prayer صلاة Salaah
fasting صوم Soom
alms-giving زكاة zakaah
pilgrimage to Mecca حج Hajj Hagg
minor pilgrimage عمرة 3umra 3omra
permitted by Islam حلال Halaal
forbidden by Islam حرام Haraam

mass قداس (ج) قداديس quddaas (pl.) qadaadiis ‘oddaas (pl.) ‘adadiis
(Christian) saint قديس qiddiis ‘iddiis
psalm مزمور (ج) مزامير mazmuur (pl.) mazaamiir mazmuur (pl.) mazamiir
hymn ترنيمة (ج) ترانيم tarniima (pl.) taraaniim tarniima (pl.) taraniim
rosary مسبحة (ج) مسابح misbaHa (pl.) masaabiH
the Ten Commandments الوصايا العشر al-waSaaya l-3ašr
(Christian) sermon وعظة wa3Za

feast عيد (ج) أعياد 3iid (pl.) a3yaad
Eid al-Fitr عيد الفطر 3iid al-fiTr
العيد الصغير il-3iid iS-Soġayyar
Eid al-Adha عيد الأضحى 3iid al-aDHa
العيد الكبير il-3iid ik-kibiir
Leilat al-Qadr ليلة القدر leilat al-qadr leilit il-’adr
Christmas عيد الميلاد 3iid al-miilaad
كريسماس krismas
Epiphany عيد الغطاس 3iid al-ġiTaas
Palm Sunday أحد الشعانين aHad aš-ša3aaniin Hadd iš-ša3aniin
أحد السعف aHad is-sa3af Hadd iz-za3af
Holy Week الاسبوع العظيم al-usbuu3 al-3aZiim
Easter عيد القيامة 3iid al-qiyaama 3iid il-’iyaama
Pentecost حلول الروح القدس Huluul ar-ruuH al-qudus
العنصرة al-3anSara
Ascension عيد الصعود المجيد 3iid aS-Su3uud al-majiid 3iid iS-Su3uud il-magiid
Annunciation عيد البشارة المجيد 3iid al-bišaara l-majiid 3iid il-bišaara l-magiid
Good Friday الجمعة العظيمة al-jum3a l-3aZiima ig-gom3a l-3aZiima
Rosh Hashana عيد رأس السنة 3iid ra’s as-sana 3iid raas is-sana
Yom Kippur يوم الغفران yoom al-ġufraan
Channukah عيد الأنوار 3iid al-anwaar
Purim عيد المساخر 3iid al-masaaxir
Pesach/Passover عيد الفصح 3iid al-fiSH

to believe in أمن – يؤمن (إيمان) بـ amana – yu’minu (iimaan) bi
to worship عبد – يعبد (عبادة) 3abada – ya3budu (3ibaada) 3abad – yi3bid (3ibaada)
to pray صلى – يصلي (صلاة) Salla – yuSalli (Salaah)
to fast صام – يصوم (صوم | صيام) Saama – yaSuumu (Soom/Siyaam)
to bless بارك – يبارك (مباركة) baaraka – yubaariku (mubaaraka) baarik – yibaarik (baraka)
blessing بركة (ج) بركات baraka (pl.) barakaat
to repent تاب – يتوب (توبة) taaba – yatuubu (tooba)
repentance توبة tooba
to ask forgiveness استغفر – يستغفر (استغفار) istaġfara – yastaġfiru (istiġfaar)
to grant forgiveness to s.o. for غفر – يغفر (غفران) ــ لـ ġafar – yaġfiru (ġufraan) s.o. li ġafar – yuġfur (ġufraan) s.o. li
forgiveness غفران ġufraan
to have mercy رحم – يرحم (رحمة) raHima – yarHamu (raHma) raHam – yirHam (raHma)
mercy رحمة raHma
fate قدر (ج) أقدار qadr (pl.) aqdaar
morals أخلاق axlaaq axlaa’
soul, spirit روح (ج) أرواح ruuH (pl.) arwaaH (fem.)
holy مقدس muqaddas mu’addas
to convert to (lit. embrace) اعتنق – يعتنق (اعتناق) i3tanaqa – ya3taniqu (i3tinaaq)
to convert to Islam أسلم – يسلم (اسلام) aslama – yuslimu (islaam)
to engage in (Christian) missionary work بشر – يبشر (تبشير) baššara – yubašširu (tabšiir) baššar – yibaššar (tabšiir)
missionary داعية daa3iya
prosyletization دعوى da3wa
to make confession اعترف – يعترف (اعتراف) i3tarafa – ya3tarifu (i3tiraaf)
to sacrifice ضحى – يضحي (تضحية) بـ DaHHa – yuDaHHi (taDHiya) bi
sacrifice (or victim) ضحية (ج) ضحايا DaHiya (pl.) DaHaaya
good خير xeir
evil شر šarr
blasphemy تجديف tajdiif tagdiif
resurrection قيامة qiyaama ‘iyaama
Judgement Day يوم القيامة yoom al-qiyaama yoom il-’iyaama
religious, pious متدين mutadayyin
sin (or guilt) ذنب (ج) ذنوب danb (pl.) dunuub zamb (pl.) zunuub
sin خطيئة (ج) خطايا xaTii’a (pl.) xaTaaya xaTiyya (pl.) xaTaaya
miracle معجزة (ج) معجزات mu3jiza (pl.) mu3jizaat mo3giza (pl.) mo3gizaat

* Although many people use الله in English to refer specifically to “the Muslim God,” in Arabic the word simply means “God,” and is used by Arabic-speaking Muslims, Christians, and Jews to refer to God.

How to perform Eid-ul-Adha Prayer (Step by Step)

Eid prayer consists of two units (Rakat in Arabic, singular is Raka). The main difference in the way this prayer and any other prayer of two Rakat is performed is the number of Takbirs that are done.

Takbirs is an Arabic word referring to when “Allahu Akbar” is said and the hands are raised to the ears.

Step 1: Make an intention of doing two Rakat behind the Imam for Eid prayer along with six additional Takbirs.

The First Raka

Step 2: After the Imam has said “Allahu Akbar” the first time, you should raise your hands and follow. This is the first Takbir of the prayer.

Step 3: There will be 3 Takbirs before the Imam starts reciting Quran. Each time the Imam says “Allahu Akbar”, you should follow by raising your hands, then putting them on your sides.

After the third Takbir, the Imam will begin reciting the Quran. At that point, you should put your hands on your chest, with your right hand on top of the left.

Step 4: Listen to the recitation of the Holy Quran. The Imam will recite Surah Al Fatiha (the first Surah of the Quran) and then another Surah.

Step 5: When the Imam says “Allahu Akbar” go into Ruku (the bowing position).

Step 6: Stand up straight when he says Sami Allahu liman Hamidah (Allah hears those who praise Him), and say “Rabbana lakal Hamd” (our Lord praise be to You) in a low voice.

Step 7: When the Imam says “Allahu Akbar” go into Sujud (prostration). You will do two prostrations as in normal prayer.

The Second Raka

Step 8: The Imam will first recite from the Holy Quran (first Surah Al Fatiha and another Surah.

Step 9: After the recitation, before going into Ruku, there will be 3 Takbirs. Follow the Imam. Raise your hands after each “Allahu Akbar”. After the third Takbir, go into Ruku (the bowing position).

Step 10: Stand up straight when the Imam says Sami Allah huliman Hamidah, and say “Rabbana lakal Hamd” in a low voice.

Step 11: When the Imam says “Allahu Akbar” go into Sujud. You will do two prostrations.

Step 12: After this, you sit for the complete Tashshahud.

Step 13: After the Imam ends the prayer by turning to his face to the right first and saying “Assalamu alaikum wa Rahmatullah” and then to his left and doing the same, you should follow.

Step 14: Do not get up right away. The Imam will give a short Khutbah (speech). Please stay still and listen. It is recommended to do so.

 

 

Eid Ul-Adha or Eid Ul Azha

Although only the pilgrims in Makkah can participate in the Hajj fully, all the other Muslims in the world join with them by celebrating the Eid ul Adha [eed ul ud-ha], or Festival of Sacrifice. On the 10th of Dhul-Hijjah, Muslims around the world wear their nicest clothing and attend a special prayer gathering in the morning. This is followed by a short sermon, after which everyone stands up to hug and greet one another. The traditional Eid greeting is “Eid Mubarak,” which means “Holiday Blessings.”

Next, people visit each other’s homes and partake in festive meals with special dishes, beverages, and desserts. Children receive gifts and sweets on this joyous occasion.

 

In addition, like the pilgrims in Makkah, those Muslims who can afford to do so offer domestic animals, usually sheep, as a symbol of Prophet Ibraheem’s sacrifice. The meat is distributed for consumption to family, friends, and to the poor and needy.

The Eid ul-Adha is a major religious event in the lives of Muslims.

The Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Last Sermon or Khutba

This sermon was delivered on the Ninth Day of Dhul Hijjah 10 A.H.
in the ‘Uranah valley of Mount Arafat’ (in Mecca).

After praising, and thanking Allah he said:

“O People, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and TAKE THESE WORDS TO THOSE WHO COULD NOT BE PRESENT HERE TODAY.

 

O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your LORD, and that HE will indeed reckon your deeds. ALLAH has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligation shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. Allah has Judged that there shall be no interest and that all the interest due to Abbas ibn ‘Abd’al Muttalib (Prophet’s uncle) shall henceforth be waived…

Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.

O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.

O People, listen to me in earnest, worship ALLAH, say your five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat. Perform Hajj if you can afford to.

All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.

Remember, one day you will appear before ALLAH and answer your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.

O People, NO PROPHET OR APOSTLE WILL COME AFTER ME AND NO NEW FAITH WILL BE BORN. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the QURAN and my example, the SUNNAH and if you follow these you will never go astray.

All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness, O ALLAH, that I have conveyed your message to your people”.

Online Quran Reading Classes From Home For Muslim Kids

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All our teachers have experience of teaching Holy Quran online to English speaking students. Our Quran tutors have excellent interpretational skills to gain motivation & encouragement in students to increase knowledge of the Holy Quran more & more.

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The Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca)

The Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca)

THE HAJJ, or pilgrimage, is the fifth of the five pillars (duties) of Islam. Every able-bodied Muslim should make the pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime, finances permitting.

 

The Hajj takes place annually during the first 10 days of the Dhu al-Hijja, the twelfth month of the Islamic year. The Islamic calendar is based on lunar months, so the actual date moves forward about 11 days each year in relation to the western solar calendar.

 

During the Hajj, pilgrims must be in a state of ihram (consecration). Men wear two pieces of white unstitched cloth – covering the waist and legs, the other around the shoulders covering the upper body. While in ihram, pilgrims must not cut hair or nails, wear perfumes, kill animals or insects, or engage in any kind of sexual relations (including proposals of marriage).

 

Islamic Calendar or Hijri Calendar

The Islamic Calendar has 12 months and 354 days. This is because the Islamic Calendar (or Hijri Calendar) follows the movements of Earth’s Moon. Arabic names of Islamic Months  with English Transliteration are given below. Muslim kids and students should learn and memorize the names of all the Islamic months in their order.

Hijri Calender

Hijri Calender

As Muslim student population grows, UH debuts Arab studies minor

To describe the difference between modern standard Arabic and classical, or Quranic, Arabic, Ambereen Saleem tells the story of a renowned American scholar who tried to talk to a taxi driver in a Muslim country. The cabbie was amused by the scholar’s classical style of speech, which “inherently has a divine undertone,” as Saleem tells it.

University of Houston professor Emran El-Badawi teaches during an Arab studies class on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012, in Houston. ( J. Patric Schneider / Houston Chronicle )

“The cheeky taxi driver replied with a well-known phrase Muslims repeat when they are finished reading verses of the Quran: ‘Sadaq Allahu’l Adheem,’ or ‘God has spoken the truth!’” said Saleem, a junior at the University of Houston.

That historical and religious aspect of the language is precisely what has drawn Saleem and her friends. “My peers and I were primarily interested in studying Arabic for the purpose of understanding the Arabic of the holy Quran,” she said. “There is a beauty in the holy Quran that cannot be felt through the barriers of translation. … Every word is more like a color, and they all come together the way a painting does. That is why we often misunderstand our religion, because we are blind to seeing these Quranic truths when we read a translation.”

Saleem, who describes herself as “quite passionate” about Arabic, won’t be registering for the university’s new minor in Arab studies. As a new mom, she needs to take courses online, and Emran El-Badawi, the director of the new program, told her the language is too tough to study online, she said.

El-Badawi came to the university about a year ago to teach Arab studies and has been on hand to usher in the more formalized “minor” in Arab studies to students who want to take it for spiritual reasons or any other. He said that he sees a “thirst and hunger” on campus for courses about the Arab world and refers to students “coming out of the woodwork” to tell him about how they are fourth- or fifth-generation Arabs.

He isn’t sure how many students have declared the minor, but he is encouraged that more than 100 students responded to an email asking for their input on which courses to offer through the minor in spring 2013. (One of the courses students successfully lobbied for: Quran as Literature.) About 90 students are currently enrolled in Arab studies courses, and El-Badawi is hoping for 120 next semester.

The students who tend to fill seats in El-Badawi’s classes are evenly split between non-Arab, non-Muslims with military or State Department experience; “heritage students,” who have family roots in the Arab world; and non-Arab Muslims. Incidentally, the largest portion of international students at UH comes from Saudi Arabia, he adds.

The 18-credit minor, half of which is taught in Arabic, approaches the Middle East from a respectful perspective, but it’s not apologetic.

“If we do our job correctly, every student that comes into the classroom should be challenged: the Muslim students, the non-Muslim students, the Arab students, the non-Arab students, the Palestinians, the Jewish students,” he said. “At the end of this experience, the goal is: I would want all of these students to be ambassadors for peace.”

UH isn’t the only Arab studies operation in the extended area. Rice also teaches Arabic, and the University of Texas at Austin has a particularly impressive Middle East studies department, according to El-Badawi. “We have a bit of catching up to do,” he said.

El-Badawi declined to hazard a guess at the size of the Muslim student population at UH, and a university spokesperson said UH officials don’t know how many Muslim students are on campus.

“We have Muslims from many different cultures, backgrounds, (and) religiosity levels,” said UH student Falah Adnan. “Houston is home to a huge Muslim population, and that pools largely into the community at UH.”

“Whatever problems we have in the modern day, they’re a product not of religious concepts … (but) of a governing body and their own personal theology,” added Aayna Shamsi, a student and Muslim Student Association.

“I think that’s the biggest misconception-people are very quick to blame all the problems they are having in the Middle East on the religion. When in actuality it’s not the religion. It’s the way the governments are.”

Menachem Wecker is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C.